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A survey of 2,000 gym-goers conducted in the US in 2018 showed that 9 out of 10 gym-goers believe that simply putting exercise kit on made them feel more motivated to workout when they weren’t feeling up for it.
Second only to seeing physical improvements, putting on exercise clothing is the most motivating thing you can do to push you into actually working out.
Not only that, the correct gym clothing will make you feel more comfortable - wicking away sweat and keeping you cool as you heat up - not to mention help activate your muscles and increase performance. That, and, crucially, good gym kit will make you look great - which is one of the goals, right?
Here’s the thing: if you’re working out in an old t-shirt, you’re likely getting fairly sweaty and uncomfortable as your workout goes on. This is why it’s worth investing in a decent gym top: sweat-wicking material will transform your workout - they wick moisture away and dry swiftly, so you’ll be comfortable throughout. They also stop you from smelling sweaty too swiftly.
Nike’s Dri-Fit is the most beloved sweat-wicking material, but each sports brand tends to have a proprietary fabric made from microfibre, designed to sweat-wick and breath for a drier, cooler workout.
Why base layers? If you’re outdoors, they will keep you warmer, and absorb sweat, to prevent you chaffing. They can also support as you move, decreasing the likelihood of injury. Weightlifters also claim they assist in the activation of muscles.
You may see men stalking the weights cages at your local gym in compression tights, and wonder why. They’re onto something.
Studies have shown that compression tights help endurance, reduce the time it takes to hit exhausting, helps regulate muscle temperature, improves stability, and improves recovery time. That’s impressive.
A quick entreaty: put shorts on over your gym tights. Regardless of your musculature, it’s uncomfortable to see bulging groins around the gym. David Bowie in Labyrinth, you are not.
A quick look at the best brands
It’s only fair we start with the industry leader for sweat-wicking tech, Nike Dri-Fit.
Perfect for both cardio and strength training, that’s to it’s sweat-wicking technology and ventilation, it’s a classic little number, both slim-fitting enough to show burgeoning muscles and loose enough to be comfortable (and hide any cheat meals).
If you’re lifting heavy, you likely want to keep cool and show off the guns as you do so. The Rock’s range of gym gear, made by Under Armour, is ideal for men with some serious musculature to show off.
It’s loose - allowing for a super comfy set of lat pulldowns - but stylish so if you’re sweaty, everyone in the gym will know you’re working hard.
After a luxury training top that will bridge the gap from winter training to summer? Look to Iffley Road, the high-spec brand that looks retro cool, while offering modern performance materials.
Iffley Road is named for the the Oxford track on which Robert Bannister ran the world’s first sub four-minute mile, which sets out their stall as a premiere running brand. The Thorpe Merino Half Zip Top is made from 100 per cent merino wool - keeping you cool when you’re warm and warm when you’re cool, and anti-smell - making it a superlative breathable long-sleeved base layer.
Columbia are best known for manufacturing trekking kit, but this base-layer long sleeve top is ideal for a gym session or outdoor training sessions in the park, offering not only the required sweating-wicking but antimicrobial technology to stop you from smelling bad.
It’s not ideal for summer, but any slightly cooler days and this top will see you proud. And of course - it’s ideal as base layer for hiking.
We won’t mince words: stringer vests are all about showing off your gains as you pump iron.
The best ones are made by Gymshark, and are cut low enough to allow a wide range of movement when doing pull-ups and benching, and flash enough flesh to let people know your regime is working.
Perfect for wearing pre-and post-workout, this stylish, classic hoodie features flat lock seams to prevent chafing and ColdGear technology to keep the skin cool, dry and comfortable. Tight enough to show off your pecs, if you’re starting to fill out, too.
This is a superlative technical training top. The Metal Vent Tech 2.0 is deliciously breathable.
Its Silverescent technology is designed to combat the bacteria that causes sweat to smell - so you’ll leave the gym as fresh as you entered it (if your partner complains about smelly gym kit, buy this shirt)
New Balance is a brand that truly understands cardio - their running shoes are industry leaders.
This gym shirt is perfect for any cardio blasts, as it’s material is great at breathing and remaining cool as your body heats up, but it’s sweat-wicking properties ensure you’ll stay the right temperature, and dry, as you cool down, too.
Compression leggings are known to improve circulation, help oxygenate muscle tissue, and assist with balance as you work on. The result is reduced muscle soreness and improved performance, particularly in cardio exercises.
The gold standard for compression tights are from Aussie brand Skins, whose long compression tights are very comfy, thanks to a wide waistband and shaped crotch, and are engineered to improve your form, stability and output during sports training and match days. Please though - wear some loose shorts on top.
These Under Armour underwear look sexy as hell, but perform brilliantly too. ‘Charged cotton’ is designed for swift drying, and sweat wicking, meaning your crotch region will stay dry no matter how hard you sweat through a workout.
As any man that has suffered from chafing down below knows, it can turn a satisfying workout into a thing of terrible pain. Not so with these breathable, fitted boxer shorts.
No, these are not gym trousers for toddlers - that’s ‘Anti-ball crushing’ joggers, and they live up to the promise, with ‘warpstream’ fabric allowing for terrific amount of give and stretch, and a deep enough crotch to ensure that your squats and lunges won’t crush your delicates. They’re light enough for jogging, too.
We don’t want to sound obsessed with a particular region of the male anatomy, but if you’re squatting, crunching, lunging or deadlifting, an aerated groin is going to keep you comfortable - you don’t want things getting squashed while you observe perfect form on a deep squat.
The Lululemon linerless shorts have a breathable gusset and split hem to keep you agile. Plenty of handy pockets, too, for your chalk bag or phone.
Brooks - they of the fabulous running shoes - know about running, so, naturally, their shorts are ideal for cardio blasts.
The Sherpas are lightweight, quick-drying, and come with a comfy liner. There’s also a key loop (so you don’t have to hang onto the house keys as you stride), and a zipped pocket for your phone.
Made from recycled polyester, these handsome compression tights from Adidas offer terrific support, breathability, and comfort.
We’ve already covered the fact that compression tights can help you feel supported and help blood circulation.
These Reebok numbers go a step further - they have front panels above the ankles to ensure you don’t get ‘barbell abrasion’ when in the middle of deadlift reps.
Not just great for Crossfit, their stretchy, sweat-wicking fabric make these a winning pair for all weight-lifting pursuits.
Made from entirely recycled materials, these good-looking, comfy boxers contain polygeine, a miracle material that not only sweat-wicks but remains odorless - perfect for ensuring your gym kit never gets too toxic.
Leonardo DiCaprio invested in Allbirds due to their impressive eco credentials, and these socks are made from a sweat-friendly, sustainable mix of recycled nylon, TENCEL™ Lyocell, merino wool and spandex.
But they’re not just sustainably sourced, they’re effective for treadmill running - the reinforced heel and toe ensure they’re delightfully comfy as you sprint.
Wear any old socks to the gym? You’re missing out. Adidas make the best socks for both cardio and strength sessions.
Alphaskins are no-show socks, cushioned to ensure you don’t slip if you’re doing shoe-free squats or deadlifts. Mesh inserts add ventilation, to help your feet breath, so they won’t get sweaty as you work.