Rocking the Row: Music for Indoor Rowing Workouts

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Great article from the American Council on Exercise about how to pick music for your fitness class. Good timing, too, since Shape magazine included a rowing playlist in their January 2012 issue. ACE says there are four factors you should consider in putting together the playlist for your class, and they are all important when you’re teaching indoor rowing:

1. Role of the Music: ACE says to begin by looking at how important music is in your class. In rowing classes, as in Spinning or most anything else, it can be a great tool for building intensity.  Keep in mind, though, that it’s important that people not get so lost in the music that they forget their rowing technique – or miss out on the chance to hear the melody the group rowing class creates when all the flywheels are whirring together.

2. Musical Phrasing: ACE points out that beats per minute (BPM) is the primary component of musical phrasing. For most people, rowing workouts work best when they’re paced at no more than 25-26 strokes per minute, which equates to music in the range of 110 to 130 BPM.

3. Music Selection: Music can make or break your rowing class or rowing workout – We all know that cranking the tunes can help you hit that PR or break through a motivational wall.  For indoor rowing classes, familiar songs with great lyrics are fine for the warmup and cooldown, but for the meat of the workout we prefer instrumental music (Spinning music is a great resource) that makes it easier for people to stay focused on the work and their rowing technique.

4. Volume is the last key factor in ACE’s article, not just for the music but for the instructor. In rowing it’s at least as important to get the mic right for you so you’re heard over the flywheels as it is to adjust the volume on the songs.

So are you ready to rock and row?  Here’s a 45-minute playlist to get you started, one of our favorites for learn-to-row classes and general audiences:

Rise                                                 Herb Alpert
Something Got Me Started        Simply Red
Rock Your Body                           Brainbug (remix)
Bom Bom Bom                             Living Things
Bright Lights Bigger City          Cee Lo Green
Spirit in the Sky                           Norman Greenbaum
I Like the Way                             Bodyrockers
That Feeling                                DJ Chus
Got to Give It Up                         Marvin Gaye
Use Me                                          Bill Withers

What’s your favorite song to row to?  Got a playlist you’d like to share?  We’d love to see it!


  1. Kim on January 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Does anybody have a playlist that focuses more on classic rock and rock than on “pop” crap? The list you have here is much better than Shape’s list, but I’d love to know more suggestions that are more in line with my taste in music and not that repetitive, inane crap they play on top40 stations.

    • Rowperfect on June 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Hi Kim, we’ve just set up a Facebook poll where people can add and vote for their favourite songs to get them pumped – we’d love to have your suggestions of what makes an incredible playlist.

      Here’s a link:


      The Rowperfect Team

  2. Karen Gates on January 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for writing on this topic.

    Some of my favorite erg tunes:
    “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga)
    “Walk on By” (Seal)
    “Cry Me a River” (Joe Cocker)

    for warm-up:
    “These Boots are Made for Walkin'” (Nancy Sinatra)

  3. Jim on February 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I use:
    Carmina Burana
    Need you Now
    Gonna Fly Now
    In the Air Tonight
    Live Like You Were Dying
    Cowboy Casanova
    Man in the Mirror

    • UCanRow2 on February 16, 2013 at 10:49 am

      We love Carmina Burana! There’s a version that was edited for Spinning that we really like.

  4. Jim on April 22, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    My new fav is:
    Do You Hear the People Sing
    It’s short so I load it back to back.
    It builds nicely

    • UCanRow2 on April 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      The song from Les Mis? Very interesting, what kind of a piece do you use it for?

      • Jim on May 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm

        Piece? I’m not good enough to row pieces. It does work well for 250 meter intervals though.

  5. Dorothy on June 14, 2013 at 9:46 am


  6. Sracy on July 25, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    Help! I had a rowing workout that just had background music with no lyrics, and a flywheel noise for pace, about 22 spm. Now I can’t find it anywhere! Has anyone else used this, or knows where to find it? Have tried multiple search combinations with no luck.

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