If transforming your body into a calorie-burning furnace is your goal, then you need to be sure your workouts invite as many muscle fibers to the party as possible. That’s why an advanced high-intensity technique known as compensatory acceleration training, or “CAT” for short, can be your new BFBF — that’s “best fat-blasting friend.”
The method is simple: your goal is to achieve the maximum level of velocity, or speed, possible during the concentric (flexion, or muscle-shortening) portion of your reps. “If that sounds tricky, it’s actually much easier to pull off than you think,” says Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, world record–holding powerlifter (the youngest human to raw bench press – meaning without a supportive shirt or belt – six hundred pounds) and trainer at Metroflex in Arlington, Texas. As he explains, “With most of the exercises in this routine, your main goal will be to push or pull the weight as explosively as you can with maximum force, then simply lower it back down at a normal speed (approximately two seconds).”
Why? Your muscles are made up of two different types of fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Your slow-twitch fibers are more resistant to fatigue and are typically what your muscles recruit first. Your fast-twitch muscle fibers are the exact opposite: they are capable of generating more power, but they tire faster, are typically called on only after your slow-twitch fibers have been fatigued, and require a strong stimulus. If you aren’t working out at a high enough intensity, or you’re not lifting heavy weights, your muscles may only rely on those slow-twitch fibers. That’s where CAT comes to the rescue. “Lifting a sub-maximal weight with maximum force lets you achieve the same benefits of training with heavy weights by forcing your muscles to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers,” explains Bryant. By adding a bit of extra pep to your reps, you can build muscle without having to heave hundreds of pounds. As for the ladies looking to lean out, hold your horses: this method even has a fat-burning component. “Because of its greater intensity, you’ll burn more calories during – and long after – each workout than you normally would with a typical weight-training routine,” says Bryant.
Rules & Regulations
“For the first six exercises in this routine, you’ll push or pull the weight with as much force as possible, pause, then control the weight on the way down,” says Bryant.
However, for two of the moves in this routine — the incline I-Y-T and scapular retraction — you won’t be using this method. These two less-intense exercises train the muscles of your shoulders and rotator cuffs to be stronger and more stable, so that you can use this technique more often, and with a smaller chance of injury.
Do this plan three times a week for four weeks, and rest at least 48 hours in between. For exercises that call for six reps, you’ll use a heavier weight and rest longer in between sets. After four weeks, switch to another type of routine for two to three months before trying CAT training again.
Barbell Bench Press
Target Muscles: pectoralis major (sternal aspect), deltoids (front head), triceps brachii
Lie flat on a bench with your feet on the floor. Grab the bar, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and hold the weight over your chest with arms extended straight up. Keeping your elbows tucked in, lower the bar to your chest, then explosively push the weight back up. Repeat.
Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, lower trapezius, biceps brachii, brachioradialis
Tie a superband to a chin-up bar, then rest one foot or knee through the loop to help support your weight. Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you. Explosively pull yourself up until your chin clears or comes close to clearing the bar. Extend your arms to lower, and repeat.
Standing Overhead Barbell Press
Target Muscles: deltoids (front and lateral heads), triceps brachii
Stand tall and hold a barbell in front of your chest as shown, with hands spaced shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Explosively press the weight over your head, keeping your back straight, until your arms are fully extended overhead, with your elbows unlocked. Lower the weight back down and repeat.
Bent-Over Barbell Row
Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, biceps brachii, erector spinae
Place a barbell on the floor in front of you and stand behind it with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Reach down and grab the bar with a wide overhand grip. Lift the barbell from the floor, bringing your torso almost parallel to the ground and keeping your arms extended. Explosively pull the bar up until it nearly touches the top of your midsection. Pause, lower the bar until your arms are straight, and repeat.
Band-Assisted Parallel Dip
Target Muscles: pectoralis major, triceps brachii
Tie each end of a superband to a set of parallel bars so that the band is stretched between them. Grab one bar in each hand, and place your knees on the band to help support your weight. Keeping your elbows tucked in, bend your arms to lower your body. Explosively push yourself back up until your arms are straight. Pause, then repeat.
Barbell Biceps Curl
Target Muscle: biceps brachii
Grab a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing forward, and the bar positioned directly in front of your thighs. Keeping your elbows glued to your sides, explosively curl the bar up, until your forearms touch your biceps. Pause, lower the bar, and repeat.
Target Muscles: deltoids (front, lateral and rear heads), rotator cuff muscles
Set an incline bench to 45 degrees, then sit with your chest against the padding. Grab a light dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down, palms facing each other. Raise the weights in front of you until your arms are parallel to the floor. Lower, then raise your arms out at 45-degree angles to your body – it will resemble the letter “Y.” Lower, then raise your arms once more, this time extending them out to the sides (your body should look like the letter “T”). Lower your arms to complete one rep, and repeat.
Target muscles: rhomboids, serratus anterior
Sit at a lat pulldown station with a long bar attached. Grab the bar with an overhand grip wider than shoulder width. Without bending your elbows, pull your shoulder blades down and back towards each other. Hold this position for a few seconds, return to the start, and repeat.