Finding the Right Workout Music

Studio 5 Health and Fitness Expert Melanie Douglass is well known for her selection of music in her fitness classes and says that when you find a good workout song, it’ll feel like a superb manifestation of musical caffeine.

Here’s the thing: most everyday “radio” hit music is too slow for working out because songs often fall into the 80 – 120 bpm range. BPM means “beats per minute”—and the right or wrong bpm can make or break a workout. If you walk to music at 110 beats per minute (too slow) you’ll instinctively work at a slower pace. Conversely, if you use a song at 135 bpm (a good, brisk pace), you can walk, cycle, or strength train to the beat. Literally. Move to the beat… and you’ll find yourself sticking to a steady pace—and innately driven to “keep up” and work at your personal best.

Here’s how to find the right workout music:

1) Look for “workout music”

Workout music takes familiar songs and re-engineers them with steady beats at faster tempos so they are conducive to working harder, faster, and longer.

2) Think Fast.

Effective workout music should fast—in the 130 to 150 workout range. We hear all these conflicting, confusing recommendations: 120 for this, 130 for that, 150 for those. I’m over that! Let’s make it simple. Here’s a little secret: there are really only 2 categories that matter:

• 125 – 135 bpm

o great for walking, moderate cycling or elliptical, and strength training (4 beats per move; i.e. 2 counts up, 2 counts down for a bicep curl)

• 150 – 160 bpm

o great for running, jump roping, or strenuous elliptical, cycling or climbing

If it’s too hard to find different bpms for different activities, think 135!

135 bpm is the catch-all bpm. It works for most activities, and even though you “run” faster than this beat, it still provides the steady, upbeat background you need to work at your best.

3) Start searching for songs by “bpm”

I’ll warn you in advance, it’s arduous to find songs “by bpm” on iTunes or Amazon. You can type “135 bpm” in the search field, and you’ll find “albums” that contain songs in that range, but then you don’t know which song on the album is 135 bpm because “bpm” is not a selectable, viewable field/column in the results window.

YES! Fitness Music does an exceptional job of letting you shop by bpm. The website is clear, 100% easy to use, and the music—specifically engineered for exercise—is outstanding. Visit

You can also download free software to analyze the bpms in your personal music library here: Bpm analyzer

4. Take it from me

I personally enjoy working out to “electro” music. Electro music has distinct electronic sounds, deep, pulsating beats, upbeat tempos, and fewer vocals. Something about this music gives me the determination and drive to focus on my health and push myself harder. I prefer fewer vocals because I don’t like being prompted on what to think about during my workout. My workout is my chance to clear my head and organize my thoughts.

My all-time favorite workout album is: Cutting Edge Dance by YES! Fitness Music. I love, love, love this compilation! It makes me feel strong and unstoppable.

If you prefer radio hit music (chart-topping songs you’ll recognize), here’s a fabulous “mashup” album that really rocks:

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