Remove Distractions and Turn Off the Music for Better Training Gains

There is no doubt that training sessions play out the same way for most strength athletes. Get warmed up, psyched up, turn the music up, and put serious weight up. It’s a ritual, and the smart money says if you are in North America this the only way you know how to train. But, if I could, make just one small suggestion, that may sound like sacrilege, but may change your game…. Let’s turn it all down; part of the time anyway.

Not all training centers worldwide operate the same way. Take a quick look at this somewhat boring video of a an elite weightlifting training hall.

Notice the the following:

  • No music
  • No chatter
  • No phones
  • No distractions
  • Big weights being tossed around with seemingly little effort
  • Beautifully fluid athletic movement
  • High focus of everyone in the hall

So what’s going on here? This athletes have been trained free of  distraction for most of their lives. This is their normal. But is it better? That is what you have to find out for yourself. The open minded athlete dedicated to their sport should be willing to try this. I think it will pay off on the technical lifts and even more as you become a more advanced competitor.

First let me discuss the accepted science. There are studies that say high intensity music can enhance an exercise session (1). Yep. I don’t disagree with that. The thing is, you aren’t exercising, you are training, and at this point in the game I hope you know the difference. The research also points out that music can interfere with training when high focus is necessary. On the overheads, squats, stones and deadlifts I would argue that maximum focus is always necessary. When you have 385 in the rack position and you are about to hit your new personal best I would argue that having:

“Master of puppets I’m pulling your strings

Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams

Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing

Just call my name, ‘cause I’ll hear you scream



blasting in your ears is less helpful than pulling your thoughts together and repeating to yourself; “Knees out, elbows up, drive the weight to the sky!”. The lack of distraction should help you more than getting cranked up and head pounding along with the music.

Now, I understand not everyone has control over the stereo in the facility and it may be impossible to turn off. Fortunately most strongmen train in private gyms, and if you talk to the owner they may work with you on this. If you can quiet down the environment that’s a great start. If you can’t so be it. The rest though is under your control, so let us work on what we can improve.

Every Lift Is Performed the Same Way

From warm up to work set focus on form and correct execution of technique. I’ve seen a lot of people push press from empty bar to mid heavy weight then suddenly switch to jerk. In my experience, doesn’t warm up your Central Nervous System (CNS) the right way. Video review should confirm your form with triples looks just like it does with singles.

Every Lift Is Performed Calmly

I’m guilty of getting myself worked up and going hard on a big single. In time I realized it was leading to some sloppy habits. When you hit your challenge sets simply take a few deep breaths, take a firm grip on the bar, and execute. While setting up, visualize success in the lift. Remember the last lift you hit perfectly and repeat.

Your Session Is Free of Distraction

I don’t think TV sets belong in a training hall. I don’t think you should be on your phone during a training session. Things that take your focus away from the task at hand are all sucking away little bits of your success. You and your partner (or coach) should tune in to every set and rep and provide constant feedback as to what can be improved.

Your Session Is Planned, and Goals Are Met Every Time

Many athletes have a program they adhere to for their sessions. This is fantastic. Many train by feel, this is less fantastic. Many show up and just hammer singles every time they go to the gym, this, well this isn’t really training. If you are in the first group, keep a detailed log and use a graph or chart to plot your progress. If you are in the second or third group I simply suggest getting in with the first group. If you know your numbers and are making progress that you are happy with then keep with your program. If not then you know sooner than later when it is time to change.

You Treat Your Training Sessions Professionally

Honestly, no other sport operates as loosely as weight training in the USA (primarily referring to strongman, but it’s true of many strength sports here). From cycling to track to swimming; you name it, individual athletes in this country are much more organized, regimented, and respected than strongmen and our powerlifting brethren. But that shouldn’t be the case. For the last decade, the United States has been an overwhelming force in the sport of strongman and often field a majority of international competitors. By having training halls that seem more inviting and organized we can draw even more talented athletes to the sport and overcome our stigma of meatheads who lift rocks. This will also bring us sponsorships and bigger prize money, a win for all.

I know this article won’t be popular. It’s aimed particularly at the few athletes that have become frustrated with a lack of progress and haven’t changed this part of their game. Training for many is a near religious experience and this is akin to switching faiths, not just churches. If it does appeal to you, try it for a month. Get your crew on board. Talk about it afterwards. Enjoy the process and reap the rewards.

Featured image courtesy of Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation.


Costas I. Karageorghis & David-Lee Priest (2012): Music in the exercise domain:a review and synthesis (Part I), International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5:1, 44-66
Costas I. Karageorghis & David-Lee Priest (2012): Music in the exercise domain:a review and synthesis (Part II), International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5:1, 67-84F.
Lindgren & A. Axelsson (1988): The influence of physical exercise on susceptibility to noise-induced temporary threshold shift, Scandinavian Audiology, 17, 11-17.

Mike Gill is a retired 105kg professional strongman and currently a broadcaster forStrongman Corporation. He has a background in all weight disciplines and has competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting and Weightlifting with a lifetime best 252 kg total. He can be reached for coaching at Michaelgill100 [at], @prostrongman on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and on Facebook.