In this world, there are men – and then there are giants.
Frederick C. Hatfield – known to most in our industry as “Dr. Squat” – was always destined to be part of the latter group. No matter who you were or what you were hoping to accomplish in your life, Fred had a way of firing you up to work toward your passion. After spending just a few minutes with him, you believed that the impossible is merely just an obstacle; that the world can be conquered with enough hard work, passion and dedication.
Fred left a legacy before he left us – and if my suspicions are correct, I have a funny feeling he’ll continue to inspire generations of athletes with his inability to be held down by the laws of nature.
Ask most people in the fitness industry if they knew “Dr. Squat,” and chances are you’d hear an incredible story about Fred.
Perhaps my favorite is how nonchalantly he would talk about what is arguably his most incredible life achievement: being one of the first men to squat over 1,000 pounds in competition (more accurately, he squatted 1,014 pounds with a body weight of 255 pounds). I once asked Fred, “What made you think you could do something like that?” and he replied, “First, you’ve got to believe. But what made me believe? It was a very simple operation…I did a line of best fit on my 165-pound lifts, my 181-pound lifts and my 198-pound lifts, and I extended that line until the line crossed 1,000 lbs. I saw that I needed to weigh at least 255 lbs. to squat over 1,000 pounds, and I did it.” He also told me that once he made up his mind, “It was a foregone conclusion, because I planned it that way, and I made it happen.”
Of course, being known as Dr. Squat, he would get asked about his legacy all the time, and he’d respond in the same way that you would if you were asked what kind of car you drove. But that’s just it – Fred didn’t need to boast or brag about his accomplishments. That isn’t where he sought a sense of satisfaction. Instead, Fred gave back through a variety of ways: with mentorships, in universities and on athletic teams.
Fred was always looking for opportunities to teach. He co-founded the International Sports Science Association (ISSA) and always considered himself “the professor.” You could definitely spot him in a crowd. His face belied his imposing, still-muscular body. His face would always break into a beam whenever he smiled at his students. No matter what the day or the weather, he was always positive; a welcome ray of sunshine in a world sorely needing it.
Fred was never content to stop giving back to the community. He was intent on changing lives – even the lives of people he didn’t know. Throughout his career, he managed to find the time to write 60 books on everything from powerlifting to performance nutrition.
What made this incredible is that Fred has every right in the world to write those books from the perspective of an expert. You know the kind of books I’m talking about – the ones that seem to forget that there are real people hoping to gain wisdom from these books. With so many records and accomplishments under his belt, he could have been as condescending and out of touch as he wanted to be. But he wasn’t.
Read just a single paragraph in any of his books, and you’ll discover that every word is carefully chosen and created to inspire and motivate. There’s no ego. No desire to protect his fitness secrets and provide watered-down advice to the masses. He was achingly earnest. He wanted people to read his books, adopt his advice, and come to challenge his title. He wanted to see a new generation of bodybuilders rise and transform the field. What was once mysterious, he wanted to make accessible.
That was just the kind of person Fred was.
I think Fred was in his prime when he was coaching others who were on their own athletic journey. He took many athletes under his wing and taught them the power of passion and perseverance. He wasn’t the kind of coach that would stand in your face and yell at you to do more – unless you responded to that type of training. His style was more encouraging, but nevertheless just as powerful. There was just something magnetic about his personality; you wanted to achieve more with every lift. You wanted to achieve your PR with him looking on.
It’s no wonder Fred coached so many professional and world-class athletes. He just had the amazing capability of helping someone achieve their full potential, whether they wanted to beat their own personal record or qualify for the Olympics. Nothing was too big or small for him to help you. All he wanted to see was an unquenchable thirst to dig deep and discover the passion within.
It wasn’t just athletes that Fred coached. I first became aware of Fred when I was in college in the early ’80s. Shortly after, I opened my own fitness studio (long enough ago that several people couldn’t understand the concept of paying to exercise). I was going through multiple challenges then: How would I find customers? How could I help my clients achieve their fitness goals? Was I in over my head?
These questions haunted me at night, but as I began to research and learn from the pioneers of our industry, like Fred, I knew I would find the kind of advice that I needed.
Nothing seemed too trivial for Fred. We’d just talk it out, and before I knew it, I had a million different ways of approaching a problem that had previously seemed impossible to overcome.
I knew Fred both on a personal and professional basis. As a mentor, Fred helped me through some of the most challenging periods of my career. As my friend, Fred continuously inspired me to look at every impossible goal I could ever dream of and laugh at it right in its face.
Fred was a dreamer, a giver, a doer. His energy levels were boundless; his capability for inspiration, endless. He influenced thousands of people throughout his too-short life. I only wish he was here now to see just how many people are sharing their own stories of how Fred made a difference in their lives.
There are no words to say how much I’ll miss Fred. Everything feels so inadequate for such a larger-than-life man. How do you say goodbye to the man who set World Records while inspiring so many others? How do you create a tribute for a man who touched the lives of so many and revolutionized the fitness industry as we know it?
That’s why words don’t seem enough. Not right now, not ever. But if there’s one thing Fred taught me, it’s that success begins with passion. So, I’ll conclude this tribute with a quote, in Fred’s own words, about passion.
"Passion is not your need to achieve.
Instead it’s a burning desire to exceed all bounds.
It is not commitment to excellence.
It’s utter distain for anything less.
It’s not endless hours of practice.
It’s perfect practice.
It’s not your ability to cope.
It’s the total domination of every situation in life.
It’s not setting unrealistic goals or vague goals.
Because goals all too often prescribe performance limits.
It’s not doing what it takes to win.
It’s doing what it takes to exceed the bounds of mere convention.
Most of all it’s not the force of skill or muscle.
Rather, it’s the explosive, often calamities force of will.
Now, if you believe in and practice these things, then for you, winning is neither everything, nor the
only thing… for you, winning is a foregone conclusion."
Thank you, my friend, for living your passion and leaving a legacy.