Cagers' strength a weighty matter
by Theodore Cox
At a January press conference
following the Michigan-Michigan
State basketball game, Spartan
center Mike Peplowski claimed
"strength" was the difference
between the two teams. The
Michigan front line had been
bounced across the Breslin Center
floor all night long in the Wolverine
Size and strength has been the
cause of many sleepless nights this
year for Michigan coach Steve
Fisher. All of his upperclass players
lack bulk, and his first-year players
lack endurance and concentration.
In what has been termed a
"rebuilding" year, the area that
might need the most building is
the players themselves.
That job belongs to newly hired
Conditioning Coach Jim Plocki.
Plocki himself easily fills up a
uniform. Though he can be found
in any one of the three weight
rooms at the athletic facilities, their
vastness makes him a hard man to
track down. There is the room in
the basement of the Natatorium,
the one in the Center of
Champions, and finally, a weight
room at Crisler Arena.
One could get lost in the
multitude of sophisticated weight
machines, benches, and dumbbells
Michigan has. With the induction
of the Center of Champions this
year, there is no need to wait to use
"The advantage of the Center
of Champions is we get a lot more
athletes through in a less amount of
time," Plocki said. "Before we
always had a backup because there
was only one machine for each
exercise. Also for recruiting, it's a
nice, big facility. Recruits see a big
facility and they're wide-eyed and
What is also unique about the
Michigan facilities is that three
years ago they were computerized.
Plocki has a file on each of the
basketball players which keeps
track of individual workouts. This
charts an athlete's weight and
tracks changes in body strength.
Plocki requires each player to
increase his body strength by at
least 50 percent each season. The
computer is a guide that tells which
repetition and stress exercises are
giving the maximum gain.
But working with the computer
is the easy part of Plocki's job.
Working on an individual basis
with each athlete, he spends most
of the time encouraging and
motivating players to work out.
Most of his work is done during
the spring and summer terms. As
soon as the season is in full gear,
the team usually lifts only once or
twice a week for about 40 minutes.
Little time can be spent bulking
up; instead the workouts are used
for injury prevention.
"Weight training doesn't make
you a better basketball player; it's
done to keep the guys on the
floor," Plocki said. "In this league,
when guys are getting beat around
and pushed around, injuries are a
big concern among coaches. They
want their players on the floor. If
their muscles and joints are
stronger, and they can take a blow,
and I can keep the guys out on the
floor longer, Coach Fisher is
The summertime is when
Plocki has the most interaction
with the players, as athletes have
the time luxury of concentrating on
"Being in college is probably
the worst atmosphere to get
somebody in shape or bigger,
because when you're in college,
there's a lot of stress on you,"
same problem, as he averages only
five hours of sleep a night.
"I'm very active, and it takes its
toll," Riley said. "I'm stronger than
last year, but it's tough to build
Of course, the question Plocki,
Riley, and Fisher have heard over
and over is, "When isRiley going
to gain some weight?" At 6-foot- 1,
the media guide says Riley weighs
215 pounds, but realistically it's
probably around 205. Riley says he
gained 20 pounds over the
summer, but has since lost ten.
The solution seems obvious, and it
certainly hasn't been overlooked
"It's just that he doesn't eat,"
Plocki said. "We have to force-feed
him because he'll just skip a meal
instead of eating. He is a strength-
training animal. He lifts and works
hard; it's just that he-doesn't eat.
You can take a horse to water, but
you can't make him drink. He's the
type of kid who's a workaholic, but
he doesn't take care of himself."
Riley disagrees that he doesn't
"I eat a normal amount," Riley
said. "My whole family is thin, no
one weighs over 200 pounds, and
I'm the tallest. It's part of my*
Riley has yet to spend a full
summer in Ann Arbor, but has said
he will this year. It will be the first
time that Plocki will get a chance to
prove what he can do with Riley by
monitoring his diet closely.
To Riley's credit, he has come a
long way since his high school days
in Cleveland. Like many
basketball players, he had never
lifted weights before he came to
Michigan. But he has worked hard.
Last year he would often get in
foul trouble early, a sure sign that
he was slow in reacting to other
players. This year, when he's the
sole anchor of the Wolverine
defense, he has seldom fouled out.
Coming in from high school
with no conditioning is typical, as
high schools often can't afford
extensive weight rooms. Another
problem for high school athletes is
that many times they play two or
three varsity sports, allowing them
no real off-season when they could
concentrate on weight lifting.
