Dr Costas Karageorghis
If the holidays have left you sick at the sight of mince pies and chocolate baubles and you’re wanting to amp up your fitness, Deezer is here to help! Top athletes use music to enhance their performance, and researchers are now studying this phenomenon to understand how to fully harness its power.
We spoke with Dr Costas Karageorghis, a leading sport psychologist from Brunel University in London, about how to maximise the beneficial effects of music for your workout. Dr Karageorghis has even made his own ultimate workout playlist on Deezer to get you started. Now there’s no excuse!
So can music really help us in the gym?
Our research demonstrates that music can be a tremendous supplement to exercise. For maximum impact the tempo and rhythmic pattern need to be targeted towards your movement rate and activity pattern. Music can benefit exercise particularly at low-to-moderate exercise intensities. It is less effective at high intensities, like during sprint cycling, because our brain struggles to process the sound – fatigue-related cues fight to dominate our attention.
Photo by Yuri Numerov
Weight lifting: Music that is fast, rhythmic, percussive or bass-driven is particularly good for psyching yourself up before a highly strenuous activity like lifting heavy weights.
Fast running: You need faster music for when you are training at a high intensity. Dance music of 130-140 bpm is ideal for very intense exercise.
Jogging, rowing, cycling: Our recent research has shown that the tempo range 125-140 bpm is ideal across the broad spectrum of exercise intensities when an individual makes no conscious effort to synchronise their movements to the rhythm (asynchronous music). A playlist should ideally contour your expected heart rate during a workout. If you are synchronising your movements with the music, the beats per minute need to match your intended movement rate, so it’s important to determine what this is likely to be and to select music accordingly.
What should we look for in a good workout playlist?
The music should possess a pleasing melody and harmony that improves your mood; the music should typically be in a major key. Music that promotes inspiring imagery or has strong personal associations can also be highly effective.
The musical rhythm (beat) should make you want to move; as well as having lyrics that contain positive affirmations of exercise such as “work your body”, “push it” or “run to the beat”.
Here is a playlist that I would recommend for the average gym goer, starting with three uplifting warm-up tracks and building up towards a tough cardio-type workout:
Dr Costas Karageorghis has been a consultant psychologist to many leading athletes and is the author of Inside Sport Psychology (Human Kinetics, 2011), a guide to strengthening mind and body for enhanced performance. Between 2007-10 Dr Karageorghis was the lead consultant for Run to the Beat, a unique running event featuring live and pre-recorded music to boost performance.