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Why All That Grunting In Sports?

By Michael K Butler BA; PTA; CSCS*D; RSCC*D NMT
Science says grunting can actually improve physical performance.

Many regular gym goers find it irritating and disruptive to have to listen to, and put up with, power lifters slamming weights and making a lot of noise when under a tremendous amount of load. So is all that grunting necessary, or do these power athletes just like to be noticed?

There has been much debate over this subject which spans many sports, most notably tennis. Monica Seles, who was a #1 ranked women’s tennis player in the world several years ago, started grunting during her matches. Other players started paying attention to her rather disruptive way of attacking the ball and the men started doing it as well. Rafael Nadal, the very popular Spaniard who is again ranked #1 in the world on the men’s circuit, does so on every play. He is a very superstitious player and has stated that he notices a huge difference in his power game as a result of grunting throughout his matches.

There are many reasons why athletes who understand the science practice grunting on a regular basis:

Establishes a rhythm. If you listen to how Rafael Nadal or Maria Sharapova play, there is a rhythm and tempo to each grunt or yell from them; they are establishing a sequential pattern along with their breathing.

Releases tension. Science has shown by releasing stored up tension, you can produce more force by not reabsorbing it throughout your body. This release can also reduce potential injuries.

Generates an adrenaline rush. It triggers the brain to release adrenaline and produce a higher heart rate and increased blood flow. It also gives the individual a psychological boost.

Increases stability. Loud grunting can increase core stability by activating muscles in your back and abdomen.

Grunting, screaming and yelling have become very popular in sports as a way to produce more power. Many people can see benefits from yelling into a pillow as a way of releasing stress. I have talked to some business people who start their day by yelling with “spirit” into a mirror; they say it wakes them up, stimulates their mind and gets them ready to be more productive at their job.   Spirit cheerleaders are also a great example of executing this type of energy release.

Mike Butler is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center in Palm Desert. He holds a state license as a physical therapist assistant, national certifications of distinction through the NSCA as a strength and conditioning coach, Poliquin International state coach and as a Full Body Active Release Techniques Practitioner. He can be reached at (760) 200.1719 or at

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