Today I want to talk about music in working out. Now with music, like with so many things, there is no one right way of doing it. Not one general, right way for everyone to do it.
Instead, there are benefits and drawbacks to different forms of music to use or not use in your training.
Music for Enjoyment
I want to talk about that here and let me say over the years I’ve certainly done all these things I’m going to talk about here. And it’s important that you realize that we humans, we use music for very specific purposes. First of all is simply enjoyment, right? If you enjoy music, then why not listen to it? It seems like a good thing to do during a workout. So, enjoyment is part of it. But if you’re only ever thinking I enjoy this music and that’s all you’re thinking about it in relation to training, then you’re missing out on some of the deeper aspects of why it can be useful.
Music for State Control
Number two is state control. When I say the word state, I’m talking about your emotional state. This is a really important thing for fitness because ultimately what you’re able to lift, what you’re able to do in the gym is state dependent. And to demonstrate this, think about just waking up out of a dead sleep and trying to set a max lift. Not really going to happen and that’s kind of an extreme example, but there are much more subtle examples.
Think about getting in a fight with your significant other or something that really just throws you off. Are you going to be able to be very effective in the gym? Some people might be because they can translate that aggression into the gym, but other people may just completely knock them out to where they’re not able to focus on what they’re doing. So once again, these are extreme examples of states, but music is the reason all of us humans started doing music in the first place.
Music is a way to enter into an altered state. Now we have music so prevalent these days and we’re not actually oftentimes participating in the music unless you are actually a musician, but the state control that is still an aspect of it. So if you want to get more psyched up then having some music that does that, that’s going to help you get into that state versus if you want to be relaxed, different forms of music are going to do that.
(More about state control can be found inside Mental Muscle.)
Music for Focus
The third benefit is focus. This goes along with the state control because the focus is sort of a state. But the reason I bring this up is some people, the music’s going to help them to get to that.
Other times no music may be greater for getting you more in tune with your body, with the focus you need for your training. Once again, it depends on what you’re going for.
Four Music Options
Music You Like
I’ve listed four different options here, just starting with some music that you like, whether that is heavy metal, rock and roll, rap, jazz, whatever. If you like it, that’s definitely going to achieve this enjoyment. Whether that really helps with the other things that are up for you to decide.
Personally, I am a rock and roll and heavy metal fan, so I do often use that in workouts and people might think that’s like a super aggressive form of music and in some ways it certainly is. So, it is good for that psyching up sort of state to get you in that psych up to the right level. This is stuff I described in my book, Berzerker State, about it. That may be good for that, versus other times like if you’re doing a flexibility routine, you don’t necessarily want this heavy aggressive music to help you to relax and let go with what you’re doing.
Music for a Purpose
Music you like is just one aspect, but music for a purpose is another aspect. Different music is going to support the different purposes. So once again in the gym, especially with heavyweights and if I’m doing something like partials, I will listen to a certain metal music that I really enjoy, but it has that purpose because it helps me to control that state.
Contrast that to doing a stretching routine. I’ll put on classical music, something like that, which helps to serve my body to relax better. So it is music for a purpose.
No Music for Focus
And many times in my training I’ve done no music. This has really helped that focus state without that music playing. I’ve found in the past that that’s helpful for getting me completely focused on that. There’s not external noise really going on that can be distracting from that.
Music You Don’t Like
I also want to mention one thing I’ve heard from people that compete more often than I do because you don’t necessarily control all the variables going on when you go to a competition that specifically listening to music you don’t like while you’re training because you want to be able to control your state independent of the music.
State control is really about the anchoring and triggering process. Music is just one form of that of which there are many others. So, listening to music you don’t like can be helpful in that regard.
A similar sort of thing with no music. If you’re always relying on music, what if you don’t have that available? You want to learn other state control abilities.
Looped Music for Anchoring
Something that I do, far more often these days is because this is a stronger form of state control by really anchoring the music to that state that you want, then you’re going to be able to get into that state. If you’re just listening to random music or music, you listen at other times, it’s not really anchored to the state that you want in working out.
What I’ll often do is I’ll just listen to one track and I only listened to that track in the gym and do that for a period of time. It may be a training cycle or ‘til I hit a goal or so we’re trying to do and I’ll listen to that track over and over and I don’t listen to that track outside of my workouts.
That state control becomes much stronger because when I turn that music on, I know it’s workout time essentially.
I’ve even gone so far as to play one track on loop, a single track on loop and do over and over. I find that gets a bit repetitive. It actually takes away my focus, after a while with it. So, I find one album works much better than one track for me.
The same sort of thing, loop music, I find that extremely helpful for writing. I’ll do the same sort of thing as I’m writing something. I’ll listen to an album over and over again to keep me that focused state and then when I get to a new section or I’m done with that book or whatever I’m doing, then I’ll switch the album that I’m using for that purpose.
This looped music really enhances the focus and enhances the state control and definitely use something you enjoy unless you’re going for that competition thing. That’s a way to really bring these things altogether. So, the looped music is what I do most of today in my training.
Threw a lot at you in this. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them below. But this is how I think about music in working out.