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The 50 best workout songs

Get motivated to run faster and pedal harder with our ultimate fitness playlist of the best workout songs

Best workout songs

There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush and feeling of triumph you get after a good workout. To help you, we've assembled the best workout songs known to humans right here, with the aim of giving you the finest goddamn exercise of your life. Choose a spot from the best gyms and health clubs in NYC and cue the playlist up—whether you need running tunes to set the pace of your jog, spinning music to pedal more powerfully or party songs to soundtrack your parkour sesh. You'll find red-hot workout hits by the White Stripes and the Foo Fighters, hip-hop classics from Missy Elliott and Jay Z and razzle-dazzle pop from Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé—all on one gleaming playlist. Think of us as your very own personal trainer. Now get to it!

RECOMMENDED: Find the best NYC fitness classes and gyms

Best workout songs: 50–41

50

“Temperature” by Sean Paul

If you're looking to work out those nether regions, there's really nothing better than a good dutty wine session to Sean Paul's international dancehall hit. Sitting at 125 beats-per-minute, it's the perfect tempo for breaking a sweat. Revisit the video beforehand for some inspiration on how to turn up the heat. —Kristen Zwicker

Buy Temperature on Amazon

49

“Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson

The instrumentation is the perfect combination of funky and pounding, the lyrics are nothing short of a battle cry, and Janet herself is forever inspiring us to hit the gym, but never mind all that—have you seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt lip sync battle this song? 'Nuff said.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Rhythm Nation on Amazon

48

“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

Buy Here It Goes Again on Amazon

47

“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

Buy Night by Night on Amazon

46

“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

Buy Keep the Car Running on Amazon

45

“When a Fire Starts to Burn” by Disclosure

Disclosure's infectious blend of dance and pop has earned the U.K. duo big crossover success over the past few years. This garage-tinged house gem—which opened the outfit's 2013 debut album, Settle—pairs a bouncy bassline with incendiary sermonizing, making it a no-brainer when you're going for that deep burn.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy When A Fire Starts to Burn on Amazon

44

“Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake + Lil Jon

This face-melting trap anthem is the result of the meeting of two wild-out masterminds: French producer DJ Snake and Southern hip-hop scream king Lil Jon. When MTV asked the rap icon just what, exactly, he would turn down for, he offered two things: the police and sleep. Odds are you won't encounter either of those in your spin class, so rest assured that you have Lil Jon's blessing to remain turned all the way up.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Turn Down for What on Amazon

43

“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

Buy All My Friends on Amazon

42

“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

Buy Hallogallo on Amazon

41

“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

Buy Ruin on Amazon

Best workout songs: 40–31

40

“The Seed (2.0)” by the Roots

A slow jam for an exercise song, this 2002 track is best for biking. The sexy overtones actually work pretty perfectly for a workout; the track has serious rhythm and a catchy hook—you push the pedals, Cody Chesnutt will push, um, his seed in her bush for life. You'll get into it, we swear.—Kate Wertheimer

Buy The Seed (2.0) on Amazon

39

“I Would Die 4 U” by Prince

Ideally, we'd don pastel spandex and break into synchronized aerobic moves for this song. The uptempo dance track, off 1984's Purple Rain, has synth-pop, dramatic lyrics and funky breakdowns aplenty, making us the star of our own '80s workout montage whenever it comes up on our playlist.—Kate Wertheimer

Buy I Would Die 4 U on Amazon

38

“Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen

For everyone who goes into fantasy-music-video mode on the treadmill—that's all of us, then—there can be no finer brain candy than the Boss's 1984 anthem, the biggest hit of his entire career. Yes, you are the girl Springsteen pulls out of the audience in the video—that includes you, fellas—and you are dancing onstage. Add to that the song's crazy urgency—"I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face!"—and sweaty sexiness—"I need a love reaction"—and you'll find you've got another mile in you easily.—Sophie Harris

Buy Dancing in the Dark on Amazon

37

“Maniac” by Michael Sembello

Not a lot of us can truly relate to Flashdance—welding in a steel mill by day, go-going at a seedy bar by night, etc.—but this tense, synth-drenched 1983 soundtrack tune could inspire even the staunchest couch potato to don a leotard and sweat it out. Who doesn't yearn to “[dance] into the danger zone / Where the dancer becomes the dance”?—Hank Shteamer

