Understanding the Principle of Adaptation to maximize training outcomes


[5-min read]

The principle of adaptation is a fundamental concept emphasizing the changes our bodies undergo in response to training stimuli. We know from our previous blog that it’s necessary to overload the body to achieve progress. This is integral to achieving improving performance and forcing adaptation. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of adaptation, its importance in training, the different phases of adaptation, and how this principle can be applied effectively to our programming to maximize results.

What is the Principle of Adaptation?

The principle of adaptation is the foundation of physical training stress-recovery theory, which states that the repeated application of appropriate stressors to the body activates a variety of structural and functional changes in response to physical activity. These adaptations occur at various levels, including the muscular, cardiovascular, and neurological systems (1).

Why is the Principle of Adaptation important?

Understanding and applying the principle of adaptation effectively is very important in order to maximize training outcomes for your clients/athletes and minimize injury risk. Without adaptation, our bodies would not be able to adapt to improve performance and become more resilient. According to a study by Häkkinen et al. (2), adaptations in the neuromuscular system caused by resistance training improve strength, power output, and endurance. Another study suggested that athletes who gradually progressed and were exposed to high training loads had better adaptation and were less likely to suffer from injuries (3).

What are the Phases of Adaptation?

The adaptation process can be divided into three phases:

Alarm/Reaction Phase

This is the initial phase of adaptation, where our bodies receive a new training stimulus that exceeds their current capacity. We may experience muscle soreness, fatigue, and decreased performance as our bodies adjust to the new demands. During this phase, our bodies initiate various physiological processes to repair tissues, leading to stronger muscles and increased endurance.

Resistance/Development Phase

In this phase, our bodies have adapted to the initial stressor, and we experience improvements in performance and fitness levels. Our bodies become more efficient at utilizing oxygen, our muscles become stronger and more resistant to fatigue, and our overall performance improves. This phase is characterized by gradual advancements in strength, endurance, and skill development.

Supercompensation Phase

This phase is characterized by optimal performance attained as a result of the adaptations made in the resistance phase. It is crucial to capitalize on this phase by introducing new challenges and continuing to push ourselves to further stimulate adaptation. According to research by Gabriel et al. (4), an acute “exposure” or “overshoot” of training intensity during this phase can result in heightened performance gains.

How can I apply the Principle of Adaptation in my programming?

To effectively apply the principle of adaptation when you’re programming, it’s important to follow these guidelines:

Gradual Progression

Begin with a training program suitable for your current fitness level and gradually increase the difficulty and intensity over time. This allows for proper adaptation, it prevents overtraining, and reduces injury risk. According to a study in Advances in Physiology Education, gradual increases in resistance and frequency led to stronger subjects in resistance training programs (5).


Incorporate periodization into your training program. This involves dividing your training into specific phases focused on different specific attributes (e.g., strength, endurance, power). By periodically changing the training variables, such as volume, intensity, and exercises, you can provide the necessary stimulus for adaptation, prevent plateaus, and optimize progress. A study by Grgic et al. (6) showed that planned changes in training intensity via periodization improve general fitness levels and optimize adaptations.


The Principle of Adaptation: Periodizing your programs with RYPT Progressions

Recovery and Rest

Adequate recovery is crucial for adaptation to occur. Allow sufficient time in your programs to give your clients’/athletes’ bodies time to rest and recover between training sessions. Make sure they are getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and prioritizing their well-being. Evidence suggests that regular rest and recovery can reduce the risk of injury and improve athletic performance (7).


Understand that adaptation is individualized and varies from person to person. Pay attention to your clients’/athletes’ responses to training stimuli and adjust their programs accordingly. A study by Mann et al. (8) emphasizes the practice of individualization in training programs to achieve optimal performance.


The principle of adaptation is a crucial concept that allows our bodies to adapt, improve, and perform at optimal levels. By understanding the phases of adaptation and applying individualized and progressive programming, we can unlock our clients’/athletes’ full potential and continue to help them make consistent progress.

Click here to learn more about the other Training Principles of Overload, Individualization, Specificity, Adaption, Recovery, and Reversibility.


  1. Baar, K. (2014). Training for endurance and strength: lessons from cell signaling. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(8), 1440-1450.
  2. Häkkinen, K., Alen, M., Kraemer, W. J., Gorostiaga, E., Huhtala, H., & Newton, R. U. (2003). Neuromuscular adaptations during concurrent strength and endurance training versus strength training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 89(1), 42-52.
  3. Andersson, U., & Sundell, J. (2003). Elite athletes with disabilities: injury incidence and factors associated with injury during the 2002 winter paralympic games. Clinical Rehabilitation, 17(4), 390-395.
  4. Gabriel, D. A., Kamen, G., & Frost, G. (2006). Neural adaptations to resistive exercise: mechanisms and recommendations for training practices. Sports Medicine, 36(2), 133-149.
  5. Ratamess, N. A., Alvar, B. A., Evetoch, T. K., Housh, T. J., Kibler, W. B., Kraemer, W. J., … & Triplett, N. T. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(3), 687-708.
  6. Grgic, J., Schoenfeld, B. J., Davies, T. B., Lazinica, B., Krieger, J. W., & Pedisic, Z. (2017). Effect of resistance training frequency on gains in muscular strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(5), 941-954.
  7. Robson-Ansley, P. J., Gleeson, M., & Ansley, L. (2009). Fatigue management in the preparation of Olympic athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27(14), 1409-1420.
  8. Mann, B., Nakamura, K., & Matveyev, L. (2017). The problem of individualization in sports training: a review. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 12(2), 257-263.

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About RYPT

At RYPT we’re dedicated to making the delivery of individualized fitness programs, and the gathering of performance data frictionless, so that coaches have the insights they need to optimize the performance of each individual. It’s our goal to connect individuals with high-quality coaches and help coaches to optimize performance and the performance of their business.

RYPT provides coaches with a digital channel to connect with their clients and athletes and bespoke tools to build, and deliver individualized training programs and monitor exercise, training load, well-being, and nutrition data. Giving coaches the full picture of their client’s and athlete’s performance, and the insights they need to make data-led decisions to optimize performance, prevent overtraining and injury, and improve results. The RYPT coaching platform is supported by eCommerce functionality with powerful automation to help coaches monetize their expertise by reaching more remote clients.

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