Is Music Hurting Your Workout?

Is Music Hurting Your Workout?

Studies have shown that listening to music while exercising results in longer, more strenuous workouts. For most people, that means powering through a workout while listening to loud, fast music. Unfortunately, while a faster tempo might work for aerobic workouts, that fast tempo may be all wrong for weight training. Before starting your workout, plan your music so you can make the most of your session.  

How Music Improves Exercise

Scientist are still studying how music impacts exercise. Research so far indicates that people listening to music worked out for longer and harder than those who didn’t listen to music. They also reported feeling that they had exerted less effort, even though the opposite was true.

There are several reasons why music improves exercise. It seems to provide a positive distraction that reduces how much exercisers think about the pain and effort involved in their workout. By providing entertainment, those exercising are less likely to become bored. This helps keep the workout going longer than without music.

Music can also help improve mood. Listening to upbeat lyrics can help cheer up the person working out and favourite songs that are associated with good memories, can also have a positive impact. This can be true even if the lyrics, themselves, aren’t particularly upbeat.

People naturally want to move to music. The tempo of the music can be particularly helpful in setting a steady pace when running or other types of steady aerobic workouts. Fast music is probably the way to go while you are on most aerobic workout equipment. Pick a tempo that works for you while on the exercise bicycle, stair machine, or other steady rate workout. If you are doing interval training, incorporate different songs to provide you with tempo changes to keep you going. Between slow walking and a slow job, typically you’ll want between 115 – 150 beats per minute. For running, up to 160 beats per minute might work for as steady workout.

Strength Training

Fast music is probably also the most popular choice for strength training. While this can help improve mood and keep the workout going on longer, the fast tempo might reduce the amount of time weights are held. The natural inclination is to continue moving with the music. This can discourage long squats or other moves where slower is actually better.

Another concern for fast music while performing strength training moves is the impact on technique. It can be tempting to do swift lifts and drops keeping time with the music. Unfortunately, a lack of attention to form can make weightlifting moves less effective or even lead to injuries.

On the other hand, anyone who has tried strength training realises the importance of anything that will distract from boredom and pain. Those are the two things most likely to cause gym-goers to cut their workout shorts. Obviously working through an injury is a separate issue, but the normal pain and discomfort of lifting weights are the biggest hurdles in strength training.


Science still has a great deal more to learn about how much music and exercise interact. That makes it impossible to pick a solution that will work for everyone. Plus, music preferences vary. This means a song that inspires and motivates one person could be a terrible choice for others.

The key point is to be aware of your music and how it is or isn’t working for you. For strength training moves, try a variety of different tempos of music to find what works best for you. This might even vary during a particular workout as you move from the dumbbells to heavier weights during your routine. Make sure fast music isn’t causing you to attempt to lift weights too quickly.

If your workout has plateaued and you’ve been listening to the same collection of music for a while, it could be time to find a new mix. Just varying the tempo might help reach new levels in your fitness or to correct any issues with your technique.

Remember, no amount of workout music will help if you don’t enjoy exercising to it. Experiment until you find what works well for you. The important thing is to keep you motivated, moving, injury-free, and working out at the gym.

The Author

Joe Sherman

Joe is a keen gym-goer, footballer and cyclist. He has a passion for the latest fitness trends and marketing.


Debra G.
19 February 2017

Debra G.

I definitely need my own playlist as the rap and garage (or whatever it is) that my gym plays makes me want to exercise by running out of the door. Here's to good earphones!

Lucy C.
13 February 2017

Lucy C.

I am not a big weight lifter, but I find a podcast or audio book is a great soundtrack to alleviate what can be a rather boring session. It avoids the temptation to rush (as the article says) and as I want to get to the end of the programme, it means I need to keep working out.

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