Jan 6, 2011

Hey Mr. DJ Wont You Turn the Music Up?

by Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS

Once you step into most gyms in North America, you are usually greeted by music blaring the latest radio jams or looped on a CD. 
Although you may cringe when Lady GaGa comes on (again) 
about the “Paparazzi” in her “Poker Face...” 
there is good reason these fast paced songs accompany you in your spin classes and weight training. Seriously, think about the last time a slow song or a commercial came through the speakers right at the peak of your treadmill sprint or sled push—motivation…shot. Music can put you in the zone, or zap you right out of it. No massage therapist would try to create a relaxing environment with TOOL. While it can be difficult finding music that everyone enjoys, great music can really create an atmosphere of superior performance.

According to Lee Crust of Health and Life Sciences at York St. John University, 
there seem to be four parts of a music selection that determine its motivational quality during exercise: “rhythm response, musicality, cultural impact and association” (3). 
Crust notes that music helps focus and stimulate exercise as well as synchronize exercise patterns according to what is heard. In this way, rhythm response is probably the most important component in exercise stimulation. When a person hears a song, the rhythm (recurring pattern of beats or pulses) and its tempo (how fast or slow the beats are) create a “rhythm response” and an exerciser will unknowingly adapt their movement patterns to match what is being played. This type of background music, like at Prevail Conditioning, that creates a synchronized response to an uncoreographed song is called asynchronous music and can be super helpful right at a high point of exertion. While your body responds to the rhythm, your mind responds to the musicality (harmony or tune) of a song. If the harmony does not flow well or a note is out of tune the mind is basically distracted or dissatisfied. Thus, a well-constructed score can strongly affect a person’s workout through his physical movements and mental drive.

The cultural impact of a song has to do with how present a song is in society (i.e. “Top Ten” on iTunes), and association is how our brain connects a song to an event. People can connect songs like “We are the Champions” and “Ice Ice Baby” with immediate memories of times past or a movie in which it has aired. Contrary to what you might think, however, just because a song is familiar does not necessarily mean it will pump you up most effectively.  
Crust found from a group of researchers that “melody and rhythm were more important than lyrical content in diverting attention from aversive stimuli during high intensity running,” but that these “researchers also stressed the importance of personal meaning and personal associations in producing distraction from pain” (6). Music can be a great distraction and a great encourager to get you through hearing us say, “one more rep!” or “15 more seconds!”

Many people have a “pump-up” song; maybe from high school football or what you like to blast while your cleaning your house. Share them with us! At Prevail Conditioning we love to mix up the type of music we play and are always open to suggestions. We try and keep things fresh in our workouts as well as our choice of music, so bring in a suggestion, a playlist, or a request for more volume! We would love to hear it.

Julian Boubel, BS, CSCS is a Strength & Conditioning Coach for Prevail Conditioning Performance Center and works with athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.  For further information regarding this topic please contact Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS at Juliann@prevailconditioning.com.


1.  Crust, Lee (2008) Perceived importance of components of asynchronous music in circuit training. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26 (14). pp. 1547-1555. ISSN 0264-0414

2.  Karageorghis, C. I., Priest, D. L., TERRY, P. C., Chatzisarantis, N. L., & Lane, A. M. (2006). Redesign and initial validation of an instrument to assess the motivational qualities of music in exercise: The Brunel Music Rating Inventory-2. Journal of Sports Sciences, 24, 899-909.

No comments: