Friday, July 10, 2015

Gym Owners: Why you should not require shirts in your facility

Gym Owners:
Why you should not require shirts in your facility

1. Comfort

Going shirtless really is one of the most comfortable ways to workout. It maximizes cooling and evaporation of sweat. A sweaty shirt can get really uncomfortable. Special wicking fabrics can help with this, but they tend to be more expensive and are still not nearly as good as simply going shirtless. They still retain some heat and the sweat can’t evaporate as quickly as it does from the skin. The next best thing are probably cut-off shirts with no sides, the less fabric the better. These are cheaper than expensive moisture-wicking fabrics and probably allow even better air circulation and cooling, but they retain sweat longer once they get wet and that can still get uncomfortable. Besides, we have all seen that guy in the cut-off shirt and thought, “Well, he might as well just not wear a shirt!” So seriously, why not just let him go without a shirt?

2. Motivation

A lot of people find going shirtless to be motivating. For those who have aesthetic goals, it draws their attention to their body and how they want it to look, driving them to work for those goals. For others, they feel it is expected that if they take their shirt off, they must be exerting maximal effort. They would feel embarrassed to give less once the shirt has come off, so it drives them to reach for maximum performance. Still others simply find it makes them feel more virile and powerful, giving them a mental edge in their workouts. Some feel that even the presence of someone who is working out shirtless is a motivator, even if they lack the confidence to shed their own. It creates an environment of exertion and performance. While this may be intimidating to some, this can usually be overcome with proper coaching and encouragement and the benefits likely far outweigh the drawbacks.

3. Shirts are not a good way to keep the gym sanitary

Hygiene is often cited as a reason not to allow men to workout shirtless in the gym. But wearing a shirt is not a good way to keep the gym sanitary and if you take the proper steps (which you should be doing anyway) it will be pointless. Most germs are spread by your hands, not your torso. You use your hands to touch all of the nasty things around you all day. And your hands frequently come in contact with mucous membranes like eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. And you are going to touch all of the equipment with your hands anyway, which is worse than a bare torso.
So what should you do? All equipment should be wiped down after each use! Supply your patrons with sanitary wipes, or spray bottles of a sanitizing cleaner. Alcohol, lysol, or whatever, just use something that kills bacteria! And having a few bottles of hand sanitizer is a good idea, as well. If you do this, then requiring shirts or not will be completely irrelevant to hygiene.

4. Nobody is really offended by it

Another objection sometimes cited is, “This is a family gym.” So? Why would taking off your shirt be incompatible with a family-friendly facility? Families frequently go to pools and beaches, where men typically go shirtless. The truth is, it offends a lot less people than you think and that one person who complains is more likely jealous than genuinely offended. Build a friendly and encouraging atmosphere, and you won’t really have to worry about people being offended by the guys who take off their shirts. If you want to run a more family-friendly facility, prohibit cursing and use positive imagery and slogans, promote dedication, hard work, and discipline. Families will appreciate these things and the shirtlessness will not be an issue as long as you have set the right attitude and environment.

5. Requiring shirts can look hypocritical

If you use shirtless pictures in the gym for motivational posters or exercise diagrams, etc, and especially if you use them in advertising, requiring shirts to be worn in your actual gym looks hypocritical. And almost every gym does one or more of these things! This can send several wrong messages. You degrade and objectify the human body by presenting it as acceptable to use for profit, but somehow needing to be covered when working out for your personal benefit. And if you plaster the walls and billboards with pictures of models, but want to keep all of the real bodies (well, torsos, anyway) of real people under wraps, then you are promoting an unhealthy and unrealistic view of the body. While motivation and working for goals are important, it needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of acceptance and reality. Allowing gym-goers to exercise shirtless is one way to help with this.

6. It can be a popular approach and may attract business

Just look at the popularity of Crossfit, which generally allows participants to go shirtless. Other popular athletic activities that generally don’t require shirts include rock climbing, bouldering, and mixed martial arts (think UFC). Obviously, many guys enjoy shirtless athletic activities, so this may actually open up a new niche market for your fitness business. This is probably not something you want to present as a selling point for your facility, but there are subtle ways to advertise this perk. If you have any posted signage, simply remove them or remove the shirt requirement from them. Word of mouth is pretty effective. Also simply use a picture or two on your site and on your social media page that includes shirtless exercisers. Finally, consider adding your facility to the Shirtless Friendly Directory, where you might reach people who are specifically looking for a gym that accommodates their workout preferences.


