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Monday, July 14, 2008
Checking in with ... Mike Barwis, Part II

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's the second part of my interview with Mike Barwis, Michigan's director of strength and conditioning.

Obviously you have to focus on the whole team, but is there a position group that needs to come along faster or that you're focusing on more?

Mike Barwis: At West Virginia and as we are doing here, we force the big men to be athletes, too. They will go through all the protocols and they will go through all the speed work, the agility work, the plyometics and the other areas as well. I don't feel that there's one area that's predominant over another area. One thing we need to do is transcend all areas and ensure that we're going to have athletes at every position instead of just large, massive guys. It's great to have that mass, but I want it lean mass that's explosive, powerful, strong, can change direction, can go a long time and can do what we need to do on that football field. We were very athletic at West Virginia because we worked that way and those guys we willing to pay that price. These guys have done the same thing. As a unit, as a team, they've done a tremendous job. All of those guys are expected to do all of those things.

Who has stood out to you so far in the program?

MB: They're all progressing to great magnitudes. If you're looking for an example, at 287 pounds, Brandon Graham did 315 pounds on the bench press. We cut him all the way down to 250 and then brought him back up to 269. At 269 today, he did 475 for two (repetitions) on the bench. That's pretty good. Everybody's increasing across the board. They've come a tremendously long way from learning exercises in the winter as freshmen, to being incredibly strong and functional with those exercises by the time the summer ends.

Obviously, you're an intense guy. You come at them hard. Did you see any resistance at the start?

MB: Kids don't tend to resist me, I don't know why (laughs). When we arrived here, the kids didn't know what to expect. It was something new and they thought, 'Oh, boy, this guy's freaking crazy,' as everybody thinks. 'He's going to come in here and hammer us.' But none of them had a bad attitude. We had a couple guys when we first got here who were a little lazy and didn't want to work real hard and weren't willing to pay that price. Most of those guys went about their way. Some of them quit, some of them moved on. It's not for everybody. Everybody is not capable of training at this level, and everybody is not willing to pay the price to train at this level. That's OK. It doesn't have to be for everybody. The people that are here are going to be successful with what they do because they're willing to pay that price and they're willing to do what Coach Rodriguez needs them to do to be successful. Those that don't want to be here, they have to look for another opportunity that fits their mold. The kids that have been here have been tremendously committed and they've made regular gains throughout the year, and they're very excited about those gains, so it's made it easier for them to commit. They also know we care a lot about them.

How much is coach Rodriguez involved with your program?

MB: Coach Rodriguez and I are always together. He's the reason I'm at Michigan. He's a person that cares a lot about his kids, that's what I like about him. He's very intense, he's very motivational, he's very directed and he's hard on the kids. That's good because he cares. He's gonna push them. Everything that I do is run by coach Rodriguez. I meet with him and we go over that. It's all designed to reach the results that he needs.

You mentioned that guys think you're nuts right away. Do you look at yourself a motivator in addition to a scientific strength coach?

MB: We have to understand science, we have be able to apply science. There's a lot of scientists out there who don't know a damn thing about strength training. They know everything about the body, they can study it and they can understand what I'm talking about. However, those scientists can't apply it to training. They might think they can, but they can't. They don't know how to take and elicit the results, utilizing drills and different movements, as well as the key component to be able to motivate and unify a unit. That's an absolute asset to a coach and is something that's an absolute necessity to success. You have to have energy, you have to be motivational, you have to care about the kids more than you care about yourself. In the offseason, we've had 32 NFL players come back here to train. One of the greatest compliments I've ever received, I had a guy who plays in the NFL (Steelers safety Mike Lorello) say, 'Coach, I just want to let you know, I never missed a sprint with you, ever.' That's pretty hard to say. Our conditioning is absolute hell. I said, 'That's pretty impressive. You're a tough guy.' And he said, 'Nah, coach, I didn't want to let you down 'cause you never let me down.' To me, that's everything. That's what drives you.