Grunting. We’ve all heard it. We can all do it, but is there a real and quantifiable benefit to grunting on a heavy lift?
A grunt is deep sound produced when air is forcibly released through the throat. In the context of weight training, grunts are common on the gym floor as an increased level of exertion if produced during a lift. The key component to many safe and properly executed lifts is to hold your breath or inhale deeply on the eccentric portion of a lift, and exhale during the concentric portion.
For those of you who grunt, and even those who don’t, it should be easy to see the correlation between heavy lifting and the resulting grunt. Very rarely will you encounter a grunt on an extremely light repetition or warm-up. The exertion required for such movement is by no means strenuous on the body, and therefore not requiring any spontaneous additional effort.
Further examination into the mechanics of a heavy lift will also help clarify the grunt. When you take your deep breath before a lift, you are adding pressure in the diaphragm which essentially assists with the lift. Much like how a belt is utilized on heavy squats and deadlifts, the stomach pressure adds more stability and support, allowing for a greater amount of force to be produced to complete the lift. As the heavy movement is performed, this pressure has to be released. Under the conditions that are created when a heavy deadlift or squat is performed, it is unlikely that a calm and slow release of the air is going to be the primary focus of the lifter.
Many will argue that without the uninhibited release of a resounding grunt, the chances of the heavy lifting being successful are lessened. To put this theory to the test, in 1999 the Hardin-Simmons University, in Abilene, TX took 15 college athletes and 16 non-athletes and had them perform six deadlifts. Three sets were performed while grunting, and three without, the order of which was randomly assigned. The results? Grunting did not appear to increase maximum force production significantly during a large muscle group.
So why is it that many will swear by the practice of a loud grunt? It could very well be psychological. When you are staring down 500 pounds on the floor, you know it is going to be hard to pick it up. You don’t need to try it ahead of time to know you are going to have to give it your all if you want to succeed. Since the grunt is a vocalization of your effort, perhaps subconsciously you have convinced yourself that you need to let it all out, so to speak.
Whilst this may be true on some level, I don’t believe that this is the whole answer. It is my opinion, and my experience, that a small grunt, yell or scream is inevitable. I believe it is a natural reaction, and the suppression of this reaction is likely to result in poor performance or an injury. I’m not saying that a grunt helps complete a lift, but I am suggesting that it is a natural part of the lift. The suppression of a natural grunt is like attempting to change the fundamental movement of the bicep curl.
Think of the mental process and effort that would be required to suppress a grunt on an extremely heavy deadlift. Is that something you should be focusing on? Should your mind be anywhere else other than on the mission to get the weight off the ground? This is where I believe injury and poor performance is likely to come into play – since the act of suppression is nothing more than a massive distraction.
I will add, however, that I do believe it is possible to tame the grunt in the interest of those around you. I admit, in my early days I was a screamer. I didn’t mean to be – it just happened that way. The heavier I lifted, the louder I got. I’m sure my actions were offensive to many, and I meant no harm, but when it came down to it I was not going to let a grunt, or lack thereof, get in the way of a great lift. It got to the point that my own lifting partner was too embarrassed to stand next to me when I deadlifted. As hard as I tried, I could not suppress the urge to vocalize. I have since managed to lower my tone, but yet, I still grunt on occasion, for fear that my face will explode if I don’t.
There is a video floating around of me performing a 425 pound dead lift. This video is perfect example of everything I have outlined. As I prepare for the lift you will see me take a massive breath, hold it, and begin to stand. As I slowly get the weight up you will see the pressure build in my face, my cheeks puff, and then BOOM, I grunt as I lock it out. Shoot me a line on Twitter if you would like to see it and I will post it again. The grunt is not “intentional” per se, but more of a forceful release of pressure amongst the elation of completing the lift. You will also see that I have one on-looker behind me, and I do get the attention of another in the jungle gym.
I understand the distraction of a grunter or screamer in a gym. I also understand that the act itself can be very intimidating. There are many I am sure only grunt as a matter of seeking attention. As unfortunate as that is, it is likely a problem that will not disappear any time soon. I can only speak for myself when offering my most sincerely apologies for any distraction or intimidation that I may cause or have caused in the past.
There appears to be a movement in gyms around the nation towards a “less aggressive” and more “user friendly” gym environment. This means that sounds of exertion, the clanging of weights, and the execution of Olympic and power style lifts are being banned as a condition of membership. No gym is more infamous for these policies than Planet Fitness – the home of the “judgment free” workout environment.
This is no joke – the atrocity to the left does exist, and it is a staple feature of each Planet Fitness location across the country. For those of you that are not familiar with Planet Fitness, allow me to share a few key notes, as found on their website:
As the most innovative health club brand in the United States, Planet Fitness is known for a lot of things – our absurdly low prices, our Lunk™ Alarm, and most of all perhaps, for our Judgement Free Zone® philosophy, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.
The Lunk Alarm actually sounds when one is caught making too much noise or is otherwise engaging in a behavior that has been deemed intimidating. A simple Google or YouTube search will yield countless videos and news releases regarding the matter.
I will spare you my thoughts on the methods, polices, and practices of this chain. I see myself already digressing to a completely different topic….but I just want to add one more thing, and for those of you already familiar with Planet Fitness, you can probably guess what it is.
Pizza Monday and Bagel Tuesday!
It pains me to refrain from elaborating any further – but what’s next? Cigarette machines on the cardio deck?
In the interest of maintaining the integrity of the judgment free zone, I must bid you farewell…
This article was researched and written by Follow @JAstorina
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