It is a truth universally acknowledged, that music played at almost all gyms everywhere is bland, old-fashioned, non-stimulating, and even plain irksome!
To most people, especially the regulars at the gym, good music does matter – in fact, it can make or mar an entire workout! It is no surprise, therefore, that most people prefer to bring their own music, plug in their headphones, and drown themselves in their training.
And that is one way to do it. But the question that arises is, can this workout music be so designed as to actually improve performance, rather than just motivate the gym goer? Is there a correlation between the kind of music you hear and the output you produce on a physical level?
Ask any guitarist, and they will say, you simply cannot strike the right chords without tuning your guitar strings. A good guitarist should always tune the guitar so as to get the maximum output from it. A similar logic can be applied to your brain.
Did you know that as you experience a wide variety of emotions, your brain too registers a set of patterns and frequencies, which we call ‘waves?’ If that is possible, how about tuning your brain for better response, much like tuning the guitar? And how about fine tuning your mood for better workouts?
Sounds perfectly logical, yet totally incredible, right? Let’s read on to find out if this is possible.
Before we try to map and control the elusive human brain, let’s start with a basic understanding of the different kinds of brainwaves and their significance:
There are basically 5 types of waves, namely, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Theta waves –
- Alpha Waves– Alpha waves are brainwaves that are in the 8-13 Hz range and are produced when your brain and body are relaxed and at peace. They represent a state of being relaxed yet alert at the same time. Alpha waves have been connected to our brain’s natural capacity to quickly learn things that it can retain and recall when required. For example, learning how to ride a motorcycle.
- Beta Waves: Beta waves are brainwaves between 12.5 and 30Hz, which is the range associated with the conscious/awake state of our brain. It relates to our critical thinking and ability to focus, and for an athlete, it can improve both game time performance as well as cognitive abilities.
- Delta Waves: Delta waves are brainwaves in the range 0 – 4Hz. Delta waves help in deep sleep and healing. For instance, after a strenuous training session at the gym, it helps body to heal from the trauma during a state of deep sleep.
- Gamma Waves: Gamma waves are brainwaves of frequencies 40Hz or above. A gamma wave is the highest frequency your brain can achieve. It helps in achieving those ‘Eureka’ moments! For example, after the training session, you realize that if you had managed an extra set of push-ups, you would have felt a lot more pumped. That realization is because of Gamma waves!
- Theta Waves: Theta Waves are usually around 6–7 Hz . These are associated with all unorthodox and out-of-the-box thinking. You have heard of the famous ‘helicopter shot’ by the Indian cricketer MS Dhoni? Dhoni’s master stroke must surely have been a result of theta waves.
So, how do Binaural beats come into the picture?
The word ‘Binaural’ means using both the ears. It’s an auditory illusion perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves, both with frequencies lower than 1500 Hz, with less than a 40 Hz difference between them, are presented to a listener dichotically (one through each ear).
Okay, perhaps that went right over the head! Let me simplify:
It’s simply two different types of sound waves fed through each ear, which creates the illusion of a third, singular sound wave. But the trick here is to not have completely different sound waves, or else the effect won’t be quite as good. The idea is to keep the difference between both sound waves at less than 40Hz. For instance, if one sound wave is of 1000Hz, the other can be of 970Hz for maximum binaural effect. When this happens, the brain perceives the 30Hz difference as what is called the ‘Entrainment’ rate. It therefore creates a 360 degree illusion when you listen to the two individual waves via headphones.
So should I simply switch to any binaural beats as my workout music?
Since these waves are found to alter your mood significantly, you simply cannot go and pick just any binaural beat and expect magic to happen. The best thing would be to start with lower frequency waves like Alpha waves. For example, feeding 16Hz to one ear and 20Hz to the other. And then note the effect it produces on the mind, the mood, and the body.
Where would I find such beats?
Like the answers to most of our queries these days, the answer to this query also lies in Google search! There are tons of binaural beats to listen to on YouTube, and those especially designed for training as well.
But are they really of any help to improve my workouts? Or is it just a gimmick?
Though binaural beats are largely used in the field of meditation, they can possibly also find application in fitness and training, especially if used just before or during training. As of now, there are many contradicting researches in this field. Though a deeper and more comprehensive research is yet to be done, the researchers are unanimous when it comes to the positive effects of binaural beats on driving performance – listening to binaural beats just before a training session has been shown to improve the athlete’s performance in the field. And, for a session like weight training, it can also be used for intra workout stimulation.
Specific to binaural beats, a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology investigated the binaural stimulation on aerobic exercise. 22 healthy adults were randomly given a 15-minute session of sonic driving at 200 beats per minute via headphones, and then given a graded treadmill workout. Their heart rate, blood pressure and breathing frequency were measured. The final results showed a significant increase in maximal aerobic physical performance, increase in time-to-exhaustion, and indicated clearly that an “entrainment-enhanced warm-up” could benefit athleticism. Though the research was on aerobic performance, but you do get the gist.
So what’s say? Ditch your intra workout BCAA and go for intra workout binaural waves this time?
Final point to ponder – will Binaural beats be the magic music to improve your workouts? There is absolutely no other way than to try it out and see for yourself. Maybe for a week you can ditch your favorite foot-tapping numbers and experiment with these different beats, just to see how your brain responds to them. And maybe, you’ll never switch back again!
-This article has been written by SQUATS consultant Matin Sheikh.
Image 1: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/dX_xgkv9MT8/maxresdefault.jpg