The 50 best workout songs
Get motivated to run faster and pedal harder with our ultimate fitness playlist
Fri Sep 19 2014
There is nothing—simply nothing—quite like the adrenalin rush and feeling of triumph after a good workout. That's if you get it right, of course. And how do you create your perfect sweat session? That's easy! Choose a venue from the best gyms and health clubs in New York City, and then the most important part: cue up your ideal fitness playlist. We've assembled the best exercise songs known to humans right here, with the aim of giving you the best goddamn workout of your life. Whether you need running songs to go faster or spinning music to pedal more powerfully, we've got you, Rocky. You'll find red-hot workout hits by the White Stripes and the Foo Fighters, hip-hop classics from Eminem and Jay Z and razzle-dazzle pop from Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj—all on one gleaming Spotify playlist. Think of us as your very own personal trainer. Now get to it!
RECOMMENDED: Fitness guide to NYC
“Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J
Featuring one of the most legendary opening lines in hip-hop—“Don't call it a comeback!”—LL Cool J's 1990 battle-rap anthem features a Marley Marl beat powerful enough to make you want to punch through a wall. For best results, don the same robe that LL has on in the music video.—Drew Millard
“Here It Goes Again” by OK Go
The snappy beat supporting this Chicago band's 2006 runaway hit offers plenty of juice for any low-impact cardio session, but it's the beyond-clever video that prompted more than 10 million YouTube views and sparked any number of copycat auteurs. Seriously, if synchronized swimming is an Olympic sport, then the coordinated feats the nerdy OK Go boys pull off in this famous clip are more than enough to deserve a write-in vote for gold medals all around.—Steve Smith
“Night by Night” by Chromeo
Dismiss Chromeo as a mere good-time party band at your peril; 2011's “Night by Night” captures the workings (or lack thereof) of men and women—“She says I’m not romantic! I say she’s too dramatic!”—and turns it into a sizzling electro anthem, a disco Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, if you will. One to accompany you on the treadmill in times of friction.—Sophie Harris
“Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire
Never run to the sound of a hurdy-gurdy before? Now's your chance. Arcade Fire convened its usual vast bunch of musicians and instruments for the making of 2007's Neon Bible, and “Keep the Car Running” is the album's most affirmative, fist-pumping moment. Listen, be pummeled, go pummel.—Sophie Harris
“Repetition” by TV on the Radio
Released on 2011’s Nine Kinds of Light, this is the perfect song for long slogs on a treadmill—a robotic, almost Kraftwerk-like beat with a slow build that will cause you to spontaneously crank up the speed when it hits the crescendo. There is almost nothing as mindlessly repetitive as working out in the gym, so you may as well acknowledge it while rocking the hell out.—Nick Leftley
“Feel the Love” by Rudimental
Every workout mix needs some dubstep—there’s nothing like that jolt of shuddering energy to deliver a massive adrenalin rush—and British breakbeat outfit Rudimental offer class and bass on this 2012 track, the group’s first No. 1 hit in the U.K. So good you might just want to play this one song on a loop for an hour. Watch out.—Sophie Harris
“All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem
So perfect is the buildup in this 2007 anthem it’s as if it’s been precision-planned to make you run: A jittery piano riff kicks it off, followed by lickety-split drums and an irresistible bassline. “That’s how it starts,” shrugs LCD main man James Murphy. And with its unrelenting, awesome krautrock-inspired drive, this song keeps you running too. The fact that there’s also lyrical profundity to “All My Friends” (namely, deciding what’s actually important in life) makes this a home run of a workout track.—Sophie Harris
“Hallogallo” by Neu!
Exercise can be an uplifting, fun-filled endorphin surge—it can also seem like an endless drag. This 1972 track by German rock band Neu! is perfect for those moments when your brain is in that second space but your body still has the better part of your jog to get through. The steady, meditative motorik drumbeat is the sonic equivalent of watching CNN with the sound off at the gym. Let it lull you into a state of Zen-like efficiency.—Andrew Frisicano
“Ruin” by Cat Power
Everyone needs a little defiance in their workout from time to time, and 2012’s “Ruin” more than delivers. During a grim year in which Chan Marshall split from her actor boyfriend (who then married a model), the singer delivered this fiery triumph, with disco beats and pop hooks nuzzling up to her sensuous voice. And if the way she growls, “Bitchin’! Complainin’!” doesn’t make you sing along, well—you’re probably in the gym and should keep quiet anyway.—Sophie Harris
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Listen to Time Out's 50 best workout songs playlist on Spotify
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