Music versus no Music in the Gym

Is it better to liste or not to listen to music in gym?

I think this is a question not asked often, but music is one of the biggest differences in your performance in gym.

I’d estimate that majority of people who have exercised have used music to prop up their lifts at some point during their fitness journey.

However, the question would stand: What music actually does that helps you to perform better?

Music changes behavior inside and outside the gym

The answer may be more simple or even more complicated at the same time.

It all has to do with your own brain and the hormones that affect you before, during and after your workout.

It is pretty much undeniable that music that helps you set a proper rhythm during your exercise can boost your strength even twice as much. Be it in number of reps or weight you can lift.

There were even studies dating back to mid 2010’s showing that 2/3rds of people who didn’t bring their headphones to the gym cut their workouts.

Or they even skipped the walk to the gym entirely due to forgetting their headphones.

How does such a big dependency develop, that changes even the most basic behaviors as an action to walk to to the gym to be healthier?

Why do we even like music?

Music has been pretty much used for very long time – thousands of years even before the invention of gyms.

We ve developed to be “in tune” with the music, over time releasing dopamine (which is a motivation or a drive hormone, not pleasure hormone) to seek more of the same thing.

The reason that music actually works really well to increase dopamine is because of it’s effects on brain, due to rhythm and waves that brain receives, making you to release more dopamine and seek more and more music over time.

However, that doesn’t touch the part why music affects the gym so much.

Building up your brain to enjoy lifting

Alongside the dopamine spike that comes with music, for example, it likewise drops very much when you’re disappointed or let down.

This is what happens when you for example forget your headphones on the way to gym, and why many people in the studies mentioned above even quit their desire to the gym.

They didn’t actually build up their brain to enjoy the gym – their brain was built in a way to enjoy the music that came with it.

Now, this state may be dangerous (such as that if you start to listen to music everywhere, you may lose the desire to go the gym often), which is why it needs to be regulated.

This would explain why people who listen to the music in the gym are more likely to come again, but how does it impact performance?

Effects on performance with music’s rhythm

This has to do as we currently know with 2 things: Pain threshold (which is pretty much knowing your body’s temperature maximum) and rhythm, or syncing with the beat.

Due to music’s excellent ways to have synchronized beats, you are able to focus more on the waves that your brain receives from the headphones. This allows you to forget the pain coming from the workouts.

The same effect can be spotted when you have a new relationship for example. People in those scenarios can work out even 200% with more reps or higher strength, also partly due to the brain shutting off the pain receptors when they are in high dopaminergic state due to a new relationship.

That is also sometimes called love.

How music affects lifts: Simply said

Beats that sync well into both the rhythm of the song and into your workouts will make your brain “synchronized” which is a state it seeks.

This will boost and crave more of what you’re doing at the moment, hence the increased strength or number of reps.

I’d consider this tool to be a very good way to increase your likelihood of sticking to the gym from the start.

Tested: Is abandoning music worthwhile? What are it’s effects?

However I’ve grown myself fond of actually abandoning the music, at least the more I’ve trained.

The reason for switching off from music after 2 years of training, is that at this point you shouldn’t be concerned about quitting the gym at some point. At this point the gym has most likley become a lifestyle for you.

Music helps the most for beginners, who need dopamine (a motivation hormone) to keep coming back to gym through the effects of music.

What would be final conclusion, based on experience?

At some point, after you have established fitness as your lifestyle, or as a routine, turning off the headphones is worthwhile.

The reason is that it is basically a distraction tool – one that takes you away from the workout and drives you into listening to an external stimulus – music in this case.

Which would be the exact opposite thing to do, especially when you’d want to improve your technique and hence strength in long run.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies demonstrating these effects on focus during workouts with/without music. Based on experiences of many the truest gains can be found in having an immense focus on what you’re doing, hence exercising with your weights without an external distraction.

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