Planet Fitness on Daily Show: Does Grunting at the Gym Really Help?

Hey Davey,

I was just watching the Daily Show and Stewart did a report on the fitness chain Planet Fitness.  They are apparently offended by people who work out and, get this, make noise. They call people who breath hard or grunt lunks – and they kick them out of the gym! I’d love to hear your thoughts on their policy and how to work out silently.

Take care,

Hey Rob,

Clearly there are many issues in the world more important than the anti-lunk policies at Planet Fitness, but I’m glad that the Daily Show took a few minutes to demonstrate the hypocrisy.

In case anyone missed the segment, check it out below:

Original Video – More videos at TinyPic

Last summer, I temporarily joined a Planet Fitness gym while living in a New Hampshire treehouse. I remember the so-called lunk alarm (if you grunt too loudly, a siren sounds) and the “judgement free zone” signs posted throughout the facility. And if you’ve seen any of the planet fitness commercials, you’ll notice that they often make fun of buffer, bodybuilder types – often depicting them dumb, stereotypical and superficial. For a gym that prides itself on being judgement-free, there seems to be plenty of judgement to go around.

Hypocrisy aside, I think there’s something to be said for grunting and heavy breathing at the gym. When I’m engaged in heavy lifting, a grunt can help power me through the toughest part of an exercise – and I’m not doing it for ego, dominance or attention-seeking purposes. I’m doing it because it feels natural – and because it helps.

In fact, there has been some research on the subject. Dennis O’Connell, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and professor and chairman of physical therapy at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, led a series of studies about grunting and its effect on exercise output. According to O’Connel, “Very experienced lifters that normally grunted when they lifted did have about a 1 percent improvement with grunting.” When the research was conducted with football players, the athletes showed a 2% improvement. And untrained graduate students in the study experienced a 5% increase in output.

When the study’s findings were spread across all groups, they did not amount to a statistical significance – so no definite conclusion can be made. But since some people did experience an improvement in performance, O’Connell concluded, “I wouldn’t be trying to tell people not to grunt.”

So if the question become to grunt or not to grunt, where do you fall? And do you think Planet Fitness is being hypocritical in their approach? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Ok… for a start i thought that the video was a “parody” of sorts because thought they where bringing light into a serious issue, it did seem a tad dramatical. Also, yeah they are being hypocritical, whats more annoying… a few grunts here and there…. or a huge wailing alarm going of just because someone grunted? i know what i would find more annoying. “judgement free zone” that zone is one of the most judgemental of them all…. gyms are there to help people build muscle, lose weight or generally stay in shape and from every gym i have been in… its the muscle builders that give the gym’s the most business and at the end of the day is that not what it is? a business? well by that massive judgement im sure that they would lose a lot of customers… damn even that alarm would make me not wanna come back, i would completley lose all motivation because i would feel bad for the chap that was thrown out of the gym! xx

  2. They are absolutely hypocritical and damaging to the very people they are trying to help.

    • christopher says:

      that is precisely the dilemma-i say-let them grunt-let them grunt.what harm is there?absolutely nothing-absolutely going to my local gym this evening-i will let out one large grunt-in honour of Planet Fitness.Amen.And Amen.

  3. I wonder if they yell at someone for screaming when he or she stubs a toe, it causes the same physiological changes to produce more adrenaline. As for the grunting thing, I look at it more as a way to coach your muscles. In those last few reps when your arms are wanting to stop, you grunt to yell at them to push just a little more and give everything they have to give.
    This is coming from someone the is 5’9 and 115lbs, if you do the math, I look like a skeleton, but I’m working on it! As you said in one of your other blogs, I don’t get intimidated by seeing “lunks.” I see them as more motivation, even though I don’t want to be that big, seeing them shows that results do happen, even if it takes time to get there. And while they are benching with 350, and I’m on my 15, I know that I am making progress. And trust me I make just as much noise as those “lunks” when I work out!

