Workout Music header

Key Takeaways

•  Lady Gaga is the most popular workout artist.
•  YouTube is the most popular way to listen to workout music.
•  Respondents who listen to hip-hop/rap while exercising have the most intense workouts.
•  Respondents listening to music while working out are more likely to work out regularly and feel more motivated.
•  Pilates is the most common type of workout for which people use music.

Even those of us that exercise regularly can relate to the feeling of just not wanting to work out. We power through or instead make excuses until we have talked ourselves out of it. Of course, bloggers and magazines tout plenty of workout tips and tricks, but there’s often no real data behind the suggestions; so we took matters into our own hands. Especially with at-home workouts on the rise and a do-it-yourself approach, we need all the help we can get.

We realized that the one tried-and-true method of motivating exercise –music –has yet to be explored sufficiently, particularly from a people-first perspective. We surveyed more than 1,000 of these people across the country, all of whom had exercised recently. We asked them about the artists, genres, and factors that helped them find motivation and even crossed that information against their preferred types of workouts. What we found were that certain genres and artists actually motivated particular workouts more than others, while a different music choice could actually help increase the intensity. If you’re looking for motivation or just to shake things up in your existing workout routines, you’ll want to keep reading.

What’s the Most Popular Music for Workouts?

Top 6 Workout Music Genres

Genre Percentage Listening During Workouts
Pop 53.4%
Hip-Hop/Rap 48.6%
Classic Rock 46.3%
Alternative 30.4%
Electronic Dance Music 29.2%
Heavy Metal 24.0%

Pop music, short for popular music, stood true to its name, as it was the country’s most popular genre for working out. Fifty-three percent of respondents said they listen to pop during a workout, followed by the 48.6% who listened to hip-hop/rap while exercising. Classic rock, a genre that originated in the U.S, ended up ranking third in the country when it came to music specifically for working out. And fewer than a third of respondents chose to listen to either alternative, EDM, or heavy metal while they were exercising. That said, all genres had their benefits as we later discovered. Simply keep reading to find out what these were.

Listened to music every time they worked out

Regardless of genre, music wasn’t something often forwent. Forty-one percent of respondents told us they listened to music every single time they worked out. Pop again appeared to be the great unifier, as lifting weights and Pilates (two workouts often affiliated with polarizing gender norms) both leaned on pop music most heavily. Perhaps the shared interest in workout music suggests an additional shared interest in these types of workouts. After all, Pilates and weightlifting are helpful for both men and women.

The fastest mile times, however, came from the heavy metal fans. These listeners were the most likely to run a sub-seven-minute mile, although they tended to prefer weightlifting to running. As opposed to this seven-minute burst, the longest average workouts were clocked by punk rock listeners. Their sweat sessions lasted 53 minutes –longer than any other genre’s fan base.

Most Popular Artists for Workouts

When it came to specific genres, respondents defaulted to certain artists to motivate their workouts. In this section, we’ll explore the most popular artists for working out between different music genres.


   1. Lady Gaga

   2. Michael Jackson

   3. Bruno Mars


   1. The Weeknd

   2. Lil Wayne

   3. Eminem

Classic Rock

   1. Queen

   2. AC/DC

   3. Aerosmith


   1. Red Hot Chili Peppers

   2. Linkin Park

   3. Nirvana


   1. The Chainsmokers

   2. Calvin Harris

   3. David Guetta

Heavy Metal

   1. Metallica

   2. KISS

   3. Slipknot

Specifically for workouts, Lady Gaga was the most popular pop artist we studied. She was the soundtrack for pop music workouts more often than any other singer, followed closely by Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. EDM, which first became known in the mid ’80s, was also highly likely to encourage listening of modern artists who are still actively producing music, like The Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, and David Guetta. Older artists who reached the height of their fame in the past were more popular for those who listened to heavy metal, alternative, and classic rock. Within these categories, Metallica, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Queen were the most popular, respectively.

