By Tallie Mattson, WSU News intern
WSU rower studies behavior change in training
Sudar, third from right, with several of his teammates at the Ergomania indooring Rowing Competition in February.
PULLMAN, Wash. – An increased measure of strokes per minute, speed and meters i
s music to the ears of Washington State University Men’s Crew team at the end of a strenuous workout. After six sessions of different music treatments during practice, it is literally is.
Joe Sudar, a psychology major and senior at WSU, studied rower performance and attitudes while listening to different music genres during workouts.
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The experiment is part of his thesis, "Music and Rowing: The Effects of Genre, Familiarity and Preference,” for the WSU Honors College.
"Music is a common element in training and I wanted to look at whether the music we played had positive or negative effects,” Sudar said.
For three weeks this semester, the Men’s Crew team practiced twice a week in the Hollingberry Fieldhouse conditioning center for the experiment. The six sessions included 12 short rowing intervals with control and treatment intervals spread throughout each session. The control for the experiment was measured with no music during the alternating intervals of treatments.
The variables included lyrical and instrumental death metal- an extreme style of heavy metal-, lyrical and instrumental electronic, and treatments designed to test for song preference and familiarity from the Billboard Top 100 Music Charts.
Each session began with a treatment, 45 second long sprints on the rowing machine, followed by a rest period of three minutes and 45 seconds. A different genre was featured in each session; instrumental death metal, instrumental electronic, lyrical death metal, lyrical electronic, songs of familiarity and songs of preference, he said.
The death metal genre fosters an aggressive, competitive atmosphere and has been suggested to increase power output in power sports such as football and weight training, he said. Rowers listened to the bands In Flames, Metallica, Dark Shift, As I Lay Dying and Black Dahlia Murder.
On the other hand, electronic music caters to endurance sports and has a steady rhythm and tempo; good for running and cycling, Sudar said. Electronic artists included Scooter, Pendulum, Ratatat and Bassnectar.
These genres were also chosen because rowing is a sport of both power and endurance, he said.
Songs in the familiarity treatment included pieces by artists Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5 and LMFAO. Rowers voted on the preference treatment category from a list of two dozen songs, he said.
Chosen artists for this category were Avenged Sevenfold, Dropkick Murphys, and even included "Ride of the Valkyries,” by Richard Wagner- not what you would expect to hear because it’s classical music, Sudar said.
Observing attitudes, behaviors
Qualitative data for the experiment were based off observations Sudar and the Men’s Crew coach and coxswains made during training.
Songs with a novelty feel made the guys perk up, he said. Their expressions went from pained to laughing, talking and comparing scores with each other.
"It shows how playing the right music can improve attitudes and snap them back into the workout when the rowers are at their lowest,” Sudar said.
The guys became introverted during the death metal music, he said. They kept their heads down and it seemed liked they had a worst time with the workout. This was found with both instrumental and lyrical death metal, Sudar said.
With the electronic genre, rowers became more talkative and laughed more.
"There was a usual feeling of comradely in the electronic music,” he said.
For quantitative data, Sudar measured the average wattage recorded on the rowing machines for each 45 second sprint. Because of conflicting schedules, injuries and illness, the sample size was lowered from 22 men to 12. As a result, his quantitative data is not valid, he said.
"We saw some preference and familiarity winning out, but we can’t make an assertion about them based on the data we have,” Sudar said.
Time well spent
"Rowing and music are two of the biggest things in my life and I thought I would use them,” Sudar said.
His favorite song to train to is "Dysphoria,” by Cloudkicker, an instrumental metal band.
"The rest of the rowers didn’t like it quite as much as I did,” he said with a laugh.
Sudar was in charge of the workout playlist for the year and is now open to music suggestions, he said.
"The experiment brought music into a more serious consideration instead of something that is just present.”