Squat Tested: The Best Workout Leggings For Your Next Gym Sesh

Love to lift but don’t want the rest of the gym to see your skivvies? HealthyWay Sweat contributor Lauren Bondi ranks the best workout leggings for gym-goers.

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Disclaimer: Just so you know, if you order an item through one of our posts, we may get a small share of the sale.

Whether you’re a fan of HIIT, CrossFit, weightlifting, or yoga, you know a banging new pair of leggings is major inspo to get your butt into the sweatiest, shreddiest class. But wouldn’t the world be just a tad more amazing if you didn’t have to wonder whether your workout leggings were going to fit as well in your most intense fitness class as they did in the comfort of the fitting room?

We’re over the aggravating readjustment game, camel toes, and unsightly sweat spots and ready for workout leggings that will still be hugging our hips at the end of a grueling 60-minute gym sesh.

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So, which workout leggings are the best for training in the gym?

I’m here to help: I put five pairs of fitness leggings through the wringer, and between bodybuilding splits, Olympic weightlifting workouts, and circuit-style training sessions, the following pairs showed their true colors.

I ended each workout with a journaling sesh detailing my expert insights on factors including snatch-proof stretchability, reliability of the waistband, moisture-wicking technology, and of course aesthetic appeal. Knowing you look bomb is just the confidence boost you need to power through your Tabata circuits. Continue reading for my workout-altering takeaways.

1

Athleta Up For Anything ⅞ Tight

Size XS—Available in Plus, Petite, and Tall Sizes

From running on streets to jumping over 32” boxes, Athleta delivers with their Up For Anything ⅞ Tight. I wanted a workout legging that I could depend on to get me through the fastest circuits and most grueling leg workouts and was pleasantly surprised by these comfortable and supportive leggings.

The flat waistband fit my body well and did not require any adjustments during my workout. I was also impressed by the way the sleek material wicks away sweat without revealing panty lines.

Slim-fitting and tailored to every inch of my lower body, I was extremely confident sporting these leggings both inside and outside the gym. How often can we say that?

Athleta

Pros

Athleta struck the ideal balance between sturdy compression and comfort with this workout legging. The material fit snugly but didn’t pinch or leave me incapable of enjoying a post-workout meal.

The material was thin enough to feel light during my toughest workouts yet could still hide any hint of cellulite. If you prefer to work out sans underwear, this legging is a great option. And as much as I love my furbaby, I was pleasantly surprised by the way these workout leggings repelled dog hair.

I was so comfortable with these workout leggings that I even tested them out during a power yoga flow at my favorite heated studio. The verdict? My transitions between standing splits and Shiva squats never looked so smooth.

Cons

The one negative aspect I quickly discovered? I only had one pair.

Reminds me of: lululemon’s All The Right Places Tight

Get them from Athleta

2

Nike Pro HyperCool Training Tight

Size XS—Available in Short and Tall Sizes

Although the Nike Pro HyperCool Training Tight’s waistband stayed in place better than off-brand pairs I’ve worn, there’s one feature of these workout leggings that can’t be ignored: They become pretty sheer during bends and squats. Overall, these tights functioned well as long as all movements simulating a squat or hip hinge were eliminated from the workout, which is pretty difficult to do when you’re in a fitness class or taking yourself through a rigorous full-body circuit.

As much as I love to see an OG brand alive and well in world of fitness apparel, this legging doesn’t top my list of best workout leggings.

Nike

Pros

The material provided a fair amount of support for the intense workouts I put the leggings through, maintaining shape and quickly drying any hint of moisture. None of my training sessions were interrupted with a feeling of clamminess, nor were they lacking in aesthetic appeal. The meshing was certainly a cute touch, while the black-on-black color scheme will keep any look classic.

Cons

As I mentioned, the waistband of the HyperCool Training Tight does stay in place, but that didn’t stop me from fussing with it throughout my workouts. The waistband is only 1.5 inches wide, compared to the four to six inch waistbands we tend to enjoy in most high-waisted leggings these days. As a result, I felt the band digging into my obliques around the top of the pant. These workout leggings were also prone to bunching.

The thin material did not cooperate with my squats, nor did it fit comfortably around my groin. The material had a tendency to ride up in very inconvenient places. (Just say no to camel toe!) Not only that, but it also contributed to more of a stiff rather than stretchy feeling in terms of compression. Lunging multilaterally wasn’t in the cards.

Reminds me of: Why thick waistbands always win!

Get them from Nike

3

lululemon Speed Up Tight

Size 2

As expected, lululemon handled my battery of tests well with the Speed Up Tight. My iPhone 6s fit perfectly in one of the side pockets as I hit the gym and jumped right into a hypertrophic leg workout.

