compensatory acceleration training

Get Stronger Faster with Compensatory Acceleration Training

What is compensatory acceleration training?

By Coach Hunter Bennett

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you train, your strength gains aren’t coming as quickly as you’d like?

It might be time to shake things up with a technique called “compensatory acceleration training” (or CAT for short).

What is Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT)?

Compensatory acceleration training is a method that involves lifting weights as explosively as possible through a full range of motion.

This is like “speed training,” although CAT is a little different because it involves using moderate to heavy loads (~70-80% of your 1RM), rather than light loads (~40-50% of your 1RM).

Compensatory acceleration training also involves minimizing fatigue so that every single set is performed to the highest quality. This means staying more 4+ reps from failure every set (i.e., RPE 6 and below).

In short, with CAT you’re actively trying to accelerate the weight throughout the entire movement instead of just going through the motions.

How Does it Work?

compensatory acceleration training

The idea behind compensatory acceleration training is rooted in the principles of muscle physiology.

By lifting explosively, you recruit more muscle fibers and maximize force production. This maximal force production increases strength development.

This is why staying shy of failure is so important when implementing this method. Fatigue reduces force production, which in turn, blunts strength gains (this is why trained lifters often see better strength increases training further from failure).

Implementing Compensatory Acceleration Training into Your Program

Now that you understand the basics of compensatory acceleration training, you might be wondering how to incorporate it into your own training program. And the good news is it’s simple:

  1. Choose the Right Exercises: While CAT can be applied to any exercise, it’s most effective with compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows. Moreover, as most people have strength aspirations for these exercises, it makes sense to focus on them.
  2. Focus on Speed: Throughout each repetition, concentrate on moving the weight as fast as possible. This doesn’t mean sacrificing form – you still want to maintain good technique – but you should accelerate the bar through the whole range of motion.
  3. Adjust Your Reps and Sets: Since compensatory acceleration training relies on explosive movements, you’ll want to lower the rep range and increase the number of sets. Aim for 4-6 sets of 2-4 reps per exercise using ~70-80% of your 1RM.
  4. Use compensatory acceleration training in your warmups: If you plan on working up to some heavy sets close to failure, you can still use CAT as you warmup. As you get closer to your heavy top set, add in 2-3 warm-up sets of compensatory acceleration training. Not only will this increase strength development, but it may also prepare you more effectively for your heavy sets, increasing the amount of weight you can use.
  5. Try a top set / back down approach: A top set back down training approach describes working up to a heavy set of 1-3 reps, followed by 3-5 back down sets using a lighter load to focus on technique and increase training volume. However, these back down sets are the perfect time to use compensatory acceleration training to further enhance strength development.

Compensatory Acceleration Training: Take Home Message

Compensatory acceleration training can help you break through plateaus and make faster progress in the gym. By increasing force output, it allows you to get more out of each rep and ultimately build strength more efficiently.

So, if you’re looking to take your strength gains to the next level, give CAT a try – you might be amazed at the results.

Want to read more? Check out our article on minimalist strength training

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