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How Can Music Improve Your Performance?

Music with exercise is nothing new. If you’ve ever set foot in a gym or made a visit to your local track you’ve likely seen first hand how popular it can be to jam out while you get your sweat on, but why the heck would someone willingly struggle with tangled wires while pushing for a PR? That’s the question that I’m here to answer. The short response? Because it works.

Does music help you exercise?

Good question. Some people are vehemently against the idea, but others swear that music is a godsend for their fitness goals. I know I love a good guitar riff as I pump up for a set or start to ramp up my speed on the treadmill, but what does science say?

Ignore your instincts

What?! That can’t be right… did this guy just say to ignore my instincts? Yeah. That’s exactly what this guy just said.

Ok, don’t get too carried away now. I’m not talking about letting your children fend for themselves over here! I’m saying that at some point, everyone has a conversation with themselves that goes something like:

“Ok, you can do this. It’s just 30 minutes.”


“It’s only been 15 minutes?! I’m gonna die before this is over. Goodbye, world.”

And that, my friends, is the instinct you ignore. When you’re at the gym and your body is saying “4, 5, please stop lifting weights” you make sure to finish that set despite the urge to just “9, 10, DROP. THE. WEIGHT. 14. 15.” You get me? Things get a lot easier when you can concentrate more on “eye of the tiger” and less on your tearing muscles.

In 2008, the USATF actually ban the use of audio playing devices for competitors, stating:

“The following shall be considered assistance and therefore not allowed:(f) The visible possession or use by athletes of video, audio, or communications devices in the competition area. The Games Committee for an LDR event may allow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication; however, those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money may not use such devices.”

That some pretty clear diction, if you ask me! Not allowed. Considered assistance. Hmm. That’s cool, but a bit too vague for me. “Wheres the proof?!”, I ask myself.

Heres the proof

You’re in luck. The human brain can only concentrate on so many things at once. When you start throwing extra stimuli at your brain, you stop thinking about how heavy the weight is and start thinking “dang what a sick beat”, and before you know it you’re done with your set, plus 2.

This isn’t just a “true in theory, not in practice” kind of deal, either. Dr Karageorghis, a leading researcher of music and exercise, has even written that music is, essentially, “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”

In his research, Karageorghis and his team found that “motivational synchronous music can elicit an ergogenic effect and enhance in-task affect during an exhaustive endurance task”, or if you prefer English; motivational music can increase your performance during intense endurance-based workouts.

Don’t worry yet, weightlifters! It isn’t all about endurance; this study from the Department of Kinesiology at CSU Fullerton found that takeoff velocity, rate of velocity development, and rate of force development during a squat jump were all increased among test subjects when listening to music of their choice. If you’re looking for an explosive edge in your lifts, this one is all you. The researchers ultimately concluded that listening to music increased performance during explosive exercise and elevated mood in the process. Talk about two birds, am I right?

So here’s the nice compact conclusion we all love: Music boosts athletic performance. Both in the lab and in real-world situations, Fergie just gets the job done.

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