5 Benefits of Listening to Music for Swimmers

From faster swimming, increased motivation, and speedier recovery, here are the reasons swimmers should use music for improved swim performance.

Everyone knows the value of a great playlist before a big workout in the gym. Nothing gets you jacked up like the right BPM and your favorite artists.

But do these benefits extend to the water?

Spoiler: Yup!

Listening to music when swimming provides several powerful benefits, including increased motivation and focus, faster swimming speeds, distraction from fatigue, increased stroke rate, and even help accelerate recovery.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each of these benefits, some obvious, some perhaps less so, of how a great playlist can help improve your swim training.

Let’s dive in.

The Benefits of Music When Swimming

Here are a few reasons to listen to music the next time you hit the lap pool:

Improved swimming performance.

Let’s get right to the main benefit of listening to music when swimming: the right playlist helps you swim faster.

According to a study published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, titled “Effects of Bone-Conducted Music on Swimming Performance,” listening to music during time trials increased swim speed.

The study took a group of 24 older competitive swimmers and tasked them to perform time trials at 50m and 800m distances with and without music.

Tunes were pumped into the swimmer’s ears via bone-conduction headphones (the first version of the popular FINIS Duo), a type of waterproof headphones for swimming that removes the problems with using earbuds in the water. Each swimmer also chose the music that they preferred.

When listening to music, the swimmers averaged 0.32s faster times in the 50m time trial, and a whopping 6.32s faster in the 800m time trial.

(Interestingly, the swimmers didn’t rate their physical enjoyment of swimming higher with music.)

Music helps swimmers focus and maximize performance in the pool, generating faster times.

Increased motivation.

A long line of studies has shown the motivational effects of music before and during exercise (Karageorghis & Priest, 2012; Bigliassi et al., 2016, etcetera).

The surge in motivation and focus when the beat drops on a banger of a playlist is familiar to anyone who listens to music when exercising. It’s no different in the pool.

Listening to music while swimming can sustain motivation, drown out distractions, improve mood, boost energy, and enhance focus for more productive workouts in the water.

And of course, the right playlist can make getting to the pool a little easier on the cold, winter mornings or at the tail-end of the week when you are exhausted.

Distraction from fatigue.

Ever noticed that the right playlist can help you push a little harder during your swim workouts?

Music diverts attention away from fatigue and discomfort, distracting from the pain and ouchies, allowing you to swim further.

When locked into a motivating song’s beat or lyrics, you can “distract” your way to sustained effort.

According to a meta-analysis published in the International Review of Sport and Exercise Physiology, music consistently helped reduce perceived exertion during exercise.

These benefits, however, tapered off once athletes and gymgoers pushed beyond the anaerobic threshold.

Over the years, I’ve used music, whether that’s singing a motivating chorus to myself or using a set of waterproof headphones in the lap pool, to help me overcome the fatigue of tough sets.

One specific memory I have is a certain Celine Dion song being stuck in my head—for better or worse, I’ll let you decide—during an early morning workout that featured 50×100 freestyle long course on fastest interval possible.

Music can help swimmers “zone out” during moments of discomfort, enabling greater and sustained effort over longer training periods.

Improved stroke rate.

Swimming with music can also encourage a higher stroke rate in the pool.

A study with recreational swimmers showed that when listening to music at 140 BPM, they swam further and had a higher stroke frequency than music at 120 BPM or the no-music condition.

The synchronized rhythm of the music likely influenced the swimmers’ stroke rate, leading to a more aggressive tempo.

Music can be a great tool for helping swimmers hit target stroke tempos in the water.

Whether you are trying to hit a faster tempo with your underwaters, build a six-beat kick, or crank up the pull tempo, there is a song and BPM for the job.

Help speed up recovery.

In the same way that music can help swimmers increase motivation and intensity before swim workouts and racing, music can also help you to come down faster afterward, speeding up recovery.

One paper (Eliakim et al., 2021) examined the use of motivational music during the active recovery phase following a 6-minute run at peak intensity.

Participants who listened to motivational music took more steps in the 15 minutes following the intense effort, speeding up lactate clearance and decreasing feelings of fatigue.

If you are the kind of swimmer who hates warming down at the end of practice or after a big race (I know you’re out there!), listening to some motivational tunes can help you actually complete the warm-down and maximize recovery.

Once the workout (or competition) is fully done, relaxing music slows down the heart rate, RPE, and speeds up recovery compared to not listening to music (Jing & Xudong, 2008).

Music can be used at almost every stage of the workout to help maximize performance and recovery.

Lots of winning!

Wrapping Things Up

Every competitive swimmer has the experience of their first big swim meet warm-up, with the pool PA system blasting high-energy tunes, getting you fired up to swim like a maniac at finals.

We all use music in our own ways to improve training, from picking out a pre-workout playlist for the drive to the pool to strapping on a pair of headphones while loosening up before practice.

There are some benefits to listening to music while swimming, too, if you can make it work. (That said, it’s hard to listen to your coach’s critiques or instructions with headphones blasting a 140 BPM remix into your skull.)

And there are times where you should really be fully focused on your technique and simulating the environment of competition (can’t race with a set of waterproof headphones on, obviously).

But for those days when you need a little more pep in the pool, the right playlist can make all the difference.

Happy swimming!


ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, author, swim coach, and certified personal trainer. He’s the author of YourSwimBook, a ten-month logbook for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, anecdotes, and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level in the pool?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

 

 

 

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Dave N Noble
12 days ago

One more thing, I use ear plugs with Finis because the music is louder and that eliminates the water noise in my ears. I suggest earplugs even with out music because they cut down on the possibilities of ear infections. I use Hand sanitizer as lubrication to put the earplugs in to kill bacteria

Dave N Noble
12 days ago

I have used Finis MP3 for music for 15 years. They have improved the quality of wire between the earphones. but they fail about 6 months to 10 months after the warranty. I always buy direct from Finis because they will offer a big discount on the next pair when failing after warranty. I use songs with a good beat but try to stroke on every other beat. That way I can use the music to keep a constant pace

Rocket Sled
12 days ago

I felt a noticeable uptick in my training performance after my old swimming buddy Brad Kline introduced me to The War on Drugs. Great band! Lots of our masters teammates listen to them during practice now too!

Siobhan
22 days ago

There are a lot of dangers
Not hearing lifeguard whistle, pool alarms, etc. Not paying attention to where they are swimming or there change of pace. Especially at peek times. When keeping lanes moving and safe for all users is not always easy but 100% essential.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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