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How Music Can Help Your Workouts

4 MIN READ • 11th April 2016

Personal trainer to the stars, Dean Hodgkin tells us why we should tune in to tone up!

In the quest to get into shape, it could be argued the iPod is as essential a piece of fitness equipment as the treadmill, and that motivating music is as important within your armoury as gym membership and a decent pair of running shoes. But, just why is this? And, more importantly, how can we make the most of the results-boosting potential of music while we exercise?

Before you commit to changing your workout mantra to, ‘in Pod we trust’, let’s start by looking at the growing amount of research on this topic. Studies have shown that women and men, of all ages, respond similarly to music and that it can improve workout performance in the following ways:
1) Enhancing mental awareness due to getting you psyched up.
2) Improving co-ordination, as working along to a rhythm improves your motor skills.
3) Reducing feelings of fatigue, due to your attention being directed to the music rather than
the sensations associated with tiredness.


Let the Personal trainer to the stars, Dean Hodgkin tells us why we should tune in to tone up! Interestingly, the choice of tempo can also increase the magnitude of the above effects; a soundtrack that starts slow and gets progressively faster leads to higher workloads and calorie burn than a session where the music goes from fast to slow or stays constant throughout. This is thought to be due to the effects of the slowto- fast music optimising the body’s ability to temporarily distract itself from internal signs of fatigue, such as lactic acid build-up.
When compiling your own workout playlist, take note of the tempos and place them in order of ascending beats per minute. Make sure you have enough to last the session, so you don’t have to play around with the controls half way through, and and put your favourite, and fastest, songs at the end to make sure you get in a good sprint finish!


In an experiment that specifically tested strength, it was no surprise to learn that the more energetic music (faster than 130 beats per minute) produced the best results, but, perhaps not so obvious was the discovery that ‘white noise’ produced better results than slow music.
If you generally listen to whole albums, you might want to skip over any slow tracks that show up half way through, or they might sabotage your weight training workout unless the lyrics are inspiring.


In addition to tempo, another factor that can improve results is ‘extra-musical association’, whereby you identify certain experiences with particular soundtracks that make you feel good – or bad! An example of this would be Survivor by Destiny’s Child, which is fairly slow but yet contains affirmative lyrics, so could be quite motivating. This effect can also be applied to endurance workouts, as there is a proven drop in performance if music is only played for part of the workout. Also, without wishing to sound like I’m stating the obvious, ensure the battery on your music device has enough charge to get you through your whole session!


Listen carefully to lyrics and make sure your play list includes songs with empowering messages, even if they might not be heart-pumpingly fast.


Runners, joggers and power walkers take note: music accompaniment has been shown to increase foot speed, stride length and step symmetry, leading to an overall improvement in performance and more likelihood of setting a new personal best. It’s thought this is because percussive auditory cues positively impact gait proprioception; in other words, stepping to a fixed beat improves co-ordination in the lower limbs.


Choosing songs that match your pace can lead to improvements in your rhythmic movement, thereby enhancing performance. Joggers should be on a slightly slower soundtrack than competitive runners.


You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that individual preference plays a huge part in which tracks motivate you and which don’t, but now there’s scientific proof. Research at the University of Maryland has quantified the impact of personal music choice, showing and it really can make a huge difference. In a test, the blood vessels of exercisers listening to tracks they didn’t like constricted by six percent, resulting in a decrease in performance of around 10 percent. Conversely, those who tuned into their favourite songs had a 26 percent expansion of blood vessels, resulting in a 34 percent improvement in effort.
Prepare in advance and load your music player only with tracks you love rather than just any off-the-shelf preprogrammed mix.
* A word of warning: the British Tinnitus Association advises against constantly listening to music at high volumes, otherwise permanent damage could result. Select a moderate volume and limit your exposure to protect yourself from any health issues related to hearing.
So, whether increased endurance or extra speed is your goal, the science clearly reveals that listening to music you enjoy will lead to gains in performance.


Research has shown that music can help stroke victims recover faster. As such, it could also play a huge part in helping you recover from any injuries you may sustain. Listening to your favourite tracks while you rehabilitate could speed up your return to fitness.


Headphone cable getting in the way as you pound the treadmill? Well, now your sports bra can help out! Research carried out by Dr Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University, for sports bra brand Shock Absorber, revealed 77 percent of women felt they worked out harder and for longer when listening to the right kind of music; however, just over half said the headphone cable was irritating. This is why the new Shock Absorber Ultimate Gym Bra, launched this month, features a headphone wire clip to ensure you have no cable distractions and can focus fully focus on your workout. Result!

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