The mind-muscle connection: how your music powers your workout

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

By Trainer Chris


It’s common practice to try and find distractions at the gym. Most people (oftentimes including me) prefer to focus on music, a podcast, or the TV series they’ve been streaming on their phone or tablet, as opposed to the burning sensation in their muscles. While a good song can certainly help motivate you to push past your mental barriers, there is something to be said for actually paying attention to your body as it struggles through an intense workout. 


Studies have shown that, thanks to something called the mind-muscle connection, focusing on a particular muscle group when performing an exercise can actually give you better results. For instance, when performing bicep curl, focusing your attention on the part of the arm that is pulling in may actually increase your strength gains. 

In addition to the potential physical benefits, being able stay present and alert during any activity is a worthwhile goal in itself. This is especially true in the modern world, where our attention is constantly being pulled from one stimulus to the next.  


This certainly doesn’t mean you need to take your headphones out for good. In fact, music can actually be a great tool for staying present and focused during your workout. Personally, I like to make playlists that fit the workout I’m doing. For example, if I’m going to do a 30 minute HIIT session, I might pick ten songs (approximately three minutes each) that flow with the pace of the workout. You can start out with something mellow for a warm up, then introduce something with a more moderate tempo, then something high-energy and intense. Alternate between moderate and high intensity, then finish off with something relaxing for your cool down. My ten songs might look something like this: 


1-Mellow

2-Moderate

3-Intense

4-Moderate

5-Intense 

6-Intense

7-Moderate 

8-Intense 

9-Intense

10-Mellow


Flowing with the music in this way can also push you harder than you would normally go on your own. If your playlist lasts longer than 30 minutes, you may be more willing to extend your workout past that 30 minute mark. 


In any case, finding what helps you focus at the gym can be a rewarding practice. It’s extremely difficult for many of us to find genuine “me time” in our busy lives. The more your time in the gym can be restorative, rather than draining, the better your workouts will be.