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Workout Playlists: What’s the Best Music Streaming Platform?

Music Streaming

Comedian Jaboukie Young-White once joked about going to a gym and seeing a man on a treadmill at a full sprint – no headphones. Most of us like to listen to music (or podcasts?) while we work out. You might even have your own custom workout playlists.

However, there are so many platforms out there. Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, even Fiverr! Here, we’ll take a look at some of the major music streaming platforms to help you decide which is best for your custom workout playlist – whatever you’re listening to.

A Quick Note

This is not a sponsored post.

Some of the platforms that we’ll talk about have paid subscriptions and all of them have optional paid packages. However, none of the companies sponsoring those platforms are paying How To Bulk Muscle for their mention in this article.

So, let’s get into the best music streaming platforms for your workout playlist.

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YouTube and YouTube Music

You already know about YouTube. In a way, that makes it the best place to start when comparing platforms for your workout playlist. It can be a sort of litmus test for the other platforms we’ll be talking about. 

But, it’s not just a background. It has its own strengths and weaknesses as a music streaming platform – particularly when you factor in its new paid subscription service. We’ll go deeper into both services, but first, let’s look at pros and cons.

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YouTube Basic

Starting with the Basic YouTube account – actually, you don’t even need an account for most features if you have cookies enabled – it’s a decent platform. The site lets you create your own playlists for one thing, and the potential length of your workout playlist is – as far as we know – infinite.

Another bonus for YouTube is the sheer volume and variety of content. We’ll be focusing on music in this article but there are also talk programs, news, and other content. In case you want to feel more productive while you lift.

Further, every video that you like – you need an account to like videos – gets added to its own playlist. That way, you can always be generating your own top-hits workout playlist to go back to.

The platform also has an “auto-play” feature that you can toggle on and off. So, if you know what song you want to start on, you can find that song and hit auto-play to see where YouTube takes you. Sometimes that’s an adventure and sometimes it’s an eddy. But, we’ll get back to that.

Of course, YouTube – at least, the basic account – does have some major drawbacks too.

For one thing, there are loads of ads. Since YouTube started monetizing content a couple of years ago, the ads on the site have really gotten out of hand. Call it a conspiracy theory, but they may have gotten worse since YouTube launched their music streaming platform. Any road, we’re talking three-or-four ads per video. That’ll really break up your workout playlist.

Also, if you haven’t used it much, you might not know that the auto-play feature can turn against you. For whatever reason, it often gets to a point – fairly early on – at which it starts feeding itself. This can lead the tool to just play the same half-dozen songs on a loop. Not a good workout playlist.

Youtube Music

YouTube Music

YouTube Music is a fairly new $10/mo. music-dedicated platform by YouTube. It’s ad-free, but the service has a couple of other cool features too.

For one thing, you can listen to music offline and with your phone locked. That’s huge if you take your workouts outside or leave your phone in your bag while you work out. The platform also helps to direct you to new music based on your tastes.

One of the biggest benefits over YouTube and YouTube music is that you get alerts when your favorite performers or channels add new content. That’s not a feature of any of the other platforms on this list and, while it may not help you build a custom workout playlist, it’s an exciting feature.

The platform can also suggest music based on where you are if you have your location turned on. So, if you’re at the gym, the app might have some kind of workout playlist for you.

Downsides? It has a few.

A big one is that, while you can make custom workout playlists, it’s less user-friendly than on standard YouTube and you can’t share your playlists.

Second, it’s only for music. So, if you like more varied or educational content in your workout playlist, you’re out of luck.

Finally, we didn’t mention the Library feature. There is one, but it basically exists in name only. It’s a way for YouTube to keep track of what you listen to for suggestion purposes, but you can’t search through it yourself.

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Pandora and its Three Price Tiers

When Pandora launched, their major selling point was their “Music Genome” software. It was kind of like a super-nerdy version of YouTube’s Auto-Play only you couldn’t start with a song. Everything was sorted by genre, though you could start off with a band.

Since then, Pandora has included a search option, but in its first two price tiers, you need to unlock it by watching ads, which is kind of a drag. 

When it comes to playlists, you have to have the most expensive price-tier to even make one. Though, once you make one, you can also share it with friends, family, your gym, whomever.

That having been said, the most expensive price-tier is the same $10/mo. as YouTube Music, though you can also get discounts for being a student, in the military, or having a family account.

Listening offline is also an option with the $5/mo. Pandora Plus account, but it’s vaguely not unlimited. Unlimited offline is included with the premium account.

Another great thing about Pandora is that they aren’t just for music any more. It’s also a source for comedy and podcasts.

