Picking the Perfect Playlist For Your Gym: Here’s What the Research Says

People like to feel pumped up and energised when working out. How do you motivate yourself and get the results you want? One way is to crank up the music and jam to your favourite songs. Did you know there’s actually some research to support why picking the perfect playlist for your gym is important?

Music choice is critical for fitness professionals operating gyms, as they want their clients to feel spirited and ready to take on their workouts. Here’s how to pick the best songs for your gym and curate the perfect playlist.

What Does Research Say About Gym Music?

Preference Matters Most

The most critical part of your music selection is picking songs people like. Exercisers perform better when they hear familiar music because the tune provides a nice distraction. They may sing the lyrics in their head or follow along with the beat as they jog or lift. Plus, music you like generates a positive association between workouts and the songs you’re playing. 

A 2021 Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology study finds music affects your ergonomic potential and physiological and psychological responses to exercise. The researchers conclude that effort and performance may suffer if someone does not like the songs. Thus, tailoring the musical selection to the client is essential. 

Enjoying the Exercise

While it may seem purely in your head, music influences how much someone enjoys a workout. Preferred music increases your engagement with the routine and motivates you with every stride or repetition. Enjoyable songs may encourage those who are less enthusiastic about exercise but want to get fit. 

The same Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology study shows that participants who listen to their preferred music tend to enjoy the workout more. 

Its researchers conclude people pay more attention to their exertion and increase their perception of exertion (RPE) when listening to music they don’t like, emphasising the need for tailored selections.

Performance Boosts 

Music and motivation have a strong tie in athletic performance. When hearing motivational songs, people feel the dopamine rush in their brains and are more engaged with their workouts. They may even break records and exceed their expectations during strength training.

A 2021 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study finds that participants listening to their favourite music are more motivated and gain small performance boosts. For instance, researchers find bench press repetitions, peak power and motivation improve with preferred music. 

Music is nearly indispensable in workouts because of these factors. Playing your favourite songs makes your body reach its maximum potential performance-wise. A 2020 Psychological Bulletin review finds music benefits oxygen consumption, effective balance, and perceived exertion. Even when you use a lot of energy, music makes you pass the time quicker and last longer.

picking the perfect playlist for your gym

How Should You Craft Your Gym Playlist?

Owning a gym gives you control over your playlist, so use this autonomy wisely. How should you craft your gym’s playlist? Here are a few tips for motivating your clients and encouraging them to return for more workouts.  

Keep It Upbeat 

Your priority should be to keep the songs upbeat. Ballads and classical music may be apt for ballrooms and weddings, but they won’t fit as well in the gym. Pick tunes with fast tempos and motivating lyrics to keep the pace high, as it may even come with performance benefits. Research shows upbeat music helps during endurance workouts and motivates people to power through and finish on a high note.  

One way to monitor a song’s tempo is to check the beats per minute (BPM). The definition of up-tempo will differ by person, but a good rule of thumb is to play songs with 120 BPM or more. Pandora, Apple Music, and similar streaming platforms make it easy to check this number, but this information is not readily available on Spotify. 

Play Popular Songs

Another strategy you should implement is playing popular songs from prominent artists. These tunes play on radio stations worldwide for a reason, so find songs from famous artists. Use data to see what people are listening to and make an informed decision. For example, Spotify says the most-streamed artists globally in 2023 include Taylor Swift, Drake, Bad Bunny, and others. 

Your clients will more likely appreciate the music selection if they recognise the artists playing over the loudspeaker or on stereo systems. If you want to tailor the experience to your clients, ask them what they want to listen to, to make their voices heard. They may even recommend your gym to others if you constantly value their feedback. 

Ensure It’s Family Friendly

The clientele will vary from one fitness centre to another, but keeping the music clean is typically wise. Playing songs with vulgar lyrics or swear words may turn off some customers, so playing safe-for-the-workplace (SFW) tunes is generally the best way to go. 

Match the Intensity

If your gym hosts group workout sessions, tailor the music to their exercises and match the intensity. A moderate exercise session can include typical upbeat songs, whereas an intense workout calls for high-BPM music to motivate the clients. 

Yoga and cooldown sessions take the approach to an entirely different level because you’ll want to play relaxing beats instead. 

Perfecting the Pitch: The Perfect Playlist for your Gym

Music and exercise go hand in hand, especially when you enjoy the songs playing. Your clients likely feel the same way and want to hear good tunes while getting fit. 

Picking music can seem tricky until you learn how to hone your song selection and motivate your customers.

About the author:
Oscar Collins is the fitness editor at Modded, where he writes about fitness trends, nutrition, and similar topics.

Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates on his work.

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