Compensatory Acceleration Training
With compensatory acceleration training, or CAT, the main idea is to move the bar as fast as possible throughout the concentric or lifting phase of the lift.
CAT squats often involve sub-maximal intensities, usually something in the 60-80% range of a 1-rep max, done for multiple sets with a static weight – you use the same weight for all the sets.
Lifters use this type of training during pre-contest phases for a strength competition. It’s ideal because it forces you to focus more on technique development and explosiveness without getting beaten to shit by heavy weights.
To perform CAT squats, try to accelerate throughout the entire range of motion. It’s not just exploding out of the hole with a sub-max weight, but continuing to drive as hard as possible even after you’ve crossed the normal sticking point. Think about squatting so explosively that the bar flies through the ceiling.
Now, the load should be heavy enough that this doesn’t actually happen. But if it does happen, make sure to get that on video for social media because how cool would that be?
The weight shouldn’t be so light that there’s no carryover into higher intensities. Nor should it be so heavy that it moves slowly or takes a toll on systemic or localized recovery.
Think of 60% of your 1RM as the floor and 80% as the ceiling, though both of these are just guidelines. Some lifters will be able to move 80% with an enormous amount of speed, while others might move 80% with the same speed they move 60%. Some guys are naturally fast; others are grinders.
You should start a CAT phase with 60% using a good ol’ 5×5 scheme for volume. Try to perform all 5 sets of 5 reps using 60% in 15 minutes or less. You want to flat-out destroy every rep of every set with the same amount of speed and ease.
To prime the nervous system before you get into the working portion of the squat session, do a single squat at a slightly higher intensity than what you’ll be working with. Here’s what that’ll look like:
- CAT squat: 70% x 1
- CAT squats: 60% 5 x 5, done in 15 minutes or less with maximum speed on every rep of every set.
You can repeat this CAT squat session, but eventually you want to try and move to 70%. Same deal: 5 x 5, in 15 minutes or less, same speed for every rep of each set. Here’s how that would look:
- CAT squat: 80% x 1
- CAT squat: 70% 5 x 5, done in 15 minutes or less
If your conditioning sucks, this will hurt you. That’s good. Get your fat ass into shape.
Once you can do 70% 5 x 5 easily, you can move into a peaking cycle to test/demonstrate maximum strength.