Dr. Squat and Me

I want to talk about a man that had a great influence on me as an athlete and a man: Fred “Dr Squahatfieldt” Hatfield PhD. At the conclusion of my rookie NFL season (an unremarkable stretch in Cincinnati the Bengals) I headed west to Los Angeles at the invitation of my friend Perry Rosen. My close friend, a training partner from my Long Island days (Rab’s Gym in Lynbrook), Perry had made the move west to pursue his dream of becoming a Hollywood star. It was an easy decision to accept his invitation to join him and spend my NFL off-season in balmy LA. When my season ended I stowed my striped orange helmet and headed directly east to Reseda, CA. Although I often worked out with Perry, who was reasonably strong at 215 pounds, I was IMG_7897in need of a training partner who could challenge me both physically and mentally. Not long after I arrived in “The Valley” (The movie Valley Girls with Nicholas Cage was the big movie that summer) I began dating a young lady who said “There’s a really strong man that works in my dad’s office and you totally have to meet him; he’s really smart and you two will hit it off!” Turns out my friend Jill’s dad worked for Joe Weider at his corporate headquarters in Woodland Hills, CA. Jill’s dad was in sales but friendly with one of Weider’s senior directors and sports science director Dr. Fred Hatfield. I had certainly heard of Dr. Squat and jumped at the chance to meet him and just as Jill had predicted Fred and I became fast friends. Before long Fred invited me to workout with him in his garage gym and that’s when it started to get interesting.

0822.jpgThere is no denying that Fred was powerfully built especially when viewed from the back; neck to a hamstrings Fred’s muscularity was incredibly thick and ropey. His lumbar paraspinals were so powerfully developed they created an appearance of having slabs of steak strapped on either side of his spinal column. Broad shoulders and thick pec too. His 250 pound body was compressed, with single digit body fat, on to just 5’6″. Think fire plug with traps. A tick more than a foot shorter than me but just 30 pounds lighter.

I was a good lifter, by football player standards, but was looking to improve myself as a football player and athlete and I know strength was a crucially important athletic quality. At the time I was squatting around 585. I realize that many reading his have never training the squat to the standards of high level powerlifters and football players so permit me to define the all important depth of the squat as is the standard; the crease of the hip passes BELOW the crease of the knee. Yep – it’s way down there where gravity is nasty, your chest is slammed into your knees and leverages are compromised. I held weightlifting records when I was at the University of Maryland and was among the stronger Bengals players. Incredibly Fred had me beat in the squat by 400 – not 40 – but 400 pounds! My first thought was Holy Crap, what am I doing training with this guy. My second thought was to align myself with Fred, pay close attention to everything he said and did  and work as hard as I could. He was my chance to spend an off season getting stronger and develop the most important asset in sport – power!

I spent three off-season’s training with Fred in his garage gym along with various athletes, amateur and professional, who would drop by to workout of just shoot the baloney. There was nothing fancy about the gym; a converted three car garage who’s dominant feature was an industrial strength power rack. Dumbbells ran in pairs up to 150 lbs. medicine balls, pull-up bar etc. Notable pieces of equipment included a “safety squat bar”, common in serious training gyms today but revolutionary in the 80’s. Many don’t know this but it was Fred who popularized the SSB when he began training with it in the   the 70’s. Fred and I used it quite a bit in the 80’s.  Notable too were the special bars and plates necessitated by the poundages Fred squatted. I’ll explain; the standard weightlifting bars in gyms across the world are designed and built to accommodate a load of 650-800 pounds. Load the bar with plates totaling more than that amount and the bar fails (bends) rendering it unusable. Yet reasonably new bars never bend. Here’s why; most obviously, there are few mighty enough to require their bar be loaded to 800 pounds and secondly the collars of the bar fill to horizontal capacity with 45 pound plates in effect “maxing out” the bar. Hence the need for the specialized bars and plates in Fred’s gym. The first order of business are bars, made of freakishly strong iron, that can accommodate 1,200 pounds. Secondly Fred had a stash of rare 100 pound plates – heavier than manhole covers and beastly to manage. These were the metaphorical hammer and chisel of super strength training employed buy only the strongest on the planet. Mind you this was a decade before “gear” (metal strut reenforced suits that permit one, while wearing it, to squat 200-300 pounds more than they could wearing a cotton single worn by Fred and the powerlifters of the day) was introduced to the sport of powerlifting – hastening its spiraling popularity.

I made great progress in all my lifts; in the NFL they test what I call the NFL Total: Bench Press, Power Clean and Full Squat. My NFL Total PR’s were: Bench 500, Clean 365, Squat 665. Of course the training led to improvements in my game, after all the reason I was training was ultimately to be a better NFL defensive lineman. The power I added while working with Fred led to increased “pop” at the point of contact ability to impose upper-body violence on my opponent. My game improved and importantly “I” improved; as an athlete, and a man. Those summers, Dr. Squat and me in Fred’s Gym were special times. Early on I asked Fred if had a would turn the stereo on to which said “don’t have one … I train to the music in my head”. Okey-dokie, no music was fine with me, besides the conversation was so power – mostly Fred talking and me listening – that music would only have mucked it up. Conversation, heavy training, followed by more conversation and seventy-five minutes later when the session was over Fred would fire up a Kool and kick back in his easy chair. Those were the days. Dr. Squat and me. PK


Do You Squat Like A Girl Or A Chump?

This should be mandatory viewing for everyone who squats or for that matter everyone who lifts weights. If you can’t get as deep as this 115 girl (with 135 lbs. on her back) then reduce the poundage – to an empty bar if necessary – until you can perform 20  full repetitions. A “full” aka “deep” squat requires depth in which the TOP of your thigh be parallel to the floor as demonstrated by this young woman. While she bangs out  technically perfect deep squats, rep after rep , some Chump in the background is doing weak-ass quarter squats,  with the same weight, while wearing gloves and using the bar pad … pitiful …. Now Go Get Strong! PK


Training Priorities And Program Design

Whether you are a Fitness Professional or simply trying to optimize your own workouts, deciding what to do at the gym/track/park is a complex task that the overwhelming majority of people fail at. The following post by Patrick Ward offers a glimpse into what Top-Flight professionals consider in designing and implementing programs for their athletes – from Pro’s to Joe’s. PK

Fitting It All In – Training Priorities

by Patrick Ward

In the past I have discussed the importance of being flexible with regard to your training program and not being so rigid with regard to what is written on paper.  This is especially true when talking about backing off of the training intensity on a given training day if an individual is physically not preparedto do the assigned work.

In talking with a number of coaches over the past few weeks a common topic that has come up has been fitting it all it. There are many things that are considered in a training program:

  • Warm up
  • Mobility/Flexibility
  • Corrective exercise
  • Medicine ball throws
  • Sprints
  • Power Training (jumps, plyos, olympic lifts, etc)
  • Strength training
  • Energy system development
  • Etc

With so many qualities that need to be trained it is easy to see why it may be difficult to fit everything into the hour (or however long you have with your athletes).  And then there is the question of “why would you want to fit everything into an hour?”

It isn’t that this can’t be done or that I think it is bad.  In fact, there are times when this may be the best way to go.  However, I tend to run into the problem with this sort of programming where my training session end up looking a little schizophrenic.  With so many qualities to try and cram into one session, I find it hard to prioritize anything or take the time to focus on something more specifically.  Additionally, there are often times where things don’t work out as planned – people show up late to training, practice was harder than usual, there was a competition the day before, etc.  Thus, it is more beneficial (in my opinion anyway) to prioritize your training sessions as much as possible.

Rather than trying to do everything, look at the training session and determine what one or two things on the sheet are THE MOST IMPORTANT things to focus on for that day.  Make those things the priority.  Warm up and get right to work on those qualities.   Instead of lumping everything together on one day, prioritize one or two qualities to focus on and then focus on different qualities the next training day.

This same sort of mentality can be taken with soft tissue therapy as well.  Instead of trying to  improve everything, look at your assessment and determine what one or two things are the most important things to focus on that day.

With so many components to take into consideration in a training program, it is important not to lose sight of what the main goal or objective is for the day.  Attack that goal and really try and develop it.

Success In Fitness And Life: Where To Begin

This is an excellent, concise article in which Dave Tate a standout powerlifter turned tremendously successful business owner, outlines the thought process he used to develop his business. I find much wisdom in Tate’s writing and believe that we can all benefit from his message. PK

The Primary Aim

By Dave Tate

Since my first Under the Bar article and now after the release of the Under the Bar book I have been asked one question more than any other. This question is;

“Dave, I am looking to start my own gym (or personal training center). Where do I begin?”

Where do I begin?

This is the same question I ask myself when addressed with this question. Do I begin with the 7 main systems of business?

  • Lead Conversion Systems
  • Lead Generation Systems
  • Marketing Systems
  • Leadership Systems
  • Management Systems
  • Client Fulfillment Systems
  • Financial Systems

Do I start with the process of the business plan, marketing plan, employee development or one of the other specific aspects of business?

This question is much like being asked “How do you get strong?”

How do you get strong?

There is a great place to start. We all go into the weight room for a very specific reason, much like we start a business. The real question is not how do you get strong but why do you want to get strong in the first place? It is not about how you start a business but why do you want a business in the first place? What is the driving force behind why you want to do this? What are the real reasons for taking this huge step?

When I ask people this they don’t know what to think. They have not thought about why. They have not given thought to what their primary aim is. The primary aim is intensely personal. It is all about you. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. There is only what is true for you.

So how do you establish your primary aim? The best way I have found to do this is with a process I used while going through the E-Myth Mastery Program. First you determine what you do and do not want in your life. Then you prioritize and bust barriers followed by writing your own eulogy. When you finish these you will have clear vision to determine what your real aim in life is.

What you DO NOT want in life

The first thing that has to be determined is what you DO NOT want in your life. When you begin to look at those things you do not want you begin to see what you really do what in your life. You also begin to see and discover all the self imposed limitations you have placed on yourself up to this point. It is not about money, fame, power, possessions, winning or loosing. These are not the real reasons behind anything. Just as your max bench press or total is not the main reason you strength train. It is much deeper than this. This deeper place is where you need to look if you really want to have success in business, training, coaching or anything else in life. You primary aim is about the real world, not some made up make believe place we imagine the world to be.

By understanding your aim you begin to understand your essence for life. It gives you the power to live life on your terms. It gives you the ability to make things happen instead of having things happen to you. It helps you place real priorities in your life. Not priorities someone else thinks you should have, but real ones that will steer the direction of everything in your life. It gives you life purpose. It gives you the ability to better serve this purpose

So make a list of all the things you DO NOT want in your life. Make this a brain storming activity and write as many things as you can. Try to make a list of 50 different items. Go crazy with this. Try not to think about it, just write. Think about what things you value in life. Think about whom you do not like and why you do not like them. Think about what matters most to you and how you would like to feel on a day to day basis. Think about what you have done in your life that you wish never happened. Think of things you have said that you wish you never said. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

When you complete you list go back and circle those things you most what to not be a part of your life. Do not go crazy with this. Only circle those things you feel are the most important to avoid.

What do you want?

Just as you did with those things you do not want in your life, you will now make a list off all the things you do want in your life. Try to stay away from material things and money. They have very little to do with the development of your primary aim. They also come with success. If you live according to your primary aim you will always have more than you will even need.

Once again, go back and circle a few things you most feel should be a part of your life. No more than 5 items should be circled.


Go back to your two lists and pull all the circles items to a new list. Now look at these items and take some time to really think about each one. Think of why they are on your list and how they rank according to each other. Prioritize these items from most important to least important. When you look at each item think of what could stand in the way of accomplishing them to the degree you wish. What gets in the way now? What could get in the way later down the road? What barriers could keep you from each item? Make a list of these barriers and more importantly what you will do to overcome them. What are you self imposed limitations and how will you address them? What are your fears and how will you over come them? What habits do you need to break? What new habits do you need to create?

Write your eulogy

Sit back, relax and think of the day when you will no longer be with us. Think about all those people who are most important to you assembled at your memorial ceremony. You now have the chance to write your own eulogy. What would you like it to say? More importantly what do you what those in attendance to remember you for?

Will it be how much money you made? How much you dead lifted? How many touch downs you made? I don’t think so! What will it be?

What if you left us today? What would be said? Is it what you would write if you wrote your own? I call this the gap. We can’t control what would be said today BUT we can change and control what it would be later in life. The most important this to understand is you have 100% total control of how you would like to be remembered just as you have total control of your own life. The choice is yours to make.

Your Aim

You know have all you need to know to determine your primary aim. Try to write a single phrase or sentence that describes what you really what you life to be like.

You may be asking what does this have to do about business, training, or coaching. If this is the case then maybe you should pick up a pencil and do the work. If you really do the work you will never have to ask this question.


Daniel Coyle, Keith Richards And Cultivating Passion!

