Mhmmpf, Hmpf, Mmmmmmhmpf! Many watch tennis (particularly women) and wonder if all the grunting is truly necessary. Some have even made rankings of the women who grunt the most in tennis, with Maria Sharapova taking the title. Despite all the talk about grunting, is there any benefit from making some extra noise during a tennis serve or forehand?

Now, you may think grunting only occurs in tennis, but it’s a commonplace in any gym. It also occurs in some pool decks, as swimmers sometimes grunt off an explosive start.

With all this grunting, does it do anything?

How to Study Grunting?

O’Connell (2014) recruited thirty-two subjects (M=16, F=16) with and without grunting experience from two-NCAA Division 2 and one-NCAA Division 3 level institution.

Tennis ball velocity and isometric, static forces were measured who were randomly assigned to perform dynamic and simulated serve and forearms while grunting or not grunting. Muscle activity (through EMG) was also obtained from the subject’s pectoralis major and opposite external oblique.

So, Does Grunting Help Force?

Serve velocity, serve force, forehand velocity, and forehand force were all significantly greater while grunting. Tennis ball velocities increased 4.89% and 4.91% during grunting forehands and serves. Gender, grunt history, tennis experience, or perceived advantage of grunting did not influence improvements. External oblique muscle activities was significantly greater during grunting than non-grunting for serve velocity, but not serve force measurements. Pectoralis major muscle activity was significantly greater during grunting vs. non-grunting from serve velocity and serve force.

Any Other Research?

The findings support previous research by Morales (1999) which found small increased of 2 – 5% in power lifters when performing a dead lift. The increase in muscular activity may result from increased expiratory muscle recruitment during a strong exhale associated with a grunt or yell.

Should you Grunt?

If you are seeking greater force production in any sport consider yelling or grunting during the activity. When working with strength athletes, we encourage grunting or yelling. Remember, for most sports, accuracy and direction of force is more important than gross force, so work on the biomechanics and adjustments needed for greater force production. 

References
    1. Morales Z, Owen S, and O’Connell DG. Vocal disinhibition (grunting) does not increase deadlift force in college athletes or nonathletes. Percept Motor Skills. 89: 233-234, 1999.
    2. O’Connell DG, Hinman M, Hearne KF, Michael ZS, Nixon SL. The Effects of “Grunting” on Serve and Forehand Velocity in Collegiate Tennis Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun 30. [Epub ahead of print]