Compensatory Acceleration Training: Everything You Need to Know

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If you are looking to enhance your strength and muscle mass, you may have heard about Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT). This is a training technique that has been gaining popularity in recent years, and for a good reason. As a strength coach and athlete, I have personally seen the benefits of CAT in my and my clients’ training. In this text, I will give you everything you need to know about CAT, including how it works, the benefits, and how to incorporate it into your training program. So, whether you are a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or just looking to improve your strength, keep reading to learn more about this powerful training technique.

Why should you incorporate Compensatory Acceleration Training into your routine?

Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) is a powerful technique that can take your strength gains to the next level. As a coach, I have used CAT to help my clients break world records and push through sticking points in their lifts. But it’s not just for powerlifters – anyone looking to build strength and muscle can benefit from incorporating CAT into their routine.

The reason CAT is so effective is that it maximizes the amount of force you can produce throughout the entire range of motion of an exercise. By focusing on accelerating the weight as fast as possible, you recruit more muscle fibers and stimulate greater muscle growth. Plus, it trains your nervous system to fire more rapidly and efficiently, which can lead to even greater gains over time.

Incorporating CAT into your routine can also help you overcome plateaus and prevent injuries. By using lighter weights and focusing on speed and technique, you can reduce the amount of stress on your joints and avoid overtraining. And by constantly challenging your muscles with new stimulus, you can break through training plateaus and make continued progress.

In short, CAT is an essential technique for anyone looking to build strength and muscle. Whether you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or just someone who wants to look and feel better, incorporating CAT into your routine can help you achieve your goals faster and more efficiently.

Dynamic Effort

The dynamic effort method has been popularized by Westside Barbell a long time ago. This method relies on working with submaximal weights and trying to lift them at the maximal speed. In this case, the concentric phase is the only one that matters. Since there is a lot of rumours and a lot of variations of this method, I will focus solely on the way I utilise the CAT method to drive my clients to become stronger athletes.

What is Compensatory Acceleration Training?

CAT stands for Compensatory Acceleration Training. It’s different from Compensatory Tension Training. This method relies solely on acceleration. You are to lift the weight up as fast as you can. By continuously accelerating all the way until the end, you force yourself to recruit the biggest motor units, increase RFD (Rate of Force Development) and become more efficient neurologically. This method allows you and your athletes to develop more power which in turn, enables you to generate maximum force sooner during the repetition. By doing so, you will push with max force straight from the beginning of the lift which makes the weight move faster. The faster the speed, the less time you spend under tension and the easier it is to overcome the sticking point. If done correctly, it also transfers to absolute strength without straining your CNS as much as the maximum effort method.

Training intensity

Most of the athletes use 50-60% of their 1rm and occasionally add accommodating resistance to the equation. Doing so is beneficial for speed but it does not carry over to your 1rm as the intensity is simply too low. What you need to do is to hit the sweet spot by making the intensity high enough but still allowing the weight to travel relatively fast. After months of experimenting and using the methods of numerous coaches, I have found that for me, it works best when the weight is medium-heavy. Training with Josh Bryant for 6 months also confirmed that I was correct. Since then, I stick with approximately 80% of what I lift in the top sets and then rely on the RPE and bar speed to determine the pace of further progression. I have found that it also works for my clients, however, after maxing out or going for a relatively heavy lift (300kg+), I would say that the percentages could be reduced to 75-70% depending on the athlete and on the number of the CAT sets to be done.

Workout instructions

The CAT sets themselves are useful but they are not to be used alone. They will work for power development and that will transfer to your 1rm but what you need is also a strength development method. CAT sets work really well but they work even better when combined with heavy top sets. Instead of relying solely on medium weights and trying to lift them as fast as you can, I’d recommend starting from the heavy work and then move on to the power work afterwards. Programming in this case is really simple. Just do your heavy work, reduce the weight and go for a couple of CAT sets to work on power. In order for the training to be more complete, you need a varied range of stimuli so bear in mind that the speed work alone is not an optimal solution to make you strong. Utilising just the CAT sets by themselves might help you get stronger but combining them with heavy sets will amplify the results.

Compensatory Acceleration Training benefits

To put it simply, there are several benefits coming with the CAT method that will aid you in your strength building journey. Some of the are:

  • Increased power output
  • Increased rate of force development
  • Increased motor unit firing rate and neural drive
  • Easier to recover from
  • Direct transfer to absolute strength if utilised correctly
  • Less time consuming
  • Useful for overcoming sticking points
  • Teach you how to drive throughout the whole range of motion

Remember that the CAT method is just one of the tools that can be useful for building strength and power. They are definitely worth implementing as a part of the routine but they are not the only method for building strength, therefore, do not rely purely on them. Mix them with other methods, experiment and note down the outcomes. May the strength be with you.

Conclusion: How CAT training can help you become a world-class athlete?

Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) has been gaining popularity in the world of strength and conditioning, and for good reason. This training method, popularized by elite strength coaches and athletes such as Dr. Fred Hatfield, Louie Simmons, or Josh Bryant, has been used by some of the world’s top athletes, including powerlifter Jeremy Hoornstra and bench presser Ryan Kennelly.

At its core, CAT is a method of lifting that emphasizes accelerating the weight throughout the lift. This means that the lifter uses maximum force throughout the entire movement, rather than just at the beginning or end. By doing so, they are able to maximize their strength and power output, resulting in greater gains in muscle mass and overall athletic performance.

The benefits of CAT training are numerous. For one, it allows athletes to handle heavier weights than they would be able to with traditional lifting methods, as the acceleration component helps to overcome sticking points. On top of that, it promotes faster muscle fiber recruitment and activation, leading to greater strength gains over time.

But perhaps most importantly, CAT training can help athletes achieve their ultimate goal: becoming a world-class athlete. By consistently pushing themselves to lift with maximal force and acceleration, athletes can achieve new levels of strength and power that were previously unattainable. This can translate to improved performance in their respective sports, whether it be powerlifting, football, or any other athletic endeavor.

Of course, CAT training is not without its challenges. It requires a significant amount of focus and mental fortitude to push through the entire lift with maximal force, and proper technique must be maintained to prevent injury. This is where the guidance of an experienced coach can be invaluable in helping athletes achieve their full potential.

If you are looking to become a world-class athlete, incorporating CAT training into your routine may be the key to unlocking your full potential. By emphasizing maximal force and acceleration throughout your lifts, you can build more muscle mass and increase your overall strength and power output. And with the guidance of an experienced coach, the sky’s the limit for what you can achieve in your athletic pursuits.

P.S. If you want to learn what Josh Bryant taught me about training for power, read this article.

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