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Jaw Clenching and ergogenic effect for strength training😬

Suraj Ray
Suraj Ray
I was always fascinated to see a mouthpiece in sports like boxing and martial arts. Even players from other games like soccer; hockey could be sighted using a mouthpiece. Undoubtedly those are meant to protect the teeth and jaw from injury but there is more to it than just protection. 
As our approach towards sports and training is getting more technical and rational. We need to understand and implement new techniques to improve the performance and target for better results.  And with context to this, can a mouthpiece help us to enhance our power output? Or can it help us for better lifts? 
While we are training and lifting weight we are less bothered about our jaw position. Some execute the workout with an open mouth or relaxed jaw position.  But if we are targeting for optimal lifts or training for power and strength. We must consider the fact that jaw clenching (pressing the Jaws tightly together) can enhance the strength and power output of your muscle group. If you remember, during the final repetitions or while finding out the 1 rep max, we need to push or pull the load with maximum power. During such stage clenching the jaw helps in the execution of workout where as an open jaw doesn’t provide much help. Now, clenching the jaw can be done with and without a mouth piece. Some research has shown that a custom made mouth piece which is aligned as per your jaw structure is more beneficial compared to clenching without a mouth piece. 
When we clench our jaw with a right aligned rigid mouth piece there is a proper alignment and re positioning in forwarding or vertical direction. With this, there is a better neuro muscular connection in jaws and activates the muscles of neck, shoulder and lower limbs. This has been shown to enhance the maximal upper body isometric strength and lower body muscular power. 
The selection of a mouth piece also impacts the performance. A custom dentist made mouth piece with right alignment as per your jaw structure will be a better choice compared to a commercially available one size for all mouth piece. But with comfort comes the expenses. Certain another verity of mouth pieces which are available and can be a better help is self-adaptive thermoplastic mouth piece which can be restructured at home to fit the jaw. 
If you are wondering about when to use it, then I would suggest always use your trump card when it’s most needed. You can practice your lifts with the help of the mouthpiece while clenching your jaws but make its active use during heavier lifts or while finding your 1 RM for compound movements like dead lifts, squats, etc. This technique is also safe with regards to performance in sports involving high risk for dental injury. 

Reference:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18978622
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27003454