The Grunts Have It


We grunt and groan. Sometimes we yell. We’ll use just about anything to get through a heavy lift or tough workout. Humans have a natural tendency to vocalize when lifting or moving heavy things. And grunting is part of the gym experience. But does grunting help to make you stronger during a lift?

Two studies conducted at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas assessed grunting’s ability to maximize exercise output. The studies found that for some people there was a small percentage increase (1% to 5%) in force production when they grunted. But some experts disagree.

Frankly, you’d have a hard time finding a top athlete who doesn’t grunt or yell when going all out. NFL linemen grunt. Tennis players are notorious for grunting loudly, and there have been studies showing it gives them an advantage. Martial Artists use a technique called “Kiai” before or during a strike. The act of Kiai–a short exhalation (not always a yell)–directs focus, power, and is thought to generate courage in the moment uniting body and spirit.

We lift heavy things. And we get excited about those lifts. But there is a difference between groaning under a heavy load and screaming for attention.

In the end, if you think grunting helps, it probably does. And the only people who may not understand your grunting are those who aren’t lifting heavy enough.