Music has long helped athletes push through workouts, to get the most benefit from time spent running on a treadmill or jazzing it up in an aerobics class. But how does music affect weightlifting? Not surprisingly, research indicates that upbeat music stimulates heart rate and respiration, which in turn helps endurance, and the psychological benefits of music also relate to the success of a person trying to pump some iron.
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Respiration and Cardiovascular Strength
Studies analysing the correlation between music and respiration or heart rate seem to indicate that music will, indeed, boost success in any kind of workout, including weight training. At the University of New Mexico, Professor Len Kravitz wrote, "A well-designed study, Ellis and Brighouse (1952) noted that respiration rate increased significantly with the onset of jazz music and tends to return to pre-music levels with the cessation of music." According to Dr. Luciano Bernardi, a professor of internal medicine at Pavia University in Pavia, Italy, "Music induces a continuous, dynamic—and to some extent predictable—change in the cardiovascular system,” which leads to increased respiration and heart rate if music is faster, which allows weightlifters to move more oxygen to working muscles.
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According to Weightlifting Complete, "You're looking for music that gives you a rush of adrenalin. You want music that makes you want to rip something apart. You want music that gives you a huge surge of energy." The genre isn't really important; it can be heavy metal, country, anything that has a beat and gives the athlete a surge of energy and a drive to lift. Maureen Hagan of GoodLife Fitness Clubs, notes that "Exercisers of all ages are able to 'lose themselves in the music' and reap more health benefits (including mindfulness) by being fully engaged in the workout whether it be a yoga, dance or a barbell weight training class."
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In a study published in 2004 in "Perceptual Motor Skills Journal," L. Crust examined the effects of listening to music at certain times during a muscular endurance test--holding a dumbbell at a 90-degree angle in front of the body to the point of exhaustion--and found that all conditions of music exposure produced significantly longer endurance times than white noise. The "Sport Journal Quarterly" cites a 2001 study by Karageorghis and Lee that examined the interactive effects of music and imagery on an isometric muscular endurance task which required participants to hold dumbbells in a cruciform position for as long as possible. Males held 15 per cent of their body weight and females held 5 per cent of their body weight, results that improved when music was employed.
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Best Type of Music for Weightlifting
Ron Pimental at Bodybuilding.com has some tips for putting together the ultimate play list to boost weightlifting. "The important thing is to throw together a list which motivates you," he says. Pimental relates a story from when he and a friend first started lifting weights: "It was a hot summer day and we were training in my parents' garage. I was curling a weight that ordinarily would only allow me about 8 to 10 reps. 'In the Burning Heart' by Survivor from the 'Rocky III' film came on the radio and I just got so immersed in it that I far surpassed my normal reps and I swear I cranked out close to 40 reps! That was four times my average!" Generally, the music that motivates you personally is the best choice for a weightlifting play list. Pimental lists his top weight training tunes on his website.
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Negative Effects of Training with Music
One potential problem with using music to motivate a weightlifter is that the athlete may push herself beyond the limits of safety or comfort. Dr. Nicolas Romanov, who writes a fitness column for PoseTech.com, says "Your form falls apart quicker because you're distracted and we all know where that's going--injuries. Any elite or competitive athlete will tell you how much focus it takes to train and then compete. You will never see any professional athletes doing any serious training with headphones on. Why? Because they understand the importance of keeping their focus and prefer to listen to what their bodies are telling them."