The Classical Strongman's Guide To Awesome Abs Not as macho as Mahler, nor limber as Ligeti? You'll see results almost immediately after listening to these five exercise essentials from the wild world of classical music. The sounds of iron pumping and breathless beats from the barrel organ are just what you need to inspire your personal best. Manly, yes, but women will love it, too.
NPR logo The Classical Strongman's Guide To Awesome Abs

The Classical Strongman's Guide To Awesome Abs

Hercules had perfect abs. For that reason and a few others, this statue of him stands in Florence, Italy. iStock hide caption

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We classical-music fans are locked in an eternal battle with a barrage of stereotypes. Some believe we're good for nothing more than relaxing to a string quartet by some dead European while sipping a sensible Sauvignon Blanc. (Truth be told, the 2007 New Zealand whites are peaking now). But symphonies and sulfites do not a complete man make. We must condition the body in defense of such vexing claims. Please note the suggestions below for building core strength, working on your mental stamina and looking your buff best around the clubhouse.

For more entries in our Sweatin' To NPR: Workout Music series, click here.

The Classical Strongman's Guide To Awesome Abs

Cover for Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach
Audio is no longer available

Einstein on the Beach ,"Knee Play 3"

  • from Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach
  • by Various

Perfectly chiseled abs, like the music of Philip Glass, is all about repetitions. You just have to keep repeating those crunches, over and over. And, if you find your mind drifting off to Bordeaux futures, this jaunty little ditty will keep you on track. It does the counting for you.

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Song
Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach
Album
Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach
Artist
Various
Label
Nonesuch Records
Released
1993

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Cover for Ligeti: Edition Five Mechanical Music
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Hungarian Rock, for barrel organ

  • from Ligeti: Edition Five Mechanical Music
  • by Various

Yes, it's true: Any successful workout needs the adrenaline rush that only quality rock 'n' roll can provide. It's essential for cardiovascular health. But thanks to Gyorgy Ligeti, our exercise regimen is safe from resorting to such nuisances as Huey Lewis and the News or Jefferson Starship. Listening to the breathless chords, puffing out of a barrel organ played by Pierre Charial, will furnish you with a template of breathing patterns for any Stairmaster or elliptical. And you thought classical music didn't rock?

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Song
Ligeti: Edition Five Mechanical Music
Album
Ligeti: Edition Five Mechanical Music
Artist
Various
Label
Sony Music

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Cover for Handel: Hercules
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Hercules: "The god of battle quits the bloody field"

  • from Handel: Hercules
  • by Marc Minkowski

What manly workout could be complete without some coaching from the original strongman himself -- Hercules? Handel's 1745 music drama, titled Hercules, finds our hero, in this aria, talking a little trash about his victories, but ready to lay down the "bloody shield" in exchange for carnal delights. Good advice for leaders of any era, and for those who use the gym for cruising.

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Song
Handel: Hercules
Album
Handel: Hercules
Artist
Marc Minkowski
Label
DG Archiv
Released
2002

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Cover for Earquake
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Hekla (Volcano), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 52

  • from Earquake
  • by Various

Ah, the sweet, clangorous sound of iron and steel. You pump it with your arms. You hear it in your ears. You'll feel like you could lift a Steinway over your head while listening to this pounding piece, tricked out with a bulging 22-man percussion section. Reportedly, the musicians wore earplugs to record this delicate piece. Bunch of sissies.

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Song
Earquake
Album
Earquake
Artist
Various
Label
Ondine

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Cover for Mahler: Symphony No. 5
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"Adagietto" (from Symphony No. 5)

  • from Mahler: Symphony No. 5
  • by Various

Few composers have stormed the heavens with such self-possessed conviction as Gustav Mahler. His muscular, monumental symphonies last longer than Die Hard 2 and are truly awesome. And, more to the point, truly manly. But, like any discerning athlete, Mahler understood the benefits of gradually cooling down. He knew how to chill -- big time. The silken strings in this "Adagietto" will soothe your aching muscles, replenish mental agility and bring that pulse back down to earth.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Album
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Artist
Various
Label
EMI
Released
2002

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