It’s never been easier to listen to music while working out. Wireless headphones and online streaming have given exercisers a world of musical possibilities at their fingertips. But what are the best workout songs for an intense gym session?
While everyone has their own personal preference for music that will get their muscles pumping, there are a few qualities that all good workout songs have in common: a great beat, a quick tempo and a catchy, energising hook.
From sugary pop bangers to slick hip-hop hits, we’ve picked what we think are the best workout songs of the last few decades to listen to when hitting the gym.
While you’re reading, listen to our Home Workout playlist here.
Best Workout Songs: 20 Tracks To Help Get You Back In Shape
20: Nelly Furtado: ‘Promiscuous’
When Loose was released in 2006, the album quickly became Canadian pop singer Nelly Furtado’s biggest success to date, and ‘Promiscuous’ her first US No.1 single. Superstar producer Timbaland provides guest vocals as one half of a couple engaged in a seductive back-and-forth. The uptempo, powerfully danceable track also topped the charts in New Zealand, Denmark and Furtado’s home country.
19: Avicii: ‘Wake Me Up’
Swedish DJ Avicii took the world by storm with this uplifting 2013 single, which opened his debut album, True. With rich, sonorous vocals from American soul singer Aloe Blacc, ‘Wake Me Up’ was a No.1 hit in 22 countries. The track’s idiosyncratic mix of house music, dance-pop and folk music helped make it a nightclub staple, and earns it a place among the best workout songs.
18: blink-182: ‘All The Small Things’
Few bands inhabit the specific turn-of-the-century musical landscape as distinctly as blink-182, and their 1999 hit ‘All The Small Things’, from their breakthrough album, Enema Of The State, remains popular to this day. Written by founding member Tom DeLonge (along with singer and bassist Mark Hoppus), the catchy pop-punk anthem features lyrics about his former wife, Jenna Jenkins.
17: Maroon 5: ‘Moves Like Jagger’
The charismatic, sexually-charged dance moves of The Rolling Stones’ frontman, Mick Jagger, inspired the lyrics to this infectious dance-pop hit. Released by California-based pop band Maroon 5, with additional vocals by none other than Christina Aguilara, ‘Moves Like Jagger’ was performed for the first time on TV talent show The Voice in June 2011 and went on to become one of the highest-selling singles of all time. Maroon 5’s 2010 studio album, Hands All Over, was reissued in 2011 to include the track.
16: 50 Cent: ‘In Da Club’
50 Cent’s snappy hip-hop banger appeared on his debut studio album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Featuring effortlessly great production from genre maestro Dr Dre, paired with 50 Cent’s lyrics, ‘In Da Club’ is a timeless track that became the rapper’s first single to peak at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
15: Spice Girls: ‘Wannabe’
Epitomising the concept of “girl power” which came to define the image of English pop sensation Spice Girls, ‘Wannabe’ was the group’s dynamic first single. Topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks, the dance-pop song became the best-selling single by a girl group in history, and remains a perennial favourite for a generation of pop fans.
14: Iggy Azalea: ‘Fancy’
Australian star Iggy Azalea became one of the biggest female rappers of all time following the release of this 2014 single, which features Charli XCX singing the chorus. The track has spawned several prominent cover versions, including those by The Killers, Kasabian and Ed Sheeran. None quite compare to the stylishly produced original, however, which was included on Azalea’s debut album, The New Classic.
13: Miley Cyrus: ‘Party In The USA’
Back when Miley Cyrus released ‘Party In the USA’ (described by the singer as an “all-American” song), she was still best known for her leading role in The Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana. This upbeat, electrically sunny single helped establish Cyrus as a credible popstar in her own right and remains one of her most popular tracks to this day. It even inspired a parody by popular comedy singer “Weird Al” Yankovic, entitled ‘Party In The CIA’.
12. Taio Cruz: ‘Dynamite’
With straightforward, repetitive lyrics (“I came to dance, dance, dance, dance”), the appeal of this best-selling single lies in its emphatic, danceable production, impeccably catchy chorus and slickly Auto-Tuned vocals. Produced by Benny Blanco and Dr Luke, ‘Dynamite’ is credited to five different songwriters – Cruz, singer-songwriter Bonnie McKee, Swedish hitmaker Max Martin, plus its two producers.
