Athletes are always looking for a mental or physical edge while exercising or competing.
There's no shortage of ergogenic aids—ranging from caffeine and sports drinks to illegal substances—you can eat, drink or inject to boost performance. However, one overlooked ergogenic aid can positively affect your mood and actions in the weight room without putting anything in your body.
I'm talking about music.
Can Music Help Me Lift More?
In a 2015 study, Italian researchers investigated the effect of listening to self-selected motivational music versus training in silence on Bench Press performance. They rounded up 31 resistance-trained males and tested them on the Smith Machine Bench Press.
In the first session, which set the baseline, all study participants completed a 1RM maximal Bench Press test followed by a strength endurance test (repetitions to failure at 60% of 1RM). No music was played during this session.
In the second session, which took place two weeks later, the same tests were repeated with one important difference. One group of trainees continued training in silence while the other listened to self-selected motivational music (mostly fast-paced rock or dance songs) from the start of the warm-up to the end of the testing procedures.
So what happened?
Listening to music during the strength endurance test improved performance by 5.8%, which worked out to about one additional rep per individual. No significant difference was seen in the control (non-music) group.
Interestingly, music did not influence 1RM test results. The researchers state this is likely because exercising with music can reduce the rate of perceived exertion at light and moderate workloads, but this effect is not as significant at maximum or near-maximum loads. They also theorize that music may not boost one-rep max due to the non-rhythmic nature of 1RM lifting. Rhythm seems to be an important mechanism underlying the effect of music on repetitive endurance-type activities, so the absence of any rhythmic component when lifting a heavy single could explain this phenomenon.
These research findings aren't a one-time random occurrence, either. A similar study conducted at Sirnak University in Turkey demonstrated similar data. Participants listening to self-selected motivational music during bench pressing increased their strength endurance (repetitions to failure at 60% of 1RM) by 3.9%. Again, music had no effect on 1RM Bench Press results.
So, does music help you lift more weight? In terms of volume-load, it appears so. But in terms of one-rep maxes, the current research suggests little effect.
How to Use This Information
Listening to fast, motivational music creates an acute ergogenic effect. While it doesn't seem to have any effect on maximal strength performance, it can make the difference on those last grueling reps where you push beyond your comfort zone.
Training volume and intensity have a significant impact on muscle hypertrophy. Since listening to motivating music can increase the amount of volume you're able to accumulate at moderate intensities, it could enhance the overall effects of your training.
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