Psychological, psychophysical, and ergogenic effects of music in swimming

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Existing work using dry land exercise-related activities has shown that the careful application of music can lead to a range of benefits that include enhanced affect, lower perceived exertion, greater energy efficiency, and faster time trial performances. The purpose of this study was to assess the psychological, psychophysical, and ergogenic effects of asynchronous music in swimming using a mixed-methods approach.


A mixed-model design was employed wherein there was a within-subjects factor (two experimental conditions and a control) and a between-subjects factor (gender). The experimental component of the study was supplemented by qualitative data that were analysed using inductive content analysis.


Twenty six participants (Mage = 20.0 years, age range: 18–23 years) underwent a period of habituation with Speedo Aquabeat MP3 players prior to the experimental phase. They were then administered two experimental trials (motivational and oudeterous music at 130 bpm) and a no-music control, during which they engaged in a 200-m freestyle swimming time trial.


Participants swam significantly faster when exposed to either music condition relative to control (p = .022, Symbol). Moreover, the music conditions were associated with higher state motivation (p = .016, Symbol) and more dissociative thoughts (p = .014, Symbol).


Findings supported the hypothesis that the use of asynchronous music during a high-intensity task can have an ergogenic effect; this was in the order of 2% when averaged out across the two experimental conditions. The use of music, regardless of its motivational qualities, resulted in higher self-reported motivation as well as more dissociative thoughts.


▸ We assess the effects of asynchronous music in a swimming time trial. ▸ We had two contrasting music conditions and a no-music control. ▸ Participants swam significantly faster when exposed to either music condition. ▸ Both music conditions led to significantly higher state motivation. ▸ Use of asynchronous music had an ergogenic effect in the order of 2%.

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