Orange County Register – Nov 19, 2006 – Lisa Liddane – Fitness – You’re on the weight-training floor doing bicep curls when suddenly, a loud noise breaks your concentration: A guy across the room emits a long grunt as he pushes a barbell up during a chest press. But it doesn’t stop there. He does it again. And again.

Had he done that at a Planet Fitness gym – which has a posted no-grunting policy – he probably would’ve been told to stop. And if he didn’t comply, he might have been shown the door.

Recently, police escorted Albert Argibay, 40, of Beacon, N.Y., out of the Planet Fitness in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. The manager contended that Argibay grunted while working out, then argued after she gave him a warning, according to an Associated Press report. Argibay said that whether he grunted or not is subject to interpretation.

As you might guess, the incident has sparked a debate among gym enthusiasts and bodybuilders. Some say grunting is unnecessary and obnoxious. Others say grunting comes with the territory for lifting heavy weights and occurs commonly in other physical activities such as martial arts and tennis. (The list of tennis grunters keeps growing: Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, Venus and Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, and of course, Monica Seles).

In gyms, there are two reasons people grunt, says Belisa Vranich, sports psychologist for the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute in New York.

“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 says.

“The other reason is a more physical one – they’re not breathing properly. In order to grunt, they have to hold their breath and exhale forcefully.”

Some people grunt to try to emphasize or regulate their breathing, says John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla. What they really should be doing is trying to relax instead of holding their breath, he adds.

That’s not to say that competitive weight lifters are grunting for nothing. “They’re allowed to grunt,” Vranich says. “It’s a means to regulate their breathing.”

But the average gym rat doesn’t need to make noise. “If you have to make noise, you’re trying to lift more than you can,” she adds.

Sometimes, grunts can sound like something people make in the privacy of their bedrooms – or bathrooms – so the sounds can be off-putting, Vranich says.

Grunting is acceptable in some athletic arenas but verboten in health clubs because “the gym setting is more than just a place for an athletic event,” Murray says. “It’s a social gathering place.”

Murray calls the gym “a 21st-century bar,” where you sidle up for a post-workout smoothie instead of a beer. “You wouldn’t grunt in a coffee shop.” (Unless you’re Meg Ryan making a point to Billy Crystal). “Some etiquette standards have been established to make the gym a comfortable place for the majority of people,” he says.

Although most clubs don’t enforce the no-grunting rule, getting along with others at the gym means putting the lid on personal noises, Vranich says.

Know the rules of the club about noise. They’re often posted.

Look around you first, Vranich suggests. See what everybody else is doing.

And take your cues to make noise from there.

Lisa Liddane is an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.