Planet Fitness caters to casual gym-goers. And to ensure a non-intimidating workout environment for their members, they’ve created the notorious “lunk alarm.” So, what is a lunk alarm at Planet Fitness?
Planet Fitness’s “lunk alarm” is a loud siren that they use to discourage unwanted behavior. A Planet Fitness worker will sound the alarm if they see or hear someone grunt, drop weights loudly, show off their muscles, and so on. This makes new or average gym-goers feel comfortable and less intimidated.
In most gyms, dropping, throwing, or slamming weights on the ground is often frowned upon. At Planet Fitness, it can potentially increase people’s risk of injury. That’s why they have the lunk alarm, a safety and warning system that’s activated at the discretion of their employees at the desk.
Before you sign up for a gym membership at Planet Fitness, read this first to learn everything you need to know about the lunk alarm.
What Is the Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm?
Planet Fitness introduced the lunk alarm to give their members—who are mostly casual gym-goers—a place where they can work out without ever being laughed at or intimidated by people with big muscles. As soon as anyone attempts to do any unwanted behavior (drops weights, lifts loudly, or judges), the alarm lets out an ear-splitting sound that can bring the gym to a standstill.
But the question is: Is grunting or dropping weights at the gym really bad?
It really depends on the type of gym you go to. In some gyms, it’s actually normal to drop weights in certain situations, like when:
- You want to avoid getting hurt.
- There are deadlift or Olympic lifting platforms available.
- You’re using weights with bumper plates, which are made of high-density and bouncy rubber.
How about loud grunting? Is it ever okay to do it?
Loud grunting is annoying. No doubt about that. But interestingly, there’s science behind it.
By grunting, you’ll activate your fight-or-flight response to recruit different types of muscle fibers as you squat or deadlift. A Drexel University study has shown that grunting boosts handgrip strength by up to 25 percent compared to exhalation alone. But not only that, it activates your deep core muscles, which in turn improves your stability.
Is the Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm Automatic?
There are really no concrete numbers on how many people have earned the ire of the infamous lunk alarm. It might go off once or twice per month. It really depends on how many bodybuilders wander in there. But one thing’s for sure, and the employees are responsible for setting it off.
How Does the Alarm Work?
So, here’s how it works: If, for instance, you make too many loud and annoying noises, the front desk personnel will sound the lunk alarm, and the manager will try to intervene. Depending on the situation, the staff might do two things:
- Ask you to leave (most likely)
- Or worse, cancel your membership
The intention of the lunk alarm is good (to create a non-intimidating environment for casual gym-goers). And this tactic seems to help Planet Fitness uphold its policy.
Lunk Alarm Issues
However, it raises a few issues. For instance, this policy is open to abuse. What if an employee doesn’t like you because of the way you look? He or she could label whatever you’re doing as lunking, and you can’t do anything about it.
For some people, it creates a toxic environment. Back in 2006, a Planet Fitness manager told Albert Argibay, a massive bodybuilder and a New York state correction officer, to leave the gym after grunting. His membership was also revoked. If that’s not bad enough, people who were in the gym jeered at him because of being a “lunker.”
Brian Shaw, a four-time World’s Strongest Man, also tried to work out in one of Planet Fitness branches. This was in 2018. His goal was to max out and not set off the lunk alarm. Long story short, he got kicked out. He wasn’t really doing anything wrong, like grunting loudly.
Some women also feel unsafe working out in Planet Fitness. In her article, Vanessa Golembewski shared her negative experience with Planet Fitness. According to her, she stopped going there after nine months because of the unsafe environment for women. She claimed that the staff never set off the lunk alarm when being catcalled and sexually harassed.
Lunk Alarm Has Downsides and Upsides
In fact, the lunk alarm has become a joke throughout the years. People would intentionally go to Planet Fitness just to set it off and get kicked out.
In a 2017 YouTube video (which has 6 million-plus views), Thomas Bros (made up of Ryan and Jeff) went to a Planet Fitness branch to do a prank. At one point in the video, the prankster took off his shirt and started grunting loudly while lifting.
Now, don’t get me wrong. His behavior is annoying and rude, but the staff didn’t do such a great job handling the situation. He set off the lunk alarm, shouted at the prankster, and kicked him out without even telling him what he did wrong.
It’s not to say the lunk alarm is completely evil. It has its downsides and upsides. It really depends on how the employees implement the policy and mission of Planet Fitness. To save yourself from the humiliation and frustration, consider going to another gym that allows its members to grunt and drop weights whenever they want.
Can I Sue Planet Fitness Over Their Lunk Alarm?
Disclaimer: Before I continue, I want to clarify that I’m not a lawyer or a legal expert. This is strictly for information only. If you have any legal issues against Planet Fitness, please contact a local licensed lawyer to ask for legal advice.
Okay, so what if you hurt yourself because the lunk alarm startled you? Or, what if you were asked to leave because others find you too intimidating? Can you sue Planet Fitness?
You can, but it’s really up to a qualified lawyer to review the case. There are plenty of lawyers who offer free consultations online, so you might want to take advantage of their services.
Through the years, there have been numerous complaints about the lunk alarm. Some incidents end up with a member planning to file or have filed a lawsuit against Planet Fitness.
