Was Barwis the best part of RR era?

Submitted by AC1997 on August 7th, 2011 at 11:17 AM

It seems almost strange to have an off-season without a love-fest for the strength and conditioning coach after the past three years.  Barwis may have been the most rewarding aspect of the Rodriguez coaching staff - both for the program and those of us that enjoyed reading tales of his workouts these past three years.

I was once again reminded of this when I picked up my Chicago Tribune today.   Every Sunday the columnist Teddy Greenstein (known to the MGoBlog community for his insane coaching search rumors) recounts a round of golf he played the past week with a famous sports personality or athlete.  This week his golf partner was none other than Charles Woodson. 

In the piece Woodson expresses his love for Michigan and is generally positive.  But what stood out to me was this shocking quote about former S&C coach Mike Gittleson:

"The philosophy of my strength coach at Michigan (Mike Gittleson) was 'No stretching,'"  Woodson recalled.  "If you're walking across the street and a car is going to hit you, will you stop to stretch?"

It is pretty amazing to me that this guy lasted as long as he did in the S&C field with this type of philosophy.  And it may also be a clue as to why the fitness of the team deteriorated over the last few seasons under Carr. 



Mr Mackey

August 7th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

1. Denard is the best part

2. I know we were all impressed, but wasn't our team consistently outplayed in the fourth quarter of games? I don't know how much that has to do with conditioning, but IIRC that was something we struggled with. Then again, I was drunk for most of that time to get over our records, so I could be very mistaken.


August 7th, 2011 at 11:46 AM ^

I do remember Kerrigan being absolutely gassed in the Iowa game. Whether that was due to no-huddle the whole game or another form of conditioning, I don't know, but he was one tired ass player basically the whole game and he wasn't exactly some no-name MAC player.

Edit: Clayborn, WTF is wrong with me today?


August 7th, 2011 at 12:18 PM ^

Well, from what I remember hearing from Iowa fans, Clayborn seemed to be gassed and/or disappear quite a bit.

Could have been due to injuries or just a lack of conditioning after the huge year he had prior. 

That's not to discount Barwis or any of the S&C staff under RR. That's just what I remember hearing on some Iowa blogs.


August 7th, 2011 at 1:31 PM ^

I think there was a difference between being jumped in the 4th quarter because of talent and being worked over because of fitness.  The team never looked that gassed out there, but the defense was just so bad that by the end of some of those Wiscy/OSU/MssSt games, it looked like they had given up.


August 7th, 2011 at 10:22 PM ^

Did you ever stop to consider that when a team with a majority of underclassmen plays teams with a majority of upperclassmen, they get worn out in the fourth quarter because they have been playing "boys vs men" for the first three, and superior age/weight finally overcome youthful enthusiasm?

Under Gittleson, it seemed like nobody ever got faster from his freshman to senior year, and many players got a bit slower.  He was producing plodding, stereotypical Big Ten football players.  It worked in the Big Ten, but not against Tressel and certainly not out of conference.

Glttleson's training methods are still great outside of football, and almost anyone would be better for having worked with him; it just doesn't work for elite athletes who need speed.


August 8th, 2011 at 12:24 AM ^

I don't understand the notion that Michigan was outplayed in the 4th quarter. At least that's not what I saw last year at all; most losses were because of the play before the 4th quarter came around. In fact, most good play in losses against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State came in the 4th quarter. The team technically played better against MSU and OSU in the 4th quarter than in the 3rd.

Aside from maybe UMass, all of the team's wins came because of the game-winning drive at the end or good play in the 4th to force overtime (Illinois). This is not something to conclude that conditioning was the problem for the team.

Zone Left

August 7th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

Static stretching has fallen out of favor in exchange for a more functional warmup, for what it's worth. Go to a high school football game and you'll see most teams don't line up and stretch.


August 7th, 2011 at 8:57 PM ^

Actually you are wrong (yet right). Static Stretching did take a downturn in popularity the past couple of years in favor of an "active warm-up" however studies are showing that static stretching is useful to increase flexibility and decrease injury chance.

The active warm-up was popularized because it mimics motions from during a game and helps warm up the muscles for practice and competition.  However flexibility does not improve through active stretching as it does for static.


August 7th, 2011 at 11:26 AM ^

In a recent sports illustrated they said this about stretching before running: "Limbering up has long been a part of the precompetition routine for runners, but research does not back up its usefulness. Study after study has found that increased flexibility actually impairs performance. Static stretching—the kind in which you bend to a position and hold it—decreases the elasticity of muscles and tendons, which causes them to return less energy with each stride. Imagine a Slinky: Each contact with the ground produces more bounce if the Slinky is taut and tightly coiled as opposed to loose and stretched out." So he was not completely off base about not stretching. http://mobile.sportsillustrated.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1188955/i… (sorry about the mobile site, I am on my phone.