The waistband fit like a glove, sitting just below my belly button and refusing to move even a centimeter during my workouts. I was fully supported and felt held-in during every weightlifting, barbell-jerking, GHD-swinging, trail-hiking movement I attempted in these workout leggings.

lululemon

Pros

The thick, silky material of these lululemon tights definitely impressed me. The four-way stretch accommodated every direction of movement, while the moisture-wicking technology ensured the leggings weren’t holding onto any sweat runoff. The fabric didn’t chafe at the seams, catch during intervals on the spin bike, or cling onto fuzz. As long as these leggings are handled with proper care, they’re also fairly anti-pilling—performing for an impressive period of time before showing signs of wear.

When it comes down to it, this will be the pair of leggings I grab on the way to my local CrossFit box.

Cons

As a smaller-framed woman standing at about 5’4” (on my very tallest days), I experienced a bit of fabric bunching around my ankles. While it didn’t inhibit my movement, this may not be the pair for you if you want a fully tailored look (try the Athleta Up For Anything ⅞ Tight instead).

Feeling snug in your leggings is great during a workout, but I was eager to take these off as soon as the training was over. The level of compression was far too much for leisure wear or even yoga. In that sense, there’s a lack of versatility and you may not get as much use out of these legging as you would hope for such a steep price. Bottom line: These workout leggings are an excellent investment for regular gym-goers who are ready to pay up for the compression they provide.

Reminds me of: Athleta’s Up For Anything ⅞ Tight

Get them from lululemon

4

Nike Pro Dri-Fit Capri Training Leggings

Size XS

Nike redeemed themselves with these Dri-Fit Capri Training Leggings. The material was fairly similar to the HyperCool Training Tight, but wasn’t sheer in the slightest. Hooray! Unlike many other pairs of crops, these workout leggings were tailored perfectly to the calves and resisted any rolling throughout the various workouts.

If you need ample breathability, this could be your go-to pair. Combining the short length with the delicate meshing made my sweatiest circuits and Bikram yoga flows easy breezy.

Macy’s

Pros

The stretchability and quick-drying technology made even the wildest movements comfortable in these workout leggings. The thin, sleek material hid my seamless undies (required with this pair!) and contributed to a notable anti-pilling effect. I felt safe to jump into the most friction-producing, heart rate–amping spin classes without a moment’s hesitation.

Cons

Similar to the HyperCool Training Tight, the waistband on the Dri-Fit Capri is noticeably narrower than the other pairs of leggings in this cohort. Without going into too much reiteration, I’m not a fan of the resulting fit around my torso.

What the legging had in breathability, it lacked in support. This model of workout legging didn’t have a level of compression comparable to the Athleta Up For Anything ⅞ Tight or lululemon Speed Up Tight. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing these capris during rigorous hours of training, but they work well for a 60-minute class.

The tight was one of the most athletic looking in the bunch. Great for the gym, but not for pairing with your favorite tops or cute kicks. If you’re hoping to take the beautiful deadlifter on the platform next to you out on a last-minute brunch and mimosa date, opt for a pair of date-approved, everyday leggings.

Reminds me of: Nike Pro’s HyperCool Training Tight

Get them from Macy’s

5

ZELLA Live In High Waist Leggings

Size XS

I may be a fan of ZELLA when dropping into my favorite vinyasa flows, but I’m not an advocate for wearing the Live In High Waist Leggings to the gym for higher intensity fitness endeavors.

The fabric resembles a Luon-based lululemon Wunder Under, for anyone who’s familiar. It’s noticeably thicker than the rest of the leggings I tested, with more of a cotton-like feel. For me, these high-waisted leggings are more appropriate for a milder day of bodybuilding (arm day, for example), a pilates class, or even Zumba!

Nordstrom

Pros

The waistband on this pair of workout leggings was outstanding. It sat comfortably right above my belly button and stayed in place throughout hours of wiggling my torso. The thick material provided a cozy feeling of compression across the abdomen that was noticeably different from what I experienced in previous pairs. No digging, no squeezing, no tummy suffocation.

As mentioned previously, the fabric is quite a bit thicker than what I’m used to. It would be perfect for cooler days when you need added warmth without compromising flexibility or integrity.

Cons

The quality of the fabric used for the Live In High Waist Leggings was far too thick to be moisture wicking. It held on to my sweat, which meant I wound up flaunting those wet spots during my workouts.

Because the leggings have a cotton finish, they’re more prone to pilling and clinging, which isn’t ideal. Any high-friction activities like sprinting intervals or CrossFit circuits would certainly not be advised while sporting this pair. Although they can get the job done, they aren’t the best workout leggings to pair with your most grueling gym sesh.

Reminds me of: lululemon’s Wunder Under

Get them from Nordstrom
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