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.

Vertical Jump Training



I believe while you were at Pitt. you did not have your football players do maximal effort work. Correct me if I’m wrong. Was this because of the risk it can have on the anatomical structure of your athletes? Or did you simply not find it necessary for your football players? I understand that the training process must be completely individualized and correlate with the biodynamic/bioenergetic necessities of the given position and the technical/tactical makeup of that position so in some cases maximal intensity movements may not be necessary.

However, while reading an article by Dietmar Schmidtbleicher he says, “It is of interest for practical training and competitions that a notable increase in explosive strength performances could only be achieved from maximal contractions (lifting of a 100% of a single repetition maximum or isometric MVC’s)”.

Does this entail that it is necessary for a football player to incorporate maximal effort movements into his training plan because, as said by Dietmar, no other intensity load gives such an increase in explosive strength.




My players did not perform maximal effort work with any great frequency; however, they did perform maximal efforts occasionally in horizontal press variations for the purpose of general organism strength.

The leg training was nearly entirely reserved for alactic linear and multi-directional work, reactive/elastic work, explosive jumps/throws, and sub-max weights.

Every time I prepared athletes for the pro day or combine my guys performed exceptionally well on the 40yd and jumps- many setting lifetime personal bests on the test days themselves.

Between 2007 through 2010, at PITT, I had many players jump over 36″ and 4 or 5 over 40″.

In 2008 I trained one of the most elastic athletes I’ve every worked with, Jemeel Brady, to a 41″ (lifetime PB) at the pro day. In 2009 I trained a 310lb d-linemen Rashad Duncan for the pro day to a 32in vertical (lifetime PB). In 2010 Dorin Dickerson earned the highest vertical in the entire combine (43.5″-lifetime PB), regardless of position and in 2012 I had some of the top performers in the entire combine in the VJ with Keshawn Martin (39.5″-lifetime PB), Devon Wylie (39″-tied lifetime PB), Sean Richardson (38.5″-lifetime PB), and Miles Burris (37.5″-tied lifetime PB).

I’ve never had an athlete perform maximum strength weight work for the legs during jump preparation and single response jumps are some of the most explosive actions out there.

The Thinker


Regarding the Q&A you recently answered regarding vertical jumping and your players at Pitt, did you find that the athletes who performed well on the vertical jump possessed above average strength on movements such as squats for their body weights?

Thank you
Andrew L


Andrew L

Generally yes, however, the output in the squat, and its variations, are entirely dependent upon the athletes leverages.

Alternatively, vertical jumping is much more forgiving to a variety of leverage systems.

Remember that 'strength' training is force training and force can be generated in a vast amount of positions that allow for overload. Traditional barbell exercises represent only one realm of overload training.

Some of my best jumpers performed little to no squatting in their training; however, that doesn't mean that they didn't perform strength training for their hips and legs.

The Thinker



What differences would you make for someone interested in dunking a basketball vs having a huge vertical jump. I just want to dunk but your lost answer where you said the two were apples and oranges has me really interested. Thanks.



It all depends on your current state of jump preparation specific to how you attempt to dunk.

The highest percentage of dunks are either single leg take off with approach or double leg take off with approach, followed by double leg take off without approach (ergo under the net) and the means of preparation are specific respective to each one.

The Thinker


In your posts about the 6 day split, you mention the kind of activities involved with each day. See below:

"Consider the following split:
- Monday/Thursday upper body push + bike tempo
- Tuesday/Fri Upper body pull + explosive throws + tempo on the pitch
- Wednesday/Sat sprints/agility/Jumps + lower body weights"

Are these activities disbursed throughout the day, or are they all done in one session? I know you are a fan of multiple daily sessions, when possible. However, in considering the additional time of travel, warmup, cool down, etc for each session, most of us don't have that kind of time. Is there a downside to performing said activities in one session, or was that already the construct behind this regimen?




That can readily be accomplished in one session as I have had multiple athletes do just that; however, time is still, and always be, the undeniable and universally common determinant of any conceivable operation.

My athletes who perform that, or a similar split, in one session usually require ~3hours give or take for certain sessions depending upon logistics. The sprint days always take the longest due to the increasing length of recoveries between bouts of work to allow for intensification.

The Thinker

Energy System Development



Hope you are well! I was interested in any thoughts you have regarding large athletes and Marathon training. I plan to complete my first marathon in November for fun (not competitive). I'm 6'7, 240, 37 years old and have completed two half marathons around the 2 hour mark. With these races and sprint triathlons hydration and cramps have been my issues as opposed to any orthopedic problems. Do you have any general thoughts on strength training for all around injury prevention, performance and general strength? Any general thoughts on running training? Nutrition? Thanks for all your time and great to see you posting here again.




I do have thoughts on your question and they all point towards the fact that 'Large' people should not perform distance running.Granted, you are quite tall; however, 240lbs is still a substantial load to carry around while running for hours.

I appreciate the challenge and enjoyment that distance running brings; however, science is working against you from many angles; namely: mobilizing larger mass/muscles for the event durations and ground impact forces.

There's a reason why form follows function and why all high level distance runners look effectively the same in terms of girth measurements.

My suggestion to you, is to focus your attention on swimming, cycling, nordic skiing as all of them are much more forgiving from an impact stress standpoint.

Surely not what you wanted to hear; however, I'm unwilling to contribute to the criminal negligence that permeates sports coaching.

The Thinker


First let me thank you for giving out free advice. I can never believe how much information you give away for free.

My question may be stupid, but in reading old posts I come across "oxidative work for the fast twitch fibers" and it sounds very similar to alactic capacity work (work:rest times as well as total volume).

Am I correct in thinking the two are one in the same? Just different vernacular?

Thanks again for your time.


Drew, what I offer here is minor compared to what I cover in consultations. Perhaps you might consider one.

While the work intervals and rest between repetitions may be the same or similar regarding training for alactic capactity and oxidative work for the fast twitch fibers, the difference lies in the number of reps executed in succession.

Alactic capacity loading parameters demands that a relatively small amount of reps be performed per set which are then followed by longer recoveries between sets while oxidative capacity loading allows for more reps performed in succession. The reason for each is rooted in the targeted adaptations.

The Thinker

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