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Mike Barwis is the director of strength and conditioning at the University of Michigan, and although he and his staff train many current and some former Wolverine athletes, Barwis is mostly known for his work with the football team. An intense figure whose voice moves as rapidly as it is deep and scratchy, Barwis is the essence of the prototypical strength and conditioning coach. He came to UM with close friend and football coach Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, the alma mater for both.
When do you find time to work out on your own?
Really, really early in the morning or late at night, and occasionally I'll work out in the afternoons with coach Rodriguez. I won't eat lunch, I'll push it back later in the day.
Hardest worker you've ever trained?
I probably have to list you 50 that are all similar personalities — amazingly focused, amazingly driven, and love to train. I could probably think of one attribute that each is unstoppable at.
Biggest mistake high school athletes make in the weight room?
I see some of them bench and squat and their technique is terrible. It puts them in a performance detriment and in a physical detriment because they create instability in the joints. They'd be better athletes if they didn't lift at all.
Does Rich Rodriguez seek your counsel in assessing a recruit's growth potential?
We discuss kids in staff meetings. If there's something I need to interject, and if coach asks a question, then I'm happy to give my opinion.
Has it been tough to watch Rich suffer so much at UM?
Many people don't understand or don't know Rich Rodriguez well enough. He's a tremendous human being. He cares a lot about his kids. He cares about Michigan and he cares a lot about bringing about a healthy, wholesome football environment.
Does your strength training program evolve to satisfy recent scientific developments?
It's constantly evolving. I'm a very science oriented person, I do a lot of research myself and I have a lot of friends who are scientists. I'm always transforming our program into a futuristic model, so I can ensure I'm giving my athletes the most opportune training situation.
Aside from knowledge in the field of study, what's needed to be an effective strength coach?
You got to have a passionate, high energy, explosive personality, and care more about the kids than you do yourself. You have to be able to motivate, you have to be inspirational.
Have you always been so high energy?
Yep. I feel bad for my mother and father. I was an explosive personality. I've been passionate about living since I was little. My grandfather told me when I was young sometimes your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. When I was younger I was off the walls, now that I'm older I think it's been my greatest strength.
How influential can music be to one's workout?
I think music brings out energy and inspires people, no question. We definitely crank up the radio in the weight room. The kids pick the music and we just make sure it's clean. We don't need all the cussing.
How has Brandon Graham developed his body over the last three years?
Brandon Graham weighed 315 and benched 315 when we got here. The same kid has gone down to 265 and he did 495 pounds on the bench. When we got here he was [power] cleaning about 225. Right now he's cleaning about 445. It's 100 percent because Brandon Graham wanted it to happen. I just give tools and direction.
— Ryan Autullo