A large part of the activities that we carry out in our day-to-day lives are accompanied by music: Driving, shopping, walking, studying. And physical and sports practice was not going to be less.

In this article we will analyze the effects that the scientific literature shows us of practicing physical activity and sports with music and if these can be beneficial.

Music in physical training

Some say that life without music would not be the same and it is that it is consciously present in our day to day when we walk down the street with our helmets, we listen to the radio on a trip, or unconsciously when we keep the music. Checkout line at the grocery store, or we try on clothes in a store dressing room.

It is almost always there and it was not going to be less in our physical and sports practice.

Arias (2006) pointed out that the word music is related to or concerns the muses. And these same within Greek mythology were responsible for the inspiration and sponsorship of artistic activities.

There are studies such as those by Sierra and Learreta (2003) that date that the Greeks sculpted their bodies in gyms already to the rhythm of the oboe or the lyre. Or the sound of the Pythian flute during some tests in the Olympic games. (Cited by Abad in 2018)

Other studies contrast that music in physical training has been present for more than 100 years.

That is why this deep and ancient bond has to have some effect. This is what we can in situation in this article, what effects music causes in physical training.

Music in training and Psychology

Castro (2003) wrote several definitions for music, such as:

  • The art of sounds. 
  • The art of combining sounds in a hateful way
  • Music consists of organized sounds that express in thoughts and feelings
  • Music is the sound expression of beauty.

All these definitions delve into a basic concept of art and expression. All artistic work is based on the feelings and thoughts of the artist and on those that it generates in the public that receives it.

This effect is generated very clearly by music. We all have songs that evoke times, places, people and movies.

What effect does music have on training on a psychological or neurological level?

At the neurological level, it has been observed that musicality is one of the abilities least influenced by the environment and that to a large extent it has a genetic component.

This does not imply that practice makes perfect and that we can also improve this ability through exposure to it.

Arias (2006) pointed out that musicians with greater genetic capacity activated the right hemisphere of the brain more, while more trained musicians with less innate ability activated the left hemisphere of the brain more.

We must understand how and where music is processed. Music is a language that implies, according to Custodio and Cano-Campos (2017), the broca area and its right counterpart for its syntactic processing.

The frequencies and rhythm are in the left temporal lobe and the harmonic analysis and timbre in the right temporal lobe.

Nor should we forget that music is an artistic expression and, as Arias (2006) pointed out, music is a language, but a special language designed to communicate, evoke and reinforce emotions.

These emotions prompted by music in training can be both positive and negative and will have a physiological effect and response. Activating the reward system in a similar way to how food or drug does and the dopamienergetic system.

If we focus more on the emotional response, the scientific literature indicates that it depends more on the knowledge and previous experiences of the individual.

Although if the music is pleasant regardless of the person, the previously mentioned reward system is activated.

10 Effects of music in training

Numerous studies in this area show the following effects in the use of music in physical training:

  • Using music in training leads to less perception of effort at intensities submax 60-70%
  • Delayed perception of fatigue
  • Increase in intrinsic motivation: Numerous studies indicate and transfer this property to music. In the scientific literature we find studies of different types where music has been applied before starting the session (warm-up), during it (central part) or also including the return to calm. In general terms, music in physical training shows a motivating effect in athletes. Authors like Bishop (2010) attribute it to two reasons: the intrinsic factor of music in reference to volume, rhythm, intensity, etc. And the extrinsic factor associated with the psychological aspect of it
  • At a physiological level the main effects are: decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and lactate concentration. In the scientific literature we find numerous studies that find this association in their work. To a lesser extent, an association has been found not only to the fact of listening to music in physical training, but to the intensity with which it is done. In this matter, both the studies and the links found are minor. So you have to continue investigating.
  • Effect on the sympathetic nervous system: Depending on whether the music is slower or faster, a greater or lesser secretion of norepinephrine has been observed, which is a catecholamine responsible, among other things, by increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Music with a faster tempo (100-120 pm) facilitates the voicing of movements
  • Using music in training helps reduce stress.
  • In aerobic sports, an improvement in the time it takes to complete a distance has been observed : Studies such as the one cited by Montero - Herrera (2016) in which he pointed out other articles such as the one carried out by Barney and Prusak (2015) where a greater number of steps and greater walking distance in those subjects who listened to music. A greater distance traveled was also observed in frisbee players. In anaerobic sports an improvement or increase in peak power has been observed(in the Wingate test) primarily. Few effects are observed on strength work. It is worth highlighting a study cited by Montero-Herrea (2016) the one carried out by Bishop, Karageorghi and Kinrade (2009) that analyzed both female and male tennis players where there was an improvement in reaction times
  • The use of music in training allows to regulate the emotions and energies of the athlete: This effect is perfectly associated with the psychological factor and how music helps us to evoke, produce and intensify emotions. Studies such as the one by Arias (2006) previously mentioned highlight this.
  • A greater benefit has been found in sedentary and amateur people rather than in professional or high-level athletes.

