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Best Music for Setting PR's on Your Heavy Lifts

Best Music for Setting PR’s on Your Heavy Lifts

Written by
October 2, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018
Category: Fitness

Your driving down the highway flowing through traffic with the radio on when “That Song” comes on. Typically, “That Song” is something nostalgic that brings back potent memory and emotion. YOUR PUMPED! 3 seconds ago, your facial expression was that of a zombie and now you look like you just won the lottery. Your drumming on the steering wheel, singing along loudly and possibly out of tune. Your subconscious has full control of your motor reflexes and you feel extremely alive.

Other drivers may be looking at you like your on drugs…because you are. The right music at the right time can stimulate a massive release of dopamine, cortisol, norepinephrine and growth hormone surging through your system. Now it’s time to use this to your advantage and tune your radio to the right station for heavy lifting.

Music is a powerful tool and particular music can be something you resonate with or causes dissonance in your mental function. Ultimately, this is why so many people wear headphones at big gyms. Its a tool to focus the mind on the task at hand – building strength and power! But, like most jobs, you need the right tool to get the job done properly.

When it comes to lifting, what music activates your primal “defend the family” instincts? To expand on the premise of Joe Rogan’s quote “Be the hero of your own life story”, what would be your inner hero’s soundtrack? Lets get more specific, what music is playing when you turn into The Hulk and SMASH?

The Right Music at the Right Time

Turning on the right music, at the right time, can stimulate the mindset that annihilates previous Personal Records (PR’s). The specific, ideal music can be as unique as each person but, putting on something that is in the zone and tuning your mind into it before you do your set, can make a heavy bar float off your back in the top of a squat.

I recently had the opportunity to train with Andy Bolton for a few days and Iron Maiden was the soundtrack of choice. When a man who can Deadlift 1000 lbs. tells you to lift explosively and the right music is playing, you do! To quote him: “There are some gyms that you walk into and you feel like you get stronger just being there! The music is right, there’s chalk everywhere, the people in there,  are training hard…”

Most powerlifting gyms listen to Heavy Metal (see Westside or similar). Now Googling Jim Wendler’s playlist may work for you but, what I am suggesting is to tune in to that soundtrack idea. What is YOUR soundtrack when YOU turn into Iron Man? Or at least, what bands are playing? To plug a fellow lifter, at Joe Daniels’ Swing This KettleBELL and Strength, ALL Mastodon Albums are and excellent choice.

Training Intensity & Music

Now an important note about training intensity and music. How long and how many times can you maintain maximum intensity in a training session? Should you listen to your soundtrack on full blast from warm-up through cool down? Perhaps.

However, my preference is to have the right music playing but, tune into it only in the moments preceding and during HEAVY SETS. Taping into the adrenaline dump that can occur when you are in the PR head space too often, over the course of a training session, might leave you tanked before you get to your work sets.

The music does not have to be heavy. What you are looking for is music that facilitates a powerful emotive response that makes you feel like a juggernaut. Possibly something you connect with a powerful experience. It could be Dub-step or Death Metal. Don’t just put “some” music on, put YOUR music on. The music that’s playing when you “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you and hear the lamentation of the women” (Conan The Barbarian).

I have a playlist simply called “Lifting” filled with music written by men and women that perhaps did not have the nicest of childhoods. The testosterone is palpable to anyone within earshot but, the specific selections are based on associated meanings. Tracks such as Meshuggah’s “Concatenation” because of the intensity of the pits at their live shows; Metallica’s “Battery” because the hundreds of times listened to during an age of turmoil; Tool’s “Forty Six & 2” because …Tool.

What Albums Have I Used To Set PR’s?

1. PanteraFar Beyond Driven

2. MeshuggahChaosphere


3. MetallicaMaster of Puppets

4. Lamb of God – As the Palaces Burn


5. SepulturaRoots


Why these? Ultimately because this was the music that I identified with when I was young and pissed off. I can use it to engender some serious teenage angst! Just as a particular song you might hear on the radio might elevate your mood because of the neurological wiring associated with powerful memories. Early 90’s metal connects me to my inner Hulk. What music is playing when you turn green with power? Choose wisely and let’s set some PR’s!

Travis owns a training club in Bellingham, WA (Bellingham Strength & Conditioning) and is interested in all aspects of fitness and movement with an emphasis on Kettlebell training. He has competed in everything from Triathlons to Powerlifting and currently holds the rank CMS (Candidate for Master of Sport) in the Kettlebell Snatch. He has traveled all over to learn from coaches including Pavel Tsatsouline, Steve Cotter, Ken Blackburn, Jeff Martone, Andy Bolton, Mark Rippetoe, Greg Glassman and many others. And has been certified as an instructor in Kettlebells (sport and hardstyle) Gymnastics and Strength training (IKFF, Dragon Door, CrossFit, Starting Strength).
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