First of all, there will be no apologies. Debate? Sure. We can debate all night. But, We’re sorry if you don’t like our picks? Never. This is our list of the 25 greatest songs of all time to get you scowling, growling and heaving iron. We surveyed former and current pro bodybuilders, we collected hundreds of staff picks, and then we made difficult choices - all so we could say without hesitation: Here are the best training songs. Ever. Songs that shoot a visceral rush through your veins. Songs that drive you outside for parking-lot lunges in the cold. Songs that have you screaming like a crazed beast as you make the squat rack your indentured servant. Find these songs. Listen to them. But most important: Play them loud.
“Iron Man,” Black Sabbath
What better song for your iron dungeon? When you need to lift like a madman, tap into the tune that defined heavy metal. It might make you as deranged as former Sabbath member Ozzy Osbourne, but if it helps you go that extra rep, rock on.
“Instant Karma!” (We All Shine On), John Lennon
This is a great get-off-your-duff song. Produced by Phil Spector and featuring George Harrison on guitar, it was recorded the same day it was written and released 10 days later. It’ll make you move quickly, too.
“Piece of My Heart,” Janis Joplin
It’s the only entry from a female to make our list (not including LL Cool J’s mama), but Lilith Fair this ain’t. Janis goes for passion over pitch as she orders listeners to take it. So what are you waiting for? Take the damn thing.
“Time 4 Sum Aksion,” Redman
Mike Tyson abetted this song’s badass cred when he played it while stepping into the ring for his first fight after serving time. Redman’s booming beats and out-of-control lyrics get you seriously hyped to conquer things far more imposing than Peter McNeeley.
“Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin
“Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move/Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” Page’s immortal riffs, Plant’s ungodly vocals and Bonham’s God of Thunder drumming combine to have you pumping iron like a berserk Viking.
“Rip This Joint,” The Rolling Stones
Though Jagger’s face resembles Dorian Gray on the downhill, he’s still got the body of a cardio fiend. Songs like this are why. This short (2:22), feverish ditty puts you in the mood for an intense performance, be it on the treadmill or the Smith machine.
“Droppin’ Plates,” Disturbed
They’re talking about music as a weapon, and that’s what we’re talking about, too (one of mass construction, of course). This thing has rage by the boatload, not to mention possibly the most weight-lifting-appropriate title of the whole lot.
“The Ride of the Val-kyries,” Richard Wagner
This thunderous composition plays a big role in a little movie called Apocalypse Now. Load it and set the volume to ear-shattering. You’ll either give yourself a heart attack or attain a personal best.
Walk… as in through a brick wall. This locker-room favorite about a back-stabbing friend is guaranteed to hit a nerve, listen after teeth-grinding listen. On days when you’re struggling to get your mean on, don’t run - “Walk.”
“So What’cha Want,” Beastie Boys
There’s a reason this leads off the group’s best-of album, Solid Gold Hits. It’s a nasty genre-blender that mixes the Boy’s patented hip-hop with old-school soul-groove, helping you reach down deep for that extra kernel of energy. If you want deep creases in your six-pack, put this one on repeat.
“Chest Day,” Frank Zane
How can you not be inspired by an actual body-builder - a three-time Mr. O, no less - warbling about working pecs and blowing harmonica? Very Dylan--esque, in a warped, musclehead kind of way.
“Another One Bites the Dust,” Queen
This band cranked out numerous training-worthy hits (“We Are the Champions,” “We Will Rock You,” “Under Pressure”). This one rises above the rest with its powerful bass line and brash sentiment.
“Lose Yourself,” Eminem
You may hate this guy, in which case you hate this pick. Oh, well. The bass line pulsates, the lyrics mesmerize and the message is Ali-esque: Don’t let anyone - even the doubting Thomas within - talk you out of grabbing exactly what you want.
“Right Now,” Korn
This nu-metal classic’s lyrics give you the proper attitude adjustment to punish the weights: “I’m feeling mean today/Not lost, not blown away/Just irritated and quite hated.”
“Move B***h,” Ludacris
We’ve all been there. Some no-life joker is dilly-dallying on the bench. When you finally get the space to yourself, transfer that rage into a few extra reps with this ultimate expression of pent-up impatience.
“1812 Overture,” Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Even if your idea of classical music is early Black Crowes, you know this booming composition. Reportedly, Tchaikovsky himself said it had no artistic merit. But who needs art when you’ve got cannons?
“Gonna Fly Now,” Bill Conti/The Rocky Orchestra
Some songs become great training companions. Others were born that way. This song from Rocky defines the latter category. You hear those trumpets and you just want to choke down six raw eggs, throw on some gray sweats and climb a few hundred stairs - three at a time.
“Mama Said Knock You Out,” LL Cool J
LL’s rep was at an all-time low when he shocked the hip-hop world with this hard-edged comeback song. The thump-ing bass and scorching beats will help you reclaim your own aggression.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana
Your training partner is sucking wind like an overweight marathoner, but you’re still cranking muscle-building reps of dumbbell rows. That’s because your ears are being assaulted by the inspiring, angry sounds of this Kurt Cobain anthem of angst.
“Hit ‘;Em Up,” 2Pac
In a track as scathing as it is explicit, 2Pac launches a verbal assault on Notorious B.I.G. and brags about sleeping with someone’s wife (hmm… whose could that be?). When you’re working out, you want something full of either anger or cockiness. This one brims with both.
“Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor
It’s what passed for hard rock in the ’80s and the lyrics are cheese, but hell, if it worked for Rocky Balboa, it’ll work for you.
“Fight the Power,” Public Enemy
Explosive, relentless, angry, incendiary - just the mind-set you want in the gym. The earsplitting bass, staccato beats and take-no-prisoners lyrics will put you in attack mode as you begin your first set.
“Back in Black,” AC/DC
Nothing screams raw masculinity like this number. “Back in Black” will be cranked for as long as there are speakers.
“Enter Sandman,” Metallica
Heavy riffs, heavy rhythms - it’s the ultimate song when you’re training heavy. It’s impossible to listen to Lars Ulrich annihilate the drums and not want to put your skin on some steel.
“Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses
What can we say? The gym is a jungle. And Axl’s snarling vocals and Slash’s contagious power chords will have you repping like some demented ape-man. Want definitive proof this song is the hands-down best ever? When training for his six Mr. O titles, Dorian Yates played it every leg day. If it worked for the Shadow, it’ll work for you.