Between better playlist tools and more varied content for the same price, we recommend Pandora Premium over YouTube Music. To wrap up, let’s look at the pros and cons for Pandora Premium

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Spotify is similar to Pandora Premium in a number of ways. The price is the same $10/mo., the features are generally the same in terms of listening to music offline and without ads. There are also tools for creating music playlists.

One benefit that Spotify has is the “Library” feature where you can organize your content. It’s particularly helpful if you’re listening to content like podcasts as well. It’s not a super advanced or shiny feature, but it is something that Spotify has that Pandora doesn’t.

On the other hand, Spotify’s system for promoting new content isn’t as advanced as Pandora’s but that’s fine if you’re not actively looking for new content. Spotify also doesn’t have podcasts.

All things considered, Spotify and Pandora are really close contenders with a lot of similarities. However, between Pandora’s shareable playlists, Music Genome, and podcasts, they might be the better option.

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Apple Music Vs. Google Play Music

Obviously, the major pro or minus to each of these platforms depends on what OS you prefer. If you use Apple products, it helps that Apple Music is the native platform. If you prefer Android products, it helps that Google Play is the native platform.

Of course, if your custom workout playlist is very important to you, you might have a dedicated music playing device. So, let’s take a look at these two platforms.

Apple Music

As is the case with Google Play Music, Apple Music is available on non-native platforms. So, you can have Apple Music on an Android device. However, there are a number of benefits to using Apple Music on an Apple Device. That’s particularly true if you have other Apple hardware like a watch.

The comparison of Apple Music and Google Play Music is made somewhat difficult by the fact that Apple Music has no free version. The basic version costs $10/mo. There’s also a “family” package but most of the features in that package just have to do with individual profiles for multiple users, so we won’t really talk about that package.

Even though Google Play Music brings YouTube Music to the party, there are a number of benefits to Apple Music over Google Play Music. That’s particularly true if you don’t care about Podcasts and just want music.

Apple Music doesn’t have Podcasts but it does have way more music. The number of songs that you can upload from your collection is a staggering 100,000 – twice what Google Play lets you onboard. Apple Music’s library is also 20M songs more than Google Play’s. Apple Music also includes original and exclusive content and live shows.

Apple Music doesn’t have a platform for creating your own playlists – neither does Google Play – but Apple Music does feature curated playlists by editors. You and your friends can also see what one another are listening to. They also offer live and on-demand radio listening.

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Google Play Music

To be clear, Google Play Music does work on iOS devices, it just doesn’t integrate quite as well.

There are two main price tiers, one free, and one for $10/mo. The paid service actually includes a subscription to YouTube Music. 

Considering YouTube Music is also $10/mo., if you were leaning that route, it kind of just makes sense to subscribe to Google Play Music – provided you have an android device. That way, you get YouTube Music as well as the podcasts and other features that come with Google Play.

Both include music and podcasts, and the ability to upload up to 50,000 of your own songs. They also both include “radio” which is really just suggested listening that you can set based on your mood or activities – a potential auto-generated workout playlist.

The biggest downside to the free version is that you can’t access music – it has to be music that you already owned and uploaded or that Google suggests through the radio feature. In addition to accessing ad-free music, the paid version also includes offline listening.

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What to Add to Your Custom Workout Playlist?

So, you’ve picked the platform for your custom workout playlist. How do you pick your workout playlist?

If you’re into podcasts, you have your work cut out for you. Listening to podcasts while working out makes your brain big while you make your muscles big. Still, most people prefer music. 

For one thing, you can have more control over the length of your workout and workout playlist because songs are shorter.


Scientifically speaking, we’re amped up by fast music, around 130-140 beats per minute. Percussion helps too. Other than that, things like genre and instruments are less important. So, you have a background on which to build using some of your favorite tunes.

Personal Favorites

The same researcher that recommended fast, percussive music in the above link said that what really works is music that gets you amped. Music that has a personal motivation factor for you can be the most effective.

Think about songs with personally meaningful lyrics, or songs from your favorite films or television programs for your workout playlist.

Time Tested

If you need some recommendations, just punch “best music for working out” into your favorite search engine. Loads of exercise publications have put together their own lists. This list of the 50 best workout songs according to Time Magazine should be a good place to start.

Have One Made for You

If you need a little extra help creating the ultimate workout playlist, you can also have one made for you. On sites like Fiverr you can pay an expert to assemble custom workout playlists for you.

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The Final Word

We warned you at the beginning: We can’t tell you which music streaming platform is the best for your custom workout playlist. That depends on what you want to listen to, where and how you want to listen to it, and what devices you use.

Similarly, the best songs for your workout playlist can be scientifically based but what’s more important is what moves you

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