11: Backstreet Boys: ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’
After the successful release of their self-titled debut international album, Backstreet Boys announced their return with this uptempo hit. ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ was included on their sophomore record and was penned by the Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Denniz PoP. The track has become a signature tune for Backstreet Boys, who are currently the best-selling boy band of all time.
10: Far East Movement: ‘Like A G6’
Breaking new ground for Asian-American music in the US (they were the first such group to achieve a No.1 hit), Far East Movement teamed up with California-based hip-hop producers The Cataracs and singer Dev for this energising electro-house track. With undeniably simple, repetitive lyrics, the lasting popularity of ‘Like A G6’ hinges on its central riff – a real earworm.
9: Katy Perry: ‘I Kissed A Girl’
The hit 2008 single by Katy Perry sits among the best workout songs thanks to its thumpingly catchy chorus and slick pop production – but there’s more to it than that. The lyrics, which excitedly describe a same-sex romance, are credited with instigating a greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ themes in mainstream pop music. ‘I Kissed A Girl’ paved the way for a generation of contemporary artists to celebrate sexual diversity through song.
8: Gwen Stefani: ‘Hollaback Girl’
Gwen Stefani’s best-selling 2005 single ‘Hollaback Girl’, from her debut solo album, Love.Angel.Music.Baby., is far from your typical pop hit. Mimicking the style of a cheerleader, the track boasts simple production and a memorable, chanted chorus and drum beat. It was written as a retort to comments made by Courtney Love: “I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She’s the cheerleader, and I’m out in the smoker’s shed.”
7: Flo Rida (featuring T-Pain): ‘Low’
Mail On Sunday, the debut album from Florida-based hip-hop artist Flo Rida, contained this breakthrough single, which boasts impressive (Auto-Tuned) vocals from fellow-rapper T-Pain, and crowd-pleasing club hip-hop rhythms. The track, released in 2007, became the most-downloaded single of the 00s, and was later remixed with added contributions from frequent Enrique Iglesias collaborator Pitbull.
6: The Black Eyed Peas: ‘Pump It’
One of the singles from The Black Eyed Peas’ 2005 album, Monkey Business, ‘Pump It’ incorporates the memorable riff from Dick Dale’s 1962 recording of the Ottoman-rooted folk song ‘Misirlou’ (also famously used near the beginning of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 movie, Pulp Fiction). The resulting mash-up, produced by will.i.am, is the perfect soundtrack for high-octane exercise.
5: Lady Gaga: ‘Just Dance’
In just over a decade, Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, has gone from a relative unknown to a fully-fledged pop icon, with nine Grammys, over 27 million album sales and an Academy Award to her name. Her aptly titled debut single, co-written with Akon, gave everyone a taste of what was to come when it was released in 2008, with a contagious dance-pop beat that filled dancefloors the world over.
4: Rihanna: ‘Pon De Replay’
Rihanna’s debut single, ‘Pon De Replay’, was a fresh, fluid mixture of stylistic influences, from reggae to pop and R&B, with elements of dancehall. The singer, who hails from Barbados, included the track on her debut album, Music Of The Sun, which set her on the path to becoming a household name. The title translates to “play it again” in Bajan, one of the official Barbadian languages.
3: Nicki Minaj: ‘Starships’
With ‘Starships’, Nicki Minaj solidified her crossover from underground mixtape star to fully fledged mainstream hitmaker. The irrepressibly catchy track, produced by RedOne, Carl Falk and Rami Yacoub, was included on Minaj’s 2012 album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The accompanying music video was widely acclaimed and sees the rapper partying on a beach, perfectly capturing the song’s free-spirited vibes.
2: Eminem: ‘Lose Yourself’
Written for the Eminem-starring movie 8 Mile, ‘Lose Yourself’ quickly became an anthem, and one of the most successful hip-hop tracks of all time. Its churning, energising beat is elevated by Eminem’s lyrical dexterity – the track is a perfect showcase for the linguistic mastery and potent vocal delivery that earned pop provocateur Marshall Mathers his place in hip-hop history.
1: Kanye West: ‘Stronger’
Kanye West is no bad rapper by any means, but it’s his prowess as an innovating producer that made him the stuff of legend. ‘Stronger’, one of the hit singles included on his third album, Graduation, is a pop masterpiece: a brilliant, pulsating reworking of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’. Its influence on the direction of both pop and hip-hop music in subsequent years cannot be understated – and it’s the perfect motivational song to get your blood and muscles pumping.