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The Method Behind the Mass

The Method Behind the Mass

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Think back to high school physics class, where you learned that force equals mass times acceleration. Many lessons learned in school have no real world application; if you are serious about getting stronger or more muscular, this certainly is an exception.

Two people with virtually the same genetic blueprint can do the exact same training routine and get totally different results.

"The secret" is in how each person performs the reps in training. Think about it, if the mass is the amount of weight being lifted, the acceleration is how fast the weight is being lifted.

To get stronger, one has to continually produce more force. The simplest method is to lift heavier weights. But you have to keep in mind that increasing a lift's maximum poundage by five pounds a week for one year would be a gain of 260 pounds in that year. The current world record in the bench press is 722 pounds, so if one bench presses just the bar now, within three years that record will be smashed by over 100 pounds.

Not very realistic. Thankfully, we have a high-force alternative in Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT).

Two people can lift the exact same amount of weight each session but if one continually does so with more force, greater adaptive overload, better strength gains will result.  

Movement Intention
If you wish to move big weights, you need to have the intention of moving the barbell as fast as possible on compound movements. I call this "movement intention."

Lifting lighter weights fast provides many of the benefits of training heavy.  Unsurprisingly, lifting heavy weights with intent to move them fast builds explosive strength. Ultimately, your body will adapt to the intent of your CNS to move weight explosively.

To summarize, if the weight you are lifting is ultra-heavy and the barbell moves slowly BUT you intend to move it fast, you will get the desired training effect and adaptation.

Improving Leverage
Performing full squats is most demanding at the bottom of the rep. Iron-game neophytes believe that once they reach the half way point, they can cash in on the improvement in leverage and positional strength to coast through the rep until lockout. Wrong!

With improved leverage at the half squat position, you want to COMPENSATE by moving the weight faster; this is Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT).
The training benefit of CAT is it forces your muscles to produce maximal force through the entire ROM.

Think this sounds dangerous?

Dr. Fred Hatfield, the innovator of the CAT method says, "Slamming a weight to the end point in the range of motion certainly would cause injury. The 'learning curve' involved in slowing the movement down just before lockout is very small. Anyone can learn how to do it on the first try."

For your next workout, say that you are full squatting four sets of five reps, using the same weight each set. Most folks start each squat rep explosively out of the hole, but coast to the finish. Here is a typical scenario.
  • Set 1: No squats were heavy enough to stimulate any overload. That is a zero percent efficiency rating.

  • Set 2: The bottom half of the last rep required enough intensity for overload, which is a 10 percent efficiency rating.

  • Set 3: The bottom half of the last two reps provided overload, that is a 20 percent efficiency rating.

  • Set 4: The bottom half of all five reps produced overload. That is two and a half, still a 50 percent efficiency rating.
The workout was 20 total repetitions; only eight halves produced overload or helped you get stronger. This equates to a 20 percent efficiency rating. That sucks! Try telling your boss that you're 20 percent efficient and you'll soon be unemployed.

Over weeks, months and years, two people on the exact same program will get totally different results. One a pit-bull and the other a poodle.

If all 20 reps were squatted with maximal force, you'd be much stronger over time. Force equals mass X acceleration. Lifting lighter weights in CAT style enable you to produce maximal force with less strain on your CNS.  

Numerous studies confirm the efficiency of Compensatory Acceleration Training on a wide array of subjects.  This article could be a doctrinal dissertation if I included them all.

The guidelines I will give you are a blend of researched-based conclusions, anecdotes and speculative science (i.e. drawing broad assumptions off existing literature).
  • Control the negative portion of the rep, explode the positive
  • More sets, fewer reps (think 8 sets of 3 rather than 3 sets of 8)
  • Use on compound movements (presses, pulls, squats, rows)
  • Perform all heavy work sets in this manner (unless specifically opting for tempo training)
  • Never sacrifice technique for speed
  • Never sacrifice tightness for speed
I recommend this type of training for compound movements.  However, one research study recently touted the benefits of bicep curls performed in this manner.

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Final Thoughts
Often in the iron game, necessity proves to be the mother of invention.  Compensatory Acceleration Training is no exception.

World record setting powerlifter, Fred Hatfield, in the 1980s did not want to have to handle world record poundage week in and week out. Approaching nearly 50 years old then, Hatfield needed to find a high force alternative and voila, he devised Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT).

Every workout counts, every set counts, every rep counts. Your progress is accumulation of what you day in and day out. To maximize these factors, you have to train in a CAT style.

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