January 25, 2012

    The Musical Journey of a Workout

    For better or worse, the first impression of our training environment is not the force plate science or the professional athletes. It is the music. Ancient Greek warriors were also highly trained in music because this would enhance their ability to move gracefully, to be more efficient and effective during battle.

    As coaches, we spend a lot of time discussing our musical choices; what genre is being played, how often the music changes, and audibles depending on the mood of the group. Others might see this as a waste of time, but research has shown that the beat of the music directly entrains brainwave frequencies, which can subsequently enhance the learning process. So we relish the musical opportunity of a training session so athletes have the best experience to be educated on every journey we have together.

    Athletes always walk into Sparta with something they are comfortable with, popular music with words they have heard before, ranging from country to rock. For newcomers and returning athletes, this common genre makes them feel they are somewhere familiar, hopefully home in most cases. However after myofascial release and flexibility movements for 10 minutes, the focus changes from preparation to activation. The music changes as well, incorporating more driving beats to accompany the prescribed focus on rhythmic movements like skipping (see Sparta Point 8/3/11). After another 30 minutes spent here on these highly skilled movements, the strangeness begins.

    At this point, new athletes feel as if they have been dropped into another dimension. However, veterans know the real work is about to begin, and they have come to thrive on this specific electronic music, as it is unlike any other kind. The genre is called psytrance, in part due to its psychoactive component of affecting the mind or mental processes. Psytrance is at about 140-150 beats per minute, which is around 2 cycles per second, corresponding to the alpha waves in the brain. This frequency is important because high level athletes and superior performances have been correlated with more frequent occurrences of these alpha waves (see Sparta Point 11/24/10). Alpha waves are associated with a more relaxed state or readiness. The absence of words in these tracks only heightens the sense of focus. Here is a great track from a frequent artist we play, Blue Tech.

    The last 10 minutes is a grind, some form of strength endurance; local stabilizing muscles, general work capacity, or basic upper body conditioning. Considering the last 10 minute is pure exertion and their focus has been exhausted, our heavy metal rifts become crucial to push through the finish. As the workout ends, we progress our journey to a candid discussion of nutritional habits, so soothing reggae or acoustical mixes transitions our time to an end.

    Despite the wide variety and predetermined progression of these musical genres, the psytrance dominates for 40 minutes as the largest component, and definitely the most unique to visitors and new athletes.

    So I hope your music has a purpose, if not we can help you find some psytrance to help those alpha waves. After all, the German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said that “We listen to music with our muscles.”

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