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Does Music Affect Your Workout?

Last Updated on December 5, 2015 by Jeff

best music for workoutsHave you ever left the house to go workout and realized you’ve left your headphones behind? That sudden sinking feeling is enough to contemplate whether you should do your workout at all. The impact that music has on training is astounding and whether you like Black Sabbath or Britney Spears, there’s no denying it.

The type of music that works best for you is really down to personal preference. However, there is some research backing up certain styles so that you can fine tune your playlist to hit a new personal record.

Picking Your Own Music vs. What Your Gym Chooses

One study¹ in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research actually looked at the effects of picking your own music opposed to just listening to whatever was playing in the gym. Separating the participants into two groups, each one was tested on both the bench press and squat jumps.

For the bench press, the participants had to perform as many reps as possible at 75% of their 1RM. When it came to this movement, the results rarely differed dramatically which could show that for strength movements music doesn’t really have much effect as long as it’s playing.

However, when it came to the squat jumps they painted an entirely different picture. The jumps were measured as the height of three reps at 30% of their 1RM. The participants who got to choose their own music showed a much greater rate of acceleration and speed which means that for power and speed work, picking your own music is key.  So, if you’re sticking to strength building then don’t freak out if you can’t slam on your favorite tunes.

That said,, when you can pick your own music what should you go for?

Higher Tempo Affects Cardio Workouts

Well, another study² published in 2009 by British researchers (Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B.) looked at the effects of music on 12 college students riding indoor cycles. They were given a playlist consisting of six songs of varying tempos which “reflected current popular taste among the undergraduate population.” The individuals were told to ride at a pace that they could keep up comfortably for 30 minutes. Throughout this period they had their heart rate, power output, pedal cadence, enjoyment of the music and rate of perceived exhaustion (RPE) monitored. The results were pretty conclusive that the tracks with a higher tempo increased the participants heart rate and pedaling speed. Not only this but they also covered more distance and enjoyed the music more. This means that if you’re doing some from of cardio then picking a playlist with high BPM could make all the difference.

So the best music depends really on what you’re doing during your workout.  It might not always matter, but overall, the research shows it’s best to choose your own tunes.  Of course, it’s those times where you do leave your headphones behind means that you’re fate is down to the gym’s speakers. So keep an extra pair of ear buds handy!


[¹] http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2012/07000

[²] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793214