There is also PDF version of this article you can print and share with local gyms. I hope you will spread the word, and add any gyms who adopt the new policy to the Shirtless Friendly Directory.


  1. Hey there, so glad to see your blog is still alive! I'm a blogger too, & in similar sphere, actually: Hot guys pictures.

    I adore shirtless, fit men too! Ran into your blog from Google, I think, to a post from back in 2013! Love love love your blog now, man. <3

  2. It all starts at school with being made to go barechested during PE/Games lessons. My first experience as a 9yr old in early 90's was after starting at a new school a month after everyone, PE came around. After changing we were told it was outdoors and to line up on the school yard. Being new, the teacher hauled me out in front of the class and told me to drop my PE vest. For some reason, I don't know why, but I soon became a target and found myself being picked to strip down for 99% of the lessons. Indoors the gym had reinforced glass all along the corridor side and windows looking out. If the girls, who had their lesson separately, finished a few minutes early then they'd stand and watch us and were always keen to see who had their vests off. We were always pushed hard and it was not unusual to see boys of all ages sweat. For those who weren't picked to strip, their vests would be sticking to their backs at the end of the lesson. I guess it was the same for you Robbie?

    1. I only just discovered this thread but my view is much the same, like hoover003 I had to go barechested in PE and that played a big part in my attitude towards sports and exercise as I grew older. For me my formative experience came at 12 when my PE teacher informed us that boys whose names were in the first half of the class register would be 'skins' and the rest would stay as they were. So I had to take my vest off and it felt strange at first, I was a bit uneasy. But I had to get used to it as the teams remained unchanged for the first half of the term, each lesson. Sometimes there was no team game but it made no difference to the uniform - shorts and no top. As the year went on the teams changed around a bit but more often than not I would be among the barechested boys. Eventually this felt like the norm to me and in my teens I preferred to do PE (and outdoor Games in summer) without a shirt, it was actually more comfortable when I was hot and sweaty. Whenever possible I ditch the shirt for sports and exercise now - so a big thank you to the teacher who first made me do it!

  3. Another great piece, Robbie. The Shirts Always rule seems to be a bit of defensive me-tooism that has infected the big mainstream gyms. Many's the sportsbra-clad woman who works out at mine, and I don't think we are thereby somehow less hygienic or family-friendly. It irks me no end.

  4. My gym is open 24 hours, and I often visit late in the evening, around 10:00. It’s not nearly as crowded, which is the main reason I go there that late. But also, I often take off my shirt, after a little while. No one has ever said anything to me about it that late at night – not whoever is working the front desk or another gym member. Well, a few men have asked me if anyone has commented on it (meaning whoever is at the front desk). In fact, I’ve inspired a few guys to strip off their shirts. They feel that comfortable after seeing me bare-chested. This shouldn’t even be an issue. That political correctness crap needs to go out the window!

    Stay shirtless and stay proud, guys! OW-OOO!!!

  5. It seems ridiculous that men should have to wear shirts at a gymn, being shirtless and seeing other guys will definitely encourage gymn members to work harder.

  6. Great post...Guys shouldn't need to wear shirts at the gym if they don't want to. It's way more comfortable, you can see the muscles working (I find it motivating) and it really gets the competitive edge going, especially if there are other guys working out shirtless as well. Also like the look of my bare torso glistening with sweat after a long hard workout.
    I go to a hole in the wall gym- it's a bit grimy, there's no A/C (it's gets super hot in the summer) you can use chalk, drop the weights, and grunt/yell. The owner's pretty chill about guys working out shirtless as long as it's not during busy hours. I usually work out late nights when it's pretty quiet- sometimes I have the whole gym to myself. The shirt often comes off sometime during the workout or at the end..on summer nights when it's sweltering, I sometimes take my shirt off right at the start of the workout and stay shirtless for the whole thing. There were a few times when I arrived at the gym and there was already a shirtless guy working out and that gave me more motivation to take mine off as well- we then high-fived each was definitely great camaraderie.

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