Style Training

What I Wear to the Gym: No Nonsense Workout Attire

workout clothes men

What do I wear to the gym?

I get asked this question pretty frequently and as with everything, my gym clothes are determined by what I do and what makes me feel my best.

For me personally, I do typical bodybuilding workouts with occasional cardio and dedicated heavy barbell sessions, so I need versatile gear.

I like form fitting clothing that doesn’t cover too much skin because I like the motivation that comes from seeing my muscles contracting and pumping up.

I don’t focus on technology, design, or trends during my gym time so I keep gym wear very simple.

With my likes and needs well established, you could say I’ve developed a personal uniform for the gym just as I have for daily life.

My gym wear requirements

As much time as I spend in the gym, I don’t actually have insane requirements for my gym uniform and accessories.

To make the cut, my clothes need to:

  • Be clean – I do laundry weekly and keep a solid rotation of gym clothes on hand. I’ve suffered too many times at the hands of guys who are obviously re-wearing already sweaty, disgusting smelling gym clothes. I won’t do the same to others.
  • Be comfortable – I won’t wear uncomfortable shoes (no matter how cool they look), clothes that restrict my movement, or anything so baggy it’s catching on equipment.
  • Show the areas under construction – While still needing to be comfortable, I prefer gym clothes that are fitted enough to show my shape and also reveal the area I’m working (hey, it worked for Arnold and his calves).

Gym Shirts

gym wear men tank top

I’m a big fan of tank tops in the gym.

For me, having a small bone structure and low body fat means that even though I carry about 30-40 lbs of muscle over my baseline, I still don’t look big in baggy clothing.

And who wants to feel small when you’re working to get big?

I like to see my muscles working, veins bulging, and getting a good pump. All of this gives me a glimpse into the future.

I rely on regular tank tops from Fruit of the Loom. I picked up a couple 4-packs many years ago and haven’t had to replace them yet.

During the coldest days this winter, I broke out my B&D tees.  As a tall, athletic guy, they proved indispensable.

They’re formfitting, actually long enough to not show my lower back/ass crack when squatting (unlike nearly every other tee out there), and a cotton/synthetic blend that doesn’t emerge from the dryer 6 inches shorter than when they went in.

When I’m feeling particularly cocky, I wear my super hero spartan shirt.

gym wear spartan tee

It’s impossible not to feel awesome in this shirt!

Gym Shorts

I nearly always wear shorts to the gym.

Being tall means I would have to buy sweatpants in a large or XL for them to be long enough.

But on my lean frame, the result of sizing up that much makes it look like I’m doing a terrible MC Hammer impersonation.

No thanks.

My legs don’t get cold very easily so I don’t have any real reason to wear long pants.

The rotation of three pairs of Starter mesh shorts (similar option) I have were purchased almost 7 years ago, have been worn 1-2 times per week since, and are still going strong.

That’s good value right there.

For material, I much prefer mesh over the thin cotton jersey material, which shows butt sweat way too easily for my taste.

As an added bonus, the more matte, double-layer mesh will show less mushroom tip on the decline bench.

Your spotter will thank you.

Gym Hoodie

gym wear hoodie

I live really close to my gym so I just wear a simple zip up hoodie for running there and back, even on the coldest of days.

And I occasionally wear it while I warm up on the days when my gym doesn’t have the heat set high enough to compete with the outside temperature.

Gym Shoes

gym wear chuck taylors

Shoes are probably the most important part of your gym getup and I’ve written a dedicated guide here.

There are so many styles to choose from, each excelling in one area and falling short in another, so I like to have a couple pairs to pick from for different activities.

I have a pair of classic sneakers reserved for heavy barbell work.

Chuck Taylors are referred to as the poor man’s weightlifting shoe for good reason.

The soles are flat and non-compressible so they’re plenty stable for the big lifts and can be found for around 50 bucks.

They also have timeless good looks on their side, so you don’t have to feel like a tool in some high tech kicks.

I prefer the low cut version, but feel free to go with the high-tops if they appeal to you.

gym wear men shoes saucony bullet

I also wear retro trainers, specifically the Saucony Bullet for cardio and bodybuilder-style training.

