Make Your Workout Music Work Out for You: How To Choose Music that will Energize You

Using music to accompany you in your workout may no longer be new to you. You may have different sets of playlists for your leg day, ab day, or back day. But do you know that there’s science behind the music for your workout?

Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist, found out after 20 years of studies and observation that there are different types of music for the various stages of our workout routine. Music, if chosen carefully, can empower us and let us have the best workout every time.

“Isn’t it enough that I’m enjoying the song I’m listening to?”​

Well, it’s a yes and no at the same time.

Yes because you really have to enjoy your workout music; otherwise, you’ll end up pressing skip every now and then on your music player.

No because you have to know which song to listen to at the right phase in your routine. You won’t listen to a lullaby during an intense workout, will you?

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Advantages of the Appropriate Workout Motivation Music

To explain further, here are the scientifically proven advantages of listening to the right music at the right time.

1./ Increases Power

Chtourou and his colleagues observed 12 participants who warmed up with and without music before diving into physical activities requiring powerful use of the lower limbs.

The participants were required to pedal for 10 minutes at a constant pace against something that weighs one kilogram.

The results showed that when music was in the background, these exercisers, if I may call them, showed higher peak and mean power compared to the time when they did not listen to music while warming up.

The conclusion? The researchers highly encourage the use of music during warm-up phase to enhance performance during physical activities.​

2./ Enhances Performance and Enjoyment​

In a different study, Stork et al. borrowed the time of moderately active adults from 18 to 26 years old who were not aware of the type of exercise they would be asked to do.

These unsuspecting adults were asked to do sprint interval training (SIT). Twice (as if one was not tiring enough). One was with music; the other was without.

Well, to those of you who are not familiar with SIT, this type of workout is aversive. The all-out effort required to finish it is downright exhausting (at least for me).

Just like the previous study, participants showed higher peak and mean power when they were listening to music. The researchers also observed that enjoyment and performance increased over time. To conclude, music is again recommended for use in intensive exercises such as this.

​3./ Decreases Stress

The third study showed the results of the effects of music during low intensity exercises such as jogging or walking. The researcher took note of the participants’ heart rate, heart rate variability, and rate of physical fatigue twice. Again, one was with music; the other was without.

The participants were asked to listen to their favorite piece of music in one session, and the results are consistent with the previous two studies.

The rate of physical fatigue of these people were lower when they listened to a song they liked. Heart rate and heart rate variability, however, remained unchanged.

Nevertheless, the researchers also recommended music during low intensity workout to comfort the exercisers, and hence, avoiding stress.​

4./ Promotes Faster Recovery​

Interestingly, music is beneficial not only to pump you up before starting your workout routine and keep you motivated during low or high intensity exercises but also to help you relax and recover post workout. Another study has proven just that.

The researchers asked 26 participants to exercise while listening to their favorite tunes. They (researchers) found out that the persons’ parasympathetic activity was increased while also reducing the exercise-induced decrease in this activity.

In a language that we non medical people understand, it simply states that music is helpful in reactivating our fight-or-flight response. In a more simpler term, music helps us recover faster after exercising.​

How to Choose the Right Workout Music​

You may have noticed that the previous section did not specifically mention the right type of music. That’s a good observation because that point will be discussed in this section.

Now that you are highly convinced workout music is beneficial (and is proven by science) from pre- to post-workout, I will now share with you what I learned about choosing the correct workout music.​

1./ Get Your Heart Rate​

The speed of our heart beat is crucial to knowing the right workout music. Each of us have different rates so make sure you do it not only once. Try to do it once a day for seven days at approximately the same time.

To get your heart rate, place your index and middle fingers over your other hand’s wrist and find your pulse. With the help of a digital watch, count the times you felt your pulse move in ten seconds then multiply it by 6. That’s your heart rate per minute.

Knowing your heart rate also lets you know your target heart rate so that you will know if you need to exercise more or move less. American Heart Association suggests targeting from 50% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

2./ Find the Right Beat​

Although this was not mentioned in the studies above, my scientific instincts tell me that the researchers considered the beat of music they let the participants listened to.

Dr. Karageorghis recommended different tempos for different exercise levels. For warming up, he prescribes songs that do not burn too much of our psychological energy. Slow tempos are ideal for this pace.

Because you already know your heart rate, it is now time to look for songs with a similar beat per minute or maybe slower.

Sample songs

Some songs you can listen to to set your mood are:

  • Crazy in love by Beyonce (99 BPM)
  • Semi-charmed life by Third Eye Blind (102 BPM)
  • Ready to Run by Dixie Chicks (99 BPM)

Once you have warmed up and ready to start the work out proper, find a song that’s about 5% more than your heart rate.

Sample songs​

Some songs to play in the background are:

  • Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl (129 BPM)
  • Rod Stewart’s Maggie May (129 BPM)
  • LMFAO’s Sexy and I know It (130 BPM)

The next step is to find a song whose tempo matches your work rate.

Sample songs​

Some of these songs may be:

  • Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson (119 BPM)
  • I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred (122 BPM)
  • Don’t Cha by Pussycat Dolls (120 BPM)

Other types of workout may also require different beats per minute.

3./ Connect with the Words​

Aside from the beat, the lyrics of the song is what keeps us going. There have been times I caught myself giving up then I played Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” and it got me going again.

The words to a song gives us images that can either stimulate our desire to go on or demotivate us from moving at all. For example, Meghan Trainor’s “All about that bass” may be a good workout song because of the 134 BPM tempo, but it’s lyrics may not be inspiring at all.

“Boys need a little more booty to hold at night” may not want you to lose weight in the end. You need something like “Don’t stop believing” message.

4./ Create Your Playlist​

Now that you have understood the prerequisites of choosing the best list of workout motivation music, it is time to create your own. Jog.fm has more list of workout-compatible music while you may search for lyrics online to help you pick the one that fits your motivation level.

Or you may simply play each song over your bluetooth soundbar and listen to the words yourself.

Conclusion​

Build your playlist the way you build your muscles--planned, scientific, and constant. It should be designed from the beat that matches your heart rate to the lyrics that will inspire you to get going.

Does that mean that you will not get exhausted when you have the right workout music? No. You are human. You still have your limitations.

If you are planning to build your muscles but you get tired easily, motivation music may not be enough. You need supplements to help get you going.

But then again, supplementing may not be enough. You need tips about the proper routine and diet for that.

Look for review and tips site such as constructmuscles to help you get your dream body. And while on your way there, remember to take with you your playlist and make that workout music work out for you.​

Erin Taylor
 

Chief editor of YouthTune, a music adventurer. I love learning about music and audio devices, which I eventually share with others so that they too can go on exploring the melodious world of music.

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