Most Desired Elements in Workout Music

Beyond genre, we wanted to know what it was specifically that respondents were looking for in their workout music. Above all else, they told us they wanted fast-paced beats. Nearly three-quarters of respondents answered this way, while only 12% said they preferred something calming. The lyrics were important as well and had to be motivational for 40.8% of people. Male voices were slightly more popular than female voices for exercise, but not by much. Explicit lyrics and screaming were also relatively unpopular, with only 14.7% and 13.3% wanting this in the background while exercising, respectively.

The results here also correlated with an increase in workout performance:

  • 64% agreed that music elevates their mood for a workout.
  • 28% felt their workouts also became more intense within that same period of time.
  • More than a third agreed that listening to music helped them work out for longer periods of time.

Music’s Impact on Setting Personal Records

While longer and harder workouts may be two key components for measuring your own success, there’s one more metric we wanted to dig into: personal records. We first found that those who listened to music while working out were 45 percentage points more likely to set a personal record than those who opted against music. But were any artists or genres in particular linked with someone beating their own best-ever performance? As it turns out, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Breaking personal records

Hip-hop/rap was the most common soundtrack among those who said they had set a personal record within the past three months. In reflecting on this, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” comes to mind as does DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.” Perhaps the hip-hop/rap song that truly boosted those personal records, however, was “Started From the Bottom,” by Drake, as he was the No. 1 rapper to correlate with setting personal bests. The artist himself has also gone on record saying that in spite of his success, he’s always driven to “want more,” indicating a natural affinity for personal records beyond the gym.

Musically Motivated

The next portion of our study helped us better understand why hip-hop/rap may have correlated with personal records so often: It was the music choice that led to the most intense workouts. Of those who considered their workouts to be intense, very intense, or even extremely intense, hip-hop/rap was their most common choice of music. Pop was a full 11 percentage points less likely to support this intensity, although it still beat genres like indie rock and country by a landslide.

Exercise Enthusiasm

Nevertheless, intensity isn’t always the goal, nor should it beForty-seven percent said they rely on different types of music for different types of workouts. For those who just needed motivation to move their bodies in some way (not necessarily intensely), pop and classic rock were the top two choices. Punk and country again proved unpopular here.

How Do People Listen to Music While Working Out?

Our study took a final look at the method to the madness, or the method to the motivation. Most often, respondents found workout music via YouTube (46%) and Spotify (40.9%). Even though Spotify is a company explicitly designed for music, YouTube offers some clear perks. After all, YouTube is generally free and offers a treasure trove of workout videos accompanied by their own background music. Moreover, these types of videos have become a life raft in the middle of 2020’s pandemic, wherein gyms across the country were shut and at-home workouts became the new normal. Apple Music was the choice for only 24.4% of people surveyed.

Listening Modalities

Personally-curated playlists were also the primary method of listening, as opposed to following a playlist made by the gym or other users. People mostly wanted music that would personally pump them up, and some people even wanted their music to make them emotional. Evidently, a personalized playlist is the way to do this. Only 14.5% chose music they wouldn’t otherwise listen to.

Keeping Up the Good Work

The data certainly revealed some encouraging statistics for those looking to work out. Listening can actually help you work out harder, longer, and better. Certain genres and artists actually better motivated people, while others upped the intensity. And if you’re looking to set a new personal record, you might want to try some of the artists that helped others. Essentially, you can think of music as your new weightless piece of workout equipment, wherever you may be exercising.

Helping others enjoy successful workouts is our absolute number one priority at FitRated. Whether that be by digging into information like this or showcasing customer feedback, at FitRated we are dedicated to helping you find the right equipment for you and your goals. If you’re interested in the absolute best workout equipment for your needs, head to FitRated today to get started.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,000 people about their music preferences and physical performance. To qualify for this survey, respondents were required to participate in weekly exercise. Forty-seven percent of the sampling were women, 52.3% were men, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 78 with an average of 37 and standard deviation of 13 years. An attention-check question was used to filter out respondents who failed to fully read questions. The main limitation of this study was the reliance of self-report which is faced with issues such as attribution, exaggeration, telescoping, recency bias, and more. An earnest effort was made to minimize bias throughout the survey.

Fair Use Statement

Motivation isn’t always easy to find. If you or someone you know could get a little extra boost from the data in this article, feel free to share! Just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page to provide proper credit.