Any time you walk into a gym these days, this is what you see. Guys in tank tops on the bench press doing half reps, the keto freaks taking selfies of themselves while they do hammer rows, and girls standing in the mirror looking at themselves pose while they do tricep kickbacks. That’s all well and good if you want to do that, but what each of these people has in their ear while their doing this is the problem. Headphones and ear buds are now the new workout craze. If you walked into a gym right now, nearly 90% of the people in the gym are listening to their own music through these devices. While that might sound good to the gym goer, here are a list of reasons why people MUST STOP wearing their head phones at the gym in order to get better performance and live a more fulfilling life.

Humans Need Tribes

Any time you walk into a gym these days, this is what you see. Guys in tank tops on the bench press doing half reps, the keto freaks taking selfies of themselves while they do hammer rows, and girls standing in the mirror looking at themselves pose while they do tricep kickbacks. That’s all well and good if you want to do that, but what each of these people has in their ear while their doing this is the problem. Headphones and ear buds are now the new workout craze. If you walked into a gym right now, nearly 90% of the people in the gym are listening to their own music through these devices. While that might sound good to the gym goer, here are a list of reasons why people MUST STOP wearing their head phones at the gym in order to get better performance and live a more fulfilling life.

The Lack of a Flow State

For those that don’t know what I mean by “flow”, this is a state by which a person is performing high from both a mental and physical state at the same time. When people are in this state, they often feel like they lose a sense of themselves and a lost sense of time. Every single person knows what I’m talking about when I say this. Getting lost in a good book, going for a long run, and even performing at a high level during competition are all good examples of times when humans get into a state of “flow.” What are the biggest disrupters of flow though? Many of you probably guessed it correctly, it’s technology. When you get a text or a notification on your phone, what do you do? Do you wait to check it? Oh, no way! You’re kidding yourself if you say you don’t. Our drive as human beings is to check our phones right away so we can get that dopamine kick right away to make us feel good. Do you know why you check your phones for seemingly no reason, even if they don’t vibrate or ding? It’s because we have trained ourselves to try and constantly get this dopamine high all day long.

Well, what happens when we take our technology into the gym with us? What happens when we use our cell phones to stream music over? You guessed it, we constantly check our phones. When we constantly check our phones during a training session, this greatly decreases the effectiveness of the training session. We don’t think about the weights we want to use, we miss proper rest intervals, we don’t think about the movements we want to perform, and we lose the ability to get deeply into “flow.” The session almost becomes meaningless because we are addicted to technology. Are you someone who can’t understand why they aren’t adapting like they want to in the gym? Whether it be a lack of weight coming off or an inability to increase strength? This might likely be a key contributor. You have to go into the gym with intention. There needs to be a purpose.

Mental Imagery

Have you ever heard that you can become stronger or better at sport by just performing the movement in your head over and over? Well, if you haven’t, this is an actual thing and it does actually work! Many studies have shown greater performance in athletes that visualize performing the movement or task before competition. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. First, by performing mental imagery the athlete is able to recruit more motor units within the muscle which increases performance. This is due to a better coordination of these units, higher firing rates, and reduced inhibitory output by the antagonist muscles to perform the movement.

Well, what happens in the gym when a song comes on that you don’t want to hear? Are you thinking about squatting 350 pounds or too worried about changing the artist on your playlist from Katy Perry to Kanye West. No offense Katy Perry! The increase in performance that you need to increase strength, power, and endurance is now decreased because you aren’t thinking about trying to increase your performance from the previous session. This is why people don’t improve. Think about how many times you change a song or look at instagram during the course of a workout? It’s crazy when you think about it!

These are just a few of the downfalls about brining your technology into a training session. I could go on and on and on. With this said, I have no problem on listening to certain types of music during a workout. Rob Zombie radio and Akon radio are definitely two of my favorites when I train. But if you have the ability to, bring a speaker instead of your headphones and don’t allow yourself to be close to your phone. It will KILL your gains! There’s no way around it. If you have questions, get in touch with me at [email protected] or call/text at 812-343-4226.

– Drew Kiel PT, DPT, CSCS