In a week dominated by “that” Puppy Pilates video (has the world really gone that mad?) I noticed another news story about celeb Kate Hudson and the fact that she isn’t afraid to grunt whilst doing Pilates. So are you a Pilates grunter?
Kate is well-known for being a lover of Pilates, and the story got me thinking about the effects of grunting during exertion. Am I sure that you have experienced this in Pilates classes and we are all familiar with grunts on the tennis court. So is there any scientific evidence?
Of course there is! Researchers in past studies have looked at the effects of making noise during workouts, with two of the most notable cases being a 2014 study (The Effects of “Grunting” on Serve and Forehand Velocities in Collegiate Tennis Players: O’Connell, Dennis G.; Hinman, Martha R.; Hearne, Kevin F.; Michael, Zach S.; Nixon, Sam L.) examining tennis players and a 2015 study (Effect of Vocalization on Maximal Effort Dynamic Muscle Performance: Sinclair Smith and Justin Smith) dealing with jumping distances. In both cases, results showed that grunts and groans boosted athletes’ physical performance.
“Most investigators believe that the deep breath with the momentary breath hold actually helps to stabilize the spine during heavy efforts,” Dennis G. O’Connell, PhD, lead researcher of the tennis study explained. The sound-emitting portion of the breath cycle comes from exhaling, and the whole process contributes to a controlled breathing pattern. “This serves to protect the athlete from injury, and subsequently provides a stable base of support for a powerful effort.”
From a scientific standpoint, the grunting noise is made as we exhale against a closed, or partially closed, vocal fold. The vocal folds, or vocal cords, refer to the two bands of muscle tissue that open into the windpipe. The vocal folds are open and relaxed when we breathe in, sometimes producing a rushing noise. But when the vocal folds close as we exhale you might going to hear some turbulence. Some experts say that we get an extra Ooomph by grunting that is probably related to a communication signal from the part of the brain that controls breathing to the part that controls muscle function. When we forcefully push air out, the brain sends information down to the muscles, which either excites muscle groups or decreases inhibition — or both. The result might be enhanced performance.
Because making noises can be so beneficial, some trainers encourage it during their sessions with clients. I have also heard it said that making noise helps students channel their frustration or pain in a helpful way and remain focused.
Of course on the flip side is that particularly noisy clients can be a big distraction for other people trying to focus in a Pilates class.
Personally, I do not encourage grunting to the PilatesEVO students and trainers here in Barcelona as for Pilates I do not think it is appropriate, necessary or conducive for the correct form. So what is your experience and opinion? Are you a Pilates grunter? Do you encourage or discourage grunting, or do you not mention it at all? Have you had a particularly noisy client and if so, how did you deal with the situation? Please let me know by emailing me at email@example.com.
Have a great weekend!
Chris Hunt, PilatesEVO
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