Music and its effects on your performance – how to create a strong playlist?

Music and its effects on your performance – how to create a strong playlist?

Gym members are, according to me, divided into two groups, one of them is people who listen to music that’s playing in the gym, and the other one is people who put on their headphones and do not focus on anything else other than their music and training. Music has a significant role in training sessions and it can push you towards better achievements. Read about the effects of music on your performance because you might find out that you should change up your training playlist.

Effects of music on the organism

Music is like a language and a way of communication between the interpreter and the listener. It transfers emotions and thoughts that leave an effect on us. No one is listening to music that is not somehow “effective” and is not very interesting to listen to.

Music affects several aspects of a human body, such as cardiovascular system, mood, or physical performance. We receive it through hearing and it has a form of sound waves, but have you ever thought about how the organism can actually “decode” it? [1]

The whole process, from the transfer of the sound wave to the ear and then into the brain impulse, is complicated but it can be put in a simpler way. Sound waves affect a part of an ear called the eardrum. Based on the sound effect it creates vibrations that move through the little bones into the middle ear.

The vibrations move to the third bone in the middle ear called “stirrup” which is, by the way, attached to the spiral part of the middle ear. Its English name is the cochlea, from the Greek word kokhliās, and has the same meaning as a Slovak term – slimák. This cochlea contains a liquid with 10 000 to 15 000 of capillary cells.

Those activate the auditory nerve that sends electric impulses into the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe. The sound happens in the brain, and all the results of the research point out that decoding and music interpretation are handled by the nerve webs in its various parts. [1] [2]

Music and centers in the brain

Music activates the various brain centers that have their individual function, and based on them, our brain reacts to music [3] [4] [5] [6]:

  • Temporal lobe – this part processes sound, and thanks to the speech center that can be found here, we appreciate music. It is the primary auditory cortex that processes entrance from the ears into words and sentences.
  • Frontal lobe – we use it for thinking, planning, and deciding. It can be improved by listening to music.
  • Wernicke area – it is found in the temporal lobe, and it provides a person with an understanding of spoken and written language, thanks to this part, the brain is enjoying and analyzing music.
  • Broca area – allows a person to speak and we express music with it. The ability of communication can be improved by playing an instrument.
  • Nucleus accumbensseeks pleasure and exudes dopamine, that’s why it is a key part when it comes to addictions. Music increases dopamine in this area. If you are convinced that music is your addiction – this is the reason why you’re right, because dopamine can be also increased by cocaine.
  • Putamenprocesses rhythm and regulates movement. Rhythm is very important during training. One theory is that this part “scans” music rhythms.
  • Amygdala – invokes and processes emotions, thanks to that you can feel happiness or fear. There are 3 layers of neurons, and the top layer reacts to faces, sounds, and music, especially the positive one.
Music and centers in the brain

Music, sport, training and research

The human brain receives and processes sound waves but that is not all that music has on the human organisms. It affects respiratory and heart rate, physical strength, endurance, aerobic performance, and the ability to learn basic movement skills. There are many pieces of research that dealt with the effects of music on training and its effectivity. Let us introduce you to the results of experts, thanks to whom you will hopefully improve your training. [7]

The overview of studies suggests that the heart rate has a tendency to react to the music rhythm. This means that the pulse increases with faster music, and decreases with slower music. When it comes to the effects of music on strength during a workout, the results of another study indicate that calming music in comparison to the fast one or no music considerably decreases strength. A very surprising fact is that silence is better than slow music. The research found out that there is no visible difference between stimulating music and silence. This comes to the conclusion that if you are to choose between the two, try to listen to boosting songs or no music, romantic-relaxing songs are also not so effective when it comes to your performance. Music during exercise can evoke positive associations and distract from negative feelings. Frankly said, play your favorite songs and you might not realize the effects of weights and unpleasant feelings from training. [7]

You might be interested in these products:

A study from 2017 investigated the effects of music on physical performance. The study included 50 young adults, and their task was to exercise with and without music. As mentioned in the conclusion of the study, the increase of the overall time of training and the heart rate was proven with music. The participants were men and women at the age of 19 to 25, and the positive effects can be seen with the comparison of the heart rate and the approximate length of training without music. The average training session without music lasted for approximately 22.48 minutes, while with music it lasted for 37.12 minutes, which makes the 15 minutes difference. The increase was found in measuring the maximum heart rate, which was without music 131.98 beats per minute, while with music it was 138.02, which is the 7 beats difference. The results show a higher pulse rate and a longer training period. [8]

