Written by Chad Wesley Smith
The idea of Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) was introduced to me through my work with Josh Bryant and popularized by Dr. Fred Hatfield, one of the greatest squatters of all-time, before that. “this method refers to 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.” Therefore, not only will an increase in mass (more weight on the bar) cause an increase in muscle tension and resistance, but since force is the product of mass and acceleration (Newton’s Second Law), an increase in acceleration will also increase muscle tension and resistance. In other words, adding more weight on the bar isn’t the only strategy for breaking a new PR…the intent behind the movement and acceleration can drive you to bigger and better numbers as well.
Simply put, this just means I am trying to pull the weight as fast as possible, all the time. I should note, that I don’t consider myself a fast deadlifter, I can sprint fast, jump high and squat fast-but I’m not a fast deadlifter. It is this focused effort to pull fast though that has helped me build my deadlift.
Let’s look at the example of pulling 5 sets of 5 deadlifts from the floor in training, using the same weight each set. Many people’s usual intent in this setup would be to try to rip the weight from the floor, but as they pass the knees and their leverage improves, they won’t forcefully finish the rep, instead just content to coast to the finish, relying on momentum. Doing so leads to a diminished training effect like this…
Set 1: No deads were heavy enough to stimulate any sort of overload that leads to strength or power gains. Zero out of five reps provided adaptive overload—that’s a 0% efficiency rating.
Set 2: The bottom half of the last rep required enough intensity to induce some overload. Half the reps produced an adaptive overload—that’s a 10% efficiency rating for true strength gains (.5/5).
Set 3: The same as Set 2.
Set 4: The bottom half of the last two pulls produced adaptive overload. Two halves equal one whole—this set has an efficiency rating of 20% (1/5).
Set 5: The bottom half of all five reps produced adaptive overload. Five halves equal two and a half—that’s still only a 50% efficiency rating.
In a sense, this scheme would only provide great training effect in bottom half of 9 of the 25 reps (4.5 total reps), a mere 18% of the reps. To make sure I avoid this low training efficiency and get the most out of every rep, I try to consciously pull as hard as possible through the completion of the lift.
Not only does focusing on accelerating all my lifts allow me to get the most out of my training, this effect is maximized even more, as it allows me to pull a high volume of work and build muscle and special work capacity for the deadlift. This was especially important for me, since I have a relatively short deadlifting history and lack the special strength development that would come with 10+ years of heavy pulling.
A typical deadlift session for me looks like the following…
1) Deadlift-Up to Heavy Set of 1 to 3
2) CAT Deadlifts-3 to 10 Sets of 2 to 4 Reps at 75-90% of my top set. After pulling heavy sets of 3 I will perform CAT sets of 4, after heavy sets of 2 it’s CAT sets of 3 and after heavy singles CAT sets of 2. During a meet training cycle I will build up volume through the first 3 weeks, pulling progressively heavier triples while doing CAT sets of 4 for 4-6 sets the first week, 6-8 sets the second week and 8-10 sets the third week. From that point, the volume decreases each week while intensity of the CAT work, allowing my recovery to improve as a meet nears.
3) Weakpoint Deadlift Work-This could be deficit work, paused work or work from blocks.
4) Assistance Work-Rows, Hamstrings, Traps and Abs.