Music and Weightlifting Don’t Mix…. or Do They?


Listening to music while exercising is a common aspect of working out: it can be motivational or inspiring, help you keep up with or set a strong pace for your workout, keep you entertained and avoid boredom, boost your mood or relieve stress, and even inspire you to work harder or exercise for longer.

And it makes sense that music could have these physical and psychological effects during a cardio bootcamp class, a sprint session or long distance run, a cycling class, etc - but how does it work for weight lifting? Is music able to improve the quality of a strength training workout?

Music in the Weight Room

If a strength training workout is based upon heavy, compound lifts with a focus on getting stronger and/or building muscle, a catchy rhythm or lyrics won’t have the same effect as it would in a more cardio-based workout. You won’t be able to sync your movements to the music, since your movements should be slower and more controlled anyway, and you won’t necessarily be able to move any more weight simply because a great song is playing.

So does playing music make sense in the weight room? It depends. Popping in your headphones and turning up your favorite tunes can still be helpful for weightlifters. Not only is that music able to help you zone into the task at hand, it can also help you block out all of the distractions going on around you in the gym. You’ll truly get your head in the game and that laser-focus can most definitely increase your chances of pulling off your big lifts. Music is also able to distract you from the pain (both mental and physical) you’re feeling while pushing some big weight around, which could, in theory, enable you to push yourself out of your comfort zone for a higher total workout volume.

At the same time, using music as a distraction might not be so helpful after all. While the music might help you push through an intense workout or even improve your performance, turning the music off and truly connecting with your body during your lifts can trigger a better mind-muscle connection and also foster a sense of mindfulness and focus during your workout. Instead of distracting yourself from the pain of your session, allow yourself to fully experience all of these sensations- your form, your breathing, your setup, etc. You might find that this self-awareness is more helpful to your overall training than using music to avoid feeling the physical exertion.

What it comes down to at the end of the day is a matter of personal preference. Ask yourself, does music motivate me during my workout or even motivate me just to get to the gym in the first place? Does music help me focus? Does playing a great song help me to quiet the other 100s of thoughts swirling in my head at any given time and let me focus entirely on the exercise at hand? Or, does music pull my attention away from the lift? Do I find myself focusing on what's playing rather than the movement or do I need to keep stopping mid-set to change the song? If the latter is the case, then the music probably isn't doing you any favors. 

I'll leave you with this: one study that surveyed weightlifters revealed that an astounding 89% of them reported that they believed listening to music improved the overall quality of their workout. The key takeaway? If you simply think music is working for you, it probably is.

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