5 Best Workout Shorts for Men in 2021: Bring on the Sweat

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

How would you like to live life turned up to beast mode? You need something that’s going to keep up with your level of performance, but you can’t pick any old short—especially when half of them make you look like you’ve got chicken legs, despite the hours you put in on leg day. 

These are the best workout shorts for men so you can leave it all on the floor for your next gym session. 

Best With Cell-Phone Pockets
  • The unique pocket design is a game changer and incredibly useful
  • Excellent all-round cross training short due to its medium-weight fabric
  • 7” inseam and modern fit is stylish in the gym and wherever you go after
Best for CrossFit
  • Built in lining for extra support
  • Trim modern fit that makes your thighs look awesome
  • Super lightweight, quick drying fabric
Best for Guys with Big Thighs
  • Looser split opening at the bottom so they don’t hug large thighs
  • Built in sweat-proof zipper pocket at the hip
  • The thighs are gusseted and offer plenty of lateral stretch
Best for Weight Lifting
  • Lined and unlined versions available, though the lined is our preferred for weight lifting
  • Massive variety of color options
  • Fabric has woven in GOLDFUSION anti-odor technology—basically, they don’t collect stink
Best Casual
  • Thick, heavy fabric, which is ideally suited for cooler days
  • Great option for bridging the gap between workout shorts and casual shorts
  • Two side zippers so you can easily store your phone, keys, and wallet for errands

I’m at the gym, and I see this big ol’ dude in the cross training room. Let’s call him Gary. 

Gary just finished with the squat rack and was looking for a finisher. He loaded weights onto a push-shuttle and started heaving that thing across the room. This dude was huge. 

But he didn’t take his phone out of his pocket, and his shorts were pretty old and tattered looking—they looked like his standard issue high school gym shorts, but he was probably 35 years old. 

So the elastic on these shorts was just terrible. 

Gary’s going ham on this push-shuttle, and his shorts just start to fall off. Step by step, lunge by lunge, they’re coming down. I think, ok, that must be annoying. He’s going to have to stop mid way to hike up his shorts. 

Nope. 

He just let it ride, and soon his shorts hit the breaking point and just fell to his ankles. 

Now you and I both applaud Gary for his grit and focus, but neither of us want a workout to end that way. Let’s just have a gentleman’s agreement and get some shorts that are built for hard work in the gym? Sound good?

5 Best Workout Shorts for Men

Best With Cell-Phone Pockets: Keap Active

model wearing workout shorts Keap

Tell me if this has happened to you: you lay down at the bench press, your phone falls out of your pocket, which tugs your earbuds out. Then you have to pick your earbuds off the nasty gym floor, where Big Jimmy was just sweating his life-force out. And then you’re going to stuff those buds back in your ear? You do it, but it doesn’t make you happy. 

Here’s how to avoid that. 

Keap is all about the pockets. The brand has made a name for themselves with their innovative pocket design.

Instead of diagonal pockets that seem to reject your phone and wallet whenever you take a seat, the Keap Active shorts are built with deep, wide pockets and have a shorter four-inch vertical opening. 

handstand in keap active black shorts 1

What that means is that you can put your phone in your pocket and literally do a hand-stand and your phone won’t fall out. Or, you can lay down at the bench press and avoid the scenario I mentioned above.

What I Like

  • The soft two-inch waist band (plus sewn in drawstring) does an excellent job securing these shorts on the hips. 

  • Between the polyester blend fabric and the gusseted crotch, there’s basically no restriction on your movement, so they’re great cross-training shorts.

  • The two front pockets (for which keap is known for) are excellent at keeping your essentials but if you need that extra bit of security, there’s also a back zippered pocket. 

  • The customer service for Keap is one of the best experiences I’ve had with any brand—their shipping alerts walk you through each stage, from order to doorstep. 

What I Don’t Like

  • I wish there were more color options—at the time of writing, there’s black and a light olive. I like both colors, but would love to see the brand expand.

What Other Reviewers Say

With nearly 100 reviews on their site at the time of writing, many buyers were pleased with their Active shorts from Keap. One comment that came up a few times (and something I missed) is that because the fabric is a bit thicker than some of the other options on my list, it’s more durable for barbell work like hip-bucks and deadlifts.

The Verdict

If you hit the gym and leave your phone and your keys in your pocket, check out the Keap Active short

It’s an excellent all-round cross training short due to its medium-weight fabric and thick waist band, but the deep pockets are the key to keeping your phone from falling onto the nasty gym floor. 

Keap Active Shorts

With a two-inch waist band, sewn in drawstring, and light breathable fabric, the Keap Active shorts are a killer workout partner. We like them for chest day so your phone doesn't fall out of your pocket when you sit down at the bench press.

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Best for CrossFit: Vuori Kore

model flipping tire wearing kore workout shorts from vuori

If your breakfast is AMRAP with a side of WOD, you’ll love the Vuori Kore

The fabric of these shorts is super lightweight and breathable, and they have that CrossFit look to them (i.e. they look stellar paired with a weighted vest). 

I’m a big fan of the lined Kore—the lining adds a lot of extra support, and it’s more comfortable when doing intense compound movements.

What I Like

  • The fabric is the most lightweight of any on this list, and the shorts are extremely breathable.

  • You can choose lined or unlined, though I think the lined version offers the best support for CrossFit style activities.

  • There’s a ton of different color options, which is great for CrossFitters because there is a certain element of style in that community. 

What I Don’t Like

  • There’s no zippered pocket or any really secure place to store valuables in these shorts.

What Other Reviewers Say

At the time of writing, the Kore has over 3,400 reviews on the Vuori website, which is insane. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t read all of them. A guy has to get his own workout in, too. 

But after reading through several dozen, many reviewers used these shorts in all sorts of applications: from swimming, to casual wearing, to, you know—working out. 

Vuori offers a range of brighter pastel colors, which you can’t find with any other brand. You never thought pastel yellow workout shorts would be your thing, but once you see them, you’ll get it. 

The Verdict

The Vuori Kore is a fantastic all-round workout short. I especially like the lined Kore for HIIT, CrossFit, or any day where I’m doing a lot of big movements and need extra comfort and support. 

And for you CrossFit fanatics out there, you have to admit that style is a deciding factor for all your gear, and Vuori nails the CrossFit style, though in a less “combat-ready” sort of way.

Vuori Kore

Vuori makes a series of shorts, both lined and unlined, that fit perfectly into an active Californian lifestyle.

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Best for Guys with Big Thighs: WOLACO Warren Short

Wolaco 4

The WOLACO Warren short is our top pick for guys with big thighs for a few critical reasons.  First, they’re the best option on our list with splits at the leg openings, which allows for a little more wiggle room.

But they also have gusseted thighs, which is unique among the workout shorts I’ve seen. That extra fabric is especially helpful for dudes with jacked quads when doing any sort of lateral movement. 

Otherwise, the Warren Short is rock solid in all the other fitness-related areas, including lightweight breathable fabric, and a sweat-proof pocket at the hip.

What I Like

  • These seem designed specifically for guys with larger thighs who still want some extra room for lateral movements.

  • The sweat-proof pocket is a nice touch.

  • You can pick the Warren in a 7.5” inseam or a 9” inseam, depending on how much leg you like to show. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Guys with skinnier thighs might look a little “deflated” in these because of the slit-opening and slightly roomier fit in the thigh. 

What Other Reviewers Say

In the handful of reviews for the Warren on the WOLACO site, a few reviewers mentioned the roomier fit of the thighs, which basically confirms my thinking on these shorts. 

Otherwise, reviewers were all pleased with the fabric and performance of the Warren.

The Verdict

There are two camps of thinking when it comes to bulky quads: some guys love to have the short stretch over their leg muscles—no judgement here. You work hard in the gym, so I support you showing it off. 

But other guys prefer to keep the thigh looser for performance and comfort. 

If you fall into camp number two, then the WOLACO Warren is your perfect workout short. The slit-opening and thigh gusset are both fairly unique in the world of fitness apparel (at least in men’s shorts), and the quality of fabric and construction is on par with the other brands on this list.

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WOLACO Warren Shorts
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You may not realize how much of a confidence boost a well-fitting pair of workout shorts actually gives you in the gym. Can't you hardly wait to hit the squat rack and look at your thighs in the mirror?

