Mike Barwis Will Eat You

Mike Barwis is the current strength and conditioning coach of the Michigan Wolverines. He’s an accomplished coach who has worked with all sports at the collegiate level, professional athletes, and Olympians. However, he’s best known for aiding the football programs at West Virginia (’03-’07) and Michigan (since ’08).

Let me preface the following thoughts with a few statements:
– I don’t know Barwis
– I’m not a Michigan fan
– At the time of this writing, I haven’t seen any programs by Barwis, only articles and a crazy YouTube video I’ll link below
– His track record speaks for itself

My impression is that Barwis has a general strength program, and then he quickly converts this strength into what I will refer to here as “usable strength”. Obviously if someone is very strong and they cannot apply that strength into proper, efficient, and effective movement on the field, then they are of no use to the football coaching staff. In the video below, Barwis explains his gamut of conditioning, movement based flexibility, and increasing the athlete’s ability to do their job on the field with sport specific work. It’s kind of hard to summarize the “Barwis Philsophy”, since his explanation of his program lasts nine minutes:

You’ll notice the guy is…full of energy. You’ll notice he has a raspy voice. You probably now understand why he garners respect from his athletes — he shows them that he cares by exhibiting his commitment to their success. As he succeeds, his reputation grows, and he is nearing Chuck Norris status.

Apparently he owned two pet wolves that he used to wrestle. He has a MMA background (that he doesn’t talk about much). Some West Virginia players attempted to catch him off guard and give him a friendly woopin’, but he took them out before they knew what happened (read about it here on Wikipedia). But most importantly, he treats his athletes like family.

And let’s not forget his accomplishments. One example is Brandom Graham, who weighed 315, benched 315, and power cleaned 225 when he got on campus. Now he’s 265, benching 495, and power cleaning 445. Barwis makes it known that they aren’t concerned with only weight room strength, but taking that strength and applying it to football, yet those numbers with Graham are still impressive nonetheless.

There are countless games where Michigan has performed well in the second half, and the entire team attributed it to their superior conditioning. Barwis gets is athletes strong and conditioned, and does so while earning the respect of all of his athletes — this means I’m a fan. Good stuff.

29 thoughts on “Mike Barwis Will Eat You

  1. Solid… will be interesting to see if year 3 under Barwis can finally make a difference for UM.

    In other news, vote for Rener Gracie’s “Bullyproof” show: http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=836&promo_id=1
    I’m sure I’ll get roasted sincee this is ‘Oprah related’ but the bully-proof concept is pretty cool, and quite frankly, the more people taking up combatives the more people lifting weights…

  2. Seahawks FB Owen Schmitt trained under Barwis at WVU, and reportedly cleaned 405 for lots of reps and hang cleaned anywhere from 480-525 depending on who you believe. He respected Barwis enough that he followed him to Michigan to prep for the NFL draft, where he ended up going in the 5th round. More importantly, he’s fucking crazy, and I have a feeling that was fostered by Barwis intentionally. There’s something to be said for intensity. This is the guy who busted his head open while running out on the field – I was at the game, and the place (and team) went absolutely nuts – and won 41-0. What I’m trying to say is, if Barwis is responsible for creating the Runaway Beer Truck, Owen Schmitt, then he’s a stud in my book.

    Here’s a vid for those who lived in a cave last season:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z1pdUeVp_s&feature=related

  3. Jesus! And to think I’ve been wasting my time with Starting Strength! I need to get on a program like this right away! I’ve been neglecting my core strength, my dynamic flexibility, my lower to upper body extremities, my abilities to move in a 3D environment!

    One thing Mike forgot to talk about though, maybe we can find another interview where he discusses it, is coffee supplementation. How many cups of coffee should I be drinking each day to get as much energy as this guy?

  4. brandon graham will be a beast in the nfl…

    anyway, i didn’t exactly understand how he makes the strength in the weightroom useful on the field? he talked something about 3 dimensional movements but i’m not sure what he meant. also, is he against strongman conditioning or what?

  5. oh, and justin, what’s your stance on plyometrics for a football player? what level of strength should be achieved before starting them?
    i know rip isn’t a fan of them, but a lot of successful S&C coaches use them…

    Guys…jesus…you make this so difficult some times. He never said he was against strongman. Quit interpreting stuff like a 7th grader. I don’t know how he makes strength useful on the field, ask him, he’s the coach. Remember that whole disclaimer where I said I didn’t know the guy?


  6. Great video

    This is unreleated but a quick story why being strong is useful. I was behind a motorcycle yesterday on my way home when the guy stalled and dumped his bike over. He could not pick it up by himself so I got out of the car picked it up for him and held it up while he climbed up on it. I hope he felt like complete moron having to have someone hold his bike up for him while he got on. Moral of the story is if you are going to ride a motorcycle at least have the strength to pick it up if you dump it over.

  7. Wow, quite the list of accomplishments. And if Barwis is responsible for helping Schmitt become the human wrecking ball he is, then that just upped his level of badass another notch. I mean seriously, he’s had 4 players hang clean 500 or more?! (that’s what they claim at least)

  8. I know that you are primarily interested in the strength training of the teams, but…

    I find it interesting that you are “not impressed” by the S&C program of a team, LSU, that had a combined record of 17-9 over the past two seasons, while you are seemingly enthralled by the S&C coach of a team, Michigan, that has a record of 8-16 over same timeframe.

    Also, your claim that “There are countless games where Michigan has performed well in the second half” is dubious. Last year (Barwis’s second on the job), in conference games, they scored more than their opponent in the second half only 3 times out of 8.

    Indiana 14 9 3 7 33
    Michigan 14 7 0 15 36 *

    Michigan 3 3 0 14 0 20
    Michigan State 7 3 3 7 6 26 *

    Michigan 14 0 7 7 28
    Iowa 10 10 3 7 30 *

    Penn State 10 9 13 3 35
    Michigan 7 3 0 0 10

    Michigan 7 6 0 0 13
    Illinois 7 0 21 10 38

    Purdue 10 0 21 7 38
    Michigan 10 14 6 6 36

    Michigan 7 10 7 0 24
    Wisconsin 7 14 14 10 45

    Ohio State 7 7 7 0 21
    Michigan 0 3 7 0 10

    For the record, I am not a fan of LSU or Michigan.



  9. Well, with LSU you’re talking about Les Miles stepping in to coach Saban’s guys while DickRod inheritted a team with notoriously bad conditioning. Since this is year 3 (I believe), this should be around the time we start to see the strength of the UM conditioning program.

    -also not an LSU

    It doesn’t matter. There aren’t YouTube videos of LSU’s S&C coach, and I haven’t heard any myths about him.


  10. From an article on ESPN:

    “Barwis is equal parts old- and new-school. The old part: He believes in “Olympic movements,” so his players perform a lot of power cleans and squats. Another old part: Don’t tell the energy drink industry, but when his players finish their workout, he has them drink — I kid you not — chocolate milk.”

    If this be true, this should be reason enough. The S&C coach doesn’t necessarily make or break a football season.


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  12. Not to derail the topic but I go to Michigan and feel the need to defend my team. Its absolutely ridiculous to compare Michigan with LSU. Lloyd Carr left absolutely nothing in terms of players for Rich Rod. 2 years ago we started a 5’9 walk-on at QB and this year a true freshman. Also to look at the scores is obviously not a valid way of assessing the teams conditioning having already admitted that our players were not all that good to begin with.
    Barwis is the man. He has made a team of players who would not play a many top universities and turned them into a halfway decent team. I see him running with his dog/wolves sometimes and I met him once at a hockey game. Like people said above the fact that so many NFL players (Edwards, Foote, Schmidt, etc) come back to Ann Arbor to train speaks volume to his ability.

  13. Had a little weather last night in Amarillo. Amarillo Strength and Conditioning had a foot and a half of water in it. Spent all day hauling all the equipment out and pulling up all the mats and drying the floor out with the help of our awesome clients. Ready to put it all back together tomorrow to get the gym up running again.

  14. Also does anyone ever watch ‘Dhani Tackles the Globe’ on Monday nights on the Travel Channel? Awesome show. This weeks episode Dhani Jones went to Scotland to compete in Highland Games. Yall should check it out.

  15. Here’s a video of the LSU S&C coach. I noticed people mention that they didn’t know what he was like. This video is from 08 but it’s probably the same guy. He’s definitely not as animated as Barwis.

  16. ^^^^^^^^^^

    That guy doesn’t seem nearly as cool, and I’m glad I now know about Mike Barwis, but I really can’t see any reason you would make this post 6 days after making a post about how terrible college football S&C is. This guy’s really interesting though because he’s half 70s big (milk, squats, attitude) and half 90s small (running people into the ground, using weird futuristic machines like this http://www.youtube.com)/watch?v=CqKysjhHopA

  17. Please tell me that Polamalu video (remove the parenthesis to get it to work) is some sort of horrible April Fools joke. I am going to have nightmares now.

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