The Best Shorts for Squats and Deadlifts
You can lift just fine without squatting shorts.
We don't want to give anyone the impression that special shorts are mandatory for weightlifting performance. Some things, in the fitness world, are a must--running shoes if you want to run, a bench and spotter for weight training, a decent set of barbells for the same reason.
But lifting shorts? They are not mandatory. But we are providing information because they can and often will make a big difference in your performance level.
It isn't because there is anything special about the shorts. It is just that those garments we call lifting or squatting shorts have elastic waistbands, short leg/knee cuts, compression, and--sometimes--comfort liners. Shorts that are best suited to lifting will also be made of moisture-wicking fabric.
These qualities will add up to more consistent workouts. if you want to learn more, read about our top ten picks below.
In a Hurry? The Test Winner After 20 hours of research
Bamboo fiber is durable
Material is soft, won't cause chafing
Some flexibility in the fit
Best 10 Shorts for Squats and Deadlifts
1. Fusion Crosstraining Shorts
Bamboo fiber is durable
Material is soft, won't cause chafing
Some flexibility in the fit
Lengths may vary depending on height
These light breathable shorts are tight enough not to need a drawstring, while letting you move around freely, without constriction, as you complete your gym workout.Read more
4-rth is a startup company, based in the U.S., and they also offer matching tank tops, racerbacks, and other comfy gym gear. You'll want to wear them off the gym for relaxing at home, going for outdoor walks, or even a trip to the beach. The shorts are made of bamboo thread for exceptional durability. Their moisture wicking properties are better than those of cotton.
The sizing chart for these shorts goes from extra small to extra large, snugging nicely with up to a 40" men's waist. The shorts come in a variety of colors, and according to the Amazon listing, you can also order custom colors. There are no pockets on these shorts. You do have a bit of play in sizing, depending on how tight or loose of a fit you want.
You will want to wear underwear with these shorts, as there is no liner. The material will not cause chafing or rubbing. Customer reviews are consistently favorable, though the shorts are expensive and not suitable for extra tall fitness buffs.
2. Core Energy Cross Training Shorts
Comfy mesh liner
Small inseam pocket
Fits tightly with no pinching
Microfiber fabric easy to keep clean
May not be tight enough around the legs
This is another higher end, somewhat pricey dedicated workout short that will support you in comfort and will move when you move.Read more
The shorts, like you would expect from them at this price, are suitable for yoga, squats, other weight training, cycling, and outdoor pursuits. You could probably get away with wearing them in the pool, and they definitely won't overheat if you decide to wear them into the sauna or steam room. They are made of microfiber which renders the shorts breathable and light.
These are slim fit shorts, so if you prefer something roomier, you will want to go up a size after consulting the size chart. They won't cause discomfort in your usual size, of course. Those who do more fast-paced activities, like kickboxing and spin, will feel at home in these flexible and secure shorts.
These shorts have an inner liner, so you can wear them with no undergarments if you prefer. The material is solid and opaque enough to keep everything private. The liner is made of mesh, and you do get a small inside pocket.
3. Powerhouse Gym Shorts
Made of durable cotton
Fits true to size
Powerhouse a good startup company
Shorts are reasonably priced
No pockets, no liner
These are no frills old school cotton workout shorts that you can get in packs of two, for about what you'd expect to pay for a single microfiber or bamboo thread short.Read more
The shorts don't seem to come above extra large size which, according to Amazon, fits a men's 35-inch waist. There are no pockets. The available colors are black and grey, with the Powerhouse logo prominently displayed on the left calf area.
These are not the baggy weightlifting shorts you sometimes see a powerlifter wearing. They are not form fitting and, being cotton, will stretch out over time. The shorts are long enough that you can wear them to run errands, or if you want to stop on the way back from the gym for a refreshing drink.
Powerhouse, the maker of the shorts, is an intriguing company that makes T-Shirts, tanks, sweatshirts, sweatpants and muscle tees for gym buffs. Their prices are reasonable and they have a decent track record for customer service, according to our research.
4. Jed North Men's Fitted Shorts
Drawstring for custom fit
Polyester and spandex
Cut specifically for weightlifting
Low profile design
Generous zippered pockets
No inner liner
These are branded drawstring shorts, suitable for lifting, running, and other pursuits, that fit true to size and will let you breathe so you are not soaked in sweat after intense activity.Read more
The composite shorts are mostly polyester, with 10% spandex for stretchy comfort with a snug feel. The fabric is durable and won't rub or chafe even during activities like Crossfit or kickboxing. The fit is slim, not quite skintight but with a low profile and compression like feel.
