Volume I Article XXIX   "CAT Periodization Program"


You've competed and trained hard for awhile now. You've made good gains and even had some success, now what? Is it time for a change? Is it time for a slight variation in training? This week let's look at the CAT periodization program. Check it out, see if it can work for you. We'll review this method from my current training and see if it can be applied to yours.

I recently read about this program while surfing around the net. I found it at http://www.angelfire.com/pe/txpls/ and in speaking to Tom McCullough that it is available in detail at www.drsquat.com . CAT stands for "compensatory acceleration training." Now, I myself, can't begin to tell you what that means, so I've asked Tom McCullough to helps us understand the term and some of the methods. I got this much from Dr Squat. "Periodization is a system of breaking down your year's training into short periods of time, each having discreet objectives. So, in hearing that, I thought I would approach Tom to
help, since he and Fred Hatfield are much smarter then I am. To preface any questions, I've been using the protocol of CAT for Bench press, squat and deadlift on my heavy days. I've gone from squatting twice a week to once a week. Occasionally, I'll do speed squats prior to deadlifts. We use the WSB speed bench day on what would be our light day for bench press. This has
worked well for us. I can't tell you if it's because of the technique, or because we needed to do explosive work so badly. But, don't misread. I think both techniques and principles have merit. Also, we deadlift once a week now. Not twice a week anymore and this seems to aid in our ability to recuperate a lot better.

Tom, tell us a little about yourself.

I work as a full-time physical education instructor, football coach, wrestling, and strength and conditioning coach for the Houston  Independent School District in Houston, Texas. I also hold a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in Kinesiology and Human Nutrition from Stephen F. Austin State University, in Nacogdoches, Texas and am certified by the State
of Texas as a secondary physical education teacher.

I have been involved in and competed in the sport of powerlifting since 1980. Since then I have competed in the 198, 220, 242, 275, and 308 pound weight divisions and is a seven times WPA American and World record holder as well as
a five time WABDL USA National and World  record holder.  I currently hold the Masters (40-45) WPA World deadlift record in the 308 pound weight division at 730 pounds, the Masters (40-45) World record in the total, and the Masters (40-45)  WABDL USA National and World deadlift record in the 308 pound weight division at 750 pounds, as well as holding several state
and national titles and records, including a masters Texas record in the APF for the deadlift. I am also  ranked in Powerlifting USA's Masters Top 20 as 3rd best SHW deadlifter in the United States for the year 1999.

Can you give us a brief overview of CAT.

As we all know, when maximal weights are lifted the largest number of motor units are activated.  Thus, using the maximal effort method (max weights) is thought to be best for training the muscles and CNS due to the great load place on them.  In the past most thought that heavy resistance with slow velocities were best for developing strength.  Most research now shows that moving weights at high-velocities are even better for developing strength.

Compensatory acceleration training or CAT is nothing more than explosive training.  CAT is best done in the 55% - 82.5%  range where the amount of power generated is at it's greatest.  In order to perform CAT you must eccentrically lower the weight in a normal controlled fashion.  Once you hit the bottom of the lift, very quickly change directions and explosively move
the weight upwards as rapidly as possible.

Since most periodized protocols utilize the 55% - 82.5% ranges, it possible to use CAT with any periodized protocol. 

Why a 16 week cycle?

There is certainly nothing magic about 16 weeks.  Periodized programs can be any amount of time you wish.  However, it is probably best if you stick with increases of less than 5% of your max (1 RM) per week. For most, the length of the cycle may depend greatly on how long you have to get ready for your next meet. So don't be afraid to try different length cycles just to see what works best for you.

Why start at a lower percentage then say other traditional percentage
based programs?

Simple, optimal ranges for developing power have been shown to be in the 55% - 82.5% of 1RM ranges.  So why not start out with 55% of 1RM and take full advantage of it.  Does this mean you have to start off at 55%?  Of course not.  You can start off even higher if you like.  But remember, the more time you spend developing power in the optimal ranges, the better chance you have of it transferring to some real strength gains.  I would plan on spending at least 80% of your training time in 55% - 82.5% ranges.  The rest of the time will be spent doing heavy weights.

What is the advantage of using singles in the deadlift as opposed to reps?

I believe that it is pretty important in training for competition that you train as closely as you can to how you compete.  This is more commonly referred to as the Principle of Specificity. In other words, if you are training to perform reps, them by all means train reps.  In powerlifting since we are performing one heavy single, why is it not best to train heavy singles.  By doing several sets of singles, we get a chance to perform our technique under meet conditions many time.  Often times, practice makes perfect.

However, if your prefer not to use singles I would suggest that you use PRILEPHIN'S TABLE to plan you periodized training cycle.


Percent             Reps/Set         Optimal Total          Range
55 - 65              3 - 6                24                18 - 30
70 - 75              3 - 6                18                12 - 24
80 - 85              2 - 4                15                10 - 20
> 90                 1 - 2                 7                 4 - 10

Prilephin determined that power may also be best developed when you train within the recommended set and rep schemes suggested in his table. For example, when you are training within the 55% - 65% ranges you should do 3 - 6 sets of 3 - 6 reps.  Any combination of the two will do as long as the total volume (reps) done adds up to 24.  So as you can see there are any number of way to manipulate your training to get the same effect.

