For a long time, I didn’t understand why people wore headphones during workouts.
I got into weightlifting and running the old-fashioned way, via team sports training, so the gym was an inherently social place for me even while the communal speakers blared hardcore rock and rap throughout every session. Once I branched out on my own routine, though, I realized how much a soundtrack can help to improve performance. Once I knew what I wanted to listen to when I hit the gym, I had to make another choice: earbuds or cans?
The type of headphones you use while exercising isn’t always a matter of high import. Some people don’t get the decision a second thought, and just roll with whatever cheap buds are packaged with their music device. For others, it’s a difficult choice, since a high-end audio device can run you hundreds of dollars.
I was of the former camp for a long time. Those nondescript white buds that came packaged with my iPod served just fine, as long as I had a suitable arm-strap to stow my device. Wrangling the cord through exercises like back squats and power cleans could be annoying, but I always figured out a way. I had no time for bulky over-ear options.
Then, wireless options became more common and much more affordable. That’s when the choice got even tougher. You could opt for a small pair of buds for a streamlined experience, or pick out a solid set of cans to surround your entire ear in sound.
I was still a buds guy to start, as I cycled through a few sets of corded earphones until true wireless buds became more common. But then, I was assigned to review a set of cans for work, and I realized how much more substantial the musical workout experience could be with bigger speakers at my disposal. I kept wearing the cans for my weight room workouts, while I cycled through various buds for running and other training. Now, I’m in both camps. I’ll wear either style, since I have the opportunity to choose from whichever options I have at my disposal. I like how sleek buds are, but I also appreciate how cans signal to my fellow gym-goers that they should catch my attention before asking me if I’m done with the squat rack yet (the answer is typically no).
Let’s break down the pros and cons for each style:
Pros for Buds
Pros for Cans
Cons for Buds
Cons for Cans
Most people don’t have that freedom, and have to pick one. We asked our followers on Twitter which style they prefer.
When you’re working out to music, what style of headphones do you prefer? 🎧
Buds were the overwhelming victor, with 78 percent of the votes. One voter complained about sweat from over the ear units, while another rose concerns about hearing safety from pumping tunes directly into your eardrums with buds (according to the Cleveland Clinic, the style of personal audio devices you use aren’t as important as how you use them).
Can’t decide? Check below for some of the best of both worlds, and even more options to choose from here.
The Best Buds and Cans for Workouts
No matter your go-to style, make sure to always listen responsibly. According to that same Cleveland Clinic expert, that means keeping the volume low enough that your neighbors can’t hear every beat and bass drop, and you don’t find yourself yelling over your music so you can hear your own voice.
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