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Does Grunting in Tennis Really Help?

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Serena Williams, mid-grunt. (Photo: Lilyana Vynogradova/Shutterstock)

Serena Williams, mid-grunt. (Photo: Lilyana Vynogradova/Shutterstock)

Did you know that some athletes think that yelling and grunting helps them perform better? Sure you did. In case you wanted some science to back this claim up, a team of researchers recently surveyed 378 amateur and competitive athletes across the United States—admittedly, not a representative sample—and found that more than half believed "vocalizing during maximum force provided a performance advantage."

Confirming all your stereotypes, the study also found that "Crossfit athletes and bodybuilders were more likely to report that they used voice along with maximum effort than were other types of athletes such as football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, running, and soccer."

According to the research team, there's some debate about whether very enthusiastic grunting could harm the vocal cords, but "there is little empirical evidence to support this." In their survey, the scientists found that athletes and exercisers who grunt aren't any more likely to feel they have a voice impairment.

Of course, the question we all want to know the answer to is whether grunting really helps. And apparently it does, according to the introduction of the study, published last month in the Journal of Voice:

The effects of grunting on velocity and force production during tennis strokes were evaluated in a study in which thirty-two division II and division III collegiate tennis athletes participated.... The findings indicated that dynamic velocity and isometric force of both serves and forehand strokes were significantly greater when the subjects grunted.

Well, if it works, it works.