Music affects strength during training, the length of pulse rate, but scientists were also concerned with the effects of music on a very simple task – grip strength. The study compared the effect of energetic and relaxation music but also the effects of white noise. Based on the results of the grip strength, it was increased by the stimulating music, and vise versa, relaxation music had a lower value than the white noise. [9]

Music, sport, training and research

A study from 2004 also compared the effects of motivating music and white noise on muscle endurance. The participants were young students that were divided into 3 groups based on the factor whether they were listening to music or white noise. One group listened to music before their performance, second group for half of their performance, and the third during the whole session until the end. The respondents were holding the weights noticeably longer during listening to music than during listening to white noise. Their endurance was also higher whilst listening to music and not only before their training. The conclusion may be that if you listen to music on your way to the gym, it is not going to boost you so much as if it did during your workout. [10] 

Music and its effects on your performance

It’s not only about strength training therefore we are also concerned with the result from the 2015 study. It dealt with the meaning of music during the 5 km run. The study incorporated 15 runners, and 5 conditions were examined – motivating songs before running, slow motivating songs during running, fast motivating songs during running, slow songs after running, and controlling conditions.

The results show that listening to fast and slow songs during running caused the runner to run faster in the first 800 meters. There was also a higher chance of performance improvement while listening to music. Listening to music, therefore, improved the performance, minimalized perception, but also improved the recovery during the run. Did you used to run without music and you thought that it is something that fair runners do? Try to rethink your choice and prepare a motivating playlist. [11]

The right music can provide support for your training but how to pick the right song. One of the useful parameters is the rhythm of the song. Based on the obtained data, women handled the training easier while listening to fast songs with a rhythm of 170 to 190 beats per minute. Music can improve performance during training by up to 15%.

Which songs have BPM (beats per minute) higher than 170? Here are some examples [12]:

  • Eminem – Lose Yourself – 171 BPM
  • Prince – I Would Die 4 U – 180 BPM
  • Queen – Don´t Stop Me Now – 180 BPM
  • Meghan Trainor – What if I – 185 BPM
  • Eric Clapton – Lay Down Sally – 190 BPM

What music to choose for your training?

Your music playlist is based entirely on your own preference and mental state. It would be totally absurd to push you towards speed metal songs. Even though, we have some recommendations for you [13]:

What genre to choose?
  1. Before training – only the sounds of nature – if you train in the afternoon, after school or work you probably know that you think about your other responsibilities during training. Stress and anxiety increase cortisol levels and its negative feelings may affect your workout. Instead of motivating music before training, try to listen to the sound of nature, or even better, be in complete silence and lower your levels of cortisol.
  2. During trainingyour favorite music or silence – legendary Jay Cutler said that he doesn’t listen to music because he doesn’t need to. Another expert in the field (Jim Stoppani) stated that his personal research proved that improvement of the “lifts” was caused by listening to the lifters’ favorite music. The difference was 1 repetition in a set, and this progress may be significant in the long term.
  3. Endurance trainingmusic or a podcast – music can increase heart rate with a low level of perceived effort. Most people prefer podcasts because sometimes even the best playlist may be a pain in the ass. Choose music that is the best for you during running, especially when you are not excited about your run – you may escape your thoughts.
  4. After training – relaxing music, white noise or pink noise – it’s necessary to regulate the high cortisol levels after training. Another important aspect is sleep, and if you want to improve your sleep, try to fall asleep whilst listening to white or pink noise. The white one has a higher frequency, it might remind you of a fan, and the pink one has a lower frequency that reminds of a strong wind. Don’t forget that the preparation and the workout itself is not the only important thing but also the time after leaving the gym.

What genre to choose?

The goal of this article is not to convince you to buy cool Bluetooth headphones and listen to cool music by all means. We do not try to convince hip-hop fans to listen to metal songs. Music during workouts has some benefits but do not expect that soundtrack from the Rocky movie will help you to bench 150 kg after two sessions.

