Does shouting (necessarily) mean performing?

Does shouting (necessarily) mean performing?

🎶 You make me want to shout 🎶 On the tennis courts or in the sports halls, grunts and sometimes awkward shouts are a common occurrence during sports sessions. Do they have a real impact on our performance? The answer is here!

In the gym, the sounds that come out of the mouths of some athletes sometimes make you feel uncomfortable... Yet it would seem that in sport, shouting and performing are in fact closely related (within reason, of course).

Why do people shout during exercise?

A few weeks ago, during my weight training, I caught myself letting out a noisy “gnnnniiiiih” while lifting a heavy load in hip thrust. Immediately, I said to my coach “damn, I promised myself I wouldn't become that person who yells at the gym” with a laugh, followed by a little discussion with him about the vocal reflex during exercise. And the least we can say is that I learned a lot!

Well, let's start with the basics: Most sportsmen and women have already found themselves in the same situation during a particularly intense effort. Shouting, moaning, grunting, noisily expelling the air in your lungs... The vocalisations are varied, but not insignificant, as they do have their uses in the sporting world. Like an unwitting self-encouragement, this cry seems to carry us to the goal, even if we no longer really believe in it.

However, beyond pure performance, the cry can also be tactical, or even cultural. So I did some more research and came across a few studies that looked at the subject more closely. 

Is shouting a performance booster?

If the thought applies to any exercise that requires intense physical effort, let's talk about the gym, the cast iron and the big muscles, because this is the most common example of impromptu shouting, and the most widely shared on social networks. If you're tempted to let out a big “SHHHHH” to the person next to you who's a little too loud for your liking during their sets at the bench press (or elsewhere), wait a bit, because it seems that vocalization is an integral part of the performance

In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, Chinese researchers pointed to the effects of shouting and loud exhalation on the performance of sportsmen and women in the observed sample.“When participants exercised to exhaustion during the incremental cycling test, yelling was found to improve their peak power and time to exhaustion by 6.0% and 5.8% respectively, compared to the values recorded in the control trial”, the results of the study stateBasically, by vocalizing, your breath is increased tenfold, you engage your belly more, and your body maximizes its efforts, which positively affects your final performance.

Beyond the gym, this trend towards vocalisation can also be seen in many other disciplines, particularly among sprinters and climbers. Let's take the example of climbing and Chris Sharma, an American climber: The athlete is known for his impressive shouting in competition.

Is shouting a destabilisation tactic?

“HEU”, “GNAH”, “MPHAA”... On the tennis courts, in official competitions, spectators and television viewers occasionally chuckle a little as they listen to the cries and other grumbles of the athletes at each shot. If the conclusions of the above-mentioned study also apply here, shouting and grunting in tennis have a double purpose: they allow you to maximise the effort provided, but also to destabilise your opponent.

On the women's side, Monica Seles, a player from the former Yugoslavia, started the movement with 93 decibels, the equivalent of the sound of a motorbike. And if we take the more recent example of Maria Sharapova and her vocalizations at over 101 decibels (ed: the equivalent of the sound of a chainsaw), one quickly understands how these shouts and moans can be both tactical and liberating. North American researchers have even closely observed this phenomenon in a Canadian study on the subject, published in 2010. This study shows that white noise (ed: the sum of all visible sound frequencies) caused by the grunts of male and female tennis players when hitting the ball would have an impact on the perception of the stroke by the opponent. The opponent would then take up to 33 milliseconds longer to react.

Of course, at the professional level, these effects tend to fade, as shouting and moaning now seem to be commonplace on the tennis court. Even if the tactical effect is losing some of its impact today, vocalisation remains liberating for tennis players and retains its power as a pure performance booster.

The cultural shout 

Yes, shouting can also have a deep history in some sports. Take combat sports, especially karate. In this sport, shouting has a special cultural dimension. The “Kiaï” is thus the shout given by the followers of the discipline before a move. In Japanese, Kiai can be translated as “union of energies”, and perfectly illustrates both the symbolic and physical importance of the shout in the karate world.

This cultural grounding can be felt even in the official tournaments. In karate competitions, the Kiai is part of the scoring conditions. No Kiai, no points for the athlete remaining silent at the moment of impact. There is no denying it: shouting does indeed constitute performance!

The more you shout, the better you perform? 

Let's be honest, no, not always. Some people shout to push themselves to perform, but for others it's also show-off, show-off, show-off. The studies mentioned above do show that shouting increases performance, but what they do not demonstrate is the supposed link between the intensity of shouting and the resulting performance. Let me explain: Basically, it is not because you scream like a banshee that you will be more efficient, you will simply increase the number of annoyed neighbours. 

a woman strengthening her back

In the community, at the gym for example, you should control your noise level as much as possible, out of respect for the other people who are training around you, and to ensure that you can concentrate together. Because yes, if shouting can promote performance, concentration is also a key factor in achieving your sporting goals. What's more, as the Canadian study mentioned above has shown, moaning and other white noise can disturb those around you. In fact, thinking about your own performance is good, but thinking about the performance of others is better!  



Journalist - Web Editor

Society journalist, social media enthusiast (Twitter fever, you know) and sports fan. In my free time, you can find me on a pole or under the hip thrust bar, depending on the day.

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