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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, fitness professional, or certified to give fitness advice in any way. I am also not a professional music critic.
I remember in early 2013, when I joined a gym for the first time, I began to time my workout by keeping track of how many times "Gangnam Style" by PSY played since I had arrived at the gym. Hear "Gangnam Style" three times and it’s time to wrap up for the day. The music at that gym was mostly EDM. Songs were either remixes of Top 40 hits or D.J driven music that was usually accompanied by a popular singer like Rihanna. The song that sticks out most in my mind from my first year at the gym is "Clarity" by Zedd. Truth be told, I noticed that if I was on a treadmill when "Clarity" came on, I would begin to run faster, but I sure wasn’t happy about it. I think I was trying to run away from the song. I would ask about changing the music but was always told that the choice of satellite station was mandated by the gym owner. I soon started bringing headphones to the gym.
It’s now over four years and one huge relocation later. I was stretching before my workout today (one of the few moments when I’ll take my headphones off while I’m there) and I could not help but to quietly disapprove of the music selection. The playlist at my new workout location consists of the same tired EDM and early 2000s hits. I am fully aware that I hold quite a few unpopular opinions regarding music, but I must stop to ask, “Does anyone actually listen to this shit?” If the number of people in the gym with me that were also wearing headphones is any indication, I’d say not. However, a quick YouTube search for “workout music” will reveal hundreds of videos of remixes and D.J heavy, hour long tracks, self proclaimed to be perfect workout motivation. Even videos with titles like “Workout Rock Music-Metal 2017 Rock Mix” turn out to just be remixes of boring songs you’ve heard hundreds of times. Even worse, most of these videos have several million views.
I get most of my best brainstorming and planning while I’m lifting weights (I wrote the mental first draft of this article today while doing Lat Pull Downs), so I must ask the fitness community, “don’t you want something more stimulating from your workout music? Don’t you deserve more substance from your motivation mix?” If so, below is my personal 60 minute Workout Mix. I’ll even include, in this article, a list of the songs, a brief description of how they get you pumped, and an exercise that goes well with each tune for a 60 minute, full body workout. Try it out and tell me if this slightly eclectic collection works better for you than your standard EDM gym playlist.
- "Superman" by John Williams—I sometimes listen to this song as I’m getting out of bed. John Williams's iconic theme for Superman the movie is all the motivation one needs to get something started. Put it on when you’re getting ready in the morning or driving to work and you’ll feel like you’re about to have the most important day of your life. Whatever your warmup routine is, stretching, light cardio or just mentally preparing, do it while listening to this song for unparalleled motivation.
- "Boat Paddle" by Iwrestledabareonce– This song always gets me pumped. The mix of clean melodic vocals with growling screams set against that heavy and steady downbeat is perfect for barbell bench presses. Laying on a bench push the barbell upwards until your arms are extended, not allowing the elbows to lock. Then lower the weight to chest level. Do 3 sets of (10/8/6)reps, increasing the weight after each set. Use the beat of this song to keep your reps steady.
- "Injection" by Rise Against—The quick pace of this song can keep you engaged while doing slower, more tedious exercises, like using the Leg Extension machine. Set weight and place shins against the pad. Raise feet to knee level and slowly lower for a quadricep workout. Three sets of (20/16/12) reps, increasing weight after each rep.
- "Rise Above" by Black Flag—This fast paced hardcore punk classic will motivate you through whatever exercise you may be having trouble with. Personally, due to my back issues, I’ve always had trouble with deadlifts. Lift a loaded barbell off the ground to the level of the hips, then slowly lower back to the ground. Muscles of the back and core stay tense throughout. One rep at a time until failure.
- "Igniter" by Butcher Babies—I love everything about this band. Truthfully this list could be all Butcher Babies songs. The fast, heavy hitting song "Igniter" is great for Dumbbell Pullovers. Laying on a bench, hold the dumbbell overhead with both hands. Slowly extend arms back and then return to overhead position. Three sets of ten reps. Carla Harvey is bae.
