Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) is a very simple principle with a very complex name. Simply put, CAT is a training method in which a lifter deliberately accelerates the bar throughout the entire lift instead of allowing the load to determine how you should move.
Using the deadlift as an example, your leverage is worse at the bottom of the movement and improves as you lift the bar up off the ground. So instead of exploding off the ground and coasting through lockout, you would continue accelerating the bar as fast as you can as your leverage improves. This provides tremendous strength and explosive power benefits.
CAT was popularized in the west by ISSA co-founder, Dr. Fred Hatfield, aka Dr. Squat. Here is what he had to say about CAT:
“If you’re applying a thousand pounds of force at the bottom of the lift and then as leverage improve you continue to apply a thousand pounds or less, you’re not accomplishing as much as you can. Instead, you’ll see that as leverage improves you’re able to apply twelve hundred pounds of force, fourteen hundred pounds of force up near the top. The secret though is that you’re applying as much force as you possibly can exert all the way through the lift. That means you’re spending more time under maximum tension. That means you’re going to make progress much faster than you could otherwise, probably twice as fast.”
A lot of lifters coast at the top of the lift because the leverage is improved and they don’t need to apply as much force to finish it. But these lifters aren’t getting the most out of each rep. Keep accelerating no matter what; don’t let the bar dictate the amount of force you apply.
Lifting submaximal weights with maximal effort leads to strength adaptations similar to lifting maximal weights. Furthermore, lifting maximal weights with explosive intent throughout the entire range of motion can create staggering benefits to your strength gains.
Using chains or bands to add weight or resistance to the bar will help teach your body to continue to produce force as your leverage improves. This helps you learn how to accelerate through the entire range of motion to overcome the resistance.
CAT should be used for multi-joint core exercises like the squat, bench, deadlift, clean, and snatch. It should be used for every rep of every set for these lifts. If you coast through any of your reps you will be leaving strength gains “on the table,” which is something none of us want to do!
Noah Bryant is a 2-time NCAA Champion and 4-time All-American in the shot put. He holds the school record in the shot put at the University of Southern California. Noah represented the United States in the 2007 World Track and Field Championships and the 2011 Pan-American Games. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and has over five years experience coaching some of the best NCAA Track and Field athletes in the country. You can visit his website at NoahStrength.com.