My Ultimate ’80s Workout

The ‘80s were defined by big hair, hanging out at the mall, and this mind-blowing invention known as the Walkman. Maybe I’m just having fond memories of my mom rocking out to Jane Fonda videos, but it was also the decade that made working out seem cool, fun, and fashionable (even if that fashion was questionable). 

As so many of my favorite retro workouts debuted during this glorious, technicolor decade, I thought it would be fun to combine them into one fun routine/party. So gather some friends together and enjoy a sweat-inducing tribute to the epic workout culture of the ‘80s.

The Attire

Half the fun of workouts in the ‘80s (and now, if I’m being honest) was the fashion. People wanted to see and be seen at the gym or in their local Jazzercise class, so they went for it. Eighties workout gear was always bright and colorful, a little metallic, and, most importantly, very stretchy. 

Like everything in fashion, what goes around .. comes around. All of these things are back in style. Pick up some of these items to help you get into the spirit:

  • Sweatbands for your head and wrists
  • Bike shorts (which are back in style)
  • Leotards or unitards (again, back in style)
  • Tube socks (to scrunch down, of course)
  • White sneakers
  • Cropped sweatshirts or t-shirts (My daughter has a closet full)
  • Scrunchies for that high ponytail

The Music

Now that you’re dressed to sweat, it’s time to plan your workout soundtrack. And what a decade to pull from. From hair metal to dance classics, you really can’t go wrong with ‘80s music when it comes to building a motivating, fun workout playlist. 

Here are 10 tracks perfect for an ‘80s-inspired sweat session:

  1. “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John
  2. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson
  3. “Walk This Way” by Run-D.M.C.
  4. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
  5. “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul
  6. “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie
  7. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
  8. “Jump” by Van Halen
  9. “Mickey” by Toni Basil
  10. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross

The Workout

Outfit? Check. Playlist? Check. There are days when a teacher-led Peloton class isn’t my jam. I set a timer and have some fun. A circuit workout is the perfect way to combine some of the decade’s signature workout styles into one routine. Switching up your movements frequently also keeps you from getting bored and ensures a full-body burn.

Here’s an example of how to incorporate the best of the ‘80s into one workout:

Dance Aerobics Warm-up (3 minutes)

Loosen up those muscles with some classic dance aerobics moves. Do some step touches side to side, v-steps, grapevines and knee drives — just get the entire body moving and ready for the harder stuff. Singing along is encouraged.

Squat Time (5 minutes)

Squats with wide, turned-out feet are one of the ‘80’s iconic moves to tone the lower body. But let’s take it up a notch. Grab those light dumbbells (1 to 3 pounds) and pump your arms while squatting up and down to the beat. This section is about high reps with low weight to tone the arms — think bicep curls, tricep extensions and shoulder presses. 

Hit the Floor (10 minutes)

Now let’s move onto the abdominal section of the workout. Crunches of all kinds are invited to this party as well as push-ups from the knees or toes. Finish it off with some bridges to tone the buns and lower abs — because nothing says ‘80s workout like a hip thrust in spandex, am I right?

Step Aerobics Final Push (10 minutes)

Once you’ve finished the toning sections, it’s time to sweat it out with one final burst of cardio to bring the heart rate back up. This is the perfect time to bust out your step bench and crank up your most intense music. Adjust the height to your desired level and start stepping on and off in time to the beat. Incorporate kicks, knee lifts and directional changes to up the difficulty. Make sure to keep your arms moving the entire time.

Cool Down (3 minutes)

Bring your heartrate down by marching in place, but be sure to keep pumping those arms. Some alternating hamstring curls will give your backside a final burn. End with a few deep pliés, reaching the arms overhead as you come up and then keep your legs straight while you bend and reach side to side.

What do you love about ‘80s workout culture? Share your go-to moves in the comments.

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