Buy Maniac on Amazon

36

“Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service

It’s true that this track was featured in the Garden State trailer and is now forever haunted by the specter of Zach Braff, and yes, Ben Gibbard’s oeuvre isn’t what you generally turn to when it’s time to break a sweat, but this 2003 classic has enough energy to power the workout of any indie-pop fan who wants to stay skinny-jean–slim. A tenderhearted love tune and an exercise must-have? It’s no wonder that after a decade, we still can’t get “Such Great Heights” out of our heads.—Gabrielle Bruney

Buy Such Great Heights on Amazon

35

“A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend

This is your go-to jogging-in-the-sun song. Off Vampire Weekend's 2008 self-titled debut album, the spunky, perky track is a perfect soundtrack for those few shiny minutes when you're feeling good, waving at passersby and running in place at stoplights. It may not get you through the uphill battles, shin splints and mile nines, but there's nothing wrong with starting on a lighthearted foot.—Kate Wertheimer

Buy A-Punk on Amazon

34

“Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty

Whether you’re currently pursuing your dreams or fleeing the smoldering embers of your once-bright hopes, Tom Petty’s 1989 jam, which celebrates the freedom of the open road, will put some fire in your step. What was it you wanted to do again? Make yourself a healthy, farmers’-market dinner? Join a book club? Take a nice weekend trip? By the time the solo hits, you’ll be in full sprint, grasping at that damn dream’s heels.—Andrew Frisicano

Buy Runnin' Down a Dream on Amazon

33

“Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys

Say what you will about the authenticity of the Black Keys' blues; this 2011 track is a hip-shaker if there ever was one. It's almost impossible to keep still while it's on, which makes it a perfect track for a workout. We like it for running, but we'd really rather take a page from Derrick T. Tuggle—the smooth-moving part-time security guard who stars in the song's music video—and cut a rug instead.—Kate Wertheimer

Buy Lonely Boy on Amazon

32

“Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake

Sure, sure, we all go to the gym to lower our blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, but looking good ain't exactly an unanticipated side effect. JT's international hit, which he described as being akin to David Bowie and David Byrne covering James Brown's “Sex Machine,” is sure to give you a little added motivation.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Sexy Back on Amazon

31

“Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons

We’re just as surprised as you are to find a Mumford & Sons track on a workout playlist, but the pure, "Dueling Banjos"–esque fury of 2009’s “Little Lion Man” can’t be denied. On this self-flagellating breakup anthem, Marcus Mumford sings, “I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I, my dear?”—pretty tough language for a guy wearing a linen vest. But a touch of self-loathing is an essential ingredient for any good workout, so let the hate flow through you and leave it all on the treadmill.—Gabrielle Bruney

Buy Little Lion Man on Amazon

Best workout songs: 30–21

30

“House of Jealous Lovers” by The Rapture

The best use of a cowbell in a dance song ever? That auspicious award goes to this banger off the Rapture’s essential get-the-party-started LP Echoes. Three guitar chords, an insanely catchy bass line, whiney-as-fuck screams and a ceaseless disco-y beat will make you want to work your ass off. Trust us. The drawn-out count-off from one to eight midway through is perfect for plugging through another set of reps.—Tim Lowery

Buy House of Jealous Lovers on Amazon

29

“Kick Out the Jams” by MC5

Rocky had Mickey, Daniel had Miyagi, Dodgeball had Patches. Point is, if you want a muscle-crushing regimen, you're going to need a blue-collar sensei riding your ass hard. Skip the warm-up, cream puff, and slot this electric slice of 1969 protopunk into track one of your workout mix. With an Afro that looks like he shoved his finger in an electrical outlet, frontman Rob Tyner hollers, "KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER!" Then Wayne Kramer rips into a whip-cracking guitar riff. Sir, yes, sir! Oddly, this cult classic remains a favorite of doughy music critics more than heavy-metal jocks.—Brent DiCrescenzo

Buy Kick Out the Jams on Amazon

28

“Lose Control” by Missy Elliott

Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott looked to freestyle electro to craft her hit single "Lose Control," creating a slick re-envisioning of Cybotron's "Clear" (with a red-hot vocal sample from Hot Streak's "Body Work"). Between Fatman Scoop's signature roar, Ciara's croon, and Missy's all around bad-assery, this uptempo jam is the perfect way to ramp up the energy.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Lose Control on Amazon

