Key message: Adaptation to abiotic stresses such as high-temperature conditions should be considered as its independent components of total performance and responsiveness. Abstract: Understanding and identifying improved adaptation to abiotic stresses such as heat stress has been the focus of a number of studies in recent decades. However, confusing and potentially misleading terminology has made progress difficult and hard to apply within breeding programs selecting for improved adaption to heat stress conditions. This study proposes that adaption to heat stress (and other abiotic stresses) be considered as the combination of total performance and responsiveness to heat stress. In this study, 1413 doubled haploid lines from seven populations were screened through a controlled environment assay, subjecting plants to three consecutive eight hour days of an air temperature of 36 °C and a wind speed of 40 km h−1, 10 days after the end of anthesis. QTL mapping identified a total of 96 QTL for grain yield determining traits and anthesis date with nine correlating to responsiveness, 72 for total performance and 15 for anthesis date. Responsiveness QTL were found both collocated with other performance QTL as well as independently. A sound understanding of genomic regions associated with total performance and responsiveness will be important for breeders. Genomic regions of total performance, those that show higher performance that is stable under both stressed and non-stressed conditions, potentially offer significant opportunities to breeders. We propose this as a definition and selection target that has not previously been defined for heat stress adaptation.