Doping and music?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the body in charge of ensuring clean sport and promoting it, understands doping as any of the following:

  • Presence of a prohibited substance, or its metabolites or markers, in the biological sample of an athlete.
  • Use, or attempted use, of a prohibited substance or method.
  • Refusing to pass an anti-doping control or circumventing it in any way, without valid justification.
  • Breach of the location or whereabouts of the athlete

That is why the organization publishes a prohibited list that classifies in three ways:

  • Prohibited at all times: both inside and outside the competition. Dividend into substances and their subcategories and methods and their subcategories
  • Prohibited in competition: In this category we only find substances and their subcategories
  • Banned in particular sports: like beta blockers

Analyzing both the definition and the list that WADA provides us together with the previous effects that we have commented that music offers us when we do physical activity or sport, we could almost categorically consider the idea that it does not turn out to be a doping element.

However, doping substances seek to transfer and take to another level the physical and psychological capacities of athletes and this happens by reducing fatigue, lactate concentration among others.

Effects that we have previously associated with the use of music in physical training.

However, it is frankly difficult to associate that these actions turn out to be detrimental to the health of athletes in such a way that we cannot conceive of it as a doping substance, action or method.

Is music in training considered an ergogenic aid?

First of all, it must be understood that it is an ergogenic aid defined as any physical, psychological, nutritional, etc. action. which is carried out with the aim of improving the sports performance of our athlete.

The best known are the ergogenic nutritional aids that broadly aim to provide the athlete with all the nutrients that the body needs through nutritional supplements without falling into deficiencies.

However, music in physical training can be considered as an ergogenic aid within the scope of psychology.

Yaguas (2006) citing in his article Gfeller (1988) who highlighted that the ergogenic function of music in physical training is found if it has an extra-musical association, that is, it goes beyond the mere fact of listening to a song if not, what it evokes and the experiences and experiences to which it is associated.

Many are the athletes who, on the recommendation of their psychologists, listen to music prior to the competition as part of their mental preparation. Or after them for your recovery and relaxation.

In this sense, García Parra, Villanueva and Medina (2004) citing Rodrigo (1999) who indicates that music in physical training is a variable that can be used to create different feelings and emotions, relaxes or inhibits, excites or activates the body according to objectives.

Scientific literature shows us that music in training and especially in the psychological field allows us to regulate the emotions and energies of athletes.

All psychological preparation requires planning and using music as a resource also requires foresight.

The psychologist must carry out a prior evaluation in which he will collect information on the psychological and psychophysiological processes but specifically and in reference to the use of music in training.

We must know the musical tastes and an estimate of a possible response to a piece of music

Conclusions about music in training

Music is part of our life and in this article we have been able to see the effect it has on a very specific area, such as physical activity and sport.

We have observed benefits at a physiological level on blood pressure, lactate concentration and heart rate, among others. And on a psychological and neurological level on levels of stress, motivation or regulation of emotions.

These benefits have been more plausible at submaximal intensities and in amateur subjects or those with a low level of physical and sports activity.

Therefore, we have been able to see that music has helped us and that is why for many authors it can be considered as an ergogenic aid framed in the field of psychology.

The music training is an area that should be further investigated taking into account the type of music that is applied, the population is done or individual tastes.

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