Please turn to page 12
continued from page 7
impressive aspect of the beginner
group was the enormous amount of
personal attention received by
those students who need it most.
The practice amounted to semi-
private lessons for the novices, a
rare treat at a University where
lecture halls of 500 or more often
make one feel insignificant.
As the novice group was being
instructed at one end of the gym,
the advanced group practiced a
complex set of punches, kicks,
strikes, and blocks at each other.
The circular, rhythmic movements
of the group resembled a dance -
a very deadly dance indeed. While
this group is larger and therefore
has less personalized instruction,
the cooperative atmosphere seems
to assure that no person is left
After the two groups concluded
their lessons, they re-formed into
the two parallel lines. The
instructor then called for a series of
squat-kicks. Envision the worst
way you could ever punish your
entire body at the same time, and
then imagine enjoying it. For those
who have participated on soccer or
football teams, this is almost the
.equivalent of end-of-practice
sprints, except that these kicks are
a lot nastier. At the conclusion of
the kicks, the entire club reformed
into the L-shaped formation that
opened the practice. After each
meditation/cool-down, the senior
always instructs the students to
always "Try your best."
The Ann Arbor Asian Martial
Arts Studio (AMAS), which offers a
very comprehensive program of
martial arts training in the
University area, is not affiliated
with the University of Michigan,
but it draws many students.
Located at 201 N. Fourth (ust
north of Ann), it is not too far from
campus. Upon entering the dojo, I
was greeted with the tinkling of
bells on the door and the earthy
aroma of practicing students. I was
allowed to sit just outside of one of
the actual practice rooms, and
observe a class in Shorin-Ryu and
Shudokan Karate. The group is
comprised mostly of the "under
30" generation, and is quite
energetic and enthusiastic. The
instructor led the group through a
serious of stretching exercises
much like those I had seen at the
CCRB practice of the Shotokan
The first drill after the warmup
involved avoiding an attacker
striking at one's head from above.
The instructor demonstrated a
simple maneuver in which the
defender steps toward the attacker
and to the side, clearing his or her
body. When safely out of the way
of the attack, the defender makes
contact with the arm of the attacker
and disarms the opponent.
The group split into pairs and
began to practice the technique for
roughly 15 minutes. The
atmosphere was one of cooperation
and learning, and was not as quiet
as the lesson at the CCRB. The
instructor mixed with the students
and gave individual attention to
Emphasis was placed on the
balance of one's stance. As the
instructor tells the students, "The
movement should be smooth and
Throughout the practice, strict
etiquette was observed. All who
entered the dojo bowed upon
entering and leaving. Respect was
shown by all and for all by bowing
to one's opponent and partner
before and after exercises. When
the instructor spoke, the students
listened and did not talk among
themselves. The effect of this
"code of conduct" is profound.
There was a spirit of positiveness
and learning, a feeling that what is
good for the individual should
benefit the larger group.
The last observation is the crux
of the Studio's teaching
philosophy. The three tenets or
goals of AMAS are:
e To preserve, research,
develop and proliferate the martial
arts in a truthful way. This includes
education of individuals in martial
arts and in Asian cultures and
" To develop the individual in a
whole way, using the martial arts as
a vehicle, including moral,
intellectual, and physical
" To produce individuals who
will contribute back to the whole in
a positive way, not only to the
martial arts but to all of society.
This level of martial arts
instruction is not free, however.
Fees are $25 for three private
introductory lessons. Monthly dues
thereafter are $45 per month.
The instructors of the martial
arts disciplines in Ann Arbor are
happy to welcome new students to
their dojo's. The phone numbers
for the main martial arts centers
near the University are: Central
Campus Recreation Building (763-
3084), Shotokan Karate (930-2756;
ask for David Parish), Ann Arbor
Asian Martial Arts Studio (994-
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Plocki said. "The ideal situation if
you want to get bigger and stronger
and to be the best athlete is if you
look at body-builders. They're
huge. What do they do all day?
They just lift, eat, and sleep -
very little stress in their life."
Not only does a student-athlete
have to study and attend classes,
but he also has to deal with a tight
travel schedule which as was the
case last Monday, sometimes
means returning to Ann Arbor at
four in the morning. Coaches, fans,
and others also add pressure to play
better. Such stressful situations
often cause a player not to get
enough sleep. That was a problem
early in the year for first-year
forward Sam Mitchell, who used to
tire easily during games. Michigan
center Eric Riley suffers from the
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