Gone are the days when heading to the gym meant reluctantly pulling on an old pair of Bermuda shorts and a baggy Oasis T-shirt. Workouts are hard and don’t need to be made any harder by sweat-drenched cotton tees weighing you down (if you are trying to increase the challenge, try a weighted vest instead).
Modern workout shirts are made from polyester, which is excellent at soaking up sweat and then helping it evaporate, a property improved further by proprietary sweat-wicking treatments. Often you’ll find a little elastane (usually Lycra) is mixed in for added stretch which improves the range of movement, allowing you to move freely, without rubbing or chafing as you work your way through sets.
In truth, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between gym T-shirts, which is reassuring at least. Just find one which suits your tastes and budgets and get to work. To get you started, here’s a selection of the best gym T-shirts we’ve tried.
The Best Gym T-Shirts
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The Vital Light Seamless is available in a broad range of colours and ticks all the essential boxes for a gym tee. It wicks sweat, has a comfortable but tight fit and stretches in all directions to allow for unrestricted movement. Most importantly it does all that for a reasonable price.
No other tee on this list claims to proactively improve your performance. This one weaves in a mineral-enriched fibre created by the company Cellient (opens in new tab), which is supposed to reflect the infrared energy your body emits back where it came from, with the aim of boosting vasodilation, allowing your body to use oxygen more effectively. Do feel free to read that again – it’s a bit of a head-scratcher and we can’t seriously vouch for it, but there is some scientific research that backs up the concept. Regardless, from using it we can tell you that it’s a pleasingly soft and comfortable tee for working out. The seamless design minimises the risk of any chafing, and while the tee is fitted, it’s not skin-tight like Under Armour’s base layers.
If you’re working out every day and starting to worry that the amount of T-shirts you require is going to bankrupt you, give this budget option from Decathlon a look. Sure, it’s not going to wick sweat and dry as effectively as the premium options on this list, but it’s designed to let you move freely no matter what direction your workout takes you in, and it’s really very cheap.
An update to this popular high-performance gym tee weaves spandex into the fabric to help it retain its shape once you’ve drenched it in sweat. It’s wonderfully comfortable and gives the impression of heft when you first pull it on, but the perforations mean it didn’t become clingy when we wore it to a strength-based circuit class. Like the first edition, it has silver woven into the fabric to inhibit the growth of smelly bacteria, and it’s so effective we wore it for a couple of cycle commutes after the class without stinking out the joint.
Aside from the fact that this tee is made with only 50% recycled fabric rather than our preferred 100%, the Nike Pro Dri-FIT ticks all the boxes as a gym T-shirt, with a simple, effective design that comes in such a large range of colours that you’ll easily be able to match it with your shorts. The relaxed fit is great for accommodating all body shapes and movements in the gym, but if you want a tighter style to show off your muscles there is a fitted version of the tee as well.
The North Face may be better known for kit designed to tackle the outdoors, but you still need to wear something when you’re training for your next adventure. The brand’s Mountain Athletics range was created for that exact reason with a number of great options to wear whether you’re in the gym or hitting the trails. The T-shirt is one of our favourite picks from the collection because it includes The North Face’s FlashDry technology, which wicks moisture away from the skin, and some of the designs are a refreshing change from monotone workout shirts.
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Canterbury is well known as a rugby brand and this quick-drying tee has a lower neckline to accommodate the large deltoids and neck muscles players typically sport, but that also sounds like the perfect fit for hench gym rats to us. The VapoDri tech helps sweat to evaporate, and the back and arms are mesh to help keep you comfortable as you go for lifting glory.