- "Testify" by Rage Against the Machine—Flashback to this late 90s political anthem and let the rage over the Bush administration’s war crimes fuel you. Tom Morello’s funky riff pairs well with Bent Over Rows. This exercise is performed with one knee and one hand on the same side of the body braced on a bench with the back straight and parallel to the ground, and the other hand holding a weight with the arm extended. Lift the weight towards the hip until elbow bends past 90 degrees and then lower to the original position. Three sets of (10/8/6) reps on each side.
- "Back In the Mud" by Bubba Sparxxx—I know that this song is good for sports because they play sports ball in the music video. This song's unrelenting melody knows no chill. Couple that with inspirational lyrics about achieving your goals and you have the soundtrack to the Dumbbell Shoulder Press. Sit at a bench with back support, and bring the dumbbells to shoulder height. With your palms facing away from you, push the dumbbells upward until they touch at the top. After a pause, lower back down to starting position. Do three sets of (10/8/6) reps, increasing weight after each set. Do you notice a pattern?
- "Aisle" by The Bunny and the Bear—Even if you don’t like hardcore, I guarantee you’ll be bobbing your head by the time this song reaches its last chorus. It’s a great tune to bust out some Barbell Bicep Curls to. Hold a Barbell in front of you, elbows bent to 90 degrees, then bring the bar up to your neck to perform a rep. Use my usual three set pattern.
- "DissDissDissKissKissKiss" by Riverboat Gamblers—This song is pure adrenaline; adrenaline you need to power through Tricep Extensions. I prefer to do these at the tricep extension machine, just set the weight and push the handles forward, keeping your arms straightened and flat against the pad. Same three set pattern.
- "Devotion" and Desire by Bayside—Post Punk at its finest. The choppy guitar along with Anthony Raneri’s emotional vocal performance will encourage you through some Seated Cable Rows while reminding you of your ex. Seated at the row machine, pull the handles towards you while keeping your arms close to your sides. Slowly return to the original position. Repeat until failure.
- "The Cleansing" by Butcher Babies—They’re baaaaaaack. This one is so fucking metal! This is the only song metal enough to do Power Squats to. Preform with a weighted bar braced against your upper back. The movement is initiated by moving the hips back and bending the knees and hips to lower the torso and accompanying weight, then returning to the upright position. Three sets of three reps.
- "B.O.B." by Outkast—True to it’s namesake, "Bomb’s Over Baghdad" doesn’t stop to breathe. It spends its full four minutes going as hard as it can and it’ll make you do the same, so use it for some Dips! Start by holding yourself up at a dip bar, hands directly under shoulders, then lower your body until arms are at a 90 degree angle, then press back up to the starting position. Repeat until failure.
- "Suck My Kiss" by Red Hot Chili Peppers—YOUR WORKOUT NEEDS BASS THIS FRESH! Let this funky flow guide your Dumbbell Bench Press. It’s exactly the same as the Barbell bench press but with dumbbells.
- "Silent" by Radioactivity—This two minute, post-modern punk masterpiece will keep your batteries pumping even close to the end of your workout. From the moment that infectious guitar riff starts, it makes you need to move! Perfect time to bust out some Lat Pulldowns. Simply have a seat at the Lat Pulldown machine, grab the bar at shoulder width, and bring the bar to your chest, pulling your shoulder blades down and back. Use the three set pattern.
- "Guerrilla Radio" by Rage Against the Machine—TURN THIS SHIT UP! If the beat of this song doesn’t get you pumped up, the politically charged lyrics will. ALL HELL CAN’T STOP YOU NOW, so finish up with some Hammer Curls. Hold a dumbbell as you would a hammer and curl it up to your chest using the three set pattern.
- "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti—Now it’s time to cool down. Whether you finish up with some cardio, stretches, or just check out your hard work in the mirror, this (the theme from Rocky) is your song of victory and determination.