Fred Smalls: Road to the Olympia, Part 1

The winning collaboration of Fred Smalls and Paul Carter.

Fred Smalls: Road to the Olympia, Part 1

 Fred Smalls 

I was fortunate enough to meet Paul Carter at the first Annual Quad City Strength Expo, which was being held in Iowa. Paul's booth happened to be next to mine and when he arrived I walked over and introduced myself.  

We immediately hit it off, and when he mentioned that he wrote articles on Charles Poliquin's website he gained instant credibility and I wanted to learn more about this guy, and what he was all about.  I have been a big fan of Charles training techniques since I was in college back in 1998.  So my interest was piqued and I wanted to spend some time picking his brain.

That evening we went out for a bite to eat and ended up talking about training theories and methodologies, nutrition, and overall life experiences. Our personalities meshed well together and we exchanged contact information and made plans to get together again.

Through the next couple weeks we kept in touch while I prepared for the 50th Edition of the Olympia and I was humbled and grateful that Paul told me he was going to come out and support me.  

This is the story of how we became friends, like brothers, and along with George Farah, grew into a team to help me achieve something I had long dreamed about.



It was well past midnight and my eyes were finally starting to close when the buzzing of my phone alerted me to a text message. I unlocked my phone to see who would be texting me so late. It was Fred.

"What are you doing?" it read.

"Going to sleep." I texted back.

"Come eat sushi."

"I'm tired."

"Come eat sushi."

"I'm tired."

I felt like I had texted him this already. But his reply was the same.

"Come eat sushi."

"It's already late, and my plane leaves out early."

"You're in Vegas. Stay out late and come eat sushi."

"Fine. Tell me where."

Freddy wanted me to meet him at Ra Sushi Bar. So I got my sinus infection having ass out of bed, and headed down to grab a cab. When I arrived I wondered if I had the right place, as all of the lights were off and as far as I could tell, it looked like they had closed. When I checked the door however, it was indeed open. The place was empty, and I found Freddy sitting in a booth in the very back of the restaurant.

"Are they still serving food?" I said as I sat down.

"Well, they said they would since I got here right before closing hours." Freddy told me.

Freddy has a way of talking people in to doing things they don't want to do. Like getting you out of bed after midnight when you're sick to come eat sushi. Or keeping an entire sushi joint open well after closing hours, so sick people can join him in said sushi eating. Truthfully, I was more than happy to meet him as we really hadn't caught up from the Olympia the night before.  Fred had been busy with photo shoots and other things, so his free time had been scarce. We ate sushi and talked for a long time before the topic of his placing at the Mr. Olympia came up.

"Out of the top 10," he said. "I placed 13th. I feel like I should have been 11th or maybe 10th."

I could see the disappointment in Freddy's face.

"Well, that's not what you wanted," I said, "but at the end of the day you have to remember that of all the thousands and thousands of competitive bodybuilders in the world, you still stood onstage with the best in the world."

"Yeah," he said, "but I had a goal to get into the top 10."

"I know." I said. "That's what the offseason is for though. To have time to work on improving where you're weak at."

Freddy leaned back in the booth and exhaled.

"I know I need to work on my glutes and hamstrings," he said.

"Not just your hamstrings and glutes. Your back is weak too," I said.

"My back?" Fred said, somewhat surprised.

"Yeah. When you turn around you disappear."

"No I don't."

"Yes you do."

"No I don't."

"Yes you do."

We sat briefly in silence and then I said it again.

"Yes you do."

I felt like I was having the same kind of text conversation the night started with. This time, I wasn't relenting however and felt I needed to make up for losing the text battle earlier.

"You don't even have traps," I said, taking another bite of sushi.

"My traps are good," Fred quipped.

I laughed.  I thought he was being funny.  I thought he was making a joke.  But he said it with confidence.  He was actually being serious.

"No one has ever said my back needed work," Fred said.

I shrugged at his retort.

"Well it does," I said.

He paused for a while, to actually reflect on what I was saying.

"You really think my back needs that much work?"

"I do. Your erectors are thin, and you lack thickness throughout your entire upper back. Big backs win a lot of shows. At minimum, it really separates the good from the great."

Freddy agreed. And then the conversation turned more serious, and sincere.

"You know," he said, "I work as hard as I can work. I do my best to make sure there's nothing else I could do, to be the best I can be. And I just want to be a champion. That's what I want more than anything. And I struggle with that confidence a lot, because I feel like I'm doing all I can."

As I sat and listened, I thought to myself about Fred's words and how despite the success he had in bodybuilding, finding that fragile balance between confidence and uncertainty was still hung in the balance. Nevermind that he stood on a stage in front of thousands of people in tiny posing trunks, flexed, and danced with a smile on his face. What was often outside of his grasp in spite of the ability to do that, was confidence in himself, and the confidence to obtain the goals he desperately desired.

Fred isn't alone in this struggle. Lots of professional athletes struggle with this same problem. There are sports psychologists that work with million dollar a year athletes, that struggle with the same concepts. That wide receiver in the NFL, who has been catching footballs since he was 6 years old, who dominated in pee-wee, high school, and college to such a degree that he was drafted by an NFL team, now struggles in practice, in pre-game warm ups, and in the game itself to do one basic thing he has been doing for most of his life. Catch a football. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense on the surface. That something so repetitive, something he gets paid millions of dollars to do, has now become a constant battle.  But there are tons of athletes that make it to the very pinnacle of their chosen sport that end up with this same struggle. The struggle to hold on to the confidence that lead them to the place where they are at today.

Confidence can be very fleeting. And if someone doesn't have enough triumphs in their life to allow them to keep a firm handhold on that confidence, it can eventually slip out of their grasp. And Freddy was in the midst of fighting that battle.

"I want to win a show before I'm 40," he said.

"It will take a lot of work," I said. "There are a lot of things you have to improve on. If you want me to help you with your training it will be the most grueling shit you've ever done...but I promise you, I will pour every ounce of my knowledge out in order to help make you better."

"I will do whatever it takes," he said. "I just want to become a champion."

Fred and I finished our sushi and departed at around 2 a.m. My flight was out early, and because of my sinus infection I barely slept and arrived at the airport in full corpse mode. Nevertheless, my mind was already focused on what needed to be done in order to help Fred regain his confidence and help him become a champion.

At the most basic level, Freddy just needed to get bigger overall. Like anyone, he was lagging more in some areas than others, but he was generally hitting the stage between 215 and 222 pounds and since he wasn't in the 212's, he was on the tiny side of the open division. I told him that something to the tune of seven pounds of lean mass would be tough, but doable, and would make a world of difference to his physique.

Some might scoff at seven pounds, but that's because they have no idea the difference seven pounds of lean mass can make in an already heavily muscled competitor's physique. They also have no idea how difficult it might be to gain seven pounds of lean mass by someone who was already pushing very close to their genetic ceiling in regards to that. I figured if we could get Fred onstage after a productive off-season at close to 230 pounds, in his best condition, he would have a tremendous shot at finally seeing some of his goals come to fruition.

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