Ergogenics: Music

music-notesThe ergogenics series continues today, not with a herbal compound or drug, but with music. I regular use my iPod for workouts, and I can attest to improved workouts with it. There really is nothing quite like listening to your favorite song before a heavy set to get you into the right frame of mind. I will swear that I have gotten reps that I would have not otherwise gotten on a set had it not been for Tool or Pearl Jam and other bands in their class.

And now research seems to be proving this, at least for endurance training. Endurance training is nothing like low-to-moderate rep weight lifting, but this is a topic where I will happily take empirical reviews as fact as I’ve seen it so much in myself and others. That said, the use of music for 400m sprints (considered anaerobic training) has actually been shown to have a positive effect. The application of this particular study to weight lifting is delicate since it was the music synching up with each stride that was responsible for this effect. This sync seems to lower the perception of effort being put in, almost like it zones the user out. In fact, during the endurance studies some cases improved by 15%.

The below video from BBC explains it.

Something interesting in this is that they discovered that the effect of music was greater in women than in men. I wonder if this is due to higher concentration of connections between the left and right hemispheres of the female brain. It is suggested that this superior relationship between the left hemisphere, which houses the language center, and the right hemisphere, which houses emotions, is why women are more expressive about their feelings. This may also help women attach motivation to certain sounds and songs so they respond better to the music when they train. I am no neuroscientist but this seems plausible.

ipod-shuffle1jpgBack to my own anecdote, I’ve also found that listening to music also can have its drawbacks. The most notable for me is that during weights I tend to spend too much time waiting for a key song, or the key part of a song before embarking on a set. This costs me time and slows down my workout. I’d rather not, but this is the trade-off. In addition, the effect of the songs tends to wear off after several listens, so I have to quite regularly change my track-listing and remove “used” songs and replace them with fresh new ones. Thankfully the advent of the MP3 and iTunes allows me to do this very easily.

The take-home message from this article is that if you want to improve your performance, try music. I find it especially advantageous during dieting when cardio is the last thing I want to be doing. It really helps kick me into gear.

On a somewhat related note, the two scientists shown in the video actually have a book due out at the end of October this year, which is probably why there is discussion into the research occurring now. If you want to read more into this sort of thing it looks like a good choice.

About the Author

Matt Cahill has worked extensively in the nutritional supplement field, and is the former CEO of Designer Supplements. During his time in the field has researched and developed prohormones, testosterone boosters, and other related compounds, both for his own company and others.