Why Grunting While Exercising Can Actually Be Helpful

grunting weight lifter

We’ve all heard (or heard of) The Grunter. The Grunter is usually stereotyped as “that guy” who distracts others with his weight lifting noises that can only be equated to a peacock spreading his feathers to say, “Look at me!” But is there more to it? Yes, there definitely can be.

Why DON’T Some People Grunt?

Let’s start with the obvious:

  • Many of us find it annoying, and we’re unlikely to mimic a behavior we don’t appreciate.
  • If we’re not exerting ourselves 100%, there’s no physical need to make noise, because we can breathe normally. And many of us don’t train THAT hard without a good push from a trainer, coach, or workout partner.

Why DO Some People Grunt?

It can help! Seriously, both physiologically and psychologically.

Physiologically, performing max-effort, explosive movements is usually prepped for by holding one’s breath for a moment or two (which is good because it fills the belly and protects the spine). This creates an air ball. When we forcefully exhale that ball through partially closed vocal cords—like when power lifting, or whacking a tennis ball, for example—a noise escapes with the air.

Psychologically, hearing yourself make noise on those max efforts may trigger some primal instinct to keep pushing, thereby helping you crank out that extra 1 or 2 reps. Reminding ourselves how hard we’re working can further motivate us to keep pushing the same way flattering selfies can motivate us.

When to Grunt

If you can move the same weight, hit the same ball, or sprint the same speed quietly, then there’s no need to grunt (except to risk irritating your neighbors!). If you can’t help but make noise on those heavy sets, then don’t worry; there’s no shame letting others hear how hard you’re working. Maybe you’ll even inspire them to push a little more! I don’t mind admitting I sometimes grunt when working hard:

Are There Other Options?

When I train clients (from powerlifters to weekend warriors), I don’t give the “2 more!” countdown until their effort is intense enough to produce audible exhalation! When training for my own body building competitions, I’ve been known to squeak on those extra tough reps, though I can’t tell when a squeak versus a grunt will emerge. Sometimes an open-mouth forceful exhalation will do the trick, and this sounds more like a strong gust of wind than a grunt.

Many Zumba classes encourage short, loud “Woos!” and “Ohs!” at particularly taxing parts of the dance. If you’ve never taken an intense Zumba class, try it! When you’re working so hard you want to stop and catch your breath but let out a forceful “Ooh!” instead, you’ll get an energy boost and keep going! This can also work on 400 meter dashes and spin class sprints.

Want to Learn More?

  • Business Insider: “Why do we grunt?”
  • LA Times: “Those grunts have a purpose.”
  • Drexel University and MSN: “Grunt when you work out – It really does make you stronger.”
  • Iron Man Magazine and Drexel University: “Should you grunt while lifting?”
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Laura Burstein co-owns Anytime Fitness Poolesville and is the Regional Director of Operations for them and Kensington, MD. She dove into the Kinesiology field after 3 years of weight lifting and cheerleading to learn how to work around injuries and genetic musculoskeletal limitations. Over the last 15 years, she has earned certifications through NCSF CPT, NASM CPT, NASM CES, Zumba, and Trigger Point Therapy and has been focusing that knowledge on Anytime Fitness members since 2010—earning her the h2i of the Year for 2013! She takes special pride in helping her training team and members overcome lower back and joint pain through core strengthening, functional training, and exercise modification. As a personal challenge, Laura started competing in the Figure division of Body Building shows in 2014.