How Music Affects Your Workout

Everyone think listening to music helps them work out harder. But does it? Or does it just make you feel that way? Researchers investigate to see if there’s any difference with or without music.

What music do you listen to while training? Your gym’s selection? Your personal collection? None at all? Opinions on music are varied and passionate. Perhaps that’s why a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of picking your own tunes while you workout.

The study examined two groups. Each participant in the first group listened to music of his own choosing. Each participant in the second group listened to no music at all. Groups were tested on two movements: bench press (of course) and squat jumps. The results are pretty intriguing.

First, in the bench press, neither group showed a clear advantage in number of reps performed to failure at 75% 1RM. So music selection would seem to be moot in this case. But when questioned about their moods and levels of fatigue, those who listened to music during their workouts felt more vigorous, tense, and even more fatigued. Yes, they rated themselves as feeling more fatigued than their counterparts who listened to no music, yet their performance was the same. This is an odd pairing.

The study clearly shows an altered mood when listening to self-selected music, but is it beneficial to feel more fatigued than your counterpart when you both performed equally? Perhaps this means the more fatigued trainee that listened to music will get more adaptation? Or does it mean that with less fatigue, the trainee that listened to no music can now add more volume to his training? The results are unclear.

Results in the squat jump showed a slightly different picture. Once again, neither group showed a clear difference in ultimate performance. For the squat jump, this was measured as the height of three reps at 30% 1RM. But the group that listened to self-selected music showed greater speed and acceleration out of the bottom. So even though ultimate loads and heights were relatively the same, the group that cranked their own tunes performed reps with more speed.

At Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons creates the strongest powerlifters in the world. Part of his training system is the Dynamic Effort method where trainees lift a submaximal load with as much speed and acceleration as possible. The group listening to music might inadvertently reap some of the benefits of Dynamic Effort work without even knowing it.

This study doesn’t close the book on music selection while training, but it does make some interesting conclusions. Selecting your own music won’t necessarily increase your results on any given training day, but it will alter your mood and cause a little more speed on the bar.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.