Jed North tried to think of everything. That includes a cut style that will free your legs, unlike many cheaper shorts that can get bunched up. You will never have to worry either about catching the shorts in a weight stack cable or similar pinch point.
The benefits of this product don't end with the fabric or fit either. They are fitted for a contoured feel, friendly to human anatomy and body friendly. Two zippered pockets are big enough even for your iPhone, according to both the maker and customer reviews.
Weightlifters will appreciate the slightly reduced length, as it facilitates movement during lower body routines or squats. Whether you want to do weighted lunges, calf raises, or just a plain old farmer's carry with heavy dumbbells, Jed North has got you covered in style.
5. Epic MMA Gear WOD Shorts
Comes in lots of colors
Freedom of movement
Okay for some wet/beach pursuits
Built for CrossFit and MMA pursuits, these uber durable stretch fit shorts give you all the range of motion you need for peak performance.Read more
No zippers here, but you do get a mini side pocket for car keys and perhaps a dollar or two for the drink machine. The shorts come in a range of cool colors, including camo and fatigue green. The shorts resemble swim trunks more than anything.
And although not meant for swimming, the resilient material can certainly let you sweat to your heart's content without getting soaked or weighing you down. The shorts are also meant to give you a full range of motion. Some reviewers mentioned using these as beach/surfing shorts with no problems.
The shorts fit true to size, though as usual, you'll want to look at the size chart. The shorts are sized up to a 40-inch waist in men's sizes. The 1.0 is the first gen of Epic's WOD shorts. They are now on 4.0 and each upgrade garners more positive reviews on retail sites.
6. Tough Mode Zipper Pocket Shorts
Top rankings on Amazon
The company offers easy returns
Polyester/spandex is stretchy
No mesh lining
This is another comfortable and flexible polyester/spandex drawstring short that will be your best friend during lifting, running, CrossFit and other strenuous gym activities.Read more
The material is soft, non-chafing and will not rub against you during intense movements. A shortened inseam lets your legs move freely and, if you happen to compete, will help you show off your quads and calves on stage. The zipper has a lock on it so it won't ever come undone, and there are rises in both the back and front fabric to keep you from any compromising positions.
Perhaps the best thing about Tough Mode is how their products fit all b
7. Muscle Alive Workout Shorts
Tight fit lends compression feel
Designed for heavy lifting
Excellent moisture wicking properties
Is tighter, shorter than some may want
These are shorter than anything else on our list, though the front and back rise will prevent any awkward moments. The missing fabric means you get the max range of movement from a body-hugging muscle short.Read more
Side panel fabric is shaped to give you a flattering silhouette. The waistband and thigh are both lined with elastic. Medium, large, and extra large sizes go from a 29" to 40" waist. The material is polyester and lycra, so it will cling tighter and accentuate your leg muscles more than even a spandex blend.
You also get a slight compression effect for warmth, circulation, and some protection from post lifting soreness. Although you can take them anywhere, these are definitely made for lifting weights. In addition to stretching and snugging, the fabric will let your glutes breathe and wick away perspiration.
Muscle Alive shorts come in a few different primary colors, all with accent piping or trim. They rank quite high in Amazon's men's workout and men's sport shorts categories. There's no liner, so you will need a jock strap or other garment for comfort and hygiene.
8. Monsta Clothing Workout Shorts
Longer than other gym shorts
Can be machine washed
Lightweight and breathable
Elastic waistband, pockets
Shorts are baggy, some users may want more compression
These shorts are solid polyester, with an elastic waistband, for the ultimate in comfort and sweat destroying workout shorts.Read more
Monsta targets its gear to the MMA market; these shorts are called Tap or Bleed, but you don't have to get in the ring to enjoy the freedom of movement and baggy fit you get from them. The company strongly advises that you get the proper sizing, including instructions for measuring yourself before you order. Sizes go up to XX-large and will accommodate different body types.
The shorts are machine washable, but can't go in the drier. You will need to air dry them. They are durable, as long as you take proper care of them, and are suitable for frequent use. At less than thirty dollars retail, you will want to get multiple pairs so you can rotate them out for longer life.
The shorts have convenient pockets and the shorts are longer than most of those on our list. They are still suitable for spin bikes and other forms of cardio or use with the TRX system. There is an enormous Tap or Bleed log on the right front of the shorts, which some gym, buffs will find off-putting.
