Fen Lasseel, Bakala Academy – Athletic Performance Center, KU Leuven
Grunting is a recent and growing phenomenon in tennis. Spectators often complain about the fact that “the so called ‘decibelchampions’ ruin the experience”, while opponents quote distraction and unfairness as major complaints. Maria Sharapova – who is in run for the decibel title – reaches 101 decibels during competition, which is louder than a drill and even corresponds to a subway passing by! But, does this complaint make sense, do we have to put limits or even eliminate decibels? Is grunting helping you in achieving a competitive advantage to hit the ball even harder or is it just a strategy to distract your opponent?
Well, research supports the ‘decibelchampions’. O’Connell and co-workers examined the effects of grunting on velocity and force production during tennis strokes in collegiate tennis players (16 males, 16 females). The findings demonstrate that grunting increases tennis ball velocity on average by +5% during forehands and serves. Practically this means that a ‘grunting Sharapova’ may serve almost 10km/h faster and speed up her forehand winner by 7km/h, compared with a ‘non-grunting’ Sharapova. Those findings can also be at interest for athletes involved in other ballistic sports such as powerlifting, shot put, javelin, baseball, etc…
Take home message:
Grunting may allow tennis players to strike the ball even harder. However, whether or not this results in better tennis play will depend on the impact of the grunting on stroke precision.
O'Connell DG, Hinman M, Hearne KF, Michael ZS, Nixon SL (2014) The effects of "grunting" on serve and forehand velocity in collegiate tennis players. J. Strength Cond. Res., In Press DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000604