If the holidays have left you sick at the sight of pies and chocolate baubles, and you’re wanting to amp up your fitness, we’re here to help. Top athletes use music to enhance their performance, and researchers are now studying this phenomenon to understand how to fully harness its power.

We spoke with Dr Costas Karageorghis, a leading sport psychologist from Brunel University in London, about how to maximize the beneficial effects of music for your workout.

Can Music Really Help Our Training?

Our research demonstrates that music can be a tremendous supplement to exercise. For maximum impact, tempo and rhythmic patterns need to be targeted towards your movement rate and activity pattern. Music can benefit exercise particularly at low-to-moderate effort and is less effective at high intensities such as sprint cycling. Our brain struggles to process the sound and fatigue-related cues fight to dominate our attention.

Want to gain strength? Beats that are fast, rhythmic, percussive or bass-driven particularly  increase your energy before a highly strenuous activity like lifting heavy weights.

Need to improve your speed? Dance music of 130-140 bpm can help. High intensity training will be much more effective if you set your pace with the right rhythm.

Activities like jogging, rowing, and cycling can also benefit. Our recent research has shown that the tempo range of 125-140 bpm is ideal across a broad spectrum of exercise intensities when an individual makes no conscious effort to synchronize their movements to the rhythm (asynchronous music). A playlist should ideally contour your expected heart rate during a workout. If you are synchronizing your movements with the music, the beats per minute need to match your intended movement rate, so it’s important to select music accordingly.

What Should We Look for in an Ideal Workout Playlist?

Music should possess a pleasing melody and harmony that improves your mood, and it should typically be in a major key. Playlists that promote inspiring imagery or have strong personal associations can also be highly effective.

The rhythm should make you want to move; as well as having lyrics that contain positive affirmations such as “work your body”, “push it” or “run to the beat”.

Ready to start your workout? Check out the Motivation Hits playlist on Deezer:


Dr. Costas Karageorghis has been a consultant psychologist to many leading athletes and is the author of Inside Sport Psychology (Human Kinetics, 2011), a guide to strengthening mind and body for enhanced performance. Between 2007-10 Dr. Karageorghis was the lead consultant for Run to the Beat, a unique running event featuring live and pre-recorded music to boost performance.


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