By Art Horne
It was first described to me during the summer of 2005 when I visited my good friend Mike Potenza, who was working at the time as the S&C coach at the University of Wisconsin for both the men's and women's ice hockey teams (by the way, both teams won national championships that year). He introduced me to Steve Myrland, a former strength and conditioning coach at both the professional and collegiate level and a guy that I now describe to others as simply "the strength Zen master." While having coffee one morning, Steve was describing to Mike and I the frustration he was having with a college strength coach who only "saw the world through the hole in a 45 pound plate," and the coach's inability to see and embrace the importance of movement, function and anatomy. Now, all of us have taken a 45 pound plate from the rack, lifted it to squat bar height, peered through the tiny 2 inch hole and loaded it up onto the bar. The view just prior to loading is exactly what Steve was talking to me about. The world, (or weight room or even more simply your athlete's performance continuum) has a very limited offering if only viewed through this hole, compared to the massive area that the plate encompasses, which basically equates to the entire rest of his or her development.
Up until that point in my very young career, I considered myself a "strength" guy. If it wasn't heavy, it wasn't training. If it didn't have chains hanging off of it, or if your training partner didn't have to pull the bar off your throat, then you simply weren't working hard enough. About two minutes into our conversation I realized that I was one of the strength coaches that Steve was talking about. I guess the hole in the plate which I was coaching through at the time never allowed me to see the epidural injections that some of our athletes were getting due to their back pain, or the multiple ACL injuries our female athletes were incurring on a yearly basis. Steve challenged me to remove the dense piece of iron that obscured my vision and allowed me to evaluate and prescribe a training program that reflected the whole athlete (with respect to his/her sport, previous injury, movement impairments, volume at practice or games, current and future goals and yes, even strength development) and not just the athlete I once saw through the hole in the 45 pound plate.
Now, I'm still a strength guy, but my view on strength development (what really matters - a future blog) vs. numbers improvement (by any means necessary) has changed dramatically. The next time you load the bar and you peer through that tiny hole, I simply challenge you to think about athletic development in its totality. If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail; if all you do is load plates, then the window in which you have viewed the world, and the development of your athletes have been limited. Believe me, the world looks a hole lot different when you begin to look at it with a pair of fresh eyes; or at least a pair not obscured by only iron.