27

“Black Skinhead” by Kanye West

What works against Ye as a human being—unbridled anger, insane intensity, rudeness—works really, really well in the best track off Yeezus. The percussive throbbing and general rageyness are all you need to make it up that last hill or through a round of sparring. Throw this bad boy on repeat, and do battle with some imaginary foe. With this track in your ear, you will win.—Carla Sosenko

Buy Black Skinhead on Amazon

26

“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen

Finding music for cardio is easy enough, but for reps you need something more basic in its thump, more regular in its drive—more, in other words, like Queen’s 1980 megahit. Time your lifting to the relentless bass, and enjoy the bonus of Freddie Mercury’s high rock tenor urging you to find vengeance against whatever is powering the anger of your workout that day.—Adam Feldman

Buy Another One Bites the Dust on Amazon

25

“Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses

As the story goes, the lyrics to "Welcome to the Jungle" were inspired by a homeless man in New York City, who asked a young Axl Rose, "Do you know where you are? You're in the jungle, baby. You're gonna die!" Cue up this eternal rock gem to harness your fight or flight instinct during your next sweat session.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Welcome to the Jungle on Amazon

24

“Hypnotize” by the White Stripes

The Stripes have plenty of back-to-basics rippers, but halfway through this economical, under-two-minute song from 2003, Meg cuts out, and Jack stomps on his fuzz pedal for an as-simple-as-it-gets “solo.” When the drummer comes back in and the two link up for the chorus again it’s epically energizing. If this doesn’t get your heart rate up and make you want to push yourself past your limit, we don’t know what will.—Tim Lowery

Buy Hypnotize on Amazon

23

“Kiss Off” by Violent Femmes

Granted, it’s hard to imagine the Violent Femmes’ anxious-sounding lead singer, Gordon Gano, setting foot in a gym. But “Kiss Off,” from the folk-punk-garage band’s classic 1983 debut album, taps into the violent side of the band’s quasi-oxymoronic name. Written while Gano was a teenager, it vibrates with adolescent, something-to-prove resentment—which can sometimes be just what the trainer ordered.—Adam Feldman

Buy Kiss Off on Amazon

22

“Uncontrollable Urge” by Devo

This is another song with the ability to physically propel you forward, but the only danger of this track from 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is that its insane, scatterbrained energy will make you want to try and do ten things at once—not a good tactic at the gym.—Nick Leftley

Buy Uncontrollable Urge on Amazon

21

“Gamma Ray” by Beck

Ironically, Beck crafted one of his upbeat numbers of the last decade while he was practically an invalid. Recently, the chameleonic songwriter revealed he suffered through most of the aughts with a spinal injury. Onstage he was uncharacteristically still. He confessed he could hardly play his guitar. Still, his palm-muted riffing on this 2008 single was invigorated by a Merseybeat shuffle. Today, fortunately, he's back to his break-dancing ways, even if the pumped-up "Gamma Ray" is better suited to the twist.—Brent DiCrescenzo

Buy Gamma Ray on Amazon

Best workout songs: 20–11

20

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé

There’s no better workout inspiration than Beyoncé; end of discussion. Every treadmill in the world should come with her photo Scotch-taped to its digital display. And few songs capture Queen Bey at the height of her powers as well as 2008’s "Single Ladies." By the end of the track, you’ll slip into hand-clap-induced hypnosis and barely notice that you’ve cleared an extra half mile. Even outside of the gym this tune is a portable cardio routine—can anyone fight the urge to do the signature “Single Ladies” bend-and-snap dance whenever the song comes on? We definitely can’t. —Gabrielle Bruney

Buy Single Ladies on Amazon

19

“Hey Ya!” by Outkast

“Shake it like a Polaroid picture,” urges André 3000 in his epically funky booty-mover from OutKast’s 2003 double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and who are you to tell the man no? What makes “Hey Ya” so enduringly popular—the Song of the Millennium, even, according to voters in Grantland’s 2013 bracket battle—is not just how catchy it is, but how unpredictable it is, even after countless listens; the shifts of time signature practically force you to spaz out. Channel that impulse into your workout: Shake, shake it, and see what develops.—Adam Feldman