Your music playlist during your training is absolutely on you, however, we have some genre tips that might be a bit more effective than others [14] [15]:

  • Hip-hop – is good because of a few reasons. Motivation-oriented and self-improvement oriented lyrics may be one reason, but also the rhythm that is usually between 75 and 95 BPM. Hip-hop and rap have many options, such as Run DMC which is classic, or current interpreters such as Drake or Kanye West.
  • Pop and dance music – the benefits of music that make you move your body in the rhythm doesn’t need any commentary. Pop and dance music constantly changes, and new songs appear. Pop is slower what makes it perfect for the slower activities, such as warm-up or the “cool-down”. Dance music is, in comparison with pop, a lot faster therefore it’s better for weights and strength training. These two genres have probably the most varied selection, from Katy Perry, Pharell Williams, to the ’80s and ’90s.
  • Heavy Metal – training is about hard work, proper rhythm, and heavy weights. Heavy metal music is therefore suitable. Metal song lyrics are most often about fights, strength, and endurance, not mentioning its dope rhythm. However, there is an idea that rock music is not so suitable for cardio or an intensive workout because the rhythm changes and affects a person. Try to choose songs without sudden changes that will not set you off. Metallica fans will definitely create their playlist as well as fans of a modern Mastodon.
  • Sports anthems – even though it is not a real genre but rather a type of sub-genre, sports anthems should not be omitted. They are considered to be classic songs that are played on the stadiums because of their rhythm. Songs such as We Will Rock You by Queen or Eye of the Tiger by Survivor are notoriously famous, and a symbol of a human’s pugnacity.
What music to choose for your training?

Do you have a “food for thought” because of our article, and now you’re thinking about changing your playlist?

We have an interesting list of the top 10 motivating songs according to which is a part of an article by Raisy Bruner. The selection was created around 50 best songs that are suitable for running on a treadmill or for lifting heavy weights. We are featuring the “upper” ten songs [16]:

  1. Eminem – Till I Collapse
  2. Normani – Motivation
  3. Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
  4. Rosalía and J Balvin feat. El Guincho – Con Altura
  5. Dua Lipa – Don´t Start Now
  6. Kanye West – POWER
  7. Tones and I – Dance Monkey
  8. Stormzy – Wossi Bop
  9. Avicii – Wake Me Up
  10. Bad Bunny feat. El Alfa – La Romana

Or you can reach for already made playlists, for example on Spotify, that are adjusted for the sports activity such as cardio, strength training, or CrossFit.

Music helps us overcome rough times, enjoy life more, or it can kick us towards better performance. The concrete song may evoke memories and life without music cannot be imagined by some of us.

We believe that this article provided important ideas about music and its effects on training. You might have found yourself in many hypotheses and you’re already picking new songs. Nonetheless, music is a great motivator on your way to better performance and the dreamed physique. Would you like your friends to know about music and its effects on training? Do not hesitate and support us by sharing the article.


[1] Music and health –

[2] Guy Rebillard, Rémy Pujol – COCHLEA: OVERVIEW –

[3] Your Brain on Music – A popular class breaks down how our brains respond to music. –

[4] Anand Patel, Grace Marie Nicole R. Biso, James B. Fowler – Neuroanatomy, Temporal Lobe –

[5] How do we perceive musical beats? –

[6] Jon Lieff – Music Stimulates Emotions Through Specific Brain Circuits –

[7] Len Kravitz – The Effects of Music on Exerise? –

[8] Avinash E Thakare, Ranjeeta Mehrotra, Ayushi Singh – Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults –

[9] C I Karageorghis, K M Drew, P C Terry – Effects of Pretest Stimulative and Sedative Music on Grip Strength –

[10] Lee Crust – Carry-over Effects of Music in an Isometric Muscular Endurance Task –

[11] Marcelo Bigliassi 1, Umberto León-Domínguez, Cosme F Buzzachera, Vinícius Barreto-Silva, Leandro R Altimari – How Does Music Aid 5 Km of Running? –

[12] Jodi Helmer – The Perfect Playlist, According to Science –

[13] Evan Porter – What to Listen to Before, During, and After Your Workouts –

[14] Joe Herb – 5 Genres of Music Great for Running and Working Out –

[15] Victoria Woollaston – The workout playlist that’s PROVEN to get results: Scientists analyse the beats in songs to reveal the perfect exercise tracks –

[16] Raisa Bruner – Here Are 50 of the Best Workout Songs to Get You Motivated –

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *