General Adaptation Syndrome and Weight Training
The research done on the many specific processes directly affecting protein synthesis and muscle growth show an array of incredibly complex factors influencing the general adaptation to weight training. Not only have individual mechanisms been considered but also the different individual genetic responses which change from one person to another.
In the early 1930's Hans Selye called this general adaptation that he had seen happening in the body from weight training "The General Adaptation Syndrome". There are three specific stages that explain exactly how a human being will adapt to any physiological stress.
Stage 1: The Alarm Reaction: The first reaction to lifting a weight activates survival protective processes. Resistance training increases the stress of force on your bones, muscles, joints, connective tissues and your nervous system.
Stage 2: Adaptation aka Resistance Development Stage: Only with the continued exposure to stress on the body increases your body's ability to respond to these demands placed on it. The body is able to increase its functional capacity which is does using super-compensation.
Stage 3: Exhaustion: If a muscle or the whole body is exposed to similar stress for a prolonged period, exhaustion will be the result. It is at this point that the prolonged stress eventually overwhelms your whole system. This causes your strength to stagnate and decline. Additionally, it causes muscle breakdown or injury resulting in overtraining.
Progress in building muscle and strength on a sustainable basis means staying away from the exhaustion stage 3. This can easily be achieved by planning ahead so that you use techniques like periodization and other different training cycles in order to always avoid reaching the point of overtraining.
The periodization and cycling that you use will be specific to your goals. Any successful athlete always needs to consider reaching the point of overtraining and manipulating loading/repetitions, changing cycles that stress the muscles from a different angle.
General Adaptation Syndrome is actually an awareness, using stage 1 and 2 to always avoid stagnation, reaching a point of chronic over-reaching as can be found in stage 3. It takes time to learn to listen to your body and respect the signs and signals it sends you every day about the condition you are in, both physically and mentally.