Skip To Content

    17 Music Hacks For A Better Workout

    According to science!

    There IS an easier way to work out, after all: If you want to feel like you're working 12% less hard, the right music can help do the trick.

    1. First, figure out what kind of attention style you have to find out the best way to use music in your workout.

    2. Music is most likely to benefit people who find it hard to focus while working out, and who find it hard to stick with a program.

    3. Choose music you would regularly listen to.

    4. Choose uplifting songs with bright harmonies.

    5. Make sure to mix up your playlist every couple of weeks.

    "You're less likely to derive benefit if you always listen to the same thing, because there is desensitization," Karageorghis said. "And like any mild stimulant, the effect of the music will wear off and may lead to some negative consequences, like boredom and irritation."

    6. Use shuffle mode or discovery apps (like Pandora or smart playlists for Spotify) to avoid falling into a rut.

    Change it up every couple weeks, or at least once a month, to avoid desensitization — which means that you become so familiar with a stimulus that it loses its effect.

    Peterson recommends setting up a Pandora station for your favorite artist, and using the thumbs-up and thumbs-down feature to craft a station that will introduce you to music that will suit your taste.

    7. Try doing a workout without music once in awhile, to keep your brain sharp.

    Research shows that if you conduct two sessions with music to one session without, music tends to maintain its effectiveness.

    8. Save your favorite song for when the going gets tough and you need an extra mental boost.

    Those pump-up jams are sometimes called "tunnel" songs: the ones you'd want to play if you were an athlete coming out onto the field.

    9. Turn up the volume when you need extra motivation.

    10. Focus on the lyrics.

    11. When you're not pushing really hard, play music in the "sweet spot" tempo of 120 to 140 beats per minute.

    This "sweet spot," Karageorghis said, is for asynchronous music, which is music to which you do not consciously synchronize your movement rate. That tempo range seems to work across a big range of exercise intensities for repetitive-type activities.

    If you're at the beginning of your workout and operating at a lower intensity, Avicii's "Wake Me Up" would be perfect at 120 bpm...

    View this video on YouTube

    ...Whereas Lady Gaga's "Applause" would be good for when you're really breaking a sweat on the treadmill, at 140 bpm.

    12. Lose less breath by choosing synchronous music — something you can coordinate your movements to the beat of.

    13. Choose synchronous music that accounts for how fast you're moving.

    So if you're cycling, and you pedal at a rate of 55 revolutions per minute, a track like Eminem's "The Monster" would work, at 110 bpm.

    View this video on YouTube

    "That means you can take a semi-revolution of the pedals on each beat of the music," Karageorghis said.

    If you're pedaling at 62 revolutions per minute, you'd want a track with 124 bpm, like Duke Dumont's "Need U (100%)."

    View this video on YouTube

    14. Whatever you choose, your music should have a rhythmic beat...

    15. ...because it'll be harder to work out to music where the tempo and intensity varies a lot, like freeform jazz or prog-rock.

    16. Here's a playlist — designed by Karageorghis — that will get you started on the right track.