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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) for More Power

Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) for More Power

Reading Time: 3 minutes 53 seconds


DATE: 2021-05-24

As a personal trainer, you know how beneficial resistance training is for increasing overall strength. And there are many ways to train for explosive strength and force development. Compensatory acceleration training (CAT) is one of them.

When athletes strength train, their main goal should be to recruit as many motor units as possible. This leads to an increase in maximum force and explosive power.

To recruit motor units, athletes must exercise with intensity. Muscular tension is the main driver for what is called adaptive overload. Muscle tension can be achieved through lifting heavy weight, but also fast lifting tempos.

Compensatory acceleration training has one main component, which is speed. Let's take a closer look at CAT and how it can be just as beneficial as lifting heavy.

What is CAT?

Compensatory acceleration training is an approach where clients lift with fast tempos. This is the alternative to heavy weights and slow tempos. The goal for an athlete is to produce the same output of force with the lighter load as they would with a heavier load. In turn, the athlete will complete the lift with more speed. Lifting tempos do impact clients goals.

Force is generated by mass and acceleration. Increasing either the acceleration or mass will end up in an increase of force production. When an athlete accelerates with a lighter load through the concentric phase, they create more muscle tension. The faster clients move or accelerate, the more explosive they become.

It is common for athletes to slow down the lifting speed when the load is lighter because it is easier to move. Though if they increase the speed of the movement, the client will increase muscle tension. This leads to more force and, in the end, provides the same effect on muscle as lifting a heavier weight.

Form and technique can be compromised when moving quickly. It is important to know if your clients are prepared for this so they can effectively execute each lift.

Applying CAT to Your Programming

Accelerating through a lift, during the concentric phase, helps a lifter develop maximal force. Acceleration refers to increasing the rate or speed of movement. If a lifter moves slowly during a squat or deadlift, they will still experience muscle tension from the heavy weight. On the other hand, a lifter who uses lighter weight and moves faster is still able to maximize force output. This can be implemented in many ways.

This type of speed training increases force development which is also explosive strength. The faster the bar speed during a movement, the faster an athlete can develop force. Athletes that develop more force, perform better. Muscle size plays a big influence on the rate of force development. But increasing motor unit recruitment is the effect of applying CAT.

Compound lifts like the squat, bench press, and deadlift are best for when applying compensatory acceleration training. They are compound lifts that increase motor unit recruitment. Athletes must intentionally accelerate through a lift. During the concentric phase, the muscle is shortening and provides this resistance.

For example, during the upwards phase of a squat an athlete should explode through and accelerate the bar as fast as possible. This should occur once reaching the bottom or end range of motion. Pause squats are effective for teaching CAT. Applying less force to a lift when the weight is lighter is not beneficial. Instead, cue athletes to explode and move as quickly as possible with proper form.

How Does CAT Benefit Athletes?

Strength training for athletes has many benefits for sport performance. And dynamic effort is even more beneficial. Dynamic effort refers to the how fast an athlete can lift a non-maximal load.

The speed in which athletes move in a short period of time has a great influence on sport performance. It builds explosive power and explosive strength. Compensatory acceleration training helps train fast twitch muscle fibers that are the bigger and more explosive muscle fibers in the body.

CAT also targets the central nervous system and teaches it to respond for maximal power. This leads to valuable aggression in sports and increases overall power output. One of the most popular ways to increase one rep maxes is to build strength through basic strength training.

With CAT, you enable athletes to develop max force and strength through faster tempos and lighter loads. This can decrease weight bearing injuries and make each workout more effective. It eliminates energy wasting on heavy weight.

Increased muscle tension through speed leaves athletes with results. These include an increase in one rep maxes and more time under tension.

Teaching CAT to Your Personal Training Clients

Begin implementing compensatory acceleration training on three fundamental lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. It will help clients learn the aggressiveness and power that needs to be associated with bar speed to get the most out of training.

First your athlete must determine an appropriate load that is 50-80% of their one rep max. Then instruct them to perform fewer reps and more sets. Fewer reps allow for max effort so athletes can explode through every rep with all they have. Remember, this is crucial on the concentric portion of each lift. On the those fundamental lifts, cue athletes to explode the bar, accelerate the bar, and move faster to take advantage of CAT.

Training with intensities no higher than 80% and no lower than 50% of an athlete's one rep max will allow for high-power output. Technique and form are crucial. These must be maintained during the movements with increased speed. Often increased speed of lifts leads to compromised form.

Are you looking to help athletes become more explosive when training? The ISSA's Advanced Powerlifting Specialist course can help you learn the techniques and movements to increase clients' explosiveness.

Featured Course

ISSA | Powerlifting Instructor

ISSA Advanced Powerlifting Specialists have a desire to improve individuals' daily lives, and improve their strength. Focused on the science behind how the body moves and reacts, specifically in the three core movements: squat, deadlift and bench press. Advanced Powerlifting Specialists are knowledgeable in the why and how of this specific technique and are prepared to help individuals of all ages.

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