Have you ever wondered why CrossFitters take their shirts off? It’s a gym after all, and people don’t do that in Anytime Fitness.
CrossFitters take their tops off because it’s part of the culture, starting at elite level, all the way down to the smallest CrossFit gyms. The main reasons include acceptability within the culture, for heat regulation, practicality, garment care and showmanship.
Males not females
It’s men who remove their T-shirts, baring sweaty skin. Women DO NOT remove their sports bras. They often do remove their shirts, though.
So only men are the ones without anything on their top half. You do not see female CrossFitters with their bosoms out…
Maintaining body temp regulation
The most obvious is body temp regulation.
You get extremely hot. Taking off a layer mitigates heat build up, meaning you’re better able to work out when temperatures rise.
For women, taking off a shirt with your sports bra remaining helps maintain a good operating temperature.
For both, but particularly men, shirt removal is sometimes practical.
The amount of sweating poring (pun intended) from your body during intense (and often prolonged) exercise like CrossFit creates huge amounts of sweat, given it burns a lot of cals. Check this article here for more on that.
This then is soaked up by your shirt. Over time the shirts are ruined, and start to smell bad. Taking them off slows this down.
Arguably, by not wearing a shirt your sweat spreads further, so is less hygienic…
When a shirt is soaked, it can restrict and distract an athlete.
This is particularly annoying when it sticks to the abdomen and folds up. So some even remove their shirt BEFORE the WOD during competitions, to avoid stopping to remove it.
On the contrary, keeping your shirt on protects your collarbone from barbell knurling (grippy rough bit) during front rack work such as Jerks.
Which way to the beach?
Of course, CrossFitters male and female enjoy showing off their ‘guns and buns’. So shirt removal aids this.
No doubt it helps them psychologically work out harder, as muscles are bulging during heavy lifts and gymnastic movements. There’s invariably zero mirrors at CrossFit gyms. That means you do not have people with tops off perving on themselves in the mirror.
Overall, it can feel quite liberating to remove your shirt from time to time. Similar to say playing beach volleyball, football in the park, or running with your top off on hot days.
Some CrossFit gyms do it more than others
Having visited now close to 80 CrossFit affiliates throughout the world, it’s clear than some participate in shirt removal more than others.
In Hanoi’s (Vietnam) CrossFit Tay Ho, it was extremely humid and up at 40degress C. And so taking off a shirt was entirely necessary, especially as that CrossFit gym has no air conditioning. Most CrossFit gyms do not have air-con as it happens.
USA, Canada and Italy’s CrossFit gyms see more shirt removal than other countries.
The UK and Sweden a little less so. This is perhaps due to their respective general climates, but also overall cultural bearing may too have an influence. Possibly more frowned upon.
Some have banned shirt removal
In 2019 previous CrossFit Games athletes from banned shirt removal in his USA-based CrossFit gym CrossFit Hillard.
Coming from a place of conduct, he felt it improper to have people strutting around with tops off or wearing booty shorts.
For some, it can project a feeling upon others of arrogance and pride if looked at a certain way, making them feel uncomfortable.
“Please consider the movements we do during CrossFit classes (deadlift, toes to bar, handstand push ups) and how these movements reveal certain areas of the body to others in the class. Our mission is to create an environment where we can display our fitness and success, but allows every member to feel comfortable in their CrossFit journey.”Graham Holmberg
Other CrossFit gyms may also enforce this policy, politely asking members to keep their shirts on.
Should You Workout With Your Shirt Off?
If it makes sense for you, for the reasons noted above and there’s no policy against it, then yes.
Taking it off may have a placebo-like effect improving your performance.
The egotistic among the clan can gain unpopularity from constant shirt removal when clearly doing it for the ‘gun-show’.
If you do it, try not to be that guy or gal who does it for attention as it will only repel people.
Don’t be that guy.
During an anonymous survey carried out in our 2 CrossFit affiliates, one specific comment from a member was that “coaches should keep their tops on”. So, for some, the inference we took from this was that shirt removal is offensive, brash or attention seeking.
You need to read the room. If others are doing it, generally it’s OK.
If you’re the first, don’t be surprised if other guys follow….
Is It Okay To Take Your Shirt Off In The Gym?
Generally speaking, shirt removal in ‘normal’ or globo gyms is not advised. That’s not the culture. People WILL look at your strangely.
They’re often air conditioned anyway, whereas CrossFit gyms are not.
Guys tend to wear stringer or netted vests in normal gyms which assists in temperature control (and muscle flexing).
It’s not a good idea to don a pair of tight shorts, no shirt and start throwing a barbell around in a Pure Gym or Virgin Active.
Best T-Shirt Materials To Workout In?
This is a huge topic in itself.
Having founded, run and sold an apparel and equipment company in this space, I found triblend material the best after extensive research and feedback testing on customers.
Reasons why Triblend material is popular:
- Moisture wicking
- Soft feel
- Print well
- Durable and stretchy
- Big choice
- Semi fitted
It’s a mix of (ring spin) cotton, rayon and poly.
Having tried many many other materials, base blanks and print types, as well as getting feedback from customers at that time, tai-blend was always popular.
Heavy cotton, nylon and other synthetics were less popular due to itchiness, heaviness when sweaty and the smell over time, despite cleaning and repetitive washing.
In all, triblends do have a lifespan. Screen printing sometimes outlasts the garment itself.
For more info on gym gear, check out this article here.
Why Do Some Guys Wear Vests In The Gym?
This is down to comfort, style and heat control. A much smaller proportion of men wear vests over shirts, simply because it’s not everybody’s taste.
Some women hate men in vests too. Types of vest include:
- Sleeveless shirt
- Stringer vest
- Bodybuilding vest
- Netting vest
- Leotard vest
- Sports vest
All are different in their style. Bodybuilding, and stringers are rarely seen in CrossFit gyms.
Leotards are a rule in Olympic weightlifting. This enables to judges to see any arm and knee bend, ensuring satisfactory and accurate judging.
Are vests good for the gym?
Vests are good if you want to feel comfortable. They work well at dissipating heat. At the end of the day, wear what you want.
Summary on shirt removal
We’ve all got our own styles and tastes. That’s what makes us who we are. Don’t worry about what others think.
Try not to be brash with it, however. People may be offended.
For instance, it would be inappropriate if you’re in a seniors class, grunting with your top off in the centre of the room.
Do it in moderation and read the room. Make sure you don’t overheat, whatever you decide to wear. This Best Gym Hacks article breaks down what’s useful for your gym bag.