When these improvements were spread across the total group, they did not reach statistical significance, O'Connell noted, so there's no firm conclusion that grunting will always boost a gym-goer's performance.
"But, for some people, there was actually a small percentage increase when they grunted, in terms of the force produced," O'Connell said. For that reason, "I wouldn't be trying to tell people not to grunt," he said.
Just how these loud vocalizations might improve force output remains unclear. O'Connell said studies done elsewhere have suggested one theory -- that grunting quiets inhibitory nerves cells in the spinal cord. Those cells would normally impede the ability of muscles to contract and generate force, he said.
But other experts aren't sure any of that holds water.
"As far as anything going on physiologically [with grunting], I'm not aware of any data or studies that have revealed that," said Larry Birnbaum, an exercise physiologist based in Duluth, Minn.
"The only thing I can think of is that it's a psychological thing," he said. "But psychology is very important in sports in general -- if you think you can, it raises the possibility that you can."
Belisa Vranich, a sports psychologist for Gold's Gym Fitness in New York City, believes that for the average workout fan, grunting is probably unnecessary.
"Some people grunt to give others the impression that [the grunters] are doing a lot of work. It's just like flexing and strutting, trying to attract attention," she told the Orange County Register. "The other reason is a more physical one -- they're not breathing properly. In order to grunt, they have to h
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