The Rage of the Squat King

The Rage of the Squat King By: Rick Bass from The Best American Sports Writing 2015

Fred Hatfield aka “Dr. Squat,” is one of the greatest squatters of all time. The writer Rick Bass admired Fred while he was in college only being able to see him on the television but 20 years later he had an opportunity to sit down with the great lifter for an interview with him. The weight lifting champion now works in an office full of “pencil necks” as Hatfield put it, where he doesn’t exactly fit in wearing a track suit and tee shirt while everyone else is dress in traditional corporate wear. Hatfield was already excellent at squatting doing a “mediocre” 550 pounds but he later developed his own science on how to squat more. He found 35 to 40 different factors ranging from anatomical to physiological that must be accounted for to truly maximize your strength which has revolutionized squatting. Maximizing all these factors can get you squatting over his outstanding record of 1100 pounds.

From the age of seven Hatfield grew up in an orphanage with his three sister. He talks about living in a house with 72 other kids and how on one hand you had a rivalry with everyone else there but on the other they were all in the same boat together and there was a shared sense of protectiveness and passion among them all. When Fred was 12 he had a chance to be adopted by a family from New Jersey that had a rich grandfather that had created the ice cream machine. The family took him on a trip across the country as a test run for 90 days except the family only took Fred and not any of his 3 sisters. He had never been anywhere and was able to see many things he had never seen before or maybe even dreamt of. All these new exciting places to go and see didn’t change the fact that he missed his sisters and he could tell that it just wasn’t going to work with this family so he opted to go back to the orphanage to be with his sisters.

Hatfield went on to describe what passion is “IT IS NOT A ‘COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE’; RATHER, IT IS UTTER DISDAIN FOR ANYTHING LESS!”  Passion is not something that Hatfield lacks, a few weeks before the article at the age of 50 he broke the record for the 198-pound bodyweight class with a squat of 860 pounds.

Bass asked Hatfield if he had any secret rituals that he would do before going for a record squat such as “The Giant One” as Hatfield calls it. He talked about how there is a place in everyone’s mind where you go to block out all distractions and there is no pain, no negative force and only positive forces dwell there. You have to ignore everything that is going on around you and focus on the task at hand which is going down and coming back up with the weight and nothing else.

This article was very enjoyable for me. It was told from the perspective of Rick Bass while he interviewed Fred Hatfield. The writer did a good job letting me visualize the lifter and gave us some back story into what made such a great athlete what he is today. Back in high school when I was doing football and basketball I really worked hard at squatting because it is such an important lift for any competitive sport but I could never image being able to lift as much has he did even when he said he was mediocre. Hatfield talked about passion and being focused and I think those are both traits that we can use in everyday life yet not enough people (myself included) do and we need to do a better job at focusing on one thing and doing it well rather than half the effort on many things.

Jeff Reed


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