I have heard that clenching teeth will help you lift more weight, how does clenching your teeth help you to lift more weight? Why do we clench our teeth when exercising?if it can cause dental damage why do we even do it in the first place?

Some mouthguards claim that they can help improve performance, make athletes faster and stronger, how is this possible?


NOTE: I received some down votes to my answer. So I have added evidence that supports my answer below.

You clench your teeth to raise your blood pressure. I'm fairly knowledgable about biomechanics of the spine, and stabilization of the spine has been researched extensively. I haven't seen a paper that specifically focuses on blood pressure as a component of spine stability, but I'm pretty sure that higher blood pressure makes your spine more stabile for the couple seconds that your executing a demanding movement. In the long run, obviously, higher blood pressure will end your life prematurely.

As for myself, I have had a bad history with my teeth, which I'm not going to bother you with here. Point is, the health of my teeth trumps whatever I'm doing at the gym. So I have never allowed myself to grit my teeth. Ever. Does that mean I have never lifted my maximum potential weight? Probably. But I'm just not willing to take any risks with my teeth. If you have an older parent who is losing their teeth, you know what I'm talking about.

Now, here is my evidence for this theory. Hang with me because this is going to be a slightly long explanation. This paper shows that when tennis players grunt they hit faster balls. How does grunting increase ball speed? The answer is that grunting stiffens your spine. I quote from this paper: "Grunting appears to increase intra-abdominal pressure during the respiratory cycle, thereby increasing stiffness of the lumbar vertebrae providing greater trunk stability and increasing force development."

I would argue that, if you increase your blood pressure, this will also increase increase intra-abdominal pressure. Thereby, an increase in blood pressure will contribute to spine stiffness. Now, when you contract any muscle in your body, this contributes to your overall blood pressure. This is why, when the doctor measures your blood pressure, they ask you to relax every part of your body and to uncross your ankles and arms, and so on. Hence, clenching your jaw, even though it isn't a big muscle, will slightly increase your the blood pressure. If you don't believe me on this, clench your jaw the next time your doctor measures your blood pressure.

In summary, clenching your jaw increase blood pressure, and thereby increases inter-abdominal pressure, and thereby increases spine stiffness, and thereby gives you a more efficient force production.


  • 1
    I think the down votes are due to this being mostly conjecture on your part. You still have not presented any proof of the connection.
    – JohnP
    Oct 25 '19 at 5:16
  • Is clenching your teeth alone considered grunting? Does clenching your teeth help you run faster, since it increases your spine stiffness not leg stiffness?
    – Zheer
    Oct 25 '19 at 7:16
  • 1
    Clenching teeth and grunting are different things, but both increase your inter-abdominal pressure. Grunting has been studied in a dozen research studies. I don't know if clenching teeth has been studied. If you clenched your teeth when you run, then it would interfere too much with your breathing. Grunting and clenching your teeth only works when it is for a short duration of time. A tennis player only grunts in the instant when their racquet is hitting the ball; that's when they need extra stiffness.
    – Chris
    Oct 25 '19 at 16:25

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