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Three sets, 12 reps, 10 songs: How to craft the perfect workout playlist

Music is as much a part of gyms as are the weight machines
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AMBER NGUYEN/THE VARSITY
AMBER NGUYEN/THE VARSITY

Gym memberships  — the Honda Civics of new year resolutions — are a coveted commodity in the twenty-first century. Although everyone works out with different goals in mind, it is safe to say that achieving those goals isn’t always easy. Working out requires time, energy, and accountability, a trifecta which is immensely hard to attain. 

However, people often find ways to make the whole process easier. Music is one such aid that can make exercising not feel like an insurmountable task. 

Music is as much a part of gyms as the weight machines, the water fountains, and the vending machines that contain ‘healthy snacks,’ which are placed almost as if the establishment isn’t neighboured by a Wendy’s and a Taco Bell. A commonality found in people who work out regularly is the fact that a majority of them don vibrant ear- or headgear to listen to music while working out. 

So, the question that arises is this: how do you create the perfect workout playlist that is vibey enough to ensure that you are enjoying yourself, while also being hype enough to double as the metaphorical spotter helping you through that almost impossible last rep? Don’t sweat, because The Varsity has compiled some advice for you to construct that perfect workout playlist. 

Know your vibe  

Primarily, you should focus on the artists and genres that you know, like, and appreciate. Discovering new music is indeed a beautiful feeling, but it does not feel the same when you are exerting immense physical force. Listening to music that you aren’t entirely sure you’ll like while working out can also result in headaches or fatigue before you hit your maximum potential. Therefore, the first order of business in making the perfect workout playlist is to figure out what kind of music you can happily listen to over a long period of time.

Beats per minute 

Creating a workout playlist involves a lot of factors, one important one being that the songs should complement each other. You want to reduce the number of ‘skippable’ songs to a minimum to ensure your focus is on working out and not constantly changing the songs. 

If you are aware of the type of workout you are going to engage in, it is advisable to create a playlist that corresponds to the intensity of the workout. For instance, for heavy lifting exercises, you would want songs with a faster tempo to ensure your mind is constantly stimulated and your body can move to the beat. Although The Beatles arguably have the best discography ever, dead lifting to “With a Little Help from My Friends” would not help you get through your sets. Similarly, engaging in yoga or pilates while blasting “Sicko Mode” could be a major obstacle to your focus. 

Create an experience

Engaging in the exercise is just one part of working out. People tend to overlook the preceding and succeeding activities, like the determination that it takes to leave one’s house  — which is even harder in the cold — sticking to your routine in uncertain times, and finding the energy to carry on after an exhausting set. 

Music can help overcome these feelings; not only can one use high-tempo songs to aid the workout but you can also sprinkle in a handful of songs with motivational lyrics that would urge you to take that step toward a healthier lifestyle. These could include songs from artists like J. Cole, Dave, or Eminem. Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” also does wonders in motivating you to go and get it. 

If you’re reading this, turn to Drake

Billboard’s Artist of the Decade has an unbelievable range in his discography. Drake has everything in his arsenal, from lyrical rap to soulful R&B to chart-toppers. The man has done it all —  which is why his music can prove to be the solution in any given scenario. Over the years, the 6ix God has released many songs which are perfect to hype you up and supply you with instant energy to continue your workout. Some notable ones are “Jumpman,” “What’s Next,” “Nice for What,” and “Energy.” 

10-song playlist

Here is a quick 10-song workout playlist for high-intensity workouts to get you started. 

  1. “Family Ties” by Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar
  2. Thiago Silva” by Dave and AJ Tracey 
  3. Levitating” by Dua Lipa 
  4. “Goat” by Diljit Dosanjh 
  5. “Going Bad” by Meek Mill ft. Drake
  6. “Rockstar” by Post Malone ft. 21 Savage
  7. “Lucid Dreams” by Juice WRLD
  8. “CAMALEÓN” by Belén Aguilera 
  9. “Immortal” by J. Cole 
  10. “Power” by Kanye West