In case you didn’t know, music matters. It’s science. And when it comes to choosing music at Power Athlete HQ, our rule is simple- the strongest person in the gym gets to play DJ. This is how I’ve inadvertently become something I’m not entirely proud of, something I hide from my friends and family, something so devastating it could result in being publicly shunned. That’s right, I’m a Nickelback fan. I blame the strongest person in my gym- you know who you are. Certainly I can’t fault said band for lack of arousal on a given day or credit them for PR’s on others. Or can I?
Have you ever noticed how absurdly possessive people get when it comes to tunes? What is it about training that causes this shift in rationality? There are a number of factors involved, not least of which is the simple fact that the actual weight poses a threat. As in other non-fitness related threats, we are at the grips of a situation in which we potentially lack full control. Having the ability to choose “Cali’s Rage/Back&Bi’s Mix” gives a false sense of confidence simply because it’s just that- a choice. It’s far cry from the vulnerability we feel when unracking the bar for a 10rm.
There is another reason founded in science that presents less of a psychological reaction but proves and quantifies our emotional response to music. The effects of music on athletic performance -as it relates to a Power Athlete- really fall into two categories: disassociation and arousal.
Disassociation: During sub maximal training, athletes may experience a greater tolerance to fatigue or exertion. Basically, the tunes have a way of distracting you and altering your “perceptions of effort”. This disassociation is also closely tied to the theory that “it’s all in your head” as music has been proven to lower perceived exertion levels by 10%. Studies have also shown that although the actual activity is just as difficult to perform, the athlete appears to be at greater ease and often times enjoys the activity when music is present. This best illustrates the role our favorite Pandora station plays while we are mid-DWOD.
Arousal: This is where we get into what types of music can evoke very specific emotional responses. Like any worthwhile street drug you’ve got your uppers, downers, laughers, criers and everything in between. It’s no surprise that faster tempo music tends to promote a higher level of arousal and of course the opposite is true for slower music. Rhythm aside, lyrics do play a role in the internalization and subsequent reaction to a given piece. Our minds are attuned to speech and verbal communication so a Sara Maclachlan PETA-esque melody may present less than desirable imagery for pulling a 1RM deadlift…unless of course you hate puppies.
Next time someone tries to convince you that the affect of music is “all in your head”, agree with them. It’s precisely what occurs in the brain that enables us perform daily feats of strength and if music has the ability to give you a mental edge, take it. Who knows, maybe one day it will be you selecting the music at Power Athlete HQ.
Please let us know about your favorite tunes! What do you listen to during a 1rm, 10rm, and DWOD and why?
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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