They’re the best looking and most comfortable all-around gym shoes I’ve found.

I had my first pair of the Sauconys for 3 years and just ordered a replacement pair as my old ones are utterly trashed (may they rest in peace).

Gym Accessories

gym wear men accessorite

I don’t have much in the way of accessories and I live so close to my gym I don’t even need to carry a gym bag.

I use my iPhone to listen to music using a pair of basic Panasonic earbuds (which are surprisingly good for only $15).

All of my workouts are tracked in this nearly bulletproof journal.

I drink my water or BCAAs out of a shaker bottle, usually the free one from Bodybuilding.com.

BUT…for the love of God, if anyone has a recommendation for a completely leak-proof shaker bottle, please let me know.

I’ve owned dozens and dozens and never had one that didn’t leak at least a little.

Moving on, I have 8 of the same pair of socks from Champion.

And while I don’t use much in the way of fitness tech at the moment, I’ve been eyeing this phenomenal looking fit watch, though I still haven’t decided if I really need it.

Gym Wear Take away

In the gym I keep things simple and functional.

I don’t require super advanced tech fabrics, crazy apps to monitor my vitals, or shoes with more research and development behind them than my Macbook Air.

When I keep my gear and my gym prep simple, I find it makes it that much easier to get into the gym and get to work.

All the best,

Nate

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    Tim
    April 19, 2016 at 10:34 am

    In regards to the shaker bottle, I’ve been using the free ones from strongsupplementshop.com, and they don’t seem to have problems leaking.

    Also, I recently got the converse for lifting shoes as well after my gym had a complaint lodged against me for lifting barefoot, even though I tried to go early in the morning before anyone was there. I like them because I can lift in them, but they also look good for casual wear!

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      I’ll have to check out that shaker when I place my next order. I’m not sure if I’m over tightening my shakers or what but literally every one I’ve ever had in my life has leaked from the threads. Other guys don’t seem to have such a problem so I’m thinking it’s user error, as sad as that is to admit.

  • Reply
    Andrew Bourne
    April 19, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I’ve been using the shaker bottles sold at Kroger and can’t remember them leaking. Only time was when i didn’t seal the sipping mouth and decided my beet juice needed more shaking…big mess but my fault.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      I don’t have any Kroger locations, but I’ll take a look next time I’m visiting my grandparents. Did the beet juice stain anything? I can only imagine how that can ruin your day, haha.

  • Reply
    Scott
    April 19, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Spider Bottle is probably a good bet for a leak-free shaker. I’ve been using a trio of them for well over a year and have yet to have a single incident.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks for the tip! They don’t even dribble from the threads?

      • Reply
        Scott
        April 22, 2016 at 6:02 am

        Not that I have noticed – the threads are pretty deep and if you screw the cap on tightly they seem to be pretty leak proof. The flip cap for the business end is also pretty robust. Perhaps if it spends and extended time completely upside down you might get some leakage, but if you can keep it mostly upright, you’re golden. Mine have travelled in everything from my Filson briefcase to a backpack and they’ve been golden. They also come with some compartments for supplements in pill/powder form that you can optionally screw onto the bottom, so there’s always the option of bringing extra dry supps and adding water from a tap of fountain when needed.

        • Reply
          Nate
          April 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

          Awesome! I honestly think I over tighten the caps at some point and distort the threads. Just today I had my newer shaker sitting in the cup holder on the treadmill and when I picked it up there was a small puddle.

  • Reply
    Matthew
    April 19, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Liking the simple approach, do away with all the ponsy gadgetry/technology and just get on with your workout and build some muscle! I find people who are strapped head to toe with heart rate monitors and pedometers etc, and yet hardly break a sweat, almost as annoying as those who don’t rerack their weights and who text in between sets.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      You said it, Matt! I can see using one gadget at a time for a specific purpose, but decking yourself head to toe in wires is a little excessive. I know the type.

