Do You Listen to Music or the Voices in Your Head?


by Matt Weik

You walk into the gym and what do you hear? Not crickets… but music. As you pass through the gym on your way to the locker room you notice several people wearing headphones and listening to their favorite tunes which get them through a workout and pumps them up. While what I’m about to say might not sit well with some, it will make sense to others. Music… Is… A… Crutch. Now before you go all psycho on me and wish a dumbbell would come crashing down on my toes, let me explain.

I would consider music to be similar to an ergogenic aid (supplement). More times than not, we count on our favorite song to be on the radio or on your phone/iPod when you’re digging down in the trenches and have a heavy lift awaiting you at the bar. That said, you wait or shuffle through your songs in order to find just the right song to get you in the mood. What you’re really doing is training your body to need that stimulus in order to complete the task.

I actually got confirmation to my madness while at a collegiate strength coaches conference when I saw what appeared to be an older gentleman putting on a bench shirt preparing to lift a bar containing more 45’s than I could count (I was never good at math – joking). As I stood there intrigued by the thought of this “old guy” (yes, I know his name, no I’m not going to say it because if he’d read this and see me calling him an “old guy” he’d bend me into a pretzel) lifting such a crazy amount of weight I noticed one thing – he didn’t have headphones on and there was no music playing in the background.

The gentlemen had 3 people help him unrack the bar and he proceeded to slowly lower the bending bar down to his chest, pausing at the bottom of the movement, and then pushing the weight back up. Everyone was in amazement and clapping. I then watched him during his preparation for his next set. I noticed the breathing techniques he was using along with his eyes being closed (assuming he’s doing some sort of visualization of the lift in his head). He completed his set and then took off his bench shirt and walked over to my booth to grab a protein shake.

I asked him about his preparation and who he was since he was lifting more weight on the bench than I have ever seen. He chuckled and leaned in close and tapped his head with his index finger. “It’s all up here” he said. He told me his name and his story and how he was the record holder for the heaviest bench in the world for quite some time until just recently when someone else had beat the numbers he put up. I asked him how he got himself prepared for the lift without any type of music. He then explained to me that he’s never used music during any of his workouts, that he wanted to train his mind to prepare him for the lifts so that no matter what, all he had to do was show up and lift. He didn’t have to scroll through his playlist to find his favorite song, he didn’t wait until the beat dropped – nothing. If you train your mind, it will get you focused to complete the lift. There was my validation.

To take it a step further, for the same reason you can choose not to use any type of pre-workouts. What would you do if your favorite pre-workout all of a sudden was pulled from the shelves? Now what? How will you get through your most grueling workouts without it? For this same reason, you train your mind and body to work as a well-oiled machine – as one unit. If you train your mind and the body will follow.

I’m not saying that you should give up your cocaine-spiked pre-workout powders and your favorite Justin Bieber song to get ready for a lift. What? Am I the only person who jams and gets pumped up to Justin while wearing my extra small shirt to make it appear like I have some type of muscle mass? Ok, I’m joking again. But seriously, give it some thought. If you can only train and lift certain amounts of weights while listening to your favorite tunes, maybe it’s time to introduce some other techniques to help you achieve those lifts.

I encourage you to give it a shot and see if you can use the power of your mind to help you bust through your plateaus and PR’s. If it doesn’t work for you, then it’s just not meant to be and chalk it up as a loss. But I’m willing to bet that if you leave your Taylor Swift tear-jerker album at home and give it a shot and work on it that you will be putting up numbers you only dreamed about. Train smart and see you in the gym my friends!