Buy Hey Ya! on Amazon

18

“Partition” by Beyonce

Consisting of two sections, "Yonce" and "Partition," the third single from Beyonce's eponymous fifth studio album is essentially the pop-R&B queen's persona in song form: one part swagger and one part sex—things that, let's be honest, are not entirely unrelated to the motivations behind going in the gym in the first place.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Partition on Amazon

17

“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift's upbeat megahit "Shake It Off" did more than just tell the haters of the world to kindly kiss off, it completed Swift's metamorphosis from country darling to pop superstar. What better way to soundtrack your own transformation into a stronger, healthier you?—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Shake It Off on Amazon

16

“Ni**as in Paris” by Jay Z + Kanye West

Stadium rap at its finest, "Ni**as in Paris" is designed to put you all the way in the red. Just try to call it quits with Kanye screaming "HAH" (or “HUH” or “HEH” or whatever) in your ear. Here's a question, what muscle does ceaselessly pumping your elbows build? There's one way to find out: Play this song on repeat. That shit cray. —Kristen Zwicker

Buy Ni**as in Paris on Amazon

15

“Dancing on My Own” by Robyn

The Swedish pop star makes music to get your system pumping, hence the title of her awesome Body Talk series. She targets one muscle in particular though—your heart—and 2010's “Dancing on My Own” makes you feel simultaneously desperate and defiant. Work those complicated emotions out, yo!—Sophie Harris

Buy Dancing on My Own on Amazon

14

“Hideaway” by Kiesza

We recommend putting on Kiesza's electropop ode to '90s house and hitting the streets to create your own interpretation of the song's viral video, which features a long take of the Canadian ballet-dancer-turned-pop-songstress twirling, shimmying, and gyrating through Williamsburg. Sure, your version might be more akin to Prancercising, but whatever, calories are calories.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Hideaway on Amazon

13

“Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason Derulo

"You know the words to my songs / No habla inglés / Our conversations ain't long / But you know what is." Listen, you don't go to the gym to think. You go to raise your heartbeat, and this heaving, horn-infused beat will help you do it.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Talk Dirty to Me on Amazon

12

“Roadrunner” by the Modern Lovers

Jonathan Richman's 1972 ode to cruising the highways of Massachusetts is also a great way to cruise through four minutes of workout time. The two-chord jaunt is actually the perfect marker for a leisurely half mile. In the future, it's possible—recommended, even—that the mile (or the kilometer for our metric-measuring brethren) will be replaced with the "Roadrunner" as a unit of measure. Go off now and get in a few roadrunners before dinner.—Andrew Frisicano

Buy Roadrunner on Amazon

11

“Need You Now” by Cut Copy

Cut Copy may not be the first band you think of when it's time to break a sweat, but "Need You Now" is essentially the sonic version of a runner's high. Hell, Dan Whitford repeatedly wails, "I know we're running baby / But I need you now." From the opening chugging synth to the tune's extended euphoric climax, this song is made to get you across the finish line.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Need You Now Amazon

Best workout songs: The top 10

10

“Hard to Explain” by the Strokes

Fabrizio Moretti is the greatest Spin instructor in rock & roll. By name alone, the metronomic Strokes drummer even sounds like a Tour de France racer. The perfect Is This It track might immediately bring to mind cigarettes, denim and booze, but Fab's inhumanly locked rhythms help make the debut an optimal exercise regime anthem. The 160 bpm beat (coincidentally, a great target heart rate for the average 30-year-old) of "Hard to Explain" keeps your legs pumping the cycle at a brisk 22 mph pace. That brilliant pause comes in at two minutes, giving you a chance to catch your breath before hammering the pedals for the closing burn.—Brent DiCrescenzo

Buy Hard to Explain on Amazon

9

“Times Like These” by Foo Fighters

Some work out to get fit, others do it because they have a bubbling volcano of fury to get out of their system, post-breakup/post-horrible-thing-happened-at-work/post-dammit-I-just-stepped-in-gum. Whatever your motivation for hitting the track, there are few songs more perfectly designed and executed than the Foo’s 2002 anthem to channel your fiery feelings into raw energy and, dare we say it, joy. “It’s times like these, you learn to live again” sings rock’s great reassurer, Dave Grohl. If you say so, Dave.—Sophie Harris

