This Training Strategy Helped a High School Basketball Recruit Build a 41-Inch Vertical Jump

This Squat variation is helping athletes record personal bests in the Vertical Jump.

Students at St. James Academy in Lenexa, Kansas have learned that when Zach Thornhill is on the floor, a highlight reel play could happen at any minute. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard, known for his outstanding vertical jump, averaged 21.6 points per game as a junior and earned a reputation for making big plays on both the offensive and defensive ends with high-flying dunks and blocked shots. He currently holds eleven D-I offers, mostly from mid-majors like Western Michigan, Wyoming and Boston University.

RELATED: 3 Tips to Instantly Increase your Vertical Jump

During a recent training session following a set of supra-max Bottoms-Up Squats at 455 pounds, Thornhill showed off some of his eye-popping athleticism by posting a 41-inch vertical jump. That would have ranked as the fifth-best time at the 2016 NBA Draft Combine. For comparison, at the 2014 Combine, Minnesota Timberwolves guard and 2-time NBA Dunk Contest winner Zach LaVine posted a 41.5-inch vertical. The 6-foot-5 LaVine hit that jump during the Max Jump Touch drill, in which he touched 11-9.5, Thornhill posted an 11-7 in the same drill. Check out the video of Thornhill's jump below.

To put the height of Thornhill's jump in perspective, here is Daniel Hegarty, a 6-1 baseball player who is committed to play for the University of Kansas standing under the Vertec unit after Thornhill's jump.

RELATED: How Does Your Vertical Jump Measure Up?

41-Inch Vert

Thornhill's previous personal record in this drill was 11-4.5, which tied Russell Westbrook's mark at the 2008 NBA Draft Combine.

Here he is displaying his explosiveness during a 60-inch Box Jump drill, followed by some contest-worthy dunks.

Thornhill has anthropomorphic measurements and athletic genealogy—his dad was a college basketball player, and his younger sister is a Division I soccer recruit—but he has also worked hard to develop his athleticism. In the first video, he can be seen performing contrast training with a supra-max Bottoms-up Squat supersetted with the Max Jump Touch drill.

RELATED: 5 Common Vertical Jump Training Mistakes and How to Fix Them

In light of new research that came out earlier this year on partial-squat depth and its impact on vertical jump ability and sprint speed, we have been experimenting with variations of this combination and the results have been interesting to say the least. Of the four athletes besides Zach who have tried it, each set a PR in the Max Jump Test drill.  College baseball player Caeden Harris went from 10-4 to 10-8, as did professional football player Cassius Sendish. Thornhill's high school teammate Will McKee, a 6-6 wing, went from 11-3 to 11-5. These anecdotal results are too few to draw a reliable conclusion, but they do suggest that further study is warranted and perhaps including the superset in the programming for speed-power athletes.

A sample set may look something like this:

  • Full Squat (careful to avoid extreme pelvic tilt) - 4x5-8
  • Partial-Depth Squats (depth determined by coach/athlete) - 4x3

If you do begin to use Partial-Depth Squats with supra-max loads, please do so in a safe manner. In my experience, the Bottoms-up Squat is the best version for that purpose (thanks to Coach Jason Hettler from Altis for demo-ing that variation).

I would also be interested in hearing about your results. If you'd like to share your experience after 6-12 weeks of training with them, feel free to connect with me via social media (

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock