There are a ton of men’s workout shorts on the market and every pair claims to be better than the rest. Instead of falling into the branding trap, I think it’s much more productive to assess men’s training shorts based on how their construction will match your training demands and needs.
In this article, I’m going to lay out six construction details that I think every guy should know, or at least be cognizant of when looking into buying new workout shorts. With the cost of training shorts continuing to increase and with so many high-end options on the market, the more education you have the better.
Plus, this way you don’t end up buying a pair of workout shorts only to return them because they fit poorly or didn’t match your training demands well.
Men’s Workout Shorts Table of Contents
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The outer material for men’s workout shorts can be a make or break in regard to long-term shorts durability. Every company tends to use its own proprietary blend of materials to give each pair of workout shorts their own special spin. Generally speaking though, there will be some consistent materials used across the board.
If we can understand which materials are most commonly used, then we can begin to understand how a pair of shorts will perform long-term. A few common materials used include:
- Polyester: A synthetic fabric that is derived from petroleum. This material is used in a ton of different textile products and this material is what gives a pair of shorts’ outer material their slicker, more synthetic feeling.
- Spandex (elastane): An elastic synthetic fiber that has stretch and is used in textiles that focus on providing an adequate range of motion and stretch often.
- Nylon: A synthetic material that is known for its ability to resist abrasion and be highly durable. Nylon is often used in outerwear where durability is of higher priority.
- Polypropylene: A synthetic material that is known for its water-wicking abilities. Oftentimes, this material will be used for gear designed for resisting water absorption when training outside.
For men’s workout shorts, these are generally the big four that you’ll see. There are other materials out there, of course, but most major brands will utilize a combination of the four above to create their workout shorts.
Workouts shorts generally come with two different options in regard to having a built-in compression liner (lined and non-lined). For this construction detail, usually, it’s going to come down to personal preference.
Some guys love having a built-in liner that feels seamless in respect to a short’s outer shell, while other guys love having linerless shorts and rocking their own compression gear. Compression liners are usually constructed with spandex (also referred to as elastane) as this material stretches and form fits well and does a fairly good job at resisting sweat and stank.
Some benefits of a built-in liner include not needing to remember or pack additional articles of clothing for the gym and having a more “seamless” fit. For example, some outer short shells and compression liners can move around a lot at the waistband which makes them feel awkward during various activities. We’ve probably all experienced those times when we went running and had to keep adjusting along the way.
A couple of benefits of linerless shorts are that they’re often more comfortable for day-to-day wear if you want to rock them without compression liner underneath. Also, if you like to wear longer compression gear (leggings), then non-lined shorts will usually be a much better bet as you won’t have two layers of compression gear under your shorts then.
In all honesty, I think the waistband can, at times, be the unsung hero in workout shorts. It’s a part of the construction that we often overlook, but it can be a total make or break when it comes to performance. Nothing is more frustrating than having to re-tie your shorts every 15-minutes or a waistband that is not secure.
Instead of overcomplicating this section, we’ll cover three primary types of waistband and drawstring constructions and discuss some pros and cons to each.
- Boardshorts Style
- Pros: Easier to wear on a day-to-day basis, strings face externally.
- Cons: Can come undone during abrasion activities on the anterior (burpees, etc.).
- Inner Drawstring
- Pros: Seamless fit and feel with the drawstring being internal.
- Cons: Drawstring can bunch up and feel like a knot pressing into the lower torso at times.
- Outer Drawstring
- Pros: Secure option with no internal strings inside the shorts.
- Cons: Can come undone and get caught on pieces of equipment if not tied correctly.
Personally, I like different waistband constructions for different activities. For more versatile training, I’ll look for shorts with an inner drawstring, and for day-to-day wear and training where I’m a bit more static in nature (dedicated strength work), I’ll look for boardshorts style or inner drawstring options.
How many times have you been looking at workout shorts and have read something “2-way stretch” or “4-way stretch”? What does that actually mean? The stretch of a pair of workout shorts can help suggest how it will best be used.
- 2-Way Stretch: Stretches in two directions either widthwise or lengthwise.
- 4-Way Stretch: Stretches in all four directions in regard to widthwise and lengthwise.
In workout shorts speak, if you see 2-way stretch on a pair of shorts, then you can gather that the pair will have some stretch and will likely be a bit heavier in nature. Whenever you see 4-way stretch, you can assume that the materials will be primarily stretch-focused in nature like spandex and this pair of shorts will often be lighter in nature.
Gussets are areas in clothing that have reinforced materials added or construction aspects to enlarge a specific area. Common areas where we’ll generally see gussets in clothing collars, waistbands, and ends of pants/shirts.
When it comes to workout shorts, we’ll usually see gussets mentioned in respect to the bottom of the shorts. For example, if we see a pair of workout shorts that say “leg gussets”, then you could assume that the leg construction is formulated to accommodate for larger legs moving through various ranges of motion.
Essentially, if you’re a guy with meaty quads and hamstrings, then looking for shorts that have leg gussets can be incredibly helpful for ensuring they’re comfortable but also perform with you, not against you. If you’ve worn a pair of workout shorts that were way too tight and would ride up in every deep squat, then you understand this.
The inseam in workout shorts essentially entails the length from the crotch to the bottom of the shorts, AKA where the material stops. This is an important construction detail to understand because shorter and longer shorts will both impact preference and performance.
Usually, we’ll see three different options in men’s workout shorts and these include 5″, 7″, and 9″ inseams. All of these options come with their own lists of pros and cons.
- 5″ Inseam
- Pros: Great for running and being a breathable, minimalist option.
- Cons: Not always the best for strength work when friction can be present.
- 7″ Inseam
- Pros: Best of all worlds type of short and long enough to be versatile, but short enough for cardiovascular training.
- Cons: It May be too short for some lifters doing things like deadlifts and cleans.
- 9″ Inseam
- Pros: Best for protecting the thighs from friction.
- Cons: Not the lightest or most versatile option compared to 5″ and 7″.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to inseams because a lot of it is a personal preference, but one can use the topical pros and cons to help make educated buying decisions if they’re indifferent about them and on the fence for which to grab.
Before you buy your next pair of workout shorts, make sure you check out the tech specs and features for the model. With that information, then consider how you train and what you prefer when it comes to men’s workout shorts.
If you have any further questions about workout shorts, hit me personally and check out all of the reviews on this site to find the best options for your training needs!
Men’s Workout Shorts FAQs
Men’s workout shorts will be made with various blends of materials. The most common materials that tend to be used are polyester and spandex. Companies will utilize these materials because they have adequate stretch form fit the body really well.
Typically, a waistband that has the drawstring internally facing will be the most secure. This waistband will be great for resisting coming undone which there’s any form of friction.
Inseam length should be dictated by a guy’s preference and activity. Shorter inseams are usually best for cardiovascular training, while longer inseams are useful for preventing friction on the legs when doing things like deadlifts, snatches, and cleans.
Whenever you see “leg gussets” for a pair of men’s workout shorts, this means that the legs are enlarged to account for performance and comfort.