  4. The hypocrisy is relatively obvious. Rather than calling it a “Judgement Free Zone”, they may want to call it a “Genteel Gymnasium”. 🙂

    I understand some grunting and have the same experience that you relate, Davey. When working a muscle to failure, it’s frequently part of that last rep or two. I grunt a bit. However, grunting is very different from the rude behavior exhibited by some people at the gym: hogging equipment, dropping weights, not returning equipment to its storage area, sweating on other people (yes, I’ve had lunks do this), etc.

    These are rude and (can be) intimidating behaviors. At my gym, they are strongly correlated with the loudest grunters. Planet Fitness is trying to create a polite, supportive and non-threatening environment for the audience that is intimidated by the grunting and rudeness. It is hypocritical to call it “Judgement Free”, but it’s their right to set their own rules and determine their own business model.

    I have a friend who was looking for a new gym around the same time I was a few years ago. I wanted general fitness improvement; he wanted a body-builder’s body. He specifically chose a gritty body-builder-dominated gym and I joined the NYSC. Neither of us were good fits for Planet Fitness and we knew it.

  5. No way this is a joke lol it looks like a total paraody to me. If they are like that then if they wanna judge us well… we can judge them back, it’s only fair and that girl isn’t very nice at all, if they don’t expect people to breath loud then people might as well just suffocate, i bet they don’t get that many people in there haha. I think it’s funny when guys grunt when doing weight, it sounds like they just pooped in their pants or they just prematurely came (excuse my rudeness hahaha) but it really does, it’s the part of the gym that makes me laugh when i’m on the cross training near the weights area, i try so hard not to laugh lol.

  6. That said – I find it really annoying when someone constantly grunts at the gym. Sure – one good lift, one final push – the key is: rarely.

    Let’s just not make it sound like a “Having sex, or working out?” sketch.

  7. I guess that means they’d kick Scott Herman out of their gym too.

  8. I love my gym at uni. It’s great – I can’t stand one guy who comes in and makes a lot of noise for not doing very much.

    I don’t know his name, but he’ll come in, sit on a machine for around 10 minutes and then do maybe 3 reps at a really low weight more noise than is probably necessary.

    The reason I like my gym so much is because 99% of the people in there work really hard, are courteous of each other, and clean up after themselves.

    This guy, on the other hand is loud, hits on girls, isn’t trying very hard at all, and is completely out of shape. If he were really pushing himself and trying to get better that would be totally different…but he’s not.

    So please, no one tell this random guy about this finding. He makes enough noise as it is 🙂

  9. ‘Let’s just not make it sound like a “Having sex, or working out?” sketch…’

    I loved that skit.

    I do think that what is rude is people who count out loud in their grunting. When you’re fatigued you CAN lose count. It’s been proven that fatigued individuals lose math skills.

    …but what’s missed isn’t that they’re counting out loud, it’s that everyone else isn’t.

    It certainly beats swearing at someone over a water bottle.

  10. Loud grunting is uber obnoxious. The benefit you cite is from exhalation. Blowing out a good exhalation of breath will definitely help. The loud and repetitive grunting is just a “look at me” thing.

  11. Sometime I grunt. A little. And in my opinion it’s true, it helps me to lift more weight.

  12. Chaostheoryman says:

    Sadly, I belong to Planet Fitness 1) because they’re really inexpensive, 2) because I travel a lot and can go to other PF’s when I’m out of town w/o having to pay for a day pass.
    Other than that, the gym insults bodybuilders, people with six-packs, and people who are serious about working out. There are more people there who have no idea what they’re doing than I’ve ever seen before. People actually doing physically dangerous things with machines and weights, with no supervision.
    The “no judgement” signs are preposterous – the word isn’t even spelled right! (there’s no “e” in judgment in American English).
    They recently added the bit about baseball hats being okay – in fact the no-do-rag req is fairly racist, as it’s a thing more often worn by African-Americans.
    They really do have a no-body-building tank-tops rule; so far, no one’s complained about anything I’ve worn.
    But really, the language they use to describe and segregate some people is extremely discriminatory in a very big way. The Daily Show episode is fun, but the people’s experiences in the clip are typical.
    The gyms are generally oddly equipped, with missing essential machines or equipment (like, say, for calves or back extensors).
    Oy. But I go. I’m cheap, and it’s easy. And…the guys are almost as cute as the regular gyms. Though I’m not supposed to be looking.