When do you incorporate using gear in training?

Again, it's back to the old Principle of Specificity.  Train like you compete! If you are going to compete using equipment, the use equipment in your training.  Since equipment can change your lifting technique drastically, it makes no sense to just throw it on a week or two before you compete.  In order to learn how to take advantage of all that modern equipment has to offer,
you need to spend a good deal of time training in it.

Why only 15 weeks of deadlifting and not 16?

Simple, It takes the back a good deal longer to recover than the legs or chest.  So most powerlifters have found that if they pull their last heavy deadlift two week out of a meet, they are recovered well enough to pull their best on meet day.  There for, your deadlift cycle will be one week shorter than your squat and bench cycle.

Would you consider this a progressive overload program?

YES.  The resistance (weights) are progressively getting heavier, while the volume (reps) is getting smaller.  Progressive over load is periodization. Periodization is nothing more than manipulating the volume and intensity over a period of time.

What is the advantage to it as opposed to some of the other programs?

Periodization has been used for many years.  It has been shown by one research study after another to be the most effective method to increase strength.

What about assistance for each lift?

I strongly believe this is very individual.  Assistance movements are used to strengthen the weak links on you core movement.  So if you have trouble locking out a deadlift, then you need to do assistance work on the muscles used to lock out the deadlift.  However, the Principle of Specificity should followed as closely as possible.  In other words, try to use assistance movements that stick as closely to to the movement of the squat, bench and deadlift as possible.  Research has shown that strength gained in isolation or single joint movements have very little transfer to compound or multi-joint movements.  So the strength that you gain doing knee extensions will have very little effect in gaining strength in the squat or deadlift.

Does this mean that isolation movements and movements that don't move in the
same plane as you core lifts are off limits in powerlifting training?

Absolutely not.  Isolation movements can be use very effectively at the beginning of a cycle or during off-season to strengthen synergistic muscle used in supporting the weight.  Thus helping to prevent injuries later on.

What kind of progress have you made using this program?

Very good progress. Is it magic?  NO!  How much strength you gain depends on how hard you work.  I can show you the way, but in the end, you still have to do the work. If you don't learn to push the weight as explosively as possible, CAT will not work.  If you are afraid to push yourself in the gym nothing will work.  It's all up to you.

Thanks for answering the questions Tom and taking time out of your busy schedule to do so. As you folks can see, the biggest issue with all programs and technique-is simply to get in the gym and get it on. Being consistent. However, having some type of guideline and a method behind it is also very key and as important as being in the gym training. You have to have a plan.
Now this article doesn't mean that I endorse any one program. I think that would be foolish. But, this has been working for me. You can find something that will help you in just about any type of method and program. Again, having a plan and some thought behind what you are doing is part of the equation.

To review what we've been using for training is as follows:

Monday we do bench press using the CAT protocol, then we do two exercises for triceps. We go light on these exercises on heavy day and then heavy on our speed day. Seems to be helping us so far. We will switch our main exercise for triceps every 2-3 weeks. Mainly, for elbow and wrist soreness. This also seems to somewhat be a similar protocol of the Westside method.
After triceps we do very light shoulders. We will do 3 sets for each head on the shoulders without using any pressing movements to save our shoulders. We put alot of pressure on them from benching. After shoulders we will do four sets of light lats and then 5 sets of 20 reps for abs. This workout last about an hour and a half.

Tuesday we squat. Again, we use the CAT protocol. For assistance, we will do 3x5 on good mornings using various bars and that's about it. We do abs as we did above. Takes about 2 hours depending on gear being used.

Wednesday is OL practice and biceps for powersports.

Thursday we do speed work for bench press following the Westside protocol. However, we use a close grip, medium grip and competition grip as our 3 grips for you westsiders out there. After speed bench, we do heavy triceps using the same movements as Monday, only heavier. We do the same for shoulders. The only difference has been for the medial head. On light day, we do side/lateral raises. On the heavy day, we've gone to using the side raise machine. It just seems to work. After shoulders, we do heavy pull downs and abs. Takes about an hour and a half.

Friday we do deadlift, again following the CAT protocol. We will do rack lockouts every 3rd week. On those days, we don't use any other assistance. On the weeks not using lockouts, we use good mornings, hypers or stiff legs, doing 3 sets of 5. We also do shrugs with the same set/rep scheme. We do the shrugs in several forms, but always do a two second static hold at the top
of the movement. It really helps when we pull heavy weights and has added mass to our upper backs. We finish off with abs. Takes about 1-1.5 hours depending on gear.

Some Saturdays we will do very light OL practice and very light bicep work.

Again, I'd like to thank Tom for taking time out to help us understand CAT and periodization. Try it and see how it works for you. So far, I've responded very well. I encourage you to try it as well. I still do speed work for bench, but have cut it out for squat. I try to do all my sets explosively. I will, from time to time, use speed squats before I deadlift. But I do that infrequently. It was tough on my knees with the OL practice I'm doing. So, try it, see if it can work for you or if you can take
something from it that can push your training forward. Good luck.

As always-lift heavy, train smart & eat more pizza.