Grunting at the gym: How loud is too loud?

Some people overgrunt, which is a gym no-no, experts say. Getty

If you frequent the gym a few times a week, you’ll probably be familiar with the sound of hog-like grunting.

Grunting, the guttural noise people typically make when lifting weights, annoys a lot of gym goers. It’s such a contentious subject that a Planet Fitness member was kicked out of the gym for breaking a no-grunting rule, and one Montreal man was even attacked by a fellow exerciser for being too loud.

WATCH BELOW: Woman trashes gym equipment at Good Life Fitness in Toronto’s Liberty Village

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Woman trashes gym equipment at Good Life Fitness in Toronto’s Liberty Village

But according to Sergio Pedemonte, a personal trainer and co-owner of Toronto’s Your House Fitness, grunting is a normal part of lifting weights — it just doesn’t need to be super obnoxious.

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“You’ll find some people overgrunt, and that’s a no-no,” he told Global News. “You can kind of tell if a person is making more of an effort [to grunt].”

Pedemonte said he sees people in his gym every day lifting heavy weights, and the noise they make is reasonable. The trainer said he understands why people find loud grunting annoying, but thinks folks in commercial gyms, like GoodLife Fitness of Planet Fitness, might be more bothered than those who spend time in weightlifting-specific spaces.

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Greg Hetherington, the founder of Fuel Training Club in Toronto, echoed this stance. He said that grunting is common in many sports, but whether or not it’s socially acceptable largely depends on where you’re working out.

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“If you watch tennis for instance, it’s perfectly reasonable to grunt after hitting a ball, but if you’re in a gym and it’s not very loud and you hear some guy screaming in the corner, it can be kind of awkward,” he said.

“If you’re in an environment that’s a little more aggressive, like a powerlifting gym where people are dropping weights… that [grunting] might be part of the culture.”

Why do people grunt?

It turns out there’s science behind our grunting sounds. When people do weightlifting exercises, like deadlifts and squats, they often grunt because they need to exhale, Pedemonte said. The trainer explained that when people lift heavy weights, it’s important they don’t hold their breath. Pedemonte said he’s seen people pass out from not breathing properly.

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“Grunting allows exhaling, which allows you to reduce the blood pressure in your body,” Pedemonte said. “So when you’re lifting [weight], if you hold on to the air inside and really don’t exhale, your blood pressure will tend to go up.”
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Hetherington pointed to research that found when people grunt, they’re typically able to exert more force. “In a weightlifting environment, that means lifting more weights,” Hetherington said.

Pedemonte said that sometimes grunts come out accidentally, too.

“When I do my deadlifts, I enter into a phase where if I’m controlled, I’m able to just exhale,” he said. “But if it gets hard, [a grunt] will just slip… A lot of people don’t know how to just exhale, so [a grunt] just comes out.”

How loud is too loud?

While most gyms don’t have no-grunting policies, it’s best to be respectful of the people around you. “Too loud is excessive, too loud bothers people, and it shouldn’t be done,” Pedemonte said.

Hetherington stressed that being aware of your environment is key, and if you’re in a commercial gym, know that loud grunting will likely be frowned upon.

He suggested this rule: “If you’re grunting louder than the ambient noise around you, you’re probably doing too much.”

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