Buy Times Like These on Amazon

8

“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory

One YouTube commentator nails it: “Modern dance songs are bland by comparison.” You tell ‘em! He has a point though. The funky drummerish beat, the plinky cowbell, the manic scream of its singer (was she really singing though? This is 1990, just a year after the Milli Vanilli scandal broke). This song says one thing: EVERYBODY DANCE NOW. And it says it well.—Sophie Harris

Buy Gonna Make You Sweat on Amazon

7

“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa

Tell us you don’t remember dancing to this as a kid, and we won’t believe you. Admit you didn’t know what a “fly mother” was, and we will. Either way, it’s physically impossible to listen to this 1988 hit and stay still—we recommend Salt-N-Pepa’s gymtastic dance routine as your calorie-burning mode of self-expression for this one.—Sophie Harris

Buy Push It on Amazon

6

“Body Movin' (Fatboy Slim remix)” by the Beastie Boys

With all their mock informercials and retro video homages, it's a wonder the Beasties never made an all-out exercise video. Still, this aerobic remix from 1998's Hello Nasty was a rare case of the trio allowing a populist producer to rework a song for purely commercial reasons. And work it did. Fatboy Slim amped-up wah-wah guitars and scratching, and flared out the bottom end with funk. It was the closest thing to outright boogie the New Yorkers had released since "Hello Ladies." There are kitschy samples from Ed Durlacher's Modern Dynamic Physical Fitness Activities, and MCA lets it be known that even "when it comes to quarries I'm known to swim."—Brent DiCrescenzo

Buy Body Movin' (Fatboy Slim remix) on Amazon

5

“Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior

Despite the brooding murder dramas, perpetual damp and considerable hot-dog consumption, Denmark has been ranked the second-happiest country on the planet three years running by Forbes. (Okay, perhaps the hot dogs help.) Then again, Junior Senior's 2003 tune jam-packs enough uncut joy to counterbalance the millions of Jo Nesbø's nihilist noirs flooding bookshelves. With a bassline like intravenous Red Bull and smile-widening horns, the disco shuffle of this giddy-dumb one-hit wonder could make Søren Kierkegaard strip naked and do jumping jacks.—Brent DiCrescenzo

Buy Move Your Feet on Amazon

4

“Pump up the Jam” by Technotronic

Belgian outfit Technotronic's triple-platinum international smash remains one of the most recognizable—not to mention frenzy-inducing—dance tunes. With its relentless beat and driving bassline, we guarantee the jam isn't the only thing that's going to get pumped up.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy Pump Up the Jam on Amazon

3

“Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” by Michael Jackson

Even before his King of Pop days, M.J.’s dance-floor decrees were irresistible. Throw this 1978 disco burner on the iPod, and you’ll find yourself obeying the dearly departed icon’s every command: “Let's dance!” Roger. “Let's shout!” You got it. “Shake your body down to the ground!” Yes, master.—Hank Shteamer

Buy Shake Your Body on Amazon

2

“One More Time/Aerodynamic” by Daft Punk

The melding of Daft Punk’s anthemic smash hit “One More Time” with the funky, instrumental “Aerodynamic” in 2007 is simply genius, creating a euphoric, powerfully building (fl)ab burner. We can even imagine the helmet-wearing robots of Daft Punk working out to this song in their LED-plated suits.—Marley Lynch

Buy One More Time/Aerodynamic on Amazon

1

“212” by Azealia Banks

Banks may be known as much for her constant feuds as for her music—but no one can deny that her 2011 debut single was one of the hottest club tracks in recent memory. You don't need to be on the dance floor to appreciate Ms. Bank's breakout hit: Just when you think you've reached your limit, count on her combative, relentless flow to help you tap into your inner fierceness.—Kristen Zwicker

Buy 212 on Amazon

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Comments

5 comments
Jt H
Jt H

Such a terrible list. God awful. Where's the Metallica at least? Or metal? Rock? Anything other than this crap!

Elfreda T
Elfreda T

Deleting someone's comment just because they don't like your playlist isnt very mature.

Elfreda T
Elfreda T

Whilst many of these are truly great songs they are TERRIBLE for the gym. What kind of workout do you guys do???

Canuck_in_OP
Canuck_in_OP

"Lust for Life", by Iggy Pop.  That's one to get you moving!!