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Does listening to music improve performance?

Does listening to music improve performance?

Created by Mikey Lau


3 minute read

What are Quick Articles?

This blog post is a part of a series where we summarise the current literature on anything health, fitness and well-being related. These are research articles that can give you a better insight into different ways that you can train your clients to get better results - faster. Be sure to sign up to our weekly newsletter to get the latest exclusive contents and offers.

Centala, et al. (2019)

Most of us will listen to music whilst we're training. Undoubtedly, this is very common amongst regular gym members and athletes to aid in exercise adherence. It is believed that music could reduce an individual's perception of fatigue and possibly increase performance. However, it has been recognised in previous research that music less than 80 beats per minute (BPM) has the same effect as not listening to music. Faster tempo music could elicit an emotional response from an individual's memory to enhance performance.

One way to measure such performance attributes can be in the form of muscle activation. For instance, one of the most common sites for surface electromyography (sEMG) are the quadriceps. By using EMG amplitude which is influenced by motor unit recruitment and firing rates, the authors could attempt to quantify the extent to which music could affect performance. Electromyographic fatigue threshold (EMG-FT) describes an individual's highest exercise intensity without an increase in EMG amplitude.

With previous studies in mind, the authors developed this research to determine any relationship between high-tempo music and performance. They’ve hypothesised an increase in EMG-FT and power output from the high-tempo group.


  • A cross-over study design was adopted with 2 sessions conducted over 7 days.
  • Ten healthy college-aged males took part in the study.
  • They were refrained from exercise and caffeine 24 hours before testing.
  • The 2 sessions were separated by 7 days and were conducted at the same time-of-day.
  • Participants completed a Mood and Motivation Questionnaire which included a Likert scale to quantify the qualities.
  • An incremental single-leg knee extension test was prescribed. Subjects started extending at the knees at 4W for 2 minutes and the power output was increased to 4W every minute until volitional fatigue.
  • The compilation of music was played to the subjects via an over-ear headphone with the order of the songs shuffled for each person. The music ranged from 137-160BPM.
  • sEMG electrodes were placed on a standardised point on the longitudinal axes of the rectus femoris muscle. This site was marked by the researcher for accurate placement on the second testing session.


No significant interaction or main effect of the exercise condition were observed and there were no significant mean differences for relative maximal heart rate. Motivation was not statistically different between the 2 conditions but there were significant mean differences for maximal power output between the 2 exercise conditions. Additionally, the music increased the subject’s neuromuscular threshold (EMG-FT) relative to the no-music condition.

Practical applications

The main findings of the investigation indicates that listening to fast-tempo music increased overall exercise tolerance and the neuromuscular fatigue threshold. In short, listening to fast-tempo music could act as a distraction from discomfort and pushes the individual to train harder.


Centala, J., Pogorel, C., Pummill, S., and Malek, M. (2019). Listening to Fast-Tempo Music Delays the Onset of Neuromuscular Fatigue. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 34(3), pp. 617-622.

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