Everyone knows that listening to the right kind of music gets your body pumped and your blood flowing. Just walk into the gym and see how many people there are plugged in. Music allows you to push the distractions out of your mind and focus on your training (Read: Top 15 Killer Fat-Burning Exercises).
Some music might be better for lifting heavy weights, while other songs will sustain you on your running and cardio exercises. Some people like heavy guitar and pounding drums, while others prefer steady, catchy beats. Some trainers would rather listen to music that is mainly instrumental, while other people pick songs with lyrics that will fire them up.
Obviously what qualifies as a “great” workout song is very subjective.
But regardless of your preferences, there are some songs that will inspire you no matter what. Those are the types of songs we tried to tap into when creating this list. It might not be perfect, but it’s a great start when looking for some new workout music.
- “Lose Yourself” – Eminem. This song is great for getting your head into the workout and focusing. The lyrics practically demand it. Eminem tells you to push on, and push you will as your arms pump the weight. The drums provide a steady beat and the rest of the instruments are kept at a low volume, allowing you to hear the motivating words that punctuate the beats.
- “Joker and the Thief” – Wolfmother. The beginning guitar riff is enough to perk your ears. Then the cymbals and drums come in and continue to slowly build. Once the lead guitar comes in you should have a steady stride going on the treadmill. The repeating guitar sets the pace for your feet to follow, and the tempo will keep you going through the song.
- “Like Light to the Flies” – Trivium. I’ve always been partial to heavier songs when working out. They motivate me to push myself further, be it with more weight, more reps, or a faster pace. This song in particular helps me through aching sides when I’m running. The driving guitar doesn’t stop and the double bass drum keeps the pace fast, even in the chorus and breakdowns. Towards the last third of the song you get a brief respite, and then the heavy solo comes in and kicks it back up.
- “Remember the Name” – Fort Minor. This song is an anthem to its core, and should get anyone ready to hit the gym. The beat is constant and it never reaches a high point or a low, keeping you motivated throughout the song. The lyrics are also very empowering. Just pretend they are singing about you and all of those percentages add up to a solid workout.
- “Are You Ready” – Rollins Band. Some songs work well during your warm up; others are better when beginning the actual workout. This song is definitely in the second category, and it’s recommended that you hit play right before you lift the barbell. “Are you ready to rock? Are you ready to rip it up? Do you know what I’m talking about?” The lyrics and the old school rock and roll sound will have you ready to add in another set to your workout.
- “Back in Black” – AC/DC. Speaking of old school, what would this list be without a little AC/DC? Their hard rock vibes, catchy riffs, and scratchy vocals are quality fuel for your adrenaline. There are so many good songs that it was hard to pick just one. We went with “Back in Black” because it is so well known and because it is very cool to walk into the gym blaring this song. But you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of their stuff.
- “Carry It” – Travis Barker. With a little help from his friends RZA, Raekwon, and Tom Morello, Travis Barker gives a song that is worthy of anyone’s workout playlist. The music and lyrics are steady, allowing you to cruise through your workout at a balanced pace without burning out early.
- “Out on the Streets” – Bang Camaro. Your blood will begin to heat up from the first notes of the cowbell and electric guitar riffs. The song goes through many different tempos, giving you breaks right where you need them. There are also has at least eight voices that sing the lyrics together, giving you the impression that a whole crowd is cheering you on. However, the song is light on the lyrics, allowing the music to drive most the workout by itself.
- “Die Young” – Ke$ha. This may be a bit lighter in tone then the previous entries, but it still gets the job done. The beat is infectious, and the fact that it is so popular right now plays into its effectiveness. People respond well to a song that they can sing along with because it keeps their mind off of thoughts that would interrupt their workout.
- “Know Your Enemy” – Rage Against the Machine. A little rage and angst does wonders for your workout spirit, and Rage Against the Machine knows all about these emotions. Vocalist Zack de la Rocha is as good as any personal trainer, and his barking and yelling will keep your mind centered on the task at hand. The guitar crawls around in the verses, allowing you to focus on your reps, and then it picks up speed in the chorus and forces you to pick up the pace as well.
- “Till I Collapse” – Eminem (feat Nate Dogg). This song works best towards the end of your workout. You’re feeling drained and ready to quit, but then Eminem tells you that you “gotta search within you” and “You gotta find that inner strength”. If Eminem is going to keep singing until his legs give out and his bones collapse, well, you can probably put in a few more reps.
- “Thrift Shop” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. This is another example of a song that’s great because it is so popular right now. There isn’t a single person that doesn’t like singing “I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket” etc. And the rest of the lyrics are just as fun and inspiring. That funky trumpet, the chorus, the drum beat, everything about this song is catchy.
- “Welcome to the Jungle” – Guns N’ Roses. The gym is a jungle, and you are king of the pride. Release your inner animal on the weight bench or on the track. Let your adrenaline rise as Axel’s vocals and Slash’s guitar take you for a ride on the wild side.
- “Mama Said Knock You Out” – LL Cool J. Every guy in the gym likes to believe they are tough, and this song will definitely speak to that ego. Put on your gloves and step into the ring with whatever exercise has been getting the best of you. Only the toughest will survive, but you’ve got what it takes. The catchy beat and LL Cool J’s self-righteous vocals are twice as effective if you can watch the music video while working out.
- “Boom” – P.O.D. This song is incredible at pumping up your blood and adrenaline. The down-tuned guitar plays the same riff throughout most of the song, giving you a driving sound that pushes you through your workout. And the chorus is perfect to pump out those last seemingly-impossible reps of your set (especially if you time them on the “boom”s). The gym isn’t ready for the heat you will be bringing.
- “Welcome Home” – Coheed and Cambria. Everything about this song speaks power. The guitar is haunting, the drums hit with authority, and there is even a string sections that compliments the guitar. The lead singer’s voice might be a few octaves higher than normal, but the lyrics are deep and somber. The song is a lengthy six minutes long, allowing you to rock out throughout a full three sets of the exercise you are on. The last two minutes of the song are especially rewarding, so be sure to not burn out before then.
- “C’mon (Catch Em’ By Surprise) – Tiesto (feat. Busta Rhymes). Electronic music can be a great source of workout music, but not everyone enjoys it. For those that do, anything by Tiesto will get your heart pumping and “C’mon” is no exception. Add in the lightning fast lyrics of Busta Rhymes and you have a song that will leave you wondering where your last three minutes on the treadmill went. Just try to control your first pumping or you may be asked to leave.
- “Good Feeling” – Flo Rida. All of these hammering beats and emotional vocalists make for superb workout tunes, but a workout doesn’t have to be all sweat, blood, and tears. Sometimes you just want to have fun. You want to have a good feeling, much like the one you get from the Ke$ha song (or pretty much any of the latest Top 40 hits). Well Flo Rida knows all about having a good time, and this very catchy song will have you jamming along like you don’t have a care in the world.
I know, I know, there is something missing. Where is Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”? This is a classic workout song, first popularized in Rocky and then parodied heavily ever since. But does anyone really work out to this song? That’s like saying you’re working out to a Richard Simmons tape. No one does it anymore.
But luckily there are tons of other great workout tunes to fill the void. It’s very hard to pick just eighteen out of the bunch, and we probably missed some that you can’t believe we didn’t put. If you have your own favorite tracks that aren’t on this list, feel free to share them in the comment section below!