Natural Bodybuilding with JC: Sound The Alarm!

Mens Category 105kgGrunting. 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 Unknown-1be 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 dancer-deadliftdown 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 176485CD-329D-488A-BCF6-6635FA81CFA1be 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 94375BAF-80B7-497F-8F63-A941F4FCA56Fwhat 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…

Happy Lifting!

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16 comments for “Natural Bodybuilding with JC: Sound The Alarm!

  1. Aleksander Petrovic
    January 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Haha pizza monday and bagel tuesday…what about beer and wing wednesday or doughnut thursday topped off with french fri friday…judgement free of course….but then we gotta have couch potato weekends with ice cream – but no grunting!

  2. January 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    There was a sign from one gym posted on Facebook – a sign that said ‘Absolutely No Deadlifting – Violators Will Have Their Membership Terminated Immediately – No Exceptions’. Then there’s the rise of new 24 hours gyms with machines only, and no staff on duty overnight. Nonsense like these and the ones you document are a big part of why we train at home – and having your own underground training lair means never waiting for a bench or rack, either!

  3. January 17, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I’ll admit to being a grunter. It is inevitable if you are moving heavy weights, and are lifting at near maximal effort, that you are going to make some noise. I doubt anyone near me ever hears it, because it’s relatively quiet, but it happens on most every rep of every set that is 8 reps or fewer.

    Also, thanks for bringing this whole Planet Fitness thing to my attention. I had no idea that there was a gym that was targeting people in such a way. Maybe McGym would have been a better name…

    • JC
      January 17, 2013 at 10:58 am

      HAHA McGym…love it. Just get on YoubTube and take a look at the Planet Fitness channel Their ads are absurd. There is nothing “judgement free” about them. But again, I digress.

      I too tend to make some noice on almost every rep. My routines typically follow all heavy all the time. My rep ranges are typically 6-8, so yes, I start making sounds pretty quickly. Every time I distort my face, breath heavily, grunt, wince, or otherwise show any form of effort, I cannot help but think of the scene from Pumping Iron when Arnold was on the bench. I beleive he was doing dumbbell flys, and his face is just all over the place. Or how about when big Lou was was blowing out the incline with his dad behind him?

      If you really want a giggle, just YouTube Ronnie doing heavy deads 🙂

      • January 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

        McGym is awesome! LOL A couple weeks ago my buddy was grunting as I was spotting him for his last few really tough squat reps. Some guys behind us you could tell were laughing and making fun. I turn back to look and they were doing the chest press machine on the lowest possible weight setting there was. Gotta love January…

        • JC
          January 17, 2013 at 11:33 am

          Yes – but how much difference is there between you mocking their weight and them mocking the grunt? The key point here is a mutual respect for all gym goers, great and small. The ego is very powerful, but also extremely vulnerable.

          • January 17, 2013 at 11:35 am

            Didn’t mean it as mocking the weight, just that they are making fun of max effort while they didn’t really put in any effort. Sorry, good point!

  4. January 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Great post JC, I think about this topic a lot. Don’t even get me started on Planet Fitness, seriously, it won’t be pretty! I’m all for grunting at the end when it gets really tough, I really feel it helps. I don’t like when people excessively grunt on every rep of every set, but whatever I can deal with it. I personally don’t like the way most gyms are trying to put a stop on hardcore lifting to “protect” others and make them more comfortable. To me it’s just a way to try to get more memberships, not to really try and help people.

    I actually just last week was searching to try to find more hardcore gyms in my area that was more specific for body building and powerlifting. I was shocked to see how little there was out there considering I live an a pretty crowded area (suburb of Minneapolis.) There were pretty much only 3 I could find and one was only open until 8pm which is not late enough for me and the other two were pretty far away. Still contemplating joining one and then joining a smaller cheap gym and giving up my Lifetime membership. It would still be cheaper and I could go to a gym I’d like better. Sorry for the rant! 🙂

    • MattToronto
      January 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      The hardcore gym seems to be pretty much extinct. It actually does make sense from a money making perspective unfortunately. Why target the 1 in 100 hardcore gym junkie, when you can get the other 99 in a friendly environment. I’ve heard that something like less than 10% of gym memberships are active users, the rest just make their monthly payments because they don’t want to quit, as quitting would mean giving up, even though they aren’t going. This is a business like any other it seems…

      • JC
        January 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm

        Indeed it is. Take my gym for example – Charter Fitness. It’s not a 24hr place, but it’s similar. It is small and only $10 a month. I signed a one year contract and the membership fee is taken automatically each month. There is a steep cancellation fee. In the event I no longer want to go here, it would be much easier to just let the $10 monthly charge continue. In addition, I am hit with a service fee once a year that goes towards new equipment and repairs…I have my doubts regarding the true destination of that withdrawal.

        • January 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

          $10 a month is a pretty amazing rate. I pay $80 and I know others who pay more. Is $10 on the low end where you are?

          • JC
            January 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm

            Yes $10 is as low as it gets around here and there are a few different options. My last gym was $9.99. I upgraded to $19.99 and got free tanning, unlimited guest passes, and half price drinks. If I upgrade to $20 at my current gym I get unlimited guests and travel passes. Not worth it in my opinion. I was once paying $52 for just me at an upscale gym. It had all the bells and whistles and free classes. Even free swim lessons for my kids – but I never used any of it beyond the weight room.

        • January 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm

          Man I pay a little over 100 per month for my wife and I. It comes with a lot of stuff (that I don’t ever use so it’s pointless for me) such is free classes and all of that but it’s crazy. The main reason I still go there is because it’s the only place I can find besides the really weak 24 hour non staffed stuff that has nothing but machines that has one close to my work, close to my home and close to my buddy who I work out with that lives 25 minutes from me (and my work is 20 minutes in the other direction from my house.) We usually take turns meeting each other near our homes and it’s nice to be able to zip over after work or even during lunch sometimes. It’s really nice for that, but SO expensive! 10 bucks a month sounds much better. 🙂

      • January 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm

        Yep, this is the EXACT conversation I was having with my training partner. One gym I did find that I found interesting was a gym that would have been way out of my way but it was like your conventional gym except they had a completely different area for the hardcore lifters who could grunt and yell and lift as heavy as they want without ever having to worry anything. Kinda cool.

        • January 17, 2013 at 4:50 pm

          There are some gyms like that here. Then there are all of those cross fit gyms, which are everywhere in Toronto. They are basically just an open area with a bunch of different equipment laying around. You can grunt, yell, drop weights etc in those gyms all you want.

          • January 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm

            Cross fit, now you want to talk EXPENSIVE! Can’t deny the workouts are amazing though!

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