Lift Less and Get Stronger With Compensatory Acceleration Training

STACK Expert Bill Rom explains how Compensatory Acceleration Training can help you get stronger while lifting less.

The balancing act you must achieve during strength training: provide sufficient stimulus for growth but leave enough in the tank to perform your skills as an athlete.

Heavy Squats, Deadlifts, speed sessions and practice take a toll on the body. We want to be able to lift less and still get strong. Managing this can be tricky, but one of the best ways to get the most out of your training is a method called Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT).

RELATED: CAT in Action

In his book Supertraining, Mel C. Siff refers to CAT as "the process of deliberately trying to accelerate the bar throughout the concentric phase of the movement, instead of allowing the load alone to determine how one should move."

Tension on the body is caused by either load or speed of movement. When you increase the speed of a movement, you heighten the tension applied to your body and make size and strength gains equal to those generated by lifts with heavier weight. The table below provides a visual idea of the concept.



















The speed rating of 1.0 is equal to a normal rep. The high rating of 1.8 equates to an explosive rep with a weight near 55 to 60 percent of the heaviest weight. When you accelerate the movement with the intent to move the weight as fast as possible, you enable your central nervous system to feel increased tension on your muscle fibers, and you get stronger and bigger faster.

RELATED: Time Under Tension: The Secret to Building More Muscle

This technique has a powerful impact on a training program.

If we test an athlete's maximal strength at a single repetition of 315 pounds, we can dictate training percentages for his lifts. Athletes rarely, if ever, need to lift weights near their one-rep max. For athletes trying to improve their competitive performance, the risks involved in maxing out are too high.

Knowing this, you can choose a weight 40 to 60 percent of your maximum, but by using CAT you can exert an equal or greater amount of tension on your muscles with a substantially lower weight.

When and How to Use CAT

CAT should be used on primary lifts and power exercises. It will not have as much carryover with single-joint isolation exercises. The following exercises are great for CAT.

  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Rows
  • Explosive Push-Ups (hands leave the ground)
  • Squat Jumps
  • Olympic Lifts

Special Considerations for CAT

One downside of using CAT is the negative acceleration phase—when you finish the rep at the top of a movement. Athletes often stop the ascent early in order to keep control of the weight, thus limiting gains to be made at the top of each lift.

As a workaround, you can use Squat Jumps and other ballistic exercises where full extension and movement can be maintained throughout the movement.

RELATED: What is the Best Type of Jump Squat?

If you are capable of using bands or chains in your training, the accommodating resistance allows you to add weight at the end range of the movement, where you are strongest. This lets you accelerate the weight continually and get even more out of CAT.

Now that you understand CAT and its impact on your performance and gains, you can improve your results faster while lessening the impact on your body over the long term.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock