Fascinating interview with Celebrity Trainer/Masters CrossFit Athlete and Bulimia Survivor Andrea Logan MS
I want to talk about a man that had a great influence on me as an athlete and a man: Fred “Dr Squat” 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 in 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.
There 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
When I was a young athlete playing football, both at the University of Maryland and NFL years, I was fortune to have mentors that elevated the way I thought about strength/power development and conditioning. Happily those two men continue to be a part of my life. Frank Costello is still coaching Maryland track and field athletes and Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield PhD. is still quite active with the organization he founded, International Sports Sciences Association, rewriting some of his educational books. In conversation with these two men we frequently discuss physical fitness and the sad state of competence among today’s personal trainers.
I begin with the premise that personal trainers don’t want to suck – in fact the personality type of those that get into this profession is that of a helper of others. I believe the field is loaded with bright, earnest individuals that have the best intentions yet statical evidence and simple observation demonstrate that most training is at best ineffective and sometimes harmful. But why? In a word the current generation of personal trainers are overwhelmed by what they read online and further confused by their cohorts discordant views. In other words they are overloaded with ideas and undereducated of scientific fundamentals.
As it happens I was there at the beginning, back when and where “certified” personal training was born. It was 1986 in Southern California and Fred Hatfield along with his business partner Sal Arria were laying the groundwork, in fact founding the worlds first personal trainer certifying course, text book and exam that would become the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Amongst those on the original star-studded Board of Directors was Frank Costello. It’s import to understand a little of the history of these three men. All three were world class athletes. Fred Hatfield was an All-American college gymnast, National level Olympic weightlifter, “Mr. Connecticut” bodybuilder and a multiple time World record holder and World champion powerlifter. Frank Costello was a National champion and Pan American Games gold medalist in the high jump. He is the seventh human being to high jump seven feet. Sal Arria was a World class strength athlete and competitor who competed against the worlds best in powerlifing. As important as the athletic resume is to these founding fathers of fitness their educational chops are top-notch and therein lies the special sauce of their wisdom. Sal is a Doctor of Chiropractic with formal education in human anatomy and biomechanics. Dr. Hatfield earned his doctorate in philosophy from Temple University with competency examinations taken in sport psychology, motor learning and sport sociology. That my friends is what I call a serious combination of academics AND street cred!
A quater century later ISSA is one of the biggest personal trainer educational companies in the world and the only one that offers a college Associates degree. I can tell you that ISSA educated and certified personal trainers are excellent and make a difference in their clients lives. They aren’t the only good trainers but in a field with so much failure and despair they are leading the way. Here’s why. They understand that physical fitness in based, is rooted in strength and power development. It is not rooted in jogging, biking or cycling and neither is grounded it in Pilates, yoga, Zumba or bodybuilding. Strength is the Master control. This truth stands in stark contrast to the ubiquitous myth that the key to fitness is increased cardiovascular capacity with a smattering of stretching. Yet an entire generation of trainers (mostly those that haven’t been educated by ISSA) have been misled by the internet “fitness guru’s” who have neither the academic nor athletic chops to KNOW what training methodologies are truly effective and transformative.
Squat, dead lift, press, sprint, carry, push and pull heavy objects then repeat. The basic tenants of GPP (general physical preparedness) have not changed and must be addressed, embraced first then later on meaningful strength development. Want to develop awesome cardiovascular capacity – the kind that will enable you to destroy your distance runner/triathlon friends – lift weights FASTER! Try squats for sets of 20 followed immediately by 20 burpees then 20 kettlebell swings, repeat for 4 rounds and time it. Train hard and heavy and a month then see if you can beat your time. Get strong and use your newfound strength to build massive muscular endurance. Go get stronger and physically fitter today!
In the first part of this article I identified the distinction between training principles and methodologies. It is critical to adopt a “principle-centric” position when designing workouts or long term programming, however the variety of methods, righteously available to the athlete development coach are infinite. The methods are the choices, the exercises, implements, variables and tools of the principled program.
Naturally the methods are a critical to getting a client/athlete from point A to point B but more than that, it’s were the coach gets to truly express them self. As an example, if the programming objective is to guide an athlete towards greater lower body power, then principle-centric thought will dictate (with few exceptions) that squats will a featured lift. Programming a squat is the principled decision, but what kind of squat? Back squats are the “King” of all lower body developers yet front squats may be a safer and more practical choice. But what about the value of one legged squats, pistols squats and rear foot elevated squats? After all we humans are bipeds and when we run we push off one leg at a time so doesn’t it only make sense that strengthen our legs independently? The point is that their is no one perfect training program but many effective strategies using a great variety of methodologies.
Think of the principles of programming is the objective part, the science, while methodology the subjective part, the art. Here’s a definition that I got from dictionary.com, “wisdom is the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment.” I typically use “wisdom is the place where wisdom meets experience” which gets straight to the point. I want to encourage everyone, whether your a coach or training yourself to think wisely as you train. The availability of knowledge has never been greater and their is no excuse to not be taking advantage of it. Their are huge benefits to be gained with a few minutes of daily reading; for starters checkout http://bretcontreras.com/ and http://t-nation.com/ and the huge archive of articles and videos a http://crossfit.com.
I hope this short article helps you gain perspective and with some, confidence when it comes to optimized training. Just remember that principles are few and methods are many. Effective training is hard work so make it count and remember to have fun!
In the field of physical fitness and athlete development, debate over which methodologies are best is heathy and ubiquitous. For the athlete, coach or weekend warrior interested in the design of an effective training program, principles must first be identified.
“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Increasingly, well meaning folks seeking to increase their level of fitness, improve their body composition or elevate their athleticism are confused as how to to best proceed. Most understand that the decades old myopic fallacy “cardio burns fat” and “lifting weights makes you bulky” has had a ruinous effect on our society. Countless hours, months and years have been squandered by adherents to these unfounded tenants. We are thirteen years into the 21st century people – and it is time that we all know the basic principles of physical fitness and the rudimentary concepts of how to exercise in such a manner to elicit the desired response.
“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” ~ Bruce Lee
The fundamentals of ones own physical fitness is a responsibility of the highest order, no different then knowing the principles of bodily and oral hygiene. When we hear the hygiene we reflexively think of getting our teeth cleaned that the dentist yet it meaning is more robust. Hygiene is defined as “a branch of medical science that discusses the set of practices performed for the preservation of health.” Through the mid twentieth century American colleges offered courses on hygiene that included education of nutrition, sleep, exercise, disease and infection, accidents and drugs. How different our society would be if a single course like we’re thought to our children!
I looked at several definitions of “principles” and “methods” and I liked these.
Principles: “A fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived.” Example: the principles of modern physics.
Methods: “An arrangement of parts or steps to accomplish an end.” Example: random efforts that lack method.
To be clear, a principle, a “general law or truth” is not what your friends sisters roommate, who teaches Pillow Boxing three nights a week, says. Rather it is an act or in our case exercise that has been validated, proven if you will to elicit a specific result.
The SAID principle; Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands, informs us that a specific or particular change will occur based on the exercise you choose. Of course I’m assuming that the variables are accounted for i.e. volume, intensity, frequency etc. So choosing the correct exercises – I’m talking in a very general sense here – is critical to getting the desired result.
Once one engages and acts in a principle based exercise program, then and only then are methods considered. To put a fine point on it the methods one chooses are simply the details of a principled based program. In the next part of this series of articles I will discuss the principles necessary to succeed – regardless of your fitness or athletic development goals.
If you found this blog post informative or at least interesting then please pass it on to friends, family, coworkers anyone you think can benefit from my knowledge and experience. I’m in the business of personal coaching and love a challenge My aim is to help as many people as possible get fit and healthy and do it in a safe and productive way. My goal is to make fitness and athletic development should be fun – it should not a mystery!
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
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
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
- Corrective exercise
- Medicine ball throws
- Power Training (jumps, plyos, olympic lifts, etc)
- Strength training
- Energy system development
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.
Crunch’s are an over rated exercise that may be in fact be damaging your lumbar spine. Conversely ab wheel roll-outs are outstanding for both developing high performance athletic strength and a rocked-up look. The ‘standing’ technique shown in the video is advanced, so if this exercise is new to you, begin on your knees. The fact that this athlete is performing from a standing position and wearing a 80 pound weighted vest demonstrates an elite level of core strength. PK