This article discusses the microstructural processes that take place during plastic deformation and presents a plain phenomenological and general description of the cyclic stress-strain (CSS) response. It emphasizes the microstructural aspects of cyclic loading on single-phase materials tested in initially soft, dislocation-poor conditions resulting from a prior heat treatment. The article discusses deformation-induced phase transformations in austenitic stainless steels and commercial age-hardened aluminum alloys. It describes the interaction of dislocations and the strengthening of second-phase particles. The article also provides a description of the framework used to model the CSS response on a physical basis.