There’s just something about having great music when you workout that can make or break your workout. It drives you, and keeps you going when you want to do nothing more than pull off, have a cold drink and relax. With the right music, you can get that one, last rep at the end of your set that really helps your muscles grow, or that last 500 meters on the bike at 100%.
If you’re like most people, you know the feeling. You probably feel like without music you just can’t get in a decent workout. It turns out you’re not alone. There’s scientific basis for your sentiment. A new study out of England performed by Waterhouse, Hudson, and Edwards at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University discovered that muesic tempo can definitely influence your exercise.
The study looked at cycling, and found that music tempo controlled exercise speed. The cyclists listened to music while on their bikes. Unknown to the bike dudes, the researchers played a bit of a trick on them, randomly changing the speed of the music to be either 10% too slow, normal, or 10% too fast.
Not surprisingly, the cyclists speed corresponded to the music tempo. Speed up the music tempo and they rode faster, slow it down, and they took it easy. Since they were oblivious to the tempo change, the conclusion was that they subconsciously changed their workout speed because of the tempo change.
In case you might think that this study was all wet, another study published this February in the journal Perception and Motor Skills, looked at how hard people exercised when listening to music they liked, vs either no music, or music they didn’t like. The exercise used in the test was high intensity cycling. Scientists measured the critical power intensity produced by the cyclists during the workout using an ergonometer. They also measured perceived exertion and heart rate.
Surprisingly, although the study participant’s heart rate didn’t change during the workout, the ones listening to the music they liked actually rode 20% farther than the ones listening to music they didn’t! The researchers concluded that “listening to Preferred Music during continuous cycling exercise at high intensity can increase the exercise distance, and individuals listening to Nonpreferred Music can perceive more discomfort caused by the exercise. “
What it all means is simple; listen to your favorite music when you workout. You always thought that you got a better workout when you did that, now it’s been scientifically proven.
Here are my top 10 picks (in no particular order) for the best workout music. There are a million other great workout singles, but these are my picks for entire albums that you can workout to from beginning to end. Put these in your iPOD on random, and you’ll have the ultimate workout play list:
AC/DC – Back in Black
This classic seems like it was released only yesterday (really dating myself), but Brian Johnson’s first album with the kings of power rock from down under was a classic from the day it was released.
The Offspring – Smash
If you can’t get a good, high powered workout while listening to this album, you’re probably deaf, or maybe you should work for your local PD as a bomb disposal tech, since nothing will probably get your heart rate elevated. One of the consummate pure rock albums ever produced, especially when it comes to workout, skiing, or skating music.
Get it at iTunes here Smash – The Offspring
Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent
Yeah, the recording quality isn’t all it could be, but it’s what they record that counts. Terrible Ted, the Motor City Madman, a hollow body man in a solid body world, lays down some great, high energy workout tracks, laden with the nuclear powered guitar riffs that made him famous. If you can’t get fired up by listening to this album, you’re probably still trying to get your bong cleaned out. Funny, because Uncle Ted eschews drugs in favor of soaking up all life has to offer the natural way.
Get it at iTunes here Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent
The Cult – Love
A workout fav since college. Still remember waling up the complex one fall morning after cranking this one up for the morning cardio. Another reason to have an iPOD. Kids!
Get it at iTunes here Love (Remastered) – The Cult
Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape
Dave Grohl is one of the most talented musician / songwriter combinations in rock music. The Foo Fighter’s second album remains my favorite of theirs, and one my favorites from band to power a great workout. I got to see them live in Seattle in 1997 as part of a fantastic Bumbershoot lineup, which also included Smashmouth, Sugar ray, Sneaker Pimps, Beck, Tenacious D, Sheryl Crow, Blues Traveler, Los Lobos, and David Byrne. Those Bumbershoots in the late ’90’s were really something to behold.
Get it at iTunes here The Colour And The Shape – Foo Fighters
Guns n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
One of the fastest selling debut albums of all time, and with damn good reason. The energy in this one can get you to turn that last rep into 3 or 4.
Get it at iTunes here Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses
Van Halen – 5150
From the first track of Sammy Hagar’s debut album with this So. Cal band of rock hooligans, you get one song after another of power chords, driving rhythms, screaming vocals, and wild guitar work; just as a great workout album should be. A couple of songs are a little slow, but you need a couple minutes of rest in there somewhere. Remember, interval training!
Get it at iTunes here 5150 – Van Halen
Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic
This is a true classic. With the exception of “You See Me Crying”, great workout songs all. That one is a bit slow for really getting you going on the last mile.
ZZ Top -Afterburner
Those boys from Tejas ROCK, and have been at it for longer than just about anyone. This album has been one of my favorite workout soundtracks since college, and still is. Funny how the one without the beard is Beard!
Get it at iTunes here Afterburner – ZZ Top
Screaming Trees – Sweet Oblivion
Screaming Trees prove that Ellensburg, WA can be the nexus for one of the great rock bands of the ’90’s. Overshadowed by some of the other obvious talent to come out of the Seattle area in the early 1990s, such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Alice and Chains, their most popular album is nonetheless one of the best to be released during the decade that proved to be the pinnacle of rock. If you’ve never heard it, you’ve got to hear this one.
Get it at iTunes here Sweet Oblivion – Screaming Trees
Well, those are my picks for the top 10 best workout albums ever produced. If there’s one thing that’s great about music, it’s that no one has the same musical taste, so you may think mine sucks. Leave me your favorites in the comments, I’m looking forward to hearing some great, new workout music.