What Activewear Tops Should Men Wear to the Gym

What Activewear Tops Should Men Wear to the Gym

When going to the gym, your workout takes center stage. Your choice of workout clothes and how they fit can potentially hinder you, though, so it's smart to give at least some thought to what you are wearing. Plus, if you garner extra attention by what you choose to wear, it can break your focus and draw you away from the exercises you are trying to complete. Here are the different options for tops, the advantages of each, and what to be aware of for each choice.

On a General Note: Colors

Bright colors are great when you are outside running so that cars can see you and don't hit you. At the gym, they can be a little conspicuous. If you want some color, that's fine — go with more muted tones like olive green or maroon. In general, cool neutrals like blacks, greys, and whites seem to fit best. And if you have to have something written on your shirt, keep it motivational or humorous, but most of all classy.

Active Tops: An Overview

There are some considerations for what you should wear on top when exercising. Firstly, you want to have freedom of movement so you can use the full range of your body in your workout. Secondly, you want some coverage so that you don't leave the equipment too sweaty and gross for the next person. And, of course, you don't want to be too hot or cool down too fast, so take the weather into account as well as whether your gym has air conditioning or is located inside an oven (read: an un-conditioned warehouse). Stretchy cotton or a moisture-wicking material will be best as far as fabrics go. Finding a balance of all of these elements keeps you comfortable, lets you move, and allows you to focus on pushing your limits instead of your clothes.

Now, for specifics.


T-shirts are the go-to top for most athletic wear outfits. There is enough coverage to soak up all the sweat from your core, chest, back, and armpits while the crew neck and sleeves visually emphasize the width of your shoulders. It's a good look. However, most guys don't have t-shirts that fit them very well. Many t-shirts are the generically-sized kind you get free from an event or volunteering. If that works for you, great, but there are certain ways a t-shirt should fit you. The sleeves should come to about your mid-bicep, the edge of the shoulder seam should reach your shoulder bone or a little further, and the length should be a bit past your waistband, say mid-fly or so. You should be able to actively raise and lower your arms without your t-shirt doing a belly reveal. The fit should be snug all over without being tight.

Long-Sleeve Tops

Long-sleeve tops are for keeping off the chill of winter and maintaining enough heat so that your muscles don't get cold while waiting your turn on the equipment. This is the top with the fullest coverage so that you don't have to worry about leaving sweaty puddles behind (unless you are working really, really hard, in which case, bring a towel or an extra shirt along). It makes everything easier. The same fit rules apply to the long-sleeve as to the t-shirt with one addition: make sure the sleeves reach your wrists. When you put your arms above your head, the sleeves shouldn't move too far below your wrists and definitely not part of the way up your forearm. You aren't a child in a growth spurt; you are a man who knows how clothes should fit.

Tank Tops

Tank tops are great for hot weather and a warm day. With maximum freedom of movement, you can use your strength to the fullest when doing sets of pull-ups, push-ups, bicep curls, rows, and more. This is also the top that can look the weirdest if you get the fit wrong. While this top can be a little looser for airflow, you still don't want to be swimming in it. The armholes shouldn't be right under your armpits to avoid chaffing, but they also shouldn't be too loose. Your pecks shouldn't be peeking out of anywhere, neither the armholes nor the neckline. Let the weight, not your shirt, do the talking.

Athletic Jacket

If you aren't sure what kind of a day it's going to be, or if you live in a place that has a massive temperature swing as soon as the sun sets, bring along an athletic jacket. Aside from weather considerations, these are great for heating your muscles as you are warming up while not requiring a long-sleeve commitment for the duration of your workout. Since it's a jacket, it can fit a little looser provided, again, you aren't swimming in extra material. The point is to generate and keep heat in.

You've got the tops down! Now, get out there and have the workout of your dreams!


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