August 7th, 2011 at 11:27 AM ^

Excessively stretching prior to a work out can weaken your performance. So from that stand point I will buy it. As far as the RR era goes, I think he brought in a lot of quality players that the current staff should be able to further develope. Now enjoy the rest of the thread and the mess you will have created.


August 7th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

He played under Rich Rod, not LC.  This means so little to me that I'm too lazy to put "Sam McGuffie" AND "Lloyd Carr" into Google but would rather just reply to your comment telling you that I'm too lazy to put "Sam McGuffie" AND "Lloyd Carr" into Google.

Also, Sam McGuffie was obviously not the best part of the RR era but who's counting.


August 7th, 2011 at 11:32 AM ^

You need to dig deeper into the literature before you shamelessly castigate Gittleson. My guess is that he knew/knows way more about S&C than you ever will. My guess is also that conditioning MAY have dropped off in the Carr era due to lackadaisical attitude by the players and coaches, not the inherent flaws in Gittleson's approach. 

This quote from a 2008 article in the NYT, for example, was garnered from a quick google search:

"If you’re like most of us, you were taught the importance of warm-up exercises back in grade school, and you’ve likely continued with pretty much the same routine ever since. Science, however, has moved on. Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements."



August 7th, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^

I agree that Gittleson was an expert on stretch, but he was by far behind the times when it came to nutrition. I couldn't believe it when Jeremy Ciulla stated in an interview the preferred method to gain weight by Gittleson was to have his lineman head down to Cottage Inn and eat a pizza. For a fitness expert to suggest students eat a high saturated and trans fat diet with high cholesterol is bordering on neglect and recklessness. There are much safer methods to gain weight with high protein and unsaturated fat, especially omega-3 fatty acids. 


August 7th, 2011 at 4:24 PM ^

You do realize that Jeremy Ciulla was 1) a football player in the BIg Ten; and 2) an offensive lineman, right? Weight in football is often about utility, not overall health. These guys sacrifice their bodies for their chosen profession. Part of that is putting on a bunch of weight so that you dont so easily get pushed around. It's about physics.

The gospel of unsaturated fat that has become embedded in our current society is misplaced in a discussion about the utility of fat in football. That's right, I said the dirty word - FAT. Its inherent in the profession. All that omega-3 fatty acid talk is about leanness, not the FAT that linemen need. They need muscle, and they need FAT. And then they need to know how to use muscle to get the most utility out of their FAT. 


August 7th, 2011 at 5:12 PM ^

Sorry, as a runner I found it very dangerous to tell kids to sacrifice their health when there are much healthier methods than going down to cottage inn and loading up. Frankly it is abuse.

There are healthy fats (which they can load up on), which Barwis emphasized in his nutriotional plan. Telling kids to eat a ton of saturated fat and cholesterol is abuse. This where we differ. The public is very ignorant on the different types of fat that don't impact the cardiovascular system. 


August 7th, 2011 at 11:33 AM ^

Stretching, for me, is the foundation of physical fitness.  I started young with generic mall martial arts where half the class was group stretching, sit-ups, push-ups, punching, kicking, etc., and stretching did help me, for example, figure out how to kick above my head while standing erect.  But that's not really a skill set that's called for prominently in realistic (UFC, Krav Maga) martial arts.  The skillz I got in that class did help me in a few scuffles through the years as well.

I've been on and off again as a competitive athlete.  One summer I went crazy for Ultimate Frisbee and played it 6+ times a week, which was probably the best I've ever been in shape in my life.  Periodic stretching, though, has helped my overall fitness, and I think it's a good part of a regimen that inclues walking, biking, running, all at various speeds and carrying or not carrying heavy books.  North Campus was perfect for this because of all the hills and decent walk between the dorms/off-campus housing and the School of Music, as well as the Engineering and Northwood III labyrinth, which is great for wandering.


August 7th, 2011 at 11:50 AM ^

Isn't that stretching is bad for you, but that right before a performance/event/game it may be detrimental, and in any regard probably isn't much of a help. Overall it can serve a beneficial purpose, but not as it is/was traditionally done. Which, when the OP criticizes it, is in fact making Gitteson look like he was ahead of the curve. Those making the whole statement seem foolish.


August 7th, 2011 at 4:19 PM ^

I run marathons and I never stretch before running. My performance and rate of injury has improved since I did away with traditional stretching. I used to have ligament injuries all the time with traditional static stretching that was taught to me by high school cross country coach. I will only stretch if I have a feel cramp coming on during a warmup. I have actually found my gains for my range of motion through weight training. 


August 7th, 2011 at 11:35 AM ^

His training didn't translate into any wins. They looked better in their uniforms but that's about it. Denard is easily the high point of the RR era.