5 July 2022

Powering results with the perfect workout playlist

How much effort do you put in to your gym playlist? Studies show that you can boost the performance of your members and increase the results that they achieve simply by playing the right music.

One thing that you will notice SoulCycle, Third Space, 1Rebel, Zumba and Orangetheory all have in common in their classes is a pumping beat delivered through a quality speaker system.

Whilst creating a fun environment, the right music does so much more and delivers an "easy win" for both you and your members.

In a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, researchers proved that music can help people achieve more within a workout. The study showed that by upping the tempo of the music by just 10%, the participants covered more miles on a stationary bike than they did while listening to slower music. What's more, they enjoyed the faster music 36% more too.

A second study, whilst also finding an increase in achievement & performance, additionally found that certain music can motivate you to exercise for longer.  Indeed, there is no shortage of evidence that supports the psychological effects of music.

A playlist to boost performance

Music has been demonstrated to affect workout performance in a number of ways. These include:

  • Reducing the brain's perception of tiredness and fatigue
  • Effecting your heart rate, causing it to be either faster or slower
  • Improving your mood during a workout
  • Making you run faster on a treadmill, or cycle faster on a stationary bike
  • Making exercise seem easier
  • Providing a distraction from the strain of the workout
  • Causing you to enjoy working-out more

The right track can help you focus and boost your mood. It can also help motivate you, giving you a competitive edge.

This all makes intuitive sense. Naturally when we hear a rhythm, we tap our toes to the beat. When the beat is faster, we tap faster.

Playing the right tempo music is a zero-effort way to ensure your customers maximise their potential during their workouts.

A good workout brings achievements.  Achievement makes for a happy gym member.  A happy gym member makes for a good chance of them renewing their membership.

Hitting the beat

The studies showed that when it came to improving workout performance, the key to curating your playlist is tempo. By matching the beat of the music to the intended heart rate, members stay pumped for the duration of the workout.  Conversely, a mismatched beat can do just the opposite and cause fatigue.

The key to success in moulding your workout playlist is to focus on two things: tempo and type of workout. The more intense the workout, the faster the beat of the music.

If you walk into any contemporary training gym you are likely to hear modern music that has a fast pace, and deep reliance on percussion, pop, rock, and EDM (electronic dance music).

The following tempo guidelines may provide useful in curating a playlist, and reflect typical target BPM (beats per minute) for different workout genres:

  • Warming up: 100 to 140 BPM
  • Cooling down: 60 to 90 BPM
  • Low intensity (E.g., Yoga & Pilates): 60 to 90 BPM
  • Power yoga: 100 to 140 BPM
  • HIIT, indoor cycling, or CrossFit: 140 to 180+ BPM
  • Zumba and dance: 130 to 170 BPM
  • Weightlifting/powerlifting: 130 to 150 BPM
  • Jogging or steady-state cardio: 120 to 140 BPM

Some music services or apps show the BPM for a track, making it easier to select.  Of course, if you want to get really detailed you can curate a playlist that builds in different beats to match interval training.

Tempo, not volume

Gyms tend to be loud spaces and very often coaches can be tempted to crank the volume to-the-max. Some gyms have been found to have music playing in excess of 99db which is equivalent to a jet flyover at 1,000ft, and is loud enough to damage hearing.

If you find your coaches are pushing beyond safe levels, a change of genre might achieve the desired result. Very often EDM can feel more punchy than pop, and give the class the boost the coach was seeking.

It has been shown that other factors such as bass, volume, and lyrics also have an influence on performance. However, the overriding factor remains tempo - and this makes picking a play list relatively simple.

Make sure you're licenced

Unless you're playing "royalty free" music, you will need to be licenced to play music in either a commercial or public space. Simply having an Apple Music or Spotify account is not enough - that licences you for personal use only.  The fines for playing music without a licence can be quite steep.

PPL and PRS for Music
In the UK, two licences are required.  The first is a PPL licence. The second is a PRS for Music licence.

Fortunately these two organisations have now banded together as PPL-PRS and now provide "The Music Licence". This makes ensuring you have cover much easier.

Source licence
Many gyms use Spotify to create and play music. However, Spotify explicitly forbids its usage for commercial purposes.  Instead, there is a separate service called SoundtrackYourBrand (formally Spotify Business), which may be used to source and play music commercially. 

Important: you will still need to licence the music for playing in a commercial setting. Unless you use royalty free music, there is simply no escape from that - the artists and labels need to be paid their dues!


Expertly curated playlists

All the above may be well and good, but it takes still takes a chunk of time to curate playlists and, often, it just falls to the coach (or even a member) to whack-on whatever they fancy.

Very often this then negates all of the benefits of the above and, worse, sometimes results in the headaches of profanity being played to your members at high volume!

As part of Quoox's SGPT Infinity service we provide playlists for different genres of workout, updated on a regular basis.  These are expertly created in SoundtrackYourBrand and simply shared to your own account.  This ensures you always have a pumping playlist to-hand, and don't have to spend hours curating your own or risking the 'unknowns' that a coach's/member's playlist may bring!

Maximise the power of your workouts with the right playlist.

Written by Chris Windram.


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