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Best for Weight Lifting: Rhone Mako Short

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The Mako Short from Rhone is no-frills, and they nail it on fit and performance. These are my go-to’s for general weight lifting days, where there’s a little cardio for warm up, heavy weights in the middle, and an ab finisher. 

I like the lined version for the extra support and coverage, but you can also get the Mako unlined, and in a 7” or 9” version. 

These shorts are best if you have a separate gym bag—the pockets aren’t designed to carry a lot, and they’re not super versatile. But how often do you leave your keys in your pocket when you’re doing squats anyway.

What I Like

  • If you have an athletic build and with muscular thighs and you want to show that off a bit, the Rhone Mako has a slightly more narrow leg opening and they help you look more like a Greek God.

  • There are both lined and unlined versions; both 7” and 9” inseams—I prefer the lined 7”.

  • Both the liner fabric and short fabric features Rhone’s GOLDFUSION tech, which helps keep the odor at bay.

What I Don’t Like

  • The media pocket on the hip is smaller than other brands’ versions—it’s a tight fit for my Pixel 3 XL phone. 

What Other Reviewers Say

With thousands of reviews on Rhone’s site, there is one clear message for the Mako: order a size down from your regular. 

Reviewers love the shorts, both with liner and not, but if you want to have the best experience with these shorts, take a look at Rhone’s suggested size and step it down a notch. I’m usually between an M and an L, so I’d pick up the M. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded with a killer all-round workout short.

The Verdict

The Rhone Mako short isn’t flashy, but it’s got grit where it counts. This performance driven short is one of my favorites for standard workout days, where I warm up with some light cardio, hit the squat rack, and finish with some ab work. 

If you’re cardio heavy, or need something a little more specialized, check out some of the other options, but if you want a good-looking pair of shorts to hit the gym in, you can’t go wrong with the Mako. 

Just make sure you order the next size down for the perfect fit. Looking through the reviews, it seems Rhone was a bit off in their measurements. Ordering the next size down is an easy fix, but we wanted to make sure you had the heads up.

Rhone Mako Short

Rhone's Mako shorts are a fantastic all-around workout short. These can tackle a tough leg day, a long run, or an intense HIIT workout. Pick up lined, unlined, 7" or 9".

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Best Casual: Public Rec All Day Every Day Short

model walking down wooden steps wearing basic man shirt and public rec shorts

Are you looking for a workout short that can double easily as a casual short for those Saturday afternoon barbecues? 

Are you wishing those Saturday afternoon barbecue shorts were righteously comfortable so you can wear them on the couch as you nurse your Sunday hangover?

Hey, you and I both put a ton of effort into staying in shape, but we have to cut loose every once in a while, right? I get it. 

When it’s that kind of weekend, I reach for my Public Rec All Day Every Day Shorts. They’re by far the heaviest pair of shorts on this list, and the fabric is much different: there’s more of a “sweatpant” feeling to it, though it’s still performance fabric. 

As a workout short, I like the ADED Shorts for colder months, but I’ve also found that they double really well in casual settings. They don’t have traditional pockets, but instead feature two zippered pockets at the hip. You know how regular shorts can get those “wings” at the pockets? That’s not an issue here.

What I Like

  • The ADED fabric is very comfortable and it’s one of the best options to bridge the gap between workouts, hangouts, and deep lounging sessions. 

  • I like the two zippered hip pockets: they’re secure, but they also keep the silhouette slim.

  • The fit is slim and modern throughout the thighs.

What I Don’t Like

  • The ADED fabric can snag easily, so don’t round corners too tightly when wearing these. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Comfort is the word that comes up over and over again as I read through the hundreds of reviews on the Public Rec site. Whether reviewers were lounging, taking these on plane flights, hitting the weights, golfing, or just kicking it in the backyard, the ADED short seems a winner.

The Verdict

When you’re taking a look at premium-level workout shorts, you might want a little more versatility than just a pair of shorts for the gym. 

If you’re scoping out a pair of workout shorts you can also rock outside the gym, the Public Rec All Day Every Day Short is an excellent choice. 

With a slim, modern fit, super comfortable fabric, and enough performance tech to help you push it in the weight room, they’re a solid pickup.

