Why music can improve your workout
More than the latest pair of compression gear or Lululemon leggings, the most common accessory found in the gym is a set of headphones. Music helps us shut out the world, focus on our workout and get into the quintessential “zone”.
Music’s ability to help achieve better results while exercising is one that has been proven by multiple studies. In some cases, music was shown to increase performance levels by up to 15 per cent. Another study found that those who listened to music while exercising (in this case, cycling) required up to seven per cent less oxygen during their ride.
In fact, the edge we gain from music is considered that effective that in 2007, US Track and Field banned personal gadgets like iPods and MP3s to prevent runners from getting an unfair advantage.
But what is it about your favourite Dusty Springfield song (personally I like ‘24 Hours from Tulsa‘) that sets your heart pumping and muscles flexing?
The legal performance-enhancer
The answer is pretty straightforward — music provides a distraction to both pain and fatigue. Instead of hearing your own breath rattling in your chest or the sound of your feet painfully hitting the curb, music gives your brain something else to focus on. A mate, let’s call him Steve, likes to think up dance routines in his head to different songs while he’s working out. He’s not a choreographer, but it helps him forget about the physical state he is in and push through.
It also helps set a pace. If you’ve ever been to an RPM or spin class, you’ll know how climbs, sprints and cool downs co-ordinate with various tracks. Functioning as a basic metronome, music helps you develop a better rhythm, reduce mishaps and even assist the body to use energy more efficiently.
So what are some of the best tracks to download before gearing up?
Well, that all depends on what you’re doing.
For cardio-based exercise, the best tracks are those that are going to get the heart rate going while setting a nice easy pace for you to maintain. Most people tend to favour tracks that sit at roughly 180 beats per minute (bpm), the magic number according to some runners that fosters a steady pace without over-striding. (However some research suggests that for most runners there is a ceiling of 145 and music that’s any faster than that doesn’t come with any additional motivational benefits. Hitting a treadmill and trialing out different tracks is the easiest way to learn which speed suits your cadence best.)
For example, a personal favourite of The Juice Daily’s editor and regular runner, Sarah Berry, is Alan Walker’s ‘Faded’: “It has a solid 180 bpm and a great crescendo to push you harder,” she explains.
When it comes to weight training on the floor, music that’s a little bit slower or has regular peaks can add an extra boost to your reps.
However, personal trainer and group fitness instructor Mark Moon chooses music that evokes a memory or more positive feelings as inspiration.
“I choose music that reminds me of a memory, every class music I put together tells a story,” he says.
“At the moment, the current favourite is a remix of the Rihanna and Calvin Harris track ‘This Is What You Came For’.
And aforementioned daydream dancer “Steve” likes Daft Punk’s ‘The Brainswasher’ because it “drowns out the pain.”
But if you’re at a loss as to what you should throw on to the ol’ iTunes before sweating out, we’ve compiled a fairly diverse list of tracks that will help you push past the pain barrier and make some personal bests. We’ve even broken it down into cardio and floor to make it easier when you’re creating different playlists for different purposes.
Marilyn Manson’s ‘Beautiful People’. (Sure, the man himself may not be to everyone’s taste but there’s no denying that the song gets the heart pumping.)
Emimem ‘Lose Yourself’ (“Because attitude and beat” says Berry.)
Kendrick Lamar ‘King Kunta’
Kanye West ‘Fade’ because who isn’t inspired by Teyana Taylor’s incredible abs?
Massive Attack ‘Voodoo In My Blood’
Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Heads Will Roll’
Trent Reznor and Karen O ‘Immigrant Song’
AC/DC ‘Thunderstruck’ because…mate
As opposed to the brute strength required on the weights floor, cardio requires music that you can pace yourself against to maintain momentum and even throw in the occasional sprint or hill climb.
Rui Da Silva ‘Touch Me’ – a personal RPM favourite
Delirium feat. Sarah McLachlan ‘Silence’
The Veronicas ‘Untouched’
Missy Elliott ‘4 My People’
Public Domain ‘Operation Blade’
Chemical Brothers ‘Don’t Think’
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