One example is a 2017 incident that I found on Avvo.com’s Q&A section. (I don’t really know the gender of the person who posted the question, so I’ll assume it’s a guy.) This person shared that he hurt his foot after dropping his weights. This happened because he was startled after a Planet Fitness employee set off the lunk alarm.
According to some of the lawyers who responded to the post, the incident is worth investigating if he was seriously injured. However, it’s going to be a difficult case. They advised him to get a personal injury lawyer and avoid talking to the company (especially if they ask for permission to access his medical records) or an insurance company.
Louisville, Kentucky Incident
There was also the case of Jonathan Ragsdale from Louisville, Kentucky. The Planet Fitness branch decided one day to revoke his membership and issue him a refund.
What’s his offense? The management claimed that he could no longer work out there because he had gotten too fit and developed muscles comparable to those of pro athletes. For them, his current physique is a source of intimidation for others in the gym.
Jonathan claimed that he didn’t violate any of their policies because he maintained a “lunk alarm-free attitude.” That’s why the cancellation of his membership caught him off guard. Because of this, he decided to file a lawsuit against Planet Fitness.
It seems like Planet Fitness has a problem with members who are fit and muscled because I’ve found other complaints from ex-members about the same issue.
In 2014, Tiffany Austin, a UC Berkeley law graduate, was planning to sue Planet Fitness. After an employee said they received several complaints from other people in the gym because of her toned body, they received several complaints from other people in the gym.
So, she has to put on another shirt to cover up her workout outfit (a tank top with pink spaghetti straps and Capri pants) to avoid intimidating others.
This case wasn’t really related to lunk alarms. However, it shows that it’s not only the “grunters” and bodybuilders Planet Fitness employees call out.
The bottom line is it doesn’t hurt to consult a licensed lawyer if the company violated your rights and/or you’ve been seriously injured due to the lunk alarm or staff negligence.
Again, what is the Planet Fitness lunk alarm? The Planet Fitness lunk alarm is a loud siren used to discourage unwanted behavior. A Planet Fitness employee will sound the alarm if they see or hear someone grunt, loudly drop the weights, show off their muscles, and so on. This makes new or average gym-goers feel comfortable and less intimidated.
Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm: Why Is It Still There?
With all the bad experiences and lawsuits, you’d think Planet Fitness would’ve abandoned the lunk alarm by now. But it looks like it’s here to stay.
The people behind Planet Fitness are smart business people. In the United States alone, there are millions of people who actively use their gym membership at least only once or twice a week. And many of those casual gym-goers are annoyed or intimidated by people who grunt and lift heavy weights.
As you might’ve guessed, there’s lots of money in tailoring your business to a specific niche. This business strategy seems to be working nicely for them (that is, before the pandemic).
Since the lunk alarm isn’t going anywhere, you might as well learn how to avoid triggering it. Some certified strength and conditioning experts believe that the reason some people exhale forcefully when lifting weights is that they’re not breathing properly.
So, how do you breathe properly when lifting weights? Here are a few tips:
Before beginning any workout session, take time to practice the proper breathing pattern until it becomes second nature. Start with lighter weights first. Because if you lift heavy weights immediately, you’re going to have a tough time focusing on breathing properly.
Note: If you find yourself holding your breath or unable to execute the proper breathing pattern while lifting, chances are you’re lifting too much weight.
Know When to Inhale and Exhale
Knowing the proper timing of inhaling and exhaling during your training will help you get better results. But most importantly, it’s going to prevent lightheadedness, nausea, or even fainting (which you don’t want to happen when lifting or pressing heavy weights).
Here’s how to do it:
- Inhale on the eccentric phase (when you lengthen your muscle).
- Exhale on the concentric phase (when you shorten your muscle).
For example, if you’re doing squats, you should inhale as you squat (eccentric) and exhale when you stand back up to the starting position (concentric).
Another example is when you do a bicep curl. When you lower the dumbbell, exhale. Then, inhale as you bend your arm at the elbow and lift the dumbbell towards your shoulder.
Avoid the Valsalva Maneuver
Simply put, the Valsalva maneuver is the act of holding one’s breath during lifting. It’s a pretty common breathing technique in weightlifting and powerlifting, or even in everyday life, like when you do the number 2.
The Valsalva maneuver will help you lift more weight and stabilize your core and back. However, it can be dangerous because it increases your risk for high blood pressure, which could lead to fainting, aneurysm, or a heart attack.
Lift the Right Amount of Weight
Don’t lift to impress. Get real and lift the amount of weight that’s within your ability. This doesn’t only prevent you from grunting loudly but also decreases your risk of injury.
Tip: Begin with a weight that you can easily lift at least twelve times.
Some of the things you need to consider when determining the right amount of weight to lift:
- Ability level
- Fitness target
Conclusion – Lunk Alarm Planet Fitness
Overly loud grunting and dropping weights at the gym are two of the most common and polarizing issues that still plague today’s fitness industry. Whether they’re okay or not, I’ll let you decide.
And let’s not forget about the Planet Fitness lunk alarm. Overall, I believe its purpose is inherently good: creating a comfortable and non-intimidating gym environment for the average Joe and Jane. However, Planet Fitness can’t simply ignore that some people didn’t benefit from it because of the staff’s unfair treatment or misuse of the alarm.