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Can’t Work out Without A Good Beat? Here’s Why – The Psychology Of Workout Music

By Ben White

What is the right sort of music?

Now this is where it gets pretty clever. The way that you make sure you are listening to the right sort of music comes down to certain attributes of the songs.

Music Content

Melody, rhythm and harmony are very important in music for exercise, as these can contain subliminal motivators - this sounds like mind control but it isn't, it is actually really clever but brilliantly simple.

Having specific wording in songs like "power" and "the only way is up" is a motivator and will actually keep you going. Just check some of your usual workout songs - I bet they have this sort of thing in them.

Music Content

Person specific differences

Believe it or not, your gender and your personality will actually alter which music works for you. Men will respond better to more bass frequencies in music, whereas women favour more treble.

Something else that is important to know is that extroverts (naturally more outgoing) people respond better to lively upbeat music, whereas introverts (naturally more self-inclusive) are the opposite, choosing songs which fit your profile is very important to get the best from your workouts.

Musical associations

This is a bit of a strange point but does hold some level of truth - we have pre-programmed expectations of when and where different types of music should be played.

I'm sure nearly all of us would think of the music played in the gym as upbeat with a faster tempo, and that's a big reason why we respond better to it when we are in the gym.

Music Content

If you went into your gym and they had classical music playing (not that there is anything wrong with classical music), it wouldn't feel right and would probably put people in a slightly confused frame of mind. This is all down to preconceived ideas of what should be played where.

Also, we can build up associations to specific music through the activity they are associated by. An example of this is 'swing low, sweet chariot', this is a very slow song, doesn't have any of the features we would usually think of when we look into music for physical activity, but yet it is the song sung by the crowd at England Rugby Union matches.

It has motivational qualities because of what you think of when it's played, not because of its musical features.

This is the same as 'the eye of the tiger' when that song comes on we all become Rocky (well I do anyway) and it's all because of the punchy bass, good tempo, but more importantly is that when it's playing you think of the film. If that doesn't make you want to train I don't know what will!

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