Words by Jack Franks
Movie workout music. It’s a thing. Out with the old, in with the orchestra.
If you’re not subjecting your ears to the tones of movie soundtracks and scores during your workouts, it’s time to broaden your horizons.
The release of Oppenheimer has perked the ears of the gym community, specifically those looking to transport their lifting or cardio session to another dimension.
Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson’s piece, Can You Hear The Music, has taken off on TikTok – the trend has 12.5 million videos and counting – since the movie dropped in theatres, a short but mind-altering attack on the senses from all angles.
On Spotify, the track has racked up almost seven million plays, six million more than any other composition on the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
There’s epic; then there’s this.
With the violin leading the charge and grabbing the central role, the piece increases and fluctuates in tempo.
Göransson told NME that “the tempo [of that piece] changes every four bars… and it gets faster and faster,” and “by the end, it’s three times faster than when it started. At first, I thought it was unplayable.”
As well as inspiring endless memes, the track’s explosion – excuse the atomic bomb-related pun – has highlighted the relationship between movie soundtracks and workout playlists.
The rise of the movie soundtrack workout…
In a 2022 interview with Men’s Health, Star Wars frontman John Boyega admitted he rarely listens to music with lyrics when he works out, instead citing movie workout music as his preference.
A fan of Hans Zimmer and Gregson-Williams, Boyega feels the tones of Drake “talking about being on the jet” fail to motivate him.
No doubt, many will raise an eyebrow and possibly let out a small chuckle at the prospect of not bench pressing with the sound of Eminem’s Lose Yourself providing a cliche fuelled pump.
However, film scores offer more if you need to squeeze out every drop of effort, adding atmosphere and inspiration to otherwise mundane and repetitive movements. Imagine you’re on the final set of chest workouts, muscles burning and all, and you’re suddenly hit with a soaring shot of orchestral adrenaline.
Whether it’s a track from ‘Man of Steel,’ ‘The Dark Knight,’ or ‘Spiderman,’ feeling like a metaphorical superhero can get you over the previously unreachable line.
It sounds cheesy, but bear with us.
In 1976, a sure Sylvester Stallone marched up 72 stone steps leading to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Now, they are known as the ‘Rocky Steps.’
Before the release of ‘Rocky,’ movie soundtracks were rarely used for anything outside of their apparent purpose, albeit ‘The Great Escape’ provided an iconic tune back in 1963.
Bill Conti’s score for the first in a saga of films centering around the ultimate underdog is packed with iconic themes, but none of them come close to the blaring horns of ‘Gonna Fly Now,’ a song which even reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977.
Vince DiCola carried on Conti’s legacy in the franchise’s fourth installment, delivering classics such as ‘War/Fanfare’ and ‘Training Montage,’ both of which still hold up to this day as certified workout staples.
These soundtracks prove there’s no better workout inspiration than a Big Moment from a great sports movie — specifically, the music accompanying it.
How to give your workout an epic soundtrack
So, you’re heading to the gym, in your car, on foot, or via public transport. Either way, you’ll need to get the blood flowing before you’ve laid eyes on a piece of gym apparatus.
At this stage, it’s a time designated to build the tension ahead of the impending lactic acid tsunami, so something like Battle Without Honor or Humanity from ‘Kill Bill Volume 1’, Daft Punk’s Fall from ‘Tron Legacy,’ or Clubbed To Death, which features in ‘The Matrix’ are all likely to stir the fire inside without lighting the fuse.
Okay, by this stage, you’re ready for your warm-up, so tracks to accompany your stretching and activation routines must be moody and the final hurdle before we get into the meat of the sandwich.
THE PLAN, composed by Göransson as mentioned earlier for Christopher Nolan’s 2020 ‘Tenet’ wouldn’t feel out of place during a boxing walkout, so that’s an easy inclusion, and sticking to the same theme, ‘Creed II offers Ice Cold and Drago’s Walk Out.
Cornfield Chase from ‘Interstellar’ and Le Mans 66 from the 2019 film of the same name will also provide a pre-lifting harmony to get you fully ready for any session. Want a wild card? The Great Beyond from Disney Pixar’s ‘Soul’ is oddly fitting and suited to building motivation.
By now, your pre-workout should be kicking in, your earbuds blossoming from the god-like symphonies that have prepared you for war and fully ready to smash some PBs and carve out the body of an Adonis.
The plethora of scores to supercharge your workouts is endless. Getting submerged deep into a black hole of soundtracks is easy, so we’ve narrowed it down to the best of the best. The peak movie workout music to fuel your pump.
There’s no better place to start than with Nolan again, this time with Dream is Collapsing from ‘Inception,’ boasting a horn-like sound created by four different wind instruments all playing the same note simultaneously and loudly – the bassoon, French horn, trombone and tuba – accompanied by a timpani.
With the sweat particles beginning to surface, it’s time to ramp things up with Blood Code, a Le Castle Vania banger that is part of the ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ soundtrack, before delving into the world of Zimmer for the first time with Like a Dog Chasing Cars from ‘The Dark Knight.’
Stick on Pacific Rim to imagine yourself as a giant robot-like weapon for a few minutes, or mold into the character of a Marvel hero with The Avengers, the headline track from the 2012 superhero epic.
Make sure to reserve eight minutes for Joseph Shirley and Baby Rose’s homage to Rocky IV with their version of a Training Montage from ‘Creed III,’ a track spanning almost eight minutes that tempts you to strike a bag for the entire workout.
For a short blast of spy-infused inspo, stick on the Opening Titles theme from the latest Mission: Impossible outing, Dead Reckoning Part One, or for something with a bit more longevity, Brothers In Arms from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road” is a masterpiece that will make you want to digest a dumbbell, never mind lift it.
Head back to Gotham with Why Do We Fall? for more Batman-infused goodness, then switch to DC for Flight, an electric concoction that will turn you into your own version of the ‘Man of Steel’ – for a few minutes at least. What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World works well, as do many tracks from the score?
By now, you’re likely ready to head home but don’t give up. To help you push through the final moments and maximize your time, crank up Supermarine from ‘Dunkirk,’ with its literal ticking clock representing the final countdown, then end with where it all began; The Final Bell from ‘Rocky,’ a one-minute and fifty-four seconds of pure nostalgic dopamine which is the only way to signify the conclusion of a hard session.
For your cooldown, a selection of tracks that glorify your efforts and leave you admiring your work is required. Moneyball’s The Mighty Rio Grande is long enough to cover the complete process at just over 11-minutes long, but if you want to break that time frame down, listen to Elysium from ‘Gladiator’ and StarWaves from ‘Oblivion.’
Finally, the most epic departure of soundtrack theme of all time? Time from ‘Inception’ is the backdrop for Leonardo Di Caprio’s exit from an airport at the film’s climax, so imagine that’s you but swap the setting for a gym. You are guaranteed to be smiling at your achievements. What’s your movie workout music of choice?