More men are choosing to wear gym leggings or compression tights when they work out. The compression clothing industry has grown considerably in recent years and is expected to value at £4.4 billion by 2020. Big business, sure, and so are its promises: compression clothing is often advertised as performance boosting.
It's worth clarifying that online the terms gym legging and gym tights are often used interchangeably. There's quite the debate about it in online forums, too. Whatever you call them and however you define them, for the purposes of this post, we're going to look at leggings as a base layer: something you'd wear under something else – a pair of shorts, for example. Some leggings are compression and some are not.
We'd love to know what you think – do you swear by yours and which brand is your favourite?
Why do men wear leggings in the gym?
Stumbling into some of the forums on bodybuilding.com, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a man wearing a pair of gym leggings was one of masculinity's four horsemen. What's wrong with working out in a pair of gym shorts and a wife beater, one man growls.
One thread begins with the headline: So many guys are wearing those Fu*king leggings in the gym now.
Gym leggings are part of a homosexual agenda, apparently
Many of the homophobic slurs that follow work to reinforce the idea that a real man in the gym wears baggy branded name Ts: the kind sold in Target or Sports Direct in packs of three. He wears loose gym shorts, too, and he'd NEVER EVER in a million years wear gym tights or leggings. That perceptions of masculinity in the bodybuilding community can be so fragile is probably another post for another blog BUT one thing these macho-types have done is raise a popular question: why are men wearing leggings to the gym?
Male Basics points out that some men sweat a lot in the gym and compression tights or leggings help wick moisture away. You should be thanking these guys then, because if they're sweating all over the place, then who's going to be holding, sitting, stretching in the same spot after them – YOU!
Leggings are good, too, because they allow men to work out without the restriction or tightness sometimes found in looser fitting sweats. Working out in winter? Then it's another check. You can buy fleece lined leggings for the really cold days, but even a regular pair will help keep the muscles in your legs warm. Leggings look good, too, and sure we've all seen the peacock in the gym BUT there's actual science that suggests when you look good you perform better. Enclothed Cognition is the science speak for this: it's the influence clothing can have on the psychology of who's wearing it. We've mentioned before how listening to music can help performance and it's a similar principle.
Do Compression Tights Work?
Many sportswear manufacturers will swear that compression tights and leggings can aid performance.
It sounds believable, too.
Unsurprisingly, Nick Harris created HPE Activewear which sells (you guessed it) compression clothing BUT what he's saying is echoed by numerous other companies, too. It's why the industry is worth billions, right? Only not everyone agrees. Last year, The Guardian reported on Nike's study into compression clothing. Researchers tested a number of runners to see if compression wear really could help increase endurance. The results revealed no improvement in performance. This flies in the face of what many people had assumed and what many brands have encouraged customers to believe.
But compression can help post-workout recovery. So it isn't all bad news for those looking to go skin-tight this summer.
Ultimately, the hoo-har about men and gym leggings isn't really about the science. It's about whether men should be allowed to wear them. Some men will see another man in leggings and feel it a personal affront to their own masculinity. Women have been policed on clothing for centuries so it's a shame to see this kind of thinking taking root in some gyms and forums.
We say, slide into some skin-tight leggings if you want to. For any newbies – here are 4 to get you started.
With moisture-wicking fabric, these Flex Leggings have a seamless knit and performance waistband with 'physique contouring design'. Available in both black and marl, these leggings will complement any gym kit – this is a simple but effective design. Gym Shark offer free delivery if you spend over £35, so why not pair them with the Element Baselayer long-sleeved top. To complete the look - Green Camo EarHugz. Remember though that all sweat-resistance headphone covers from EarHugz are fully reversible and they'd look absolutely sick with the Gym Shark black ensemble.
These are medium compression tights that are designed to help stabilize your muscles during training. Sitting at the waist with flat seams, these should help prevent chafing against sensitive skin and with sweat-wicking fabric, these are soft to the touch and have a 4-way stretch. These are great support leggings for your workout. Lululemon has free delivery in the UK, too.
Finish the look and protect your headphones from sweat damage with The Bandit from EarHugz. Machine washable and anti-bacterial, these headphone covers colour your sound as you workout.
Remember the enclothed cognition theory? Where clothing can influence the psychology of who's wearing it. Well, these are the tights to test it out on. They look AMAZING. Coated on the inside to pull heat from your skin, these will help keep you cool. There's a built-in brief, too, for additional support with 4-way stretch to improve movement. Like to train outside? These have reflective logos and a pocket.
Pair these up with Blue Marble EarHugz to complete your workout outfit. Feeling a little less colourful? Each headphone cover in the range is reversible to black.
Nike's Hypercool ventilation is designed to help wick sweat away during high-intensity workouts helping you to stay cool and dry. With four-way stretch and elastic waistband, these should feel like a second skin during your workout.