If you’re buying new gym gear you may figure any lightweight tee will do, but understanding what makes a good gym shirt will help you stay cool, covered and comfortable.

Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or you’re hitting the gym floor for the first time, it makes sense to invest in some of the best workout clothes. You plan to work hard in order to see significant gains. But why make your gym experience harder and less enjoyable by wearing ill-fitting, uncomfortable clothing that just isn’t up to the job?

What makes a good gym shirt

One of the most important pieces of gym kit to get right is your gym shirt. Too tight and it’ll restrict your movement. Too long or loose and it’ll flap around and distract you, or get caught in the equipment you’re using. If it’s too short, your stomach will be on show whenever you reach or stretch. You’ll likely work up a sweat too, so you don’t want a material that doesn’t breath, wick away moisture or dry well.

Of course, asking what makes a good gym shirt is a bit like asking what you should wear to work. It all depends on what you’re doing. Clothing that’s suitable for treadmill running, mobility or cardio workouts might not be so good for strength training or HIIT sessions. Check out our guide on what to wear to the gym.

CrossFit athlete and the Fittest Man in the UK 2022 Reggie Fasa gives us the lowdown on what makes a good gym shirt:

“The most important factor when picking the right gym shirt is finding something that you’re comfortable in, both aesthetically and functionally. This involves finding the right material and fit for you. It’s important that your gym top is something you feel comfortable in. You don’t want it getting in the way; you simply want to focus on the workout at hand.

“I always look for a breathable and flexible material that isn’t going to hinder me. Generally I prefer to wear a sleeveless top when doing workouts but sometimes lift in a t-shirt. I like my arms to feel free as well as helping to prevent me from getting too hot. I also prefer cotton over nylon as a fabric as I like the way it feels better.”

Personal trainer and physiotherapist Jonathan Cooke explains what makes a good gym shirt for a range of workouts:

What makes a good gym shirt for strength training and HIIT

“For strength training workouts, I like cotton T-shirts with some elastane for stretch. If you tend to work up a sweat, I’d suggest tops made of polyester, which will be better at breathing and absorbing moisture.

“If you’re doing HIIT training, you want to wear a top that’s breathable, moisture wicking and with good stretch to accommodate different body positions. You also want it to feels light and comfortable.”

What makes a good gym shirt for cardio and mobility work

“When doing cardio workouts, opt for gym shirts that are breathable, absorb moisture well and have elastic components to accommodate stretch. Think polyester T-shirts, tank tops or maybe sleeveless shirts.

“For mobility work, it’s best to go for loose-fitting clothing like regular cotton or polyester T-shirts. They can accommodate different mobility positions and the more extreme end ranges for joints.”