photo of tennis player

It’s that time of year when our attention turns to Wimbledon. And one of the overwhelming sounds Wimbledon brings is the grunting noise made by the tennis players. So we thought we’d look at breathing for tennis and why tennis players may grunt. Is it simply a distraction tactic employed to put off an opponent? Or, is it something more physiological and maybe to do with breathing? Well, according to this research, it could be to do with intrathoracic pressure.

Breathing For Tennis

Most fitness instructors and personal trainers recommend breathing out during the exertion or effort of an exercise. For instance, when you’re curling up during an ab crunch you should breathe out on the effort. This is the same for tennis breathing. So could the tennis grunt just be a more vocal way of breathing out on the effort?

You may even notice yourself groaning as you do something physical, like when you lift the shopping out of the car boot. You will do this instinctively and this inhalation helps to stabilise your trunk. Therefore, the same could be true when swinging a tennis racquet to hit a ball.

“Maximising the power of a tennis shot is created by transferring muscular force to the racquet head efficiently. A strong core and trunk is vital for this process because the force transmission starts below the players’ waist. The muscles in the trunk also contribute to racquet head speed by providing a rotational force between the hips and shoulders,” says Professor McConnell, Professor of Applied Physiology at the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University, London.

So does this effort cause a tennis player to grunt? Professor McConnell says it all comes down to breathing technique.

Tennis Breathing Technique

“Efficient breathing is an incredibly important contributor to performance in all sports, but especially in a high-intensity, skill-based game like tennis. Any coach will tell you that the heart of a good stroke is a relaxed rhythm, part of achieving this rhythm is getting your breathing and stroke in tune.” If the player were to exhale as soon as they hit the ball, they would lose the stability and control in their core which could throw them off balance. The solution, it seems, is to control a forceful exhalation.

Tennis Player Grunt

“Narrowing the opening of your lungs will slow down the rate of airflow from them, while maintaining stiffness in the trunk and control over the breathing rhythm. It is in using this technique that some players feel the need to grunt. Of course this braking action doesn’t actually need to result in audible grunting but it is easier to coach the controlled exhalation if you can hear it. As a result some younger players may well be taught to grunt as a means of breath control,” says Professor McConnell.

POWERbreathe IMT Helps Breathing For Tennis

Playing tennis does involve using the breathing muscles in the torso to brace and twist during a tennis stroke. Therefore, strengthening those muscles with POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) will help to improve a player’s postural control and movement.  It will also help with controlling the release of air for optimising the transmission of force to the racquet. The implication of this is that the outcome of your backhand lies in the strength of your inspiratory muscles. 

POWERbreathe IMT adopts the principles of resistance training to provide a training stimulus to your breathing muscles. It’s the resistance, or load, that’s forces your breathing muscles to work harder. Just as you would increase weights in the gym as your biceps become stronger through training, so too would you increase the resistance on your POWERbreathe IMT device. In fact, users now refer to POWERbreathe IMT as ‘dumbbells for your diaphragm’.

Tennis Breathing Improves With Daily POWERbreathe IMT

POWERbreathe IMT is borne out of science. In fact, a team of leading UK scientists developed it. They did so after recognising that breathing not only presents a limitation to athletes, but also impacts on the exercise tolerance in patients with respiratory illness and healthy people. This is back in the 1990’s. POWERbreathe IMT is now well established in the athletic world, as well as, in the medical field. It is being used by athletes to improve their performance and by patients for improving health and medical conditions. Furthermore, it is now more and more often being requested for use in sports science and medical research.

By improving the strength and stamina of your breathing muscles with POWERbreathe IMT, you are also reducing breathing fatigue. This means that, as a player, you’re able to perform for longer with less effort. This is evident in the numerous research surrounding the Benefits of POWERbreathe IMT in Fitness and Sport. You can find our more about how a Tennis Players’ Endurance Improves after POWERbreathe IMT in our blog.

Improve Breathing For Tennis With An IMT Warm-Up

As with all sport, a warm-up is essential. Not only does a warm-up prepare you both mentally and physically, but it also increases your heart rate and blood flow. As a result, more oxygen will reach your working muscles. But more often than not, tennis players are not performing a specific warm-up for their breathing muscles, which is equally important. This can lead to excessive breathlessness from the very start of training or a match. By using POWERbreathe IMT on a reduced load setting, a player can utilise their device for an inspiratory warm-up. There is a laboratory trial involving competitive rowers that shows how a POWERbreathe warm-up significantly improves rowing performance and reduces breathlessness.

Recover Quickly With POWERbreathe IMT Recovery Set

Furthermore, just as warming-up your breathing muscles is important, so too is a recovery strategy for your breathing. In fact, research shows that by using POWERbreathe IMT immediately after exercise, it can help to speed lactate clearance even more effectively than traditional active recovery strategies.

POWERbreathe IMT Training Protocol For Improving Breathing

The POWERbreathe IMT training protocol is scientifically proven and well established. In fact, it is only POWERbreathe IMT that has undergone rigorous and systematic testing to identify the most effective breathing training protocol of 30 breaths, twice a day. Now, you will find other breathing devices using this training protocol established for POWERbreathe IMT. Research was also utilised to discover the most effective method of breathing in through the device, which is hard and fast. This ‘explosive’ technique is also now adopted for use with other breathing devices. You can find out more about the science behind the POWERbreathe Protocol – Training, Principles, Regimen in our blog.