All you gym enthusiasts have been there: a great song kicks in on the big headphones and you feel like you instantly gain an extra 10% in strength. There really does feel as if there are benefits linked with listening to music when you workout and – for me – training feels incomplete without some heavy beat clanging against my eardrums!
Even within the world of sports entertainment, music appears to play an integral role in several sports that demonstrate physicality, such as entrance walks in boxing and MMA. Maybe this is just part of the show and not there to psych the fighters up before battle. But what does the science say? Are there actually any benefits of listening to music before/whilst training or competing in a sport? And could you personally use music to improve your future workouts?
A study conducted by Biagini et al in 2012 examined the effects of listening to self-selected music on three different variables: strength, energy and mood. The study split the subjects into two groups, one group was comprised of those who would listen to the self-selected music whilst performing bench press at 75% 1 rep max for repetitions and squat jumps: 3 reps at 30% 1 rep max. The other (the control group) performed the same exercise protocol whilst listening to no music.
The results from this study were somewhat surprisingly and showed that the ‘music-listeners’ actually had a higher perceived level of fatigue after performing the bench press. The meaning of this is fairly ambiguous; did these subjects hit muscle fatigue quicker and therefore reap long-term training benefits faster than those who did not listen to music? Or were the subjects who did not listen to music able to perform at higher intensities for longer, therefore benefit more from lack of music whilst they trained?
The squat jump also churned out insightful results, with the subjects who listened to music creating more power in the initial jumping phase, as opposed to the subjects who had no music. Suggesting that listening to music may have some positive benefits on power output.
From personal experience music is a fantastic training aid, especially for those long cardio sessions, which can often drag on and feel mundane. This is because music creates disassociation with the situation, taking your mind away from the left-foot-right-foot and into the music, often meaning you’ll exercise for longer before reaching bordem.
Effects of Self-Selected Music on Strength, Explosiveness, and Mood. Biagini, Matthew S.; Brown, Lee E.; Coburn, Jared W.; Judelson, Daniel A.; Statler, Traci A.; Bottaro, Martim; Tran, Tai T.; Longo, Nick A. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: July 2012 – Volume 26 – Issue 7 – p 1934–1938