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What Makes the Perfect Workout Shirt?

July 10, 2020

If you’re going to devote the time to working out, it only makes sense to invest in quality clothing that is built for the task. But with so many pieces of workout clothing on the market, how do you know which are worth your money? Let’s look at workout shirts and examine the qualities that define the perfect workout shirt.

Why Workout Shirts?

Isn’t a shirt just a shirt? Why not just grab that old concert tee-shirt from the drawer when you’re going to the gym or out for a run? There are good reasons why a workout shirt is a better choice. Workout tops are made to comfortably move with you during exercise, and their fabrics won’t soak up sweat and bog you down. You’ll stay more comfortable, and enjoy yourself more when you’re wearing the right gear. 

Workout Shirt Styles

Not all of your workouts are the same, so you don’t necessarily need the same shirt for all of your training. Here are a couple of broad classifications that can help you understand what your actual needs are.

  • All-around workout t-shirts are at home in the gym and wherever else you roam. These shirts often offer a somewhat more relaxed fit than a dedicated training shirt and may blend in cotton or other natural fibers to add a level of comfort. These shirts are going to perform well during moderate exercise plus look good when you’re grabbing a pint afterward. A great example is the Willy California 101 The Standard Tee, with its relaxed fit and cotton/poly/spandex fabric blend. 
  • Training t-shirts are designed to handle your toughest workouts. They’re cut slimmer so you’ll move more easily, and they’re constructed with fabrics that pull sweat away from your skin. Best seller shirts like Willy California’s 104 The Workout Tee will get you through the toughest sessions, and look good enough to wear for any of your other favorite activities too. 

Get the Important Elements Right

When you begin your search for a great men's workout shirt it pays to know what makes one shirt a winner and another a loser. These four key elements will help guide you. 

The Right Design

Great workout shirts start with a great design. While at first glance you may find it hard to tell a cheap workout shirt apart from an expensive model, with premium brands more attention has been given to the details.

  • Better tailoring. Better workout shirts take into account the shape of the torso and how the body will move during exercise. Properly sized panels and sturdy seams make it easier to move around in a better shirt. 
  • Higher-quality fabrics. You can’t tell everything about the fabric used in your shirt by reading the tag. There are different weights and quality of fabrics that can make quite a difference in performance and durability.   

The Right Fabric

The proper fabric choice is an essential part of perfect workout clothes. Here are some of the key fabrics to choose from or avoid. 

  • Chose cotton with caution. While a quality cotton shirt is a timeless comfort, a cotton shirt soaks up perspiration, making it heavy and uncomfortable, so 100% cotton isn’t a good choice. On the other hand, when cotton is used in moderation and blended with other fabrics it can result in a very comfortable workout shirt.
  • Go with moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or nylon. These materials move sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. Special blends like dri-release fabrics do an exceptional job keeping the sweat away from your skin.
  • Add some stretch to your workout shirt by staying on the lookout for spandex. Compression shirts with this material will be more comfortable when you’re moving during exercise.

The Right Fit

The ideal workout shirt shouldn’t be too tight, or too loose. It needs to be, as Goldilocks would say, just right. A baggy short sleeve t-shirt will hinder and interfere with your movements, while one that’s too tight slows you down just as badly. And neither will be flattering in appearance. Follow these fit guidelines to find the workout shirt that looks perfect on you. 

  • At the neck, ensure that you’ve got freedom of movement and plenty of room to twist your head without your neck rubbing against the collar. Look for styles like a crewneck t-shirt, a v-neck short sleeve running shirt, or even long sleeve shirts. 
  • Be sure that the sleeves conform to your biceps, but make sure they’re not so tight that they bind your arms. If you need a lot of movement in your arms, try looking for a muscle tank top or even a sleeveless workout tank top. 
  • The shirt should fit closely enough to your torso that you can’t pinch more than an inch or two of fabric on either side of your stomach. If you need a lot of movement in the abdomen area, you might want to consider a crop top. 

Remember to check the sizing guides and read the fine print when shopping for a shirt. Some brands will be cut for a slimmer figure, so the standard shirt size you’re used to may not be the right fit for you. 

And the Details

Design, fit, and fabric are the big three, but there are a few other features that make the difference between an OK shirt and one that hits the mark. 

  • UV protection. Your workout shirt should be ready to stand guard against more than just sweat. If you’re going to be spending time in the sun, whether it’s running, golfing, or just hanging out, be sure your shirt has the protection you need. A UV rating of at least 50, like that found in the Willy California 104 The Workout Tee will keep your skin from cooking. 
  • Anti-microbial tech. You should be able to wash the funk off when you enjoy your post-workout shower. It shouldn’t linger in your shirt. Anti-microbial features keep your shirts fresher for longer.
  • Colors. Basic gray, black, and white just aren’t going to match your colorful personality. Go out on a limb and pick out some workout shirts in bright colors, pastels, or patterns like camo. They’ll look great in the gym and on the town. 
  • Layers. Depending on the weather, you may need to add different layers of activewear in order to get the warmth you need for your workout. You may need heatgear like a pullover, long sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, or even thermal leggings on bottom. 

When you’ve covered all of these bases, you’ve got a winner of a workout shirt.  

The Perfect Shirt

There’s a lot that goes into creating the perfect gym t-shirt. Fit, style, design, and fabric are all part of the equation. So consider your needs and do your research. You’ll find that the perfect shirt is waiting for you. And when you find that shirt, you’ll know that you’ll have a piece of clothing that will make your workout more comfortable, more enjoyable, and more fun. Plus, you’ll look good when you wear it, both in and away from the gym.