Music Pairings for Every Workout

Paul L. Underwood
by Paul L. Underwood
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Music Pairings for Every Workout

For every meal, there’s the right glass of wine. For every workout, there’s the perfect beat. Here then are some recommendations for what to put on your next playlist, no matter what you’re doing in (or out of) the gym.

Pairing Notes: Something aggressive.

Maybe it’s hardcore punk. Maybe it’s Migos. Maybe it’s Dua Lipa. But if and when you feel a pinch of doubt sneaking in, this is the music you need to push you through the final burpee.

Pairing Notes: The key is finding something aggro, but not too fast, so you don’t tire your muscles out before getting all your reps in.

We will never get tired of pumping Kanye’s “POWER” right before hitting the weights. That said, anything loud and a tiny bit slower does the trick. Vintage White Stripes. Run the Jewels. Gary Clark Jr.’s guitar solo-y cover of “Come Together.” Anything Jock Jams-ish. (Bonus track for leg day: ZZ Top’s “Legs,” which, at the very least, should provide a chuckle before or after your workout.)

Pairing Notes: Running is to music pairings what grilled chicken is to wine pairings: You really can’t go wrong, no matter what you pick. One way to keep it interesting is to drill down into certain artists or genres one day and then pick a totally different artist or genre the next time you run.

Think LCD Soundsystem followed by James Brown, or ‘90s techno followed by old-school funk. Throwing in the occasional deep cut — we’ve been known to drop Radiohead’s unusually peppy b-side “Cuttooth” onto our run mixes — literally keeps you on your toes.


Pairing Notes: Ever hear of the sound of silence? (And we don’t mean the Simon & Garfunkel tune.) That said, depending on your class and your surroundings, a little music might be in order. We suggest something upbeat, but not overly intense. Something fun, something that makes you smile, while still encouraging you to push yourself.

Curtis Mayfield’s falsetto-fueled “Move on Up” is a winner if you’re going old-school; pretty much anything newish with Pharrell on it works if you’re going new-school.

Pairing Notes: Give your iPod or Spotify account a break or at least mix it up a bit. There’s so much non-workout music to explore. Cuban jazz. Opera. Vintage soul. Though come to think of it, that last one might be good for a quick feel-good run …

About the Author

Paul L. Underwood
Paul L. Underwood

Paul is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He tweets here, he Instagrams there and he posts the occasional deep thought at He’s probably working on a run mix as you read this.