We’ve all been there. You’re hitting the wall or struggling to squeeze out the last rep when suddenly that song comes on and you can do anything. But it’s not just you: research has shown that the right music can help reduce fatigue, increase heart rate, and make a workout feel less challenging. Although there are still many unanswered questions about how this works, it’s clear that music can be a motivator. So when the going gets rough during your next workout, some new tunes might help.
From the Velvet Underground to Janelle Monae, we’ve rounded up some of Outside editors’ favorite workout songs to help you out.
“Loser,” by Beck
This track’s hip-hop beat, sitar riffs, and rolling stoner-rap lyrics are glorious when it’s time to kick my vinyasa into warrior flow.
—Aleta Burchyski, associate managing editor
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” by Whitney Houston
If you don’t already believe that this is the absolute best song and the only one that should be played during life’s seminal moments (and every single run), I don’t know what to tell you. But I will give you some hints that the universe agrees with me. Athletic luminaries love Whitney Houston, most notably Michael Jordan. An informal poll by me indicates that about 70 percent of people would choose it as their first wedding-dance song; 100 percent of people lose their minds when it is the first wedding-dance song; and Meghan Markle herself chose it as her first wedding-dance song. Also, it started playing exactly as I reached mile 13 during the Chicago Marathon in 2017, whereupon I burst into tears and picked up the pace.
—Erin Berger, senior editor
“Radio,” by Sylvan Esso
Between the pulsing synths, courtesy of producer Nick Sanborn, and singer Amelia Meath’s sassy lyrics, I can’t not move when I hear this dancey single from the North Carolina duo’s sophomore album—even if my body’s ready to quit.
—Ali Van Houten, editorial fellow
“7 Rings,” by Ariana Grande
Grande’s consistent chanting of “I want it, I got it” gives me a new lease on energy during the hardest sets and reminds me why I’m at the gym suffering through sumo squats in the first place. It’s best for slow-but-steady reps of your least favorite exercise, i.e., weighted walking lunges on the sliver of space behind the treadmills in Planet Fitness.
—Jenny Earnest, audience development director
“Good as Hell,” by Lizzo
This song’s first verse starts with Lizzo singing, Woo child, tired of the bullshit / Go on dust your shoulders off, keep it moving, and I can tell you two things about hearing these lines during a workout: you will yell “woo child” (which can be embarrassing when you have headphones on in a crowded gym), and you will, in fact, keep it moving.
—Ruben Kimmelman, editorial fellow
Find the whole playlist below.