This an awesome post from one of the thoughtful writers in America; author ofThe Talent Code, Daniel Coyle. Here Coyle, upon reading Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards new biography Life, postulates how Richards passion for playing the guitar was cultivated. You will surprised at his loving uncle’s method. PK

How to Light a Fire: The Keith Richards Method


Passion is the nuclear reaction at the core of every talent. It’s the glowing, inexhaustible energy source. It’s also pretty darn mysterious.

Where does intense passion come from? How does it start, and how is it sustained?  How does someone fall wildly in love with math or music, stock trading or figure skating?

Most of us intuitively think of passion as uncontrollable — you have it or you don’t, period. In this way of thinking, passion is like a lightning strike, or a winning lottery ticket. It happens to the few, and the rest of us are out of luck.

But is that true?  Or are there smart ways to increase the odds?

We get some insight into that question from none other than Keith Richards, whose book Life just came out. My favorite part of the book (and that’s saying something) is the part where Keith tells how he fell in love with music, and specifically with the guitar. The process went like this:

Step one: Keith’s Grandpa Gus, who was a former musician and a bit of a rebel, noticed that Keith liked singing.

Step two: whenever young Keith would come over, Gus placed a guitar on on top of the the family piano. Keith noticed. Gus told him, when he was taller, he could give it a try.

Step three: one momentous and unforgettable day, Gus took the guitar down from the piano, and handed it to Keith. From that moment, Richards was hooked (his first addiction). He took the guitar everywhere he went.

As Richards writes:

“The guitar was totally out of reach. It was something you looked at, thought about, but never got your hands on. I’ll never forget the guitar on top of his upright piano every time I’d go and visit, starting maybe from the age of five. I thought that was where the thing lived. I thought it was always there. And I just kept looking at it, and he didn’t say anything, and a few years later I was still looking at it. “Hey, when you get tall enough, you can have a go at it,” he said. I didn’t find out until after he was dead that he only brought that out and put it up there when he knew I was coming to visit. So I was being teased in a way.”

Reading it, I couldn’t help but think that most parents and teachers — me included — do precisely the opposite. We don’t put things out of reach — in fact we put them within reach. We go fast, not slow. We try to identify passion, not to grow it. We don’t take the time to make the nuclear reaction happen on its own.

For me, the lessons are these:

  • Don’t treat passion like lightning. Treat it like a virus, one that’s transmitted on contact with people who already have it. Grandpa Gus loved music. He noticed Keith liked singing.
  • Create a space for private contact with a vast, magical world. The guitar was totally out of reach. It was something you looked at, thought about, but never got your hands on.
  • Give time for the ideas to grow. And I just kept looking at it, and he didn’t say anything, and a few years later I was still looking at it.
  • Know that it’s never about today, but rather about creating a vision of the future self. “When you get tall enough you can have a go at it.”

For parents and teachers, Gus provides a useful model. Because Gus didn’t hover. He didn’t push. He didn’t even try to teach, beyond some rudimentary chords. But he did something far more intelligent and powerful. He understood what makes kids care. He carefully put the elements in place, sent a few pointed signals at the right time, and let the forces of nature take their course.

Smart man, that Gus.

And I can’t help but wonder: are there other Gus stories out there that might be instructive? How do we take the Gus Method and apply it to schools, or sports, or math?

What I Think …

“I speak the truth not so much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older.” ~Michel de Montaigne

In an NFL game between the Eagles and Falcons, there was an extraordinary collision that spoke to all that I love and despise about football, the sport that was and is a great part of my life. It was a play run countless times each football weekend: the quarterback throws a pass to his receiver running a crossing route, wherein said receiver DeSean Jackson  is greeted – violently – by  cornerback Dunta Robinson. The result of the high-speed tackle was unconsciousness, times two. A double knockout blow that stopped the game, emptied both team sidelines of their medical teams for assessment and players for hand-holding prayer. Seventy thousand spectators watched  and prayed and hoped that their Hero’s would arise. That scene, that violence that level of injury – and yes I assure you their were two brain injuries –  is the part of the game that I despise .

Finally, after a relative eternity  in which helpless fans, coach’s and players quietly waited,  both players were helped to their feet, then off the field as the crowd applauded in relief. As Dunta and DeShaun passed each in route to respective sidelines, they paused and asked one another if they “were okay?”  That profound display of respect and sportsmanship, just minutes after play that damaged both, is the part of the game that I love. PK