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When the Gym Sounds Like a Pigpen

Filed Under: Men's Health at 9:10 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
PigThere are certain rules of the gym – certain things you shouldn’t do while exercising in public. Don’t, for example, wait for a machine by stalking, at close range, its current user. Don’t leave equipment soaked by your sweat and other bodily fluids. Don’t chat up the exerciser next to you mid-workout. Don’t blatantly ogle. Don’t sing along to your music, no matter how vocally-inspiring. And, don’t grunt?

As odd as the last may seem, the grunting question – can you or can’t you – is the cause of considerable drama in the workout world. It has generated police-escorted exitsbone-breaking assaults,  gym-membership suspensions and debate, lots and lots of debate.

The pro-grunters assert that grunting is a natural part of exercise. It’s a sign of exertion, another form of heavy breathing. You can no more control the “unhs” than you can the sweat. Besides, it’s beneficial. Some researchers believe that grunting actually improves a workout, increasing it by whole percentage points, which vary with expertise. Others think it adds a psychological boost. You associate the noise with more work, so you work more. You further your exercise.

Or, you further your annoyance. The silent sweaters are quick to point out that the workout improvements are not statistically significant. And the mental factor involves more pride than motivation. You grunt because you want those around you (i.e. the gym shorts currently on the nearest treadmill) to know how much you are exerting yourself. You want to impress. As such, you are the distracter, taking away from everyone else’s workout. 

Which side is right?

At this point, that’s a matter of personal preference. There’s no conclusive evidence either way. However, you should know that grunting may be a sign that you’re breathing improperly.  In order for a grunt to manifest, you have to hold your breath and exhale, hard. Right from the beginning you are doing something wrong. You don’t want to hold your breath, and you don’t want to alter the intensity of your breathing from inhale to exhale. You want to breathe deeply in and out through the repetitions. If the air doesn’t regularly circulate during exercise, your exertion will be wasted. You won’t accomplish all that you can, weakening your workout – grunt or no grunt.

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