Public Rec All Day Every Day Short

It's hard to get more comfortable than Public Rec's All Day Every Day fabric. The drawstring and uber-stretchy fabric make this comfortable enough for a backyard barbecue, but stylish enough for a trip into the city.

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What Should Guys Wear to the Gym?

model running in Keap original shorts

I have a weird goal for my future. I want to be able to go to the gym in an oversized, beat up old t-shirt and some poorly fitting shorts and still look absolutely jacked. Do you ever see that guy at your gym? There’s nothing he can do to not show off his muscles. 

Let’s just say I’m nowhere near that goal, so until then, I’m going to stick to some great fitting gym basics.

Obviously, you need to cover the basics. Wearing pants or shorts in public is an excellent choice, and something I recommend to the fullest. 

Wolaco 13

I like slimmer fitting shorts that fall above the knee, and I’ll tell you why: as someone with smaller calves but decent thighs, I like 7” shorts. They’re not revealing, but they show that I make it to leg day every week. 

But for colder months, a pair of joggers is an excellent choice. With the tapered fit below the knee, you don’t have any extra fabric holding you back. 

Up top, I stick to performance fabrics only. Working out in a cotton tee isn’t bad, but over time, they start to smell absolutely rank. So I leave cotton shirts for casual wear and stick to lightweight performance shirts.

A good pair of socks is pretty underrated, but if your workouts blend in cardio, getting a performance-driven sock is a game-changer. You don’t need them to get a good workout, but they’re a “nice-to-have.”

Strideline makes my favorite gym sock. They have tons of padding in the right spots, and tons of ventilation where it counts, too. 

Strideline

While the no-show sock is a bit too high-cut for shoes like loafers, Strideline strikes the right balance between performance and comfort to make great socks for both athletic and casual wear.

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Lastly, your shoes make a massive difference in the gym. If you’re lifting heavy on leg day, wear something with a flat bottom. A lot of guys wear simple Converse for squats and deadlifts. Running shoes and trainers tend to pitch your foot forward, but for those big leg-focused compound movements, you should be driving through your heels. 

If your workouts are running-focused, then definitely invest in a good pair of running shoes. For that, I recommend going into a running-shoe store, where the staff is trained to analyze your gait and get you a running shoe that works with your body’s movement. 

I wear basic trainers to the gym. They have enough support to keep my ankles firm for the quick 10-minute treadmill warm up, but they also don’t pitch me too far forward if it’s leg day.

The Cool Down

There’s nothing quite like that post-workout feeling. It’s like you can conquer the world, but first you need to eat 50 cheeseburgers. Or maybe that’s just me. 

Ultimately, the best workout short is the one that minimizes distractions and keeps you focused on the task at hand: becoming an absolute beast. 

When I need to carry my essentials in my pocket, like my phone, wallet, and keys, I stick with the Keap Active. They help me avoid that moment where my phone falls out, tugs my earbuds out, and then I have to pick the earbuds off the nasty gym floor and put them back in my ears. 

Keap Active Shorts

With a two-inch waist band, sewn in drawstring, and light breathable fabric, the Keap Active shorts are a killer workout partner. We like them for chest day so your phone doesn't fall out of your pocket when you sit down at the bench press.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

I hate that feeling more than anything. So I love the Keap Active.  

But enough of all this short talk. Let’s get our pump on. 

FAQs

What should you avoid wearing to the gym?

Your gym clothes should minimize distractions, so any shorts that you have to hike up are a no-go. Also, there should be absolutely no movement restriction, so please, don’t wear jeans to the gym.

Should I have pockets in my gym shorts?

Your gym shorts should have pockets. It’s even better if your gym shorts have deep pockets or zippered pockets. Your shorts should be able to hold your phone whether you’re sitting, standing, or laying down at the bench.

How long should shorts be on guys?

The minimum length we recommend for shorts is a 5” inseam. A 5” short will show a decent amount of thigh, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. My favorite length is a 7” inseam, which lands about two inches above the knee. A 9” inseam is the longest short a guy can fashionably wear. Shorts below the knee aren’t classically stylish, and I don’t recommend them.

Shop This Post

Keap Active Shorts
Best with cell phone pockets
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WOLACO Warren Shorts
Best for guys with big thighs
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Rhone Mako Short
Best for weight lifting
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If you click these links and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.