Get into a solid workout flow and soar past your fitness goals with these helpful workout playlist tips for running, weightlifting, yoga and more.
There is nothing like listening to music on pristine-sounding earbuds during a workout. Get the right song in the queue and you’re suddenly the star of your own Rocky montage: heart pounding, sweat flying and fists pumping in victory at the top of the stairs (literal or metaphorical).
But what exactly makes the best workout mix? While adding songs you like is important, there are specific tips and tricks you can try to elevate your workout routines with music. Here’s how to build your next workout playlist for any sport or activity.
Can Music Help You Work Out?
Short answer: Yes, music can help you work out! There is plenty of research on music’s effects on the human body and mind and influencing your mood is just the start of it. Music can also affect your heart rate, boost your stamina and make physical activity easier and more enjoyable. With that in mind, applying some science to your exercise playlists can help you reach your fitness goals or become an even better athlete.
Can Spotify Make a Workout Playlist for Me?
Spotify can curate a playlist for you via their Soundtrack Your Workout feature, but in our humble opinion, it's always best to create your own playlists. Working out and getting fit is a personal journey after all, so you should be the one to curate that perfect soundtrack!
What Genre of Music is Best for Working Out?
Music comes in all styles and ultimately whatever gets you moving or elevates your mood is the best choice for your workouts. Genres with upbeat, driving tempos - drum and bass, punk, hip-hop, etc. - generally make for more effective workout mixes, which is why you hear those pretty often in gyms. But if country, classical or any other genre is more your speed, then add those to the list.
BPM is the Key
No matter what songs, artists, or genres you like, the most important factor behind a good workout mix is BPM, or beats per minute. Just like dancing to your favorite song, working out to the beat feels good and keeps you going. That’s why BPM can help you keep pace yourself or push you to the next level. Basically aim to hit one or two steps, reps or whatever else you’re doing per beat of a song and you’re well on your way to a solid, steady workout.
Gear Your Playlist to the Activity
Your gut reaction might be to fill your playlist with fast and exciting songs, but that won’t necessarily make for an efficient workout mix. Your heart rate and intensity level vary depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, so you should match BPM to the activity for the best results.
In other words, the vibe has to fit—a fast drum-and-bass track perfect for HIIT may not fit for low-impact yoga, for instance.
You’ll probably be able to feel if a certain song is right for your workout, but here are some general BPM ranges by activity for reference (via CNET):
- Low-intensity activities (e.g. pilates, low-impact yoga): 60-90 BPM
- Warm-ups: 100-140 BPM
- Jogging: 120-140 BPM
- Weightlifting and reps: 130-150 BPM
- Running: 150-180 BPM
- Zumba and dance: 150-170 BPM
- High-intensity activities (e.g. CrossFit, HIIT): 140-180+ BPM
An important thing to note about these BPM ranges is that they’re not set in stone. If a certain BPM just feels too fast to be sustainable, then it’s okay to slow down. When it comes to building healthy workout habits, pacing and pushing yourself are equally important.
How to Build a Running Playlist
As mentioned earlier, matching one step per beat is the main thing to remember for running playlists. For long-distance runs, create a playlist that starts with a medium-tempo warmup pace, builds to a full running pace, then slows back down for the cool-down to reflect your natural running trajectory. Only robots, cars or Olympians can maintain a consistent pace for several miles, so make sure your playlist reflects your natural changes in pace.
Here’s a condensed example of what a running playlist might look like:
- “Paper Planes” by MIA (85 BPM)
- “Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers (95 BPM)
- “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk (120 BPM)
- “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers (140 BPM)
- “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani (110 BPM)
- “Hold On” by Alabama Shakes (90 BPM)
How to Make a Yoga Playlist
Yoga is all about slow, meditative movements and getting in touch with your body, so having music with a lower BPM will help set the mood. Working to the tempo is less important here - focus on the vibes. Use this playlist as an opportunity to add more low-key songs:
- “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes (60 BPM)
- “I Need My Girl” by the National (64 BPM)
- “Holocene” by Bon Iver (74 BPM)
- “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele (78 BPM)
- “Gooey” by Glass Animals (90 BPM)
How to Make a Cardio Workout Playlist
Similar to the running playlist, you want to find songs where you can match one rep per 1-2 beats. The difference is that with cardio, conditioning and high-impact activities like HIIT, you want the BPM on your playlist to be generally high with slower tempos scattered throughout for breaks. You can even get creative with your choices and have the song lengths match your intervals - for example. two minutes on with “Fell In Love With a Girl” by the White Stripes, one minute off with “Little Room” by the White Stripes - but that’s more like extra credit.
- “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” by Panic! At the Disco (170 BPM)
- “B.O.B.” by Outkast (150 BPM)
- “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend (170 BPM)
- “Oblivion” by Grimes (156 BPM)
- “Lisztomania” by Phoenix (189 BPM)
- “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift (160 BPM)
These pointers should help you get started on making your own awesome workout playlists. The only way to make these mixes even better is with UE FITS earbuds, which sound great and won’t fall out of your ears even during the most intense workouts. Check them out for yourself here.