Beat up your performance with muscle music. You know that music amps your exercise but your running playlist needs to be different to your cycling one. Here’s how to make your iTunes spending earn its keep

Author, Costas Karageorghis is the leading researcher between music and exercise and author of Applying Music in Exercise and Sport.


Muscle music or cardio music? Pick the right beat

Music’s harmony with improved sports performance didn’t kick off with the invention of the Walkman. Instead, ancient Greek and Roman rowers lapped up the benefits of having a beating drum to pound out a rhythm to motivate their efforts forwards.

“For very intense workouts that draw on every sinew in the body, music can certainly be an unwanted distraction beyond preparing mentally for the workout or aiding recovery afterwards,” explains Costas Karageorghis, author of Applying Music in Exercise and Sport. “For lower intensity workouts, such as circuit training, music can be fully integrated and even used to regular the activity.”

Just don’t fall into the trap of using the same playlist for both your weights and cardio sessions. Here’s how to Karageorghis suggests you tailor your playlist to the cadence of your activity so your ears improve every sweat session.


Activity Ideal tempo
Strength based workout 110 – 145bpm
Low intensity running 110 – 150bpm
Moderate intensity running 125 – 134bpm
High intensity running 135 – 150bpm
VersaClimber 110 – 150bpm
Exercise stepper 90 – 120bpm
Stationary cycling (low intensity)
115 – 124bpm
Stationary cycling (moderate intensity)125 – 134bpm
Stationary cycling (high intensity)135 – 145bpm
Elliptical trainer 80 – 120bpm
Rowing (low intensity) 110 – 124bpm
Rowing (moderate intensity) 125 – 134bpm
Rowing (high intensity) 135 – 145bpm



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Websites that offer playlists for exercisers based on your desired beats per minute (bpm)


Spotify’s top workout songs of 2016 (global)

Eminem – “‘Till I Collapse”

Kanye West – “POWER”

Drake – “Jumpman”

The Chainsmokers – “Closer”

Calvin Harris –  “This is What You Came For”

Rihanna – “Work”

Sia – “Cheap Thrills”

The Weeknd – “Starboy”

Beyoncé – “7/11”

David Guetta – “Hey Mama”