  • Reply
    vivien_noir
    April 19, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    I’ve got a question about your phone in the gym: it might sound surprising, but that’s what caught my eye the most, but how do you protect it from sweat? As I have had two phones damaged by sweat (“water damage”), I’ve made up my mind and use an MP3 player for training since then. It’s also more handy and smaller, and I can clip it onto my gym clothes, so chances it stays dry are good.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      I keep my phone in my shorts pocket. I put in with the screen facing my leg then rotate my whole pocket inside so that the screen is then facing out. That way, only the case is touching my leg and the twisted pocket prevents it from sliding out. I hope that makes sense. I also don’t get super sweaty since I usually just do low intensity cardio and use longer rest periods between sets to keep my poundage as high as possible.

  • Reply
    AJ
    April 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Excellent article. Simple is sometimes best.

    Thank you for providing straightforward and realistic style advice. Have read all your style articles.

    Relevant question for the season. What recommendations can you give for the skinny (or not-yet-jacked) guy for the summer? After a point, cannot wear layers / long sleeves due to the weather. I like your”uniform” recommendations from previous articles and was wondering about similar thoughts for the summer.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      I would just go for fitted tees in your case. Other than that, focus on putting on the size you’re after and you’ll be all set.

  • Reply
    Brian
    April 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Core150 provide a great shaker. I’ve had two of them for nearly three years. They’re BPA free, have three compartments inside, and I don’t remember them ever leaking on me.

  • Reply
    Marshallaw
    April 19, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    I wear Vibram Five fingers, like barefoot with good grip. Only thing is they look silly. Ingot thensame Converse but never thought to use them in the gym.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 19, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      I like the idea of the Five Fingers but never got a pair for the reasons you mentioned above. Try the Converse in the gym. They’re about halfway between modern runners and barefoot shoes.

  • Reply
    Mike
    April 19, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Try the Old Navy TALL version of their sweatpants. I’m 6′ 3″ 210 lbs and the Large Tall fit like a champ! Minimal shrinkage and they actually fit like they’re supposed to, unlike most sweats for tall dudes. http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=71901&vid=1&pid=646044012

  • Reply
    BorjaTSR
    April 20, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Hey Nate, thanks for the tank top recommendation – I’ve been looking for new ones for ages!

    Also, regarding earphones I suggest you try the new Xiaomi Dual drive ones. They cost around 15 bucks too and they put my old 190$ Sennheisers to shame.

  • Reply
    Joshua Dumesnil
    April 25, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Hey man. I just want to say please ditch the corded phones and go wireless. Once you go that route, you can’t ever go back. It’s more of an investment but the difference between working out with wires or without is substantial.

    • Reply
      Nate
      April 26, 2016 at 11:25 am

      I’m used to the cords but I probably don’t know what I’m missing, haha. Do you have a particular pair you recommend?

  • Reply
    MD
    April 30, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Great blog. I’ve suffered years of frustration with crappy shaker bottles. Lately I looked at Amazon for the best rated shaker cups and ended up buying a “Blender Bottle”. Its works well – much better than the free ones that arrive with an order of protein powder and creatine. http://www.amazon.com/BlenderBottle-Classic-Shaker-Bottle-28-ounce/dp/B001KADGMI

    Good luck and keep lifting.

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 1, 2016 at 7:59 am

      Thanks, MD! I’m leaning towards tacking this one on to my next amazon order.

      • Reply
        Drunicusrex
        May 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm

        Vote two for Blender Bottle. I think it was ten dollars at Walmart. Cheap, effective, doesn’t leak. Best of all it cleans up quickly with hit water.
        I’m a short fat guy. I can easily put on huge amounts of muscle, but losing fat and blubber takes six months of low carbs and endless cardio + lifting.
        For short fat guys, I’d recommend recommend the new Polo sport gum clothes – performance fabric and compression shirts and shorts. They do a good job hiding last winter’s beer and cheese fries, which will hopefully be gone by July 4.

  • Reply
    Lyle
    May 9, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Ah the bane of the shaker bottle. They’ve always leaked on me too. Funny story, one day before work I was running late so threw some protein powder and milk into a shaker bottle. I jumped in my car and started driving. On the way I processed to vigorously shake the bottle that I had absent mindedly neglected to tighten the lid on. Needless to say there was chocolate protein all over the inside of my car and all over myself. To say I was slightly perturbed would be an understatement. Sigh.

