James “The Thinker” Smith is a team elitefts™ Q&A Coach and Physical Preparation Consultant. These questions and answers (unedited) have been selected from the elitefts™ Sports Training Q&A. James is an elitefts™ distinguished 5-Star Trainer and has become renowned as one of the best Preparation Coaches in the world. When he speaks, coaches listen.


We just completed our first game, and we had a minimal amount of individuals cramp. We played on a saturated field with your foot sinking slight with every step. One boy played both ways and took about 90-100 snaps and only cramped in his calf. The other two players cramped in their calves, but only played 50-60 snaps. No hamstring or quadriceps cramps.

We talk about taking care of yourself etc. all the time. Is there anything you suggest to remedy this? I only had one cramp issue all of last year in one game. Thanks for your time.

Also, as usual,your block powerlifting ebook/video is outstanding. Thanks for all the products you offer. Even though I will never be able to implement what you speak about most of the time since you deal with elite athletes mostly, I am able to pull information and apply it to my high school players.

Josh Jacobson



A water logged field presents some eventualities that are, for all intents and purposes, unavoidable for players who are playing both ways.

While it is theoretically possible to develop the task specific work capacity for such conditions if you have an extra practice field and keep it waterlogged you also heighten the risk of joint trauma.

The nature of the waterlogged field is not unlike sand. When you compare both surfaces to a regular field you lose stiffness in ground support which, in turns, demands more of the muscles (particularly in the lower leg due to the compensation occurring in the feet and ankles) and shifts the action farther to the right on the F(t) curve. Couple this with an abundance of work performed and, unless it is a staple in the training, something like a muscle cramp is to be expected—particularly in the calves.

Obviously there's the question of pre-existing hydration and preparation; however, given your supervision I doubt those two factors are a concern.

Glad you enjoyed the e-book.


Hello James, I have a couple of questions for you:

1. During an extensive phase of jump training where the aim is to improve skill, what are some effective short and long coupling means you have used with your athletes when training indoors with limited space?

2. Could you recommend a good resource for teaching proper sprinting mechanics?

Thank you for your time,




All of these work well regarding short and long coupling extensive methods of execution (obviously the coupling can only be so short and still remain extensive):
Rhythmic reactive/elastic hops

  •  in place,
  • laterally back and forth over a line as well as on and off a low box/1 or 2 bumpers,
  • forward/backward back and forth over a line as well as on and off a low box/1 or 2 bumpers
  • consecutively traveling in a forward direction
  • consecutive up stairs or up a hill
  • consecutively traveling in a zig zag pattern moving forwards or up a hill

All of those may be performed single leg and double leg and the hops in place, lateral, forward, and zig zag may also be performed alternate leg.

As for sprinting mechanics, Charlie Francis and Dan Pfaff have numerous products available for sale.

 Injury Prevention



I believe I read in a Q&A a while ago by you that taking creatine for weight gain purposes is not recommended. Just curious as to why.

Also, right now I'm using the hi/low sequence for my programming. My lower back isn't feeling the best so I've taken out tempo runs on the low days and added in tempo work on a rower. I've been doing 5 minutes on with a BPM of 125-135 and then 5 minutes off for 20 minutes of total volume on the rower. Each week I'm going to increase the volume by an additional set of 5 minutes and do this until my back feels better and then transition to tempo runs on the field. Is that an ok route to go as I'm getting ready for spring ball(American Football)?



I don't remember stating that regarding creatine. I have taken creatine off and on for the better part of the last 20 years and I have nothing negative to state about it. Just be mindful to cycle it's use.

As for you performing work on the rower, instead of tempo, to spare your back- I strongly recommend against that as there isn't a whole lot of activities that are more cumulatively traumatic for the low back than rowing; due to the repetitive flexion and extension in the lumbar region.

You'll be much better served by performing tempo on the exercise bike, in place on a mat, on an elliptical or arc trainer, or in the shallow end of a pool. As for the loading parameters, stop what you are doing (5min on/5min off) and perform intervals such as those laid out by Charlie Francis for the bike, mat, and in the pool.