How Music Builds Muscle

by Cindy Kuzma

What’s the best music for pumping iron? Whatever pumps you up, a new study finds.

Researchers at California State University, Fullerton, asked 20 guys to bring their favorite tracks to the weight room. During separate visits, subjects did squat jumps—once with their music playing and again in a silent gym.

The men jumped with greater force and speed when encouraged by the beat of their own tunes. (Music offers similar benefits during cardio workouts, according to a recent study.)

Why? It’s not that complicated, explains study author Lee Brown, EdD, CSCS, FNSCA, FACSM. Grooving to your own music helps you block out your workout, meaning you essentially distract yourself into pushing to your max without feeling fatigue, he says. Music also helps you stay engaged and motivated, the study explains.

The bottom line: “If you want to enhance your workout and get serious about what you’re doing in the weight room, bring your own music,” Brown also offers a few rules to lift by:

• Stuck trying to pick an inspiring anthem? Think back to moments that got your heart going. What song do you associate with winning a big game or your first kiss?

• Lifting and a loud iPod can be a dangerous combination. Keep the volume low enough that you’re aware of your surroundings.

• Certain tracks might be more fitting for a specific exercise. Match your playlist to your planned workout, Brown advises.

The study was published online in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

What’s Playing at the Gym?
What are the strongest guys in the world listening to? Would you believe The Bee Gees? Sample the sounds that set the mood for America’s grateful deadlifters.

What the Editor’s Listen to
Here are the playlists of the best and worst workout songs as picked by the Men’s Health editors, writers and readers.

Keeping the Pace

The right workout music can help pace your exercise routine. Keep these beats:

Running: 120 to 160 beats per minute (bpm), or about the speed of “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd
: 122 to 140 bpm, or about the speed of anything from the Rocky soundtrack
: 130 to 170 bpm, or about the speed of “Panama” by Van Halen
: 140 to 170 bpm, or about the speed of “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin (one repetition for every four beats)
Warm-up/Cool down
: 90 to 110 bpm, or about the speed of “Black Magic Woman” by Santana

Running or Riding Wearing Headphones?
Unless you want to get flattened, read our tips for tips on listening safely.

How Music Makes You Faster and Smarter
Running with music can inspire you to go faster and longer, and it might even make you smarter. No wonder so many people are tuning in.

Picking a Player
Whether running, biking or pumping iron, we’ll help you choose the best listening device.

The Science of Workout Music
Turns out Madonna was right; music does make the people come together. Read the evidence.

You Know They’d Have a Helluva Band

Usher and Nelly can sing it and bring it. Read their stories and see if you can do their workouts.

Rob Zombie and Joe Perry are not so much about the exercising as they are about life. Take a minute and have a look inside yourself.

Don’t just listen, belt it! Boxing great Oscar De La Hoya will tell you how to knock ‘em out with a song.

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