Does music help you train harder?

For most of the people that go to gym, putting in their ear phones and cranking their training playlist is probably one of the best aspects of training. It blocks out all the external noise and gets you in the right mood to lift your heaviest. As a matter of fact, one study surveying weightlifters found that 89% of them believed music improved the quality of their training.

But just how effective is listening to music in regards to improving performance? What are its benefits? Is every type of training affected the same way? Let’s break down the effects of listening to music while training and find the answer to these questions.

  • The mental aspect: this is where the most benefits can be seen. Music allows the listener to “dissociate” from the fatigue, meaning it will take longer for the person to stop exercising from exhaustion. One study found out that people listening to music did 5.8% more reps on a bench press when compared to people that weren’t listening to music of their own choice. While that may not seem like that much, 5.8% more reps on every workout really adds up volume in the long run.
  • Music as a pre-workout: several studies have referred to the idea that listening to music prior to any kind of physical activity may cause adrenergic modulation, which means increased norepinephrine is produced, causing enhanced arousal, attention, and focus. This adrenergic modulation can result in increased anaerobic capacity in both strength training or short-burst cardiovascular activities.
  • Mood improvement: listening to music that you like releases hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, instantly improving the mood and making one feel more energetic.
  • Pain distraction: music acts as a way to shift the focus from tiredness and fatigue, increasing pain tolerance with the release of previously mentioned hormones.
  • Improved coordination: music affects the way one moves, just like a person would instinctively dance to a tune. Regardless of the type of physical activity, music encourages the person to move more rhythmically, for example syncing reps to the beat. The way this works is because listening to music you enjoy can boost the electrical activity in the parts of the brain responsible for coordinating movement.
  • Makes working out more enjoyable: several studies have shown that listening to music makes working out more pleasant than not listening to it. This is mainly due to the fact that you pay less attention to the discomfort of exercising and disconnect from other distractions.
  • Helps cool down: just like listening to a fast-paced music can motivate you to workout better, slow songs can help bring your blood pressure and heart rate back down, quickening the recovery time of a heavy lifting session.

In the end, it has become clear that listening to music can have a positive effect on your workouts, taking longer to feel fatigued, making it especially useful for activities such as endurance/cardiovascular training, while also having a beneficial impact on strength training.

If you don’t usually listen to music during your workouts, consider putting together a proper playlist and reap the benefits of listening to it!

Marco D. Angelo

PhD in biochemistry, specialized in enzymology and metabolic biochemistry with a background in pharmacology, he works in a molecular biology laboratory and in his spare time works as a high-performance trainer in addition to assisting other coaches.