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 10, 2016 at 10:54 am

      That sounds like an awful way to start your day! On the bright side, I have a Blender Bottle and it DOES NOT LEAK! Not even a little. I’m super excited about that since I use it several times per day.

      • Reply
        Lyle
        May 11, 2016 at 8:24 am

        I’m going to have to look into a blender bottle. Will it mix up oats as well or is it more just for powder? I had one years ago that had a hard time mixing more than one scoop of powder but I’ll have to look into them again.

        • Reply
          Nate
          May 11, 2016 at 9:08 am

          I’ve only used it to mix powder so far, but I don’t even use the ball. I’m sure it would work with oats since I’ve never used the mixer attachments on other bottles and have mixed oats just fine. One thing to note is to make sure you allow enough room. I fill my shaker up with about half the water I’ll need, shake the hell out of it, then fill it the rest of the way through the spout. Works great and less parts to clean.

          • Lyle
            May 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm

            Now that’s a good tip about leaving space and filling the rest up through the spout. I tried it and it works great and doesn’t leave that last little bit of powder. Mixed better as well. Thanks for the tip!

          • Nate
            May 11, 2016 at 2:38 pm

            Yep, I started doing that years ago. I was tired of those screens getting disgusting even though I was cleaning them quite frequently so I just started tossing them in the trash as soon as I got a new shaker. Come to think of it, that’s probably why all of my shakers have leaked around the threads, haha! Oh well, the blender bottle is designed to work without it so no worries.

  • Reply
    Michael Medici
    June 13, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Nate,

    Noticed the guy who suggested wireless headphones never said which ones to buy, so I figured I’d help him out.

    I A/B tested Jaybirds (supposed to be the best) and the Beats wireless earbuds.

    I really wanted to like the Jaybirds because I didn’t want wrap headphones, but they did not fit well, fell out often, and died quickly.

    I returned them within 2 days and tried the Beats wireless instead, despite the wrap. They are incredible. I will never use another pair of earbuds again (I have an over ear pair as well).

    1. They’re extremely comfortable to the point you don’t even feel them
    2. They never fall out
    3. Sound is great
    4. Battery lasts hours
    5. Super easy to connect and have good range.

    I now use them all the time, not just as the gym. Easily the best headphone purchase I have ever made & keep in mind I *wanted* to like the Jaybirds more.

    There are some reviews about them breaking, but I’ve had mine for almost a year and had zero problems, so I assume these people were simply careless.

    Anyways, these are the ones I have https://goo.gl/Vj2NVw (not an affiliate, you’ve just given me a lot of value so I wanted to return the favor)

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 13, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Will definitely look into these soon. For me, the wire doesn’t bother me when wearing them but I could do without having to untangle those damn things multiple time per day, haha.

  • Reply
    John
    June 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

    HI,
    I agree with you Nate, gym clothes should be comfortable and functional for working out….As Arnold wrote in his book Education of a bodybuilder… If you care about what people think of the way you look at the gym, then you are working out for the wrong reasons (or something like that!) Nowadays many gyms look like a fashion shows where people spend more time updating their stats on some workout app than actually working out. It takes their mind away from what they should be doing at the gym (looking at their sms, mails, stats, FB, etc.). In my opinion gym gear should stay very basic (shoes, short, t-shirt or tank top, straps, belt (if needed) and water bottle) and, bring as less distraction as possible to stay FOCUS!

    BTW, the only shaker bottle that did not failed on me so far, or leaked in my gym bag or on the car seats is the Cyclone cup: https://www.amazon.ca/Cyclone-Cups-CC05-Cup-20oz/dp/B00DD0ZRX4/ref=pd_sim_121_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=41pB8YpCk3L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&refRID=HJFY1ZWB4JK73BGDFZCP

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 17, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Definitely, keeping your gym wear basic helps you stay focused on the task at hand. I picked up a blender ball shaker and it’s been great so far. I’ll check out the cyclone when it’s time to replace it.

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