Finding the best pair of gym shorts for you (the complete guide)

by Ryan Wagner

It was about a year ago that my brother gifted me a pair of Lululemon shorts for my birthday. When I opened the box and saw what was inside, I have to admit, there was a part of me that thought to myself, too bad I can’t wear these to the gym. This is, of course, in direct contrast to the entire purpose of the shorts: to exercise in them! And thus got me thinking about how to buy the best pair of gym shorts.

First, a little background: I’m an athletic guy. I’ve been lifting weights for 15 years now. I’ve also competed in triathlons — including a 70.3 Ironman — lots of Adventure Races, calisthenics, O-lifting, etc. But above all else, I consider myself to be a weightlifter. That’s my constant. I can name every Mr. Olympia. I treasure the deadlift. Without it sounding too broscience-cliche, the sound of clanking weights in the gym feels like home to me.

Suffice it to say, I feel that I’m well versed in what is commonly known as gym culture.

Now, back to my Lululemon shorts. Upon opening the box and spying that little logo on the shorts, my first thought was a bit stereotypical: Lululemon = yoga.

Therefore, I can’t lift heavy weights in these.

But here’s the thing, I practice yoga. And I’m really good at it. It’s not unusual for me to be at or near as the same level of proficiency as the instructor. However, I’m also a weightlifter and these two worlds are very different from one another. Nevertheless, I wear my Lululemon shorts to the gym all the time. And the honest truth is, they aren’t my favorite. So, I wanted to take a moment and offer up my unsolicited two cents on how you can manufacture better weight lifting shorts for us gym rats.

Before we get into the details, I should address the clear fact that your menswear sales appear to be pretty spectacular. According to publicly disclosed company earnings, your menswear sales have increased by an average of 20% in recent quarters. However, among the cultish “serious weightlifting community,” a pair of Lululemon shorts remains hard to come by.

Ditch the pockets

When we’re in the gym we don’t carry anything in our pockets.

And on the rare occasion that we would, what happens? We end up getting down on the mat and rolling right over what delicate and/or pointy thing we were carrying around with us because we would never use it in the gym.

And pockets get caught on everything. Gym equipment. Dumbbells. Our own hands during different movements.

It may be the only time we say this, but seriously, we don’t need pockets on our shorts.

lululemon for men pocket on shorts


Forget the drawstring

Tying a draw string is just one more step that we’d rather not deal with. We will constantly work to find that sweet spot where our shorts are tight enough that they stay put, but loose enough that we can slip them off in the locker room easily. In other words, we’re trying to recreate the venerable elastic band. Good old elastic may not provide the ideal aesthetic, but it works just fine.

We’re not too particular on color, but…

This is tricky because I totally understand that it’s tough to design mens shorts that don’t look like (1) swim trunks or (2) yoga shorts. Bright colors and/or stripes tend to give the feeling that we’re looking for a body of water, whereas the standard Lululemon fabric patterns pretty much look like all things yoga. And my apologies to the designers in the room, but honestly, something relatively boring is just right.

Solid colors are best.

When most of us guys shop for shorts there are a couple of things running through our minds:

  1. How will a dusting of chalk look on these shorts after deadlift day?
  2. Are these shorts boring enough for the gym?

Get rid of the mesh on the inside*

Please don’t build shorts with an integrated mesh “underwear.” It’s always been a little weird for us. And honestly, we’re going to wear our underpants anyway because we don’t entirely trust that mesh.

[*To be clear, my shorts didn’t have any mesh on the inside, but I see them often enough on men’s gym shorts that I wanted to bring it up.]

Zippers aren’t our friends

Ditch the zippers. Entirely. We don’t need to zip any pockets closed. And as soon as we get down on the ground and roll around, albeit with our pre-workout stretches or any other kind of movement, we’re going to roll right on top of those zippers. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t feel great.

No fly

I should give credit where it’s due — there is no zipper in my fly. But then why is there a fly at all!? What I’m talking about is that flap of fabric meant to give the impression of a traditional fly.

The fly just gets in the way. It catches on things.

I realize that you were probably trying to design shorts that could be worn both in and out of the gym, but I’ll tell you a little secret, we never wear our shorts outside of the gym. Not only do they not have pockets, but they are probably smelly and covered in a light dusting of chalk.

And now, for some good news

I know this sounds like a whole lot of critical feedback thus far, so allow me to offer up one little bit of advice that I think would do a world of good: Start building shorts more like the MMA style, built with flexibility around the seat and an eye for extreme durability. 

(By the way, there’s a reason that I’m an incredibly loyal fan to Under Armour — I still own underwear that I literally purchased 9 years ago. The fabric is super comfortable. I don’t feel the seams, it’s soft and flexible, and it still looks like new.)

We don’t really care about anything else. We just want shorts that move with us, that don’t get in the way, and that last a really long time. That’s what a pair of weightlifting shorts is all about.

Lululemon, I know you can do it! You have the technology! You have some incredible products on the women’s side and with some thoughtful redesign, I believe that you can do it for us dudes too. I’m rooting for you.

P.S. And yes, please seriously consider ditching the logo.

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