Can Music Actually Enhance Your Workout?

Does listening to music, something many of us do when we exercise, really do anything for your training performance?

Because it’s such a popular motivator in sports and fitness, it would only make sense that it does something to help. Or, is it magical thinking that your favorite tunes make you stronger or faster?

Get ready for some good news — and some bad — about how music may affect your workout.

In this episode of That’s Healthy, Right?, we’ll dig into the research on whether or not music helps increase your maximum strength, how it may actually boost the number of reps you can do, help you push a little bit harder, run a little bit farther, and even recover faster.

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The Psychophysiological Effects of Different Tempo Music on Endurance Versus High-Intensity Performances — Frontiers in Psychology 

Ergogenic and psychological effects of synchronous music during circuit-type exercise — Psychology of Sport and Exercise

The effects of music tempo and loudness level on treadmill exercise — Ergonomics

Can Listening to Music Improve Your Workout? — National Center for Health Research 

Revisiting the exercise heart rate-music tempo preference relationship — Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults — Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology

Effects of self-selected music on maximal bench press strength and strength endurance — Perceptual and Motor Skills

Effects of self-selected music on strength, explosiveness, and mood — Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 

The effect of music during warm-up on consecutive anaerobic performance in elite adolescent volleyball players —  International Journal of Sports Medicine

Music Mindset: Don’t Wait for Tomorrow — Born Fitness


Adam Bornstein: 

I don’t know about you, but any time I hear the Rocky theme song, the Rocky soundtrack — really one song in particular — everyone thinks about Eye of the Tiger. Me, it’s the song, Going the Distance, those bells. When I hear it, one, it just makes me want to exercise.

But two, it takes me back to when I first started training, and how those were my go-to songs with the belief, the true belief that you put on that music, you turn it up and it was going to make me train a little bit harder.

And recently it brought me back and made me wonder, does listening to music, something that I do every single time I exercise, really do anything for your training performance? And the answer is it kind of depends on what you’re hoping to achieve. I’m just going to get the bad news out of the way first.

Research, and it is admittedly somewhat limited that tests maximum strength. So things like how much you can lift for one rep, it does not appear that music will do anything to increase your maximum strength.

My personal experiences tend to be something different, but you know what? Science is science and that’s what it shows. But across the board, there are so many other benefits of music that it almost makes it undeniable that unless you’re doing that max strength test, you’re not going to see a benefit for it.

So when it comes down to what you would consider what is known as muscular endurance, or strength endurance, you definitely see that listening to music causes an increase in the number of reps that you can do.

And pretty significantly some research shows that in between the six to 10% increase in the number of reps you can do, and the reason is that music helps dull the perception of fatigue.

So it’s not that your muscles are becoming less fatigued, but there are different ways that your body becomes fatigued. One is from a mental standpoint, and listening to that music, it tricks your mind thinking you’re not getting fatigued, so that you can push harder, push farther than you would otherwise.

Same thing goes for running, from an endurance standpoint, it’s found in particular that listening to faster, louder music allowed you to push farther, and run at a greater intensity, for a longer period of time.

And then there was one more thing that I found pretty surprising about music that I admittedly have never tried before, but I now want to do that. There was a study that looked at 30 men and women, and listening to music after you train.

And there’s some anecdotal evidence from that study showed that listening to music, oftentimes slower, helps people recover more because the music itself increased hormones in the body like serotonin and dopamine, which helps support your recovery.

So whether it’s Rocky or whatever your tunes of choice might be, and that’s the big thing, some of the research says that you should be picking the music. Because part of dulling the perception is making sure that you’re listening to music that you enjoy.

And if you can do that, you might find that you can push a little bit harder when you’re going for more reps, run a little bit farther, and even recover better.