How Music Impacts Athletic Performance


How does music affect athletic performance? Today on the blog, Alex Titkov tells us how the tunes we enjoy impact upon how we perform on the sports field.


Whether it’s while we are getting ready in the morning, creating that road-trip playlist, dancing, or just enjoying music for its sheer pleasure with a glass of scotch, music is an essential part in providing a soundtrack to our lives. Even while I am writing this post, I am listening to Kendrick Lamar’s latest album—good kid, m.A.A.d city (which I recommend if you’re into quality hip-hop).

Sport and Music

Music is also no stranger to the realm of sport and exercise. If you watch a bit of sport as I do, you’ve probably noticed athletes striding out of locker rooms adorning headphones just before competition. Even at the gym, it’s not difficult to spot fellow exercisers listening to their favourite workout tunes.

Naturally, music elicits certain feelings, emotions, thoughts, and movements depending on our situation. So how does this more specifically apply to sport? Used accurately, findings in the research regarding music in performance suggest performance and recovery improvements of up to 10 percent.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how music is and can effectively be used whether you’re an elite athlete or training for that New Year’s resolution to run a marathon. Let’s be honest, you’ll probably need all the help you can get.

Research into the influence of music on training and competitive play has shown effects regarding disassociation, emotion, learning new skills, synchronization, and feeling “in the zone”.

  • Disassociation refers to a person’s ability to “zone out” from say, a long distance jog and in doing so, can take focus away from specific feelings of discomfort and increase pleasant feelings of the song one is listening to.
  • The dynamic relationship between feelings, emotions, and energy can also make us feel energized and confident by listening to an upbeat song.
  • Synchronization refers to matching song tempo with the desired tempo of an activity for long distance runners in helping them keep pace or for football clubs like Arsenal or Manchester United who use music to maintain a consistent level of drill intensity.
  • Findings have also shown that self-selected music and imagery may also have an effect on entering the “zone” state.

Upping the Tempo

Matching music-tempo with activity-tempo with the song having personal and team relevance is the key in effectively incorporating music into training. This article presents examples of “workout components” paired with songs and the beats per minute (BPM) of each song.

For example, Will Smith’s “Getting’ Jiggy With it” is used as a warm-up track with a corresponding BPM of 108 while the track “Rockafeller Skank (Funk Soul Brother)” by Fatboy Slim with a BPM of 153 is suggested for an endurance related exercise.

It appears that higher BPM songs are paired with higher pace activities but there is a threshold to this. In general, tracks between 80 and 130 BPM are recommended with sub-maximal exercises recommended to be between 115-125 BPM. Anything higher than this in BPM is less effective while music volume higher than 75 decibels runs the risk of affecting short-term hearing ability.

FourFourTwo Performance also have song recommendations specific for visualization, pre-match motivation, and post-match motivation. There are also links near the bottom to pre-match playlists by footballers Micah Richards, Ben Foster, and Rio Ferdinand.

Creating Your Playlist

To help create your own personal playlist that’ll give you that extra edge, choose songs depending on the context and time before a performance and after. If you are curious how to find the BPM of a song, music programs like iTunes have a BPM category that will allow you to see how fast a song is.

Create a personal playlist and if you play a team sport, have everyone choose a song they like and create a team warm-up mix. As stated previously, personal meaning with songs is very important; especially if you are a music snob like I am.

So here are my personal recommendations of inspirational, pre-match pump-up, and post-match chill-out tracks. Enjoy and happy training!


No Easy Way Out by Robert Tepper. (No self-respecting training mix would be complete without a Rocky training montage.)

The Battle by Hans Zimmer and Lise Gerrard

The Flood by Take That

Pre-Match Pump-Up

Move Your Feet by Junior Senior

Rock DJ by Robbie Williams

by Childish Gambino

Post-Match Chill Out

Glosoli by Sigur Ros

Rain by The Beatles

Dream Machine by Mark Farina

How About You?

What are your favourite motivational and pump up tunes?

Tags:  Football

Double M.S. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from Lund University. Sport science specialist, editor, writer, and footballer.