9. YoungLA Running Shorts
Terry cloth is stretchy and breathes
Form fitting but not restrictive
Can use for different activities
Does not fit true to size-measure up
These shorts are made of Frech terry cloth, known for its stretchy resilience and durability. They are form fitting but will not make you sacrifice your freedom of movement.Read more
The shorts are cut above the knee to allow you to move as you perform your squats and other weightlifting exercises. They are a bit tight by design, for those who wish to flaunt their hard-won quad muscles; if your motive is more utilitarian, Young LA advises that you go a size up from your usual.
The terry ensures these shorts won't bunch up during lunges, calf raises, rowing, deadlifts or intense cardio. They are versatile enough to use anywhere in the gym. The French terry is knit, organic, breathable and made for dryness and comfort. You can wear these for outdoor sports in between gym visits.
Unlike so many of the shorts we found, these have pockets and the maker guarantees they can handle a phone. There are front and back pockets, so you can keep your wallet on you as well. The shorts close with a drawstring for a nice tight fit around the waist. The shorts are conveniently machine washable, but you will want to keep them with like colors.
10. Ouber Gym Shorts
Extra warmth in cold weather
Three-quarter length with cuffs
Are not sport/lifting specific and may get in the way
These three-quarter length multipurpose shorts are made of cotton, polyester, and just enough Lycra to keep the shorts stretchy and let them maintain form after you take them off.Read more
The fabric blend makes for a lightweight pair of shorts that will cover you down past the knee while letting your skin breathe and protecting you from excess heat. The legs are tapered, ending in tight cuffs so the pants stay in place during your intense workouts. You get two pockets, one with a zipper and one without. They are both big enough to comfortably get your hands into.
The crotch and cut of the pants let you move your legs while protecting them as you lift or participate in outdoor activities. Football, hiking, soccer, long runs--these shorts are versatile enough for all of them. Because of their length and extra thickness, the Ouber pants are suitable for colder autumn weather as well as summertime.
These are not compression shorts, lifting shorts, MMA shorts, or squat specific pants. They are great for all-around fitness, with the added bonus of looking great when you run errands or just hang out with friends. The fabric makeup means the Oubers are machine washable and can go in the drier as well.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Shorts that were made specifically for barbell lifting were given priority on our list.
By the time you reach the end of our guide, you will realize that many of the shorts can be used for almost any activity. Plenty of them, too, can be worn outside the gym and will look just fine with a casual T-Shirt and sneakers look.
You can do squats in any pair of gym pants. Anything that is pliable enough not to rip, bunch up, or restrict your movement will do. But what we call squat shorts have a few features in common. These include light compression, an elastic or drawstring waistband, an above the knee cut, and higher front and back stays to make sure you stay modest even during the lowest arc of your squat.
The shorts we prioritized and gave the highest scores to were the ones that had a single application of being lifting shorts. Such shorts will give you a more efficient and comfortable squat experience, but they are not indispensable and you can certainly lift a barbell without investing in specialized shorts.
Sweat is the enemy of your skin as well as the life of your shorts.
That makes things difficult since sweat is also always the byproduct of lifting weights or doing cardio. So we ensured the products we reviewed were made of porous enough material to let air circulate, and keep your sweat from pooling up, while also keeping you protected and making sure your range of motion is not compromised.
Cotton was the go-to material, for casual clothes, for many years. It still works well, but over the last couple of decades, synthetic materials have led the way. Fabrics like polyester, spandex, and Lycra are nice and porous to allow for airflow. These lab-created materials have the added bonus of being stretchy and form-fitting, depending on the purpose of the shorts.
The shorts you wear should feel good and keep you moving freely, even while pushing enough weight to shock your muscles into reaching the next level.
We almost always put an emphasis on comfort in our buying guides. We know that you will not be satisfied with something that puts you in an awkward position or cause you pain. When that happens, you are faced with either trying to return the product or just not doing whatever exercise you wanted to do when you bought it. Most of us are not iron-willed when it comes to doing our workouts, so we may be tempted to just put it off.
We don't want any of these outcomes, and we understand that you do not either. So while we don't forget about form, function, durability, and sweatproofing, we also make sure not to offer you anything we would not be comfortable wearing ourselves.
Ill-fitting workout shorts can cause all sorts of problems.
For example, they can move around and cause chafing. Chafing is painful and also can distract you from the proper form you need when you are lifting weights. If chafing is severe enough, it may even keep you out of action for a day or more. Imagine the difficulty of trying to take a spin class or use any cardio machine with chafing on your legs from wearing the wrong shorts.
We have tried to make clear which shorts will be form fitting to your body, and which ones will be a bit baggier. It is true that shorter and tighter shorts have an impact on specific exercises. But we also understand that our readers have their personal preferences. We have provided enough information to allow you to make your own educated choice about which shorts to purchase and use.
