To compare the acute effects of back squats and power cleans on sprint performance.
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.
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.
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.