Music in the weight room

The necessities of remembering to bring headphones to the gym


Everyone differs in their approach to working out: for some, cardio is the focus while others like to try and bulk up and body build. Many just like to stay as active as possible.

Planning a trip to the gym seems simple – water bottle, sneakers and motivation. But for all gym-goers, there is just one true essential: headphones.

Studies demonstrate the effects of music on motivation and pain tolerance. Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of This Is Your Brain On Music, told the Huffington Post in music is a distractor and a mood enhancer. In Scientific American, Ferris Jabr’s article “Let’s Get Physical: The Psychology of Workout Music,” states music can create an entire different reality, separate from the pain of the workout.

Nowadays, it’s so easy to make a playlist and take it to the gym. Apps like Spotify and Pandora even have workout playlists pre-loaded onto their homepages.

Kristen Condosta, a senior communication major, said she feels like headphones aren’t really necessary, per se, but notices a better quality workout when she remembers to bring them.

“I tend to workout quicker with music – I don’t get distracted as much and I stay focused,” she said. “When I don’t have music, I get distracted by everything that is going on around me and I definitely slack off more.”

From a psychology standpoint, the chemicals being released in the brain are altered when music is thrown into the mix.

Apart from adrenaline, which is naturally released when someone works out, music can heighten dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.

Kenneth DeMarree, assistant professor of psychology, said music could definitely affect people’s mood and energy level.

“Energetic music with a clear beat probably melds well with a cardio workout like running, but probably wouldn’t fit as well with a meditative form of yoga like yin,” he said in an email. “I suspect the music people select probably matches the energy and tone of the activity they’re going to be doing.”

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, song choice can also play a huge difference in motivation and heightening energy.

Kwame Lambert and Sean Knickerson, freshmen computer science and finance majors, respectively, said they wouldn’t be able to hit the weights without their headphones in. They both prefer to listen to rap.

“I workout six days a week,” said Lambert. “The inspiration comes from the rhythm and the rhythm comes from Nas. The beat has to be heavy, so Nas is definitely the go-to.”

Lambert and Knickerson are two of many students who can attest to the power of music in the gym.

“It just keeps your mind off the pain,” Knickerson said. “I like rap because of the beats – Drake really gets me going in the gym.”

Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @_brnwnd.