Materials make a difference in your performance.
Not everyone wants space age moisture-wicking fabrics in their shorts and other workout garments.
Some of us prefer the feel and texture of regular cotton. Plant and bamboo fibers are also now commonplace. Terrycloth, in its pure organic form, makes for a good sweat absorbing gym short. Each fabric will have its good points, and each fabric will also have its shortcomings. It comes down to your goals and past experiences to decide which fabric is most appropriate for the shorts you will lift or run in several times a week.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Elastane, Lycra, and Spandex. Three different types of human-made fibers, three very different experiences when you wear shorts made from each.
Or are they?
Spandex, Lycra, and elastane are actually all words for the same fiber, created by a scientist working for the DuPont corporation in 1958. The fiber's central quality is its ability to stretch and then go back to its original size; it was originally given the name Spandex as a variation on "expands."
Elastane is simply what people in much of Europe call Spandex. Elastane is, arguably, the more correct term since Spandex is made of elastic material.
In Spain, the UK, Portugal, Australia, and parts of South America, Spandex is called Lycra. This is after the brand name used in that part of the world.
We point all this out because, as always, we want you to make an educated decision, having all the knowledge you need at hand. If you see a pair of shorts being advertised as "contains Spandex and Lycra," you may want to pass by.
Go to any lifting gym, and you are likely to see people squatting, deadlifting, benching and more with compression shorts or tights, which cover the entire leg.
But why? And is this something you should start doing if you want to break your own current PR?
The answer is that the compression gear can, at least anecdotally, prevent and treat post-workout soreness. There is some research suggesting a link as well. The benefit isn't heat or increased blood flow as much as it is muscle alignment. Compression gear won't lock your muscles down exactly, the way a weight stack can, but having even a little compression will encourage your muscles not to overstep their place, thereby helping you feel less sore the day after a weightlifting workout.
Other Factors to Consider
We did not make compression a main factor in our reviewing, because not every pair of lifting shorts needs to have compression or is designed to.
Still, we thought it was important because, as we mentioned, compression tights are so common in lifting gyms and they do have some value for post-workout recovery. We think if you lift heavy weight, or if you plan on doing so, you should have the knowledge set to understand and consider every factor that could give you an advantage. The advantage may be lifting more weight, or it may be avoiding injury. They are both pretty important.
No pair of workout shorts will last forever. But the best ones, which often are more expensive, should give you several years of faithful service.
You may notice we did not include many all cotton or mostly cotton shorts in our list. While we acknowledge the strength and natural sweat fighting ability of cotton, cotton is just not as long lasting as modern synthetics are. This isn't to say you shouldn't work out in cotton, just that you should be prepared to replace cotton lifting shorts more often.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How does moisture wicking fabric work?
Well, we think it works pretty well!
Seriously, moisture wicking garments are made either partially or completely of polyester. Polyester is a real science fabric, one designed not to absorb much water. While cotton will absorb enough water to match 7% of its own weight, polyester will only absorb 0.4% of its weight in water or sweat.
Polyester is able to do this because of its large surface area, and a lab-enhanced cross-section which will transport moisture away from your skin, letting it naturally evaporate when the air hits it.
q: What makes lifting shorts breathable?
Fabric can't actually breathe, but it can facilitate the free flow of cooling air. The fabrics that do this the best are porous, having many tiny holes or pores in them. Cotton is naturally porous, but it is not porous or breathable to the degree that bamboo fiber and synthetic fabrics can be.
q: Why aren't all the shorts machine washable?
It would certainly be convenient if you could just toss your lifting shorts in the drier with all your other clothes. Most of the time, you can. However, always check the care labels. A lot of synthetic shorts will be damaged by washing. Just as important, never put compression or moisture wicking shorts in the drier unless the label expressly says you can. These kinds of shorts will almost always have to be air dried, simply because the heat of the drier will make the fibers shrink.
q: Can't I just lift in my sweats?
Of course, you can! You can and should lift in whatever makes you comfortable. At some point, especially if you live in a warmer climate, you may find that sweatpants are too constrictive or thick enough to create excess sweat. On top of that, sweatpants do not have moisture wicking properties and usually are not very breathable. At that point, or if you just want to see what it's like, we will be here to help you make that transition to lifting shorts, whether they are general use or specifically for barbell squats.
q: Why don't lifting shorts have liners?
Many lifting shorts do have liners. The general consensus is that, since lifting encourages shorts to bunch or twist up, a liner thick enough to do any good is also thick enough to cause chafing. Typically, you will want to wear your favorite underwear (whatever you find most comfortable) under your lifting or other workout shorts.
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