The Benefits Of Listening To Music While Working Out

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Let’s talk about the benefits of listening to music while working out.

Over the decades countless studies have been performed that analyze using music to alter or control mood. If you take the time to reflect upon (from memory) or listen to some different classical works, you will realize that there are heavy mood driving sounds woven throughout these compositions. This is the very reason that the greats like Beethoven were able to play out hours upon hours of concert and take audiences “on an adventure” of sorts.

This still holds true today when we go see our favorite artists live. Imagine the last concert you attended…think about the emotional journey that their music took you on. Now think about the music you listen to every single day…Do you listen to certain types of music when you are in a particular mood? What about when you want to alter your current mood?

There is a reason that babies or small children can hear a happy song and begin to laugh, jump around, or play. Many animals even react to different types of music.  You might not realize it, but you probably do the same exact thing.

According to a study by Leo Shatin of the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry, “there is an abundance of evidence that specific pieces or varieties of music evoke different types of mood reactions. Not all listeners have the very same reaction to the same pieces but there is certainly a common or modal type of mood response that is predictable for various pieces of music.”

With that being said, it is appropriate to ask…

What Drives You To Work Out?

I’ve mentioned different reasons for working out in the past, and everyone tends to want a different result from their exercise. Usually though there is a driving force behind your workout. Would listening to music, or does listening to music help you keep this driving force intact?

Whether you work out to be healthy overall, clear your mind and rid yourself of stress, sculpt the body you’ve always wanted, or just enjoy lifting heavy stuff or running in circles, your mood can directly influence your productivity when it comes to fitness.

There are many days when you won’t feel like heading to the gym and there will be many days when you are beyond amped to go. Music has many times over influenced me to hit the gym because of the instant mood changes I can create by throwing on specific songs.

This translates back to the times when you were on sports teams, or maybe part of some sort of group competition and you had your go to pump up jams. Didn’t you develop a feeling of excitement or an attitude that made you feel like getting competitive or performing the task at hand? I still get chills when I hear some of these songs and think back to when I was competing.

Whatever your drive is for working out, whether music fuels positivity or aggression, you can channel this energy into your workout pretty easily when you begin to understand what songs push your workout further. It’s been said that “the best pre-workout is a good song”. I firmly believe this.

Music and Positive Reinforcement

There are really two types of gym attitudes I’ve found. Some people have a very positive attitude about the gym or working out. You may be one of the happy go lucky gym goers with a huge smile on your face and a positive outlook.

With positive reinforcement from music you will be able to see an increased positive perception of yourself. When you look in the mirror you might feel better about your body overall, and this may drive you to work harder.

Maybe you think you are the coolest thing to walk the planet, and this cocky or confident attitude drives you to push your workout further, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that when you are channeling it into your ability to workout with more intensity.

One of the most common reactions I see or hear of from friends who use music to positively reinforce themselves while working out is that they have the feeling that they are doing great work. Every rep feels like you are rewarding your mind and body for their efforts.

You can leave the gym glowing and feeling like a million dollars after you crush your workout. Sometimes though, you have to constantly remind yourself that working out is a positive thing and you are benefiting your body and long term lifespan by working out.

Music helps you maintain this mentality. If you find something that makes you feel good when you listen to it and you generally are a positive person in the gym, this music can add to that feeling making your workout more productive and creating the desire to come back.

Music and Negative Reinforcement

The second very common mentality held by people working out is a negative one. I know this may sound like a bad thing, but I use negative reinforcement quite often when I am looking for one more rep when lifting heavy or if I want to run a little bit faster and harder but feel like I can’t. Let me explain…

The mentality that accompanies this is usually one of anger or a burning desire to change your current physical condition. I find that body builders tend to be negative reinforcers the more and more I talk to them about gym attitude. I recently asked a friend of mine how he manages to break through walls while squatting and he responded, “I get mad at the bar”.

While this may seem counter intuitive, realizing that there is always change to be made and essentially that you are not pushing enough weight fast or hard enough can really help you gain strength. I know there have been many times when I negatively reinforce myself by saying that if I don’t get one more rep all this work has been done for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, I go home feeling just fine and I’m often not really mad at all. In addition, taking out my anger in the gym really helps to be less stressed and more relaxed during my day to day life.

This is one reason why you hear screaming, insane tunes blasting out of the headphones of squat rack and deadlift maniacs everywhere. If a certain type of music influences aggression or the urge to get competitive, use it to your advantage in the gym and “get mad at the bar”.

While there may not be a direct correlation to heart rate or oxygen levels and music, mentality can go a long way when working out and both of these mentalities can help you to be healthier physically.

How To Figure Out What Music Suits Your Workout?

There are so many different styles of music in this world, and more are developing each day. You may be wondering what music you need to listen to in order to get the most out of your workout. The answer is that it completely depends on you. As I mentioned in the first few paragraphs everyone reacts differently to the same type of music.

If a type of music makes you feel like working out, you’ve discovered your go to music for the gym. This could be an Ed Sheeran track, who knows? Maybe it’s Green Day if you lift in slip on checkered print vans. It doesn’t matter what you listen to regularly either. I am a huge fan of a wide variety of music, but when I workout I narrow it down to one specific type for that session depending on the mood I am going for. That leads me to my next point.

Music selection can change every single day. Maybe you feel a bit aggressive one day and want to channel that feeling into your workout? Maybe the next day you are feeling like you are an awesome person and you want some music that uses this idea for the best results. Whatever your feeling is, find out what suits you and use it to control your mood to best fit your workout style.

If you are a cardio lover, try something with a high BPM (beats per minute) as the fast-paced beat generally pushes you to run faster, swim harder, or pick up the pace on the stair master. If you absolutely love heavy lifting, go after some metal, even if you hate it you may see a little bit more power because of the effect it has on your mind.

The best way to figure out exactly what you need to be listening to is trial and error. Maybe you go to the gym and pop on that fresh new Taylor Swift track only to realize that her sharp screeching creates a feeling of aggression and anger when you were actually in a great mood to begin with, change it up until you find something that generates the mood that YOU are looking for and that contributes to your own personal results.

If you have any playlist suggestions for everyone else and would like to share them, do so in the comments. Also, if you are a non-music listener in the gym, I’d love to hear about your experience not listening and learn more about your personal preferences. Drop those reasons in the comments too!

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8 thoughts on “The Benefits Of Listening To Music While Working Out

  • I really liked your post. I am a person who doesn’t like to workout. When I do and I am listening to music, I get more into the workout and it goes faster. I guess that is why I like workout styles like “Zumba”. It keeps me moving to a beat rather than counting. Thanks for the article.

    • Dalton

      Hi Reggie,

      It’s sometimes pretty tough. I would agree that’s why classes such as Zumba classes have such a large following. It really gets you moving even when you aren’t a huge fan of the physical activity side of it. Plus if you like music and like to dance then it almost makes it more fun than a workout!

      Thanks for reading,


  • What a great way to turn a workout into fun. We all get days when we really would rather not make the effort, so the mood-altering possibilities of the right kind of music can be really valuable.

    • Dalton

      Hi John!

      I most definitely agree with you. Working out is one of my favorite pastimes especially when supplemented with some good jams. As I’m a music lover myself it really helps me get through everything.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Awesome post Dalton. I love listening to music while working out and can’t imagine exercise without it. I like your recommendations and I think listening to faster paced music while doing cardio definitely makes sense. I like how you mentioned it drives a sense of positive reinforcement as well and having made the distinction of a positive attitude, supported by good music. That definitely makes all the difference!

    • Dalton

      Hey Peter,

      Glad you saw some value in reading. I really love infusing my workout with solid music. I know that the fast paced cardio music really gets my blood flowing. Awesome that you agree. Keep up the good work and keep using those methods of positive reinforcement!


  • This is interesting. I really like doing Zumba and I’m sure a big part of it is that the music is just so good – like a party atmosphere. It keeps me moving even if I can’t get the dance steps right. I think music from the past has really strong associations. I’m of the disco era & any ABBA or Bee Gees & it just makes me want to dance again.

    • Dalton

      Zumba catches a ton of peoples attention because of how groovy the music is! Anytime you can get active and the music helps you do that I’m a huge fan. Obviously the Zumba craze has gone over pretty well in the latest years at is one of the most popular exercise classes out there.

      I like the intense stuff myself so when it’s really upbeat Zumba it’s more fun in my opinion. I’m betting you can find some Zumba classes that incorporate both of those into their workouts!


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