    • Go to Golds if you want to see some real men. Planet fitness is for young people and old people, not lifters. Unless u join one that used to be something else and kept some of the equipment. I was once a member of that type for 3 years, but they harrassed me out the door too. I went to Golds. And I am LOVIN IT 🙂

  13. Have they been sued yet???

    • you just know they will be.. sued.. that asinine siren will go off startling some poor soul who is new and he will drop a big heavy weight on himself and get seriously injured…
      itll happen… trust me..

      ~ cheers…

  14. Gustavo Joris says:

    It DOES help, it’s like an explosion of strength from your diaphragm.

    That’s why there’se so much yelling in martial arts when attacks are performed.

    Davey, you’re lovely! <3

    Kisses from Brazil!

  15. Hilarious segment. So glad Stewart and his gang nailed this pathetic gym. Hope they go out of business due to becoming a national joke.

    So stupid – you can’t breath to hard when you are lifting weights! So you have to do it silently like jailhouse sex I suppose.

    So their clientele is a bunch of posers who walk around in their cute little “work-out” suits and talk about reps while they eat danish pastries.

    The little b*tch was right…..she works for the SS.

  16. It seems ridiculous to have an anti-grunt policy. There are some guys at my gym who make a lot of noise (including one I’ve dubbed “The Blue Orgasm” in honour of his usual attire and rather peculiar grunt :P), but I rarely notice it. And if it bothers me, I just put on some headphones and that’s that. It’s a perfectly normal bodily response, so I think it’d be unfair and just plain silly of me to make a fuss over it.

    That being said, there’s one guy who often goes at the same time I do who, rather than grunting, makes this strange “Ssssssss” sound, and reminds me of a deflating air mattress. First time I heard him, I started laughing and almost dropped the dumbbell I was holding up on my face, haha. So in that case, it was a bit of a problem.

    • theres always one guy in every gym that puts on a show like that. They are usually the shortest guys in the gym trying to get some attention. Its gross but if u have your ipod you dont have to hear it

  17. They are like that and worse. I had issues but they werent what he faced, they are judgmental as hell. That woman is a real bimbo they had on that video. Thats what they are all thinking like tho. Judgment free zone and they do the judging

  18. James Fan says:

    Good ol’ Jimmy ain’t a fan of this place! A “DON’T EXERCISE TOO MUCH” GYM???!!! How about a ‘don’t buy too much department store” or a “don’t…..too much’ men’s sexual health clinic!
    People from those in government on down kepp trying to regulate our every move.I ignore ppl I can’t stand at workout or anywhere else. As long as they don’t actively try to bother me I’ll have to put up with them and they’ll have to put up with me.
    Not cleaning off sweaty equipment ot leaving it lying around is interfering ans selfish, but grunting ans sweating can’t always be helped, just so long as they are aware enough to keep their distance from other people and clean up afterwords.
    If anyone planning to quit there would want to 6 or 7 huge grunts setting all the alarms off as they walk out the door, that would be interesting.

  19. I’m a computer programmer. I want a pleasant quiet workout in the mornings while I catch up on the news and mentally prepare for the day. I love my Planet Fitness because the other folks there are there for similar reasons. Honestly, I’m not intimidated by the hardcore lifters who come in, for the same reason I’m not intimidated by obese people. I can’t relate to it, and it’s just not my lifestyle.

    But I do appreciate PF for creating an environment where guys like me can have a relaxing yet productive work out without all the hype and distraction of traditional gyms. In my opinion, if you need to be loud or disrupt the relative tranquility at PF to do your routine, please go to a different gym.



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