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.


Paul carter fred smalls


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.



"You know what someone told me?" Fred asked me on the phone a few weeks after I got home.


"He told me, 'You're maxed out man. You can't get any bigger. You're 39. You just need to concentrate on refining what you already have.' "

There was a pause from Fred after he said this. "Well screw that man.  I'm not accepting that."

I laughed at Freddy's objection. He was legitimately upset by this assessment of someone he respected.

"I know I can still get bigger," he said defiantly.

"I believe so," I replied.

"Then let's do this. I'm ready," Freddy said.

I really think he thought he was. I do. I'm sure he expected some of the same old bullshit he'd read before, or done before in training. After all, when I got home, I watched every training video of Fred I could find, and his training was very typical. My methodologies for hypertrophy are not. He was going to be in for a shock. I looked at every picture of his physique that I could.  I wanted to give his weak points no option but to grow. So after a few weeks of study, I sat down and started writing out what I wanted Freddy to do.

 Fred Smalls 

When I got my first workout from Paul, I turned to my wife and said, "What the fuck – this is crazy!"

It was radically different from traditional bodybuilding methods which primarily focus on keeping your sets between 20-70 seconds and keeping your weights heavy enough so you can hit around 6-12 reps. In Paul's program, he still had me moving heavy weights on big compound exercises, but there were lots of exercises I had never done before. Like the ultimate girly man barbell glute hip thrusts and Jefferson squats. There were 120 rep sets, and sometimes sets that lasted past 4 minutes due to extended set intensity techniques. And the volume at times was insane.   

Fred smalls training 2
To say that the program took me out of my comfort zone is putting it mildly. Every workout became a challenge. Everyday was truly a grind in which I was striving to outdo the previous workout. My focus increased because I was determined to never let the program beat me. My confidence soon soared. To the highest it's ever been because I knew that while my competitors might be working differently, no one was working harder. And I don't mean that with disrespect to anyone. I just couldn't imagine anyone working harder that I was having to work.   

In one of the early workouts, one of guys training with us said, "Man, that was a brutal chest workout. Good job man. Wow!"   

I looked at him and said, "We're not done. We still have to do shoulders." He was horrified.  

It was then that I realized that despite the fact that I thought I was working as hard as I could, the truth was, I had fallen into a rut and kept going back to my comfort zone in training. It wasn't that I wasn't training hard, I was just doing the things I had always done. As the saying goes, "You dance with the girl that you brought," so I kept doing the things that had served me very well up to that point. Unfortunately, that kept me from improving as much as I wanted to.   

This was different. Overall I felt like an 18 year old kid again in the gym. I was getting stronger every workout and I started embracing the challenge to see how far I could push my body. The coolest thing was I could text Paul at any time and he would make changes to the workout based on an injury, or lack of equipment. If we needed to change something on the fly, he told me what needed to be done, and we rolled with it.   

Fred smalls training
I hit my highest off-season bodyweight ever. By a significant degree. The difference was, this time I felt good. Really good.  In the past when I was in full off-season mode and got my heaviest, I generally felt awful. I would feel sloppy and sluggish. It didn't feel like quality at all. This time I still felt athletic, despite being bigger than ever. I knew something was different. I had never been this strong before. I was doing front squats with 500 pounds for reps and reverse grip bench presses with 405 for 12 after previous chest work.   

When Paul told me my back was weak, he didn't just mean muscularly. My back was literally weak. The first week of training he had me doing two different deadlift variations. Rack pulls for upperback, followed by snatch grip deadlifts for glutes and hamstrings. After these two movements I had to do barbell rows. The first day I did this workout, I was forced to use 185 pounds for barbell rows. A small bodypart is often a physically weak bodypart and my erectors and mid-back really were underdeveloped. This was a real wake up call. A few months into the program however, I was doing barbell rows with well over 400 pounds for multiple sets easily, after two different deadlift variations.   

After months of the hardest training I had ever done, I started dieting for the 2015 Arnold Brazil. I couldn't wait to see what all the months of brutally insane training had done for me once I was contest ready.

…to be continued


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