The back squat and the power clean: Elicitation of different degrees of potentiation

Document Type

Journal Article


Human Kinetics


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Exercise and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research




Seitz L.B., Trajano G.S., Haff G.G. (2014). The back squat and the power clean: Elicitation of different degrees of potentiation. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(4), 643-649. Available here


Purpose: To compare the acute effects of back squats and power cleans on sprint performance. Methods: Thirteen elite junior rugby league players performed 20-m linear sprints before and 7 min after 2 different conditioning activities or 1 control condition. The conditioning activities included 1 set of 3 back squats or power cleans at 90% 1-repetition maximum. A 2 × 2 repeated-measures ANOVA was used to compare preconditioning and postconditioning changes in sprint performance. Results: Both the back-squat and power-clean conditioning activities demonstrated a potentiation effect as indicated by improved sprint time (back squat: P =.001, ES = -0.66; power cleans: P =.001, ES = -0.92), velocity (back squat: P =.001, ES = 0.63; power cleans: P =.001, ES = 0.84), and average acceleration over 20 m (back squat: P =.001, ES = 0.70; power cleans: P =.001, ES = 1.00). No potentiation effect was observed after the control condition. Overall, the power clean induced a greater improvement in sprint time (P =.042, ES = 0.83), velocity (P =.047, ES = 1.17), and average acceleration (P =.05, ES = 0.87) than the back squat. Conclusions: Back-squat and power-clean conditioning activities both induced improvements in sprint performance when included as part of a potentiation protocol. However, the magnitude of improvement was greater after the power cleans. From a practical perspective, strength and conditioning coaches should consider using power cleans rather than back squats to maximize the performance effects of potentiation complexes targeting the development of sprint performance.