What’s the soundtrack to your workout?

#TeamTAP loves to get together whenever we can. Whether that’s for training, for workshops, or for seminars, we do so enjoy a social occasion. We have been known to hop on a plane for athlete meet-ups, but there’s no doubt it’s more difficult to arrange meetings that span countries. Luckily, our online community means your fellow athletes are never far away, which helps us all feel like a big happy family.

The feed in our members’ FaceBook group is full of program feedback, lifting videos, and sweaty selfies, plus it’s a place where those following the program can shoot questions to other members, athletes, and coaches. This week, the topic of music for motivation came up…

“What’s everyone’s go to music in a workout?”

Music taste obviously varies widely from person to person, and choosing music you enjoy can help you get more pleasure out of your training session. During your warm up, your chosen tunes can help you feel more confident about your workout, improve your mood, and stimulate you to feel ready to take on the upcoming physical challenge.

Will training to music make me a better athlete?

Although the science is mixed, there’s evidence to indicate that endurance-based exercise performance is enhanced if people play motivational and stimulative music. It lowers their rate of perceived exertion, improves energy efficiency, and therefore enables a greater work output.

Tempo also impacts a workout. It appeals to the motor area of the brain, and helps “tell it” when to make the body move. This encourages a person to feel like they can “keep going” with increased grip strength and muscular endurance, meaning they can find a steady, maintainable pace.

Personal preference also has its part to play, of course. Even with the right tempo, the wrong genre won’t motivate or improve mood. In fact, according to the Brunel Music Rating Inventory-2 it may actually have the opposite effect.

Can music distract from fatigue during all types of exercise?

While it may be that the perceived effort involved in endurance exercise, like walking, running, and cycling is reduced through playing high-tempo music, there’s a big difference between the spin bike and a barbell. A recent study found that this positive impact on RPE was far less pronounced in those undergoing higher-intensity training like weightlifting. So what does that mean for CrossFit performance?

Like many gym-goers, CrossFitters feel they perform at their best with the music blasting round the box. Of course, during the workout brief, and any demos, the music is kept low to aid concentration… but concentration is certainly required during a workout, especially a technical one. Training at high intensity with varying movements and speeds is a challenge for both the body and the mind. Practicing good form, counting rounds and reps, and understanding pacing requires cognition.

There was no music at the 2020 CrossFit Games

“There’s not going to be any music, so don’t be expecting it.”

Dave Castro told this year’s Games athletes there’d be no music playing while they competed. Mat Fraser claims he doesn’t like training with music, so he’s used to pushing himself physically with no soundtrack. He says it helps him focus on his workout. And Tia Clair Toomey echoed this sentiment saying her focus means she isn’t aware of whether music is playing or not…

… and they both won.

“If you need music for training, go get another hobby. You have to be able to train without music.” – Miko Salo, 2009 CrossFit Games champion

There’s almost no research into the direct impact of music and CrossFit training. BoxLife found that training with music resulted in athletes completing a lower number of reps during their Cindy workouts, and although their sample size was very small, this does match the idea that more technical workouts benefit from fewer distractions.

#TeamTAP tunes

Although there’s some evidence to suggest that music could negatively impact CrossFit performance, there’s also a lot of evidence to suggest that music makes training more enjoyable. We all want to get the most out of our workouts, but that isn’t necessarily about the physicalities. For many of us, the aim is to enjoy throwing down, and that sometimes means throwing shapes, too!

Head coach Mike Catris offers his go-to playlist for motivation and inspiration – ideal if you like house music – and Carl Saville’s gym playlist is full of hip hop classics. Our other coaches haven’t been so forthcoming… perhaps their tastes are a little embarrassing?