Adaptation for Fitness

By Dr. Lon Kilgore

In ExPhysiology, Reference

January 19, 2010

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Intense CrossFit workouts improve your fitness—but how? Dr. Lon Kilgore explains how doing Grace can cause adaptive changes at the cellular level and result in improved performance.

Adaptation is not a new concept. We have known for hundreds of years that the human body, when presented with a sub-lethal physical, psychological or chemical stress, can adapt to the source of stress, allowing the body to tolerate incrementally larger similar stresses.

However, it was not until the 1936 synthesis of the general adaptation syndrome by Hans Seyle that we had our first understanding of how the adaptation occurred. Selye spent a lifetime pursuing a goal of understanding how humans responded and adapted to all types of stress, and his work in this area forms the essential foundation of exercise physiology.

Through Selye’s own work and his analysis of other scientists’ discoveries, he was able to develop a generalized pattern of organismic responses and adaptations to a variety of stressors. The general adaptation syndrome outlines a series of stages through which the body passes as it successfully adapts, or the stages that lead to a failure to adapt.

The general adaptation syndrome and the concept of super-compensation are important to researchers and practitioners alike. They are important to the former as these two entities provide a conceptual basis for the study of the human during exercise intended to improve physical fitness. They are important to the latter because the practitioner must, through the delivery of training, elicit these physiological phenomena in a controllable, reliable and repeatable manner.

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5 Comments on “Adaptation for Fitness”


wrote …

Veri insightful. I just graduated in December and am not in grad school so I am very grateful for articles like this to further my education.


replied to comment from Michael Foster



wrote …

Mark Rippetoe & Lon Kilgore cover this in great detail in their Practical Programming for Strength Training - a very good, informative read!


wrote …

Thank you for this article. Very informative and helpful.


wrote …

Interesting article. I walked away with many points rolling around in my head, but the one that stands out is if I picked up a bull every day from the day it was born until the day it was full grown then I would be quite strong. I'm about to google "how to buy a bull".

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