General vs Specific Response

When it comes to training science, we like to talk about the concept of general adaptation syndrome and how it relates to training. In short, esteemed researcher Hans Selye discovered the concept of general adaptation syndrome and the idea of a “general stress response”. Basically, when the body encounters a stressor, it has to mobilize resources to deal with these stressors and regardless if this stressor is physical, psychological or environmental, the general stress response is the same. The issue is that this is “general” and the fact of a specific stress response is often overlooked.

When it comes to training, we care a lot about the specific stress response because it's tied heavily to specific adaptations. So, the local response and adaptation to a muscle that is trained could be considered specific, while the systemic response to the stressor is general. This means that the general system may recover prior to local systems, which is why we can't always train the same muscle over and over again every day. Even though our body is able to cope with the stressor systemically, the “specific” stress is too great to handle and may reduce or inhibit gains. So while general and specific stressors do work somewhat hand in hand, they should not be considered the same.