Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Music can make or break a workout — in more ways than one. “The judicious use of music can bring about measurable and meaningful benefits to human performance, particularly when the beat is synced with work rate,” says Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., professor at Brunel University London. In his book Applying Music in Exercise and Sport (Human Kinetics, August 2016), Karageorghis offers specific songs for various types of goals and workouts. Use this sampling of tracks to create your own playlists.
A solid stretching playlist should serve to help you focus. “This music is not intended to have an ergogenic, or work-enhancing, effect during warm-up and flexibility routines,” Karageorghis says. “Rather, its purpose is to help exercisers prepare physically and mentally for the more vigorous forms of activity that typically follow.”
Core training is generally not done at a fast pace, so use music that has a moderate tempo around 105 to 125 beats per minute. “The tempo should match the expected heart rate when working out asynchronously — i.e., when the music is in the background,” Karageorghis says.
“It is slightly easier to use music in the synchronous mode on the StepMill than it is on the treadmill, particularly if you know the speed at which you are going to be stepping, and can thus select music with the appropriate beats per minute,” Karageorghis says.
“Evidence suggests that the optimal tempo range [for stationary cycling] is between 115 to 145 bpm, depending on intensity,” Karageorghis says.
- Billie Jean, by Michael Jackson (117 bpm; easy pace)
- Wake Me Up, by Avicii (125 bpm; moderate pace)
- Boom Boom Pow, by The Black Eyed Peas (130 bpm; moderately intense pace)
- The Rockafeller Skank, by Fatboy Slim (145 bpm; intense pace)