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How to Strategically Use Music Before, During and After a Workout

Anthony J. Yeung
by Anthony J. Yeung
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How to Strategically Use Music Before, During and After a Workout

There’s nothing like a great workout: It helps you burn calories, melt fat, build muscle and improve your overall health and fitness. Plus, you get an opportunity to jam out to some awesome tunes. But how do you make sure you get the most from your training, especially on the days when you’re struggling to give it your all?

Before your next workout, don’t just throw a bunch of songs into one massive playlist for your entire workout. Instead, separate your songs according to their mood, speed and energy, so you can deliberately use each group to help carry you all the way from pre- to post-workout.


Before any exercise, you must go through a proper warmup. This includes foam rolling, dynamic stretches and activation exercises to open your muscles and joints, fire up your nervous system and increase your body temperature for ultimate performance.

You shouldn’t, however, go all-out during your warmup and neither should your music. Instead, listen to music that gets you in a positive and energetic mood without going too fast or too hard. That way, it’s calm enough to feel like you’re easing into your exercise for the day, but it’s fast enough to get your body moving and your blood flowing.

Something in the 115–120 bpm range should work well. Here are some ideas to get you started:


Depending on your training, here’s where you can really let loose and use music to amp you up and get your adrenaline and blood flowing. The right kind of songs can also help you feel less fatigued and serve as a distraction from those particularly difficult training days.

For high-intensity workouts, use high-energy, fast-paced music to give you the motivation to push the heaviest weights or finish that last interval strong. For lifting weights, try starting a new song before a heavy or difficult set, especially if there’s an awesome intro.

For steadier cardio exercises, try not to get too amped up with your music (unless you’re doing wind sprints or faster intervals). Instead, aim for a nice consistent pace and maintain your energy levels for longer durations.

Here’s a tip for runners specifically: Use your music to help you maintain the proper running cadence, which is the number of steps taken every minute. A general rule of thumb is to aim for about 180 beats per minute or three foot-strikes per second, so listen to songs around that same tempo. Want some suggestions? Here’s an eclectic group of songs around that range to get you started:


So you’ve just finished your last set in the gym or reached the end of your run — great job! What do you do now? Hit the shower? Do a few quick stretches and call it a day? Drink a protein shake?

Here’s what you need to understand: The “cooldown” to any kind of exercise is extremely important. The right routine can help your nervous system relax and start the recovery process, begin to soothe your tired muscles and refuel your body so it can start to repair and grow.

We recommend picking slower, soothing music like instrumentals, chill-out tunes, soft rock or whatever you find relaxing after a stressful day. (If your music is too fast, however, it would be counterproductive.) Listen to it while you foam roll, do some breathing exercises and finish with some gentle, relaxing stretches.

This calms your muscles and nervous system and helps you quickly get your heart rate back down to your normal range. Here are a few suggestions for slower, easier listening:

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About the Author

Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung

Anthony, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, is a fitness expert at Esquire, GQ and Men’s Health and gets guys in shape for their wedding at GroomBuilder.


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