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Fred Hatfield, Ph.D.—AKA “dr. Squat”—is one of the world’s preeminent authorities on all things related to strength and muscle. he holds a doctorate in kinesiology, is a world record-setting powerlifter, co-founder of the International Sports Sciences Association (iSSa), and a former editor at Muscle & Fitness. We recently caught up with the good doctor for a wide-ranging interview.
M&F: What’s the best advice you could give a guy who’s plateaued and isn’t getting stronger?
Fred Hatfield: Intermediate lifters are going to plateau. Almost everybody does at that stage of development and there’s a very simple solution: periodization. If you are on a carefully constructed periodized program, you’re not going to plateau. By breaking your training into discrete periods of time, particularly 6 or 8 weeks at most, with a specific step-wise task for each period, you can avoid such plateaus in progress. It works 100% of the time. There are many, many schemes that are written about for accomplishing this. One that I developed is called the ABC system. Your readers can have a look at it at my site, drsquat.com.
You cofounded the ISSA. What do you think when you look at the personal training industry today?
My partner, Dr. Sal Arria, and I started the ISSA because we were watching this guy on television whose job it was to help a particular movie star get in shape. And he was doing everything wrong. The recommendations for diet and exercise were so completely bogus that the movie star was in dire jeopardy if he were to take his advice. In founding the ISSA, we wanted to see things done right. We wanted to see things brought to a reasonably scientific level, because we were both from the world of iron ourselves. We were both competitors. Most of the other personal training organizations cannot boast that kind of a credential. I like to believe that ISSA is still the leader of the pack.
What was your first exposure to training?
Around the age of 11 or 12. I was walking home from school one day and I saw a bunch of older kids lifting weights in a garage. I was watching and I’m saying to myself, “I could do that, easy,” because I threw bales of hay around at that young age growing up on a farm. So I stood there and watched for a while, and one of the kids said, “Hey! Come on over and try it!” I lifted the bar overhead about a half-dozen times, and these guys—all older than me— were looking at each other like they couldn’t believe it.
Why do you think the USA has fallen so far behind in Olympic weightlifting?
The guys aren’t getting strong enough. I think it’s just that simple. Somewhere along the line, the Olympic lifters in this country began to believe the nonsense that perfect technique is what’s going to get you to the top in Olympic lifting. I look at Olympic weightlifters today and they look like regular athletes, you know? With hardly an ounce of serious density to their muscle tissue. Technique is important, but once you’ve learned it, you have to get strong.
Learn more from Fred Hatfield at Dr. Squat.
To learn more about the ISSA, visit their website.