Generation Iron Music Workout

Beyond personal taste, does music actually increase performance?

There are two types of bodybuilders: those who listen to music on their headphones and those who don’t. Forgive us for using such a black and white phrase – but there’s a point to this.

For some, music is a very important part of working out. It gets them in a groove, provides them motivation, and takes them into a zone that might have otherwise been impossible to reach. On the other hand, there are others who find it distracting. They see it as something that takes away from their workout.

While personal taste is a big factor – the question still remains. Does listening to music actually help increase the productivity of your workout? Can it be an extra tool to push yourself that little bit extra and maybe pack on a little extra muscle? We dug up a little bit of research to see if science can help give a definitive answer to this question. Maybe it’s not just about personal taste. Let’s take a look.

According to Costas Karageorghis, a Ph.D. from London’s Brunel University School of Sport and Education – there are three primary things that music could possible influence in terms of exercise performance. Let’s break it down.

1. The tendency to sync your rhythm to the beat of the music.
2. The tendency of music to increase your desire to be active rather than inactive.
3. The tendency of music to distract you from discomfort.

It would seem a combination of these three things could in fact help increase your performance in the gym. If you have energetic music at a fast enough tempo – your reps with presumably have more power and speed. Add the fact that this is (hopefully) music you enjoy and suddenly you start to get distracted from fatigue. Allowing you to power through your whole workout without taking it easy on yourself.

But does this actually work? Let’s look at some of the studies.

The Effects of Music on Weight Training

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research conducted a study in 2012 testing if the use of personal music can aid physical performance. The study analyzed athletes conducting bench presses and squat jumps. There were two conditions: one while listening to music of their choice and one without any music at all. They each performed three sets to failure.

What they found out is that while there were no differences in actual ability – that is to say that they were not able to jump higher or increase their reaction force – but what did change was the rate of velocity and force.

People who listened to their own music increased the performance of their “explosion” in exercises and also increased their mood. Those who finished their workout while listening to music felt much better about the workout itself than those who listened to nothing at all.

So while listening to music may not make you stronger per say; it does increase your energy and mood – making room for greater motivation with each continued workout and yielding long term results.

The Effects of Music on Endurance

So let’s forget about strength for a moment. What about cardio and endurance? According to an article on Ace Fitness, the increase in your mood and tempo can also have an effect on your endurance. As much as 15% increase in fact.

In one 2003 study, subjects were asked to simply cycle at their own normal speed in a gym. Meanwhile, the researchers experimented with the music that was playing in the gym – constantly changing the tempo of the songs. And the result? Without even realizing it, the subjects cycled faster when the music’s tempo was faster.

They weren’t even trying to push harder. It was a subconscious effect that they didn’t even notice. So what does this tell us? It shows that there may be benefits to listening to music beyond motivation. The tempo may actually increase your exercise output regardless of your personal taste. It’s all in the tempo.

It’s kind of like if you are the kind of person who doesn’t like to dance – but you suddenly realize your foot has been tapping to the music the whole time without even realizing it.

Does This Even Matter?

So we looked at two different kinds of studies. The effects of music on weightlifting and on cardio/endurance. Both cases showed that music provided some sort of positive effect to a person’s workout. But it is actually a significant difference?

In both cases the changes are rather insignificant. Yes, increased mood and endurance are definitely helpful but they are only minor components to the overall lifestyle of a bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast.

Ultimately, music is not a magic switch that will turn you from someone who hates working out into someone who is absolutely in love with it. What it can do is give you a little extra oomph.

But in the end, if you are someone who just doesn’t prefer to listen to music while working out. It’s okay. You’re not missing out on some game changing opportunity. Just stick with what works best for you.


So what do you prefer? Music or no music? Let us know in the comments section below and make sure to follow us on our official Twitter and Facebook pages. Stay pumped.


GI Team
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