Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Sweats or Shorts?

by Mark Rippetoe | March 16, 2021

training in shorts

Ah, the age-old question. Which is better? The decision to wear sweat pants or shorts depends on what you're doing under the bar today, the temperature where you're training, and the appearance you want to create.

First, the longer the range of motion around the knees, the more drag a pant leg will have as the friction it produces against the skin resists the knee flexion. This has an effect on your perception of your knee position, as well as the effect it produces at the hips as tension along the pant material between the flexing knees and hips tries to pull your low back out of extension and your knees into valgus. For this reason, sweats should always be made of the stretchiest material you can find. Nylon wind pants are not sweats – don't wear them. Hell, don't even own them.

pulling in sweat pants

Shorts that (obviously) stretch do not produce these problems, and are always preferable to squat in. They also don't keep you warm if the gym is cool. Cool weather or cheap gym owners can create a situation where you have to fight to stay at training temperature during the workout. This is what the original cheap gray sweats were designed to do. They also stretch pretty well, and have always been my choice to wear in the winter. I use my belt to hike them up on my hips so that my knee and hip position is not affected much. But you need to be aware of the effect they can have so you can correct it if it becomes a problem. If it's a real problem, and the gym is too cool to wear shorts, loose wraps around the knees can be used to pull the pant leg up enough to create some slack between knee and hip.

Squats are more sensitive to this slight effect than pulls from the floor, since the start position of a pull features a more open knee angle. But if you're one of these guys with plumber's butt, whose sweats are too small for their hips and legs, we may get to see your waistband pulled down in the deadlift setup. Get some bigger sweats and keep the waist up so that it doesn't interfere with your start position.

Sweats are better at protecting your shins during the pull from the floor than knee socks. I used to have a pair of gray sweats with a piece of heavy slick nylon upholstery fabric sewn to the front of the legs from shins to waist, so that the bar would slide better and to protect my shins with a heavier fabric barrier. I was never bad about tearing up my shins, but if you are you should get in the habit of pulling in sweats.

Finally, if you have a nice ass, it will attract attention. This may or may not be desirable, but it will happen. Both shorts and sweats can either hide or accentuate your ass. Plan accordingly.

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