When you’re in the zone at the gym, you don’t want to think about anything besides the weight in front of you: You don’t want to worry about your music cutting out, your water bottle tipping over, or your shorts migrating north with every movement.
Thankfully, I’ve got that last part covered. Having a rotating arsenal of squat shorts that don’t ride up has allowed me to forget about what I’m wearing and focus instead on the task at hand.
It’s been a process, though. Even just a few years ago, it seemed like apparel companies were pretty limited in their lifting shorts options, which tend to be more form-fitting and spandex-y than looser, more flowy running shorts. They’d have a pair with a 3-inch inseam, and that was that. Maybe, just maybe, they’d have a bike short option as well, which are usually quite a bit longer, about a 7- or 8-inch inseam.
Neither worked great for me. I really liked the way many of the 3-inch shorts looked when I was standing still, but once I started lunging, squatting, and hinging, all bets were off: A muscular lower half and movement generally don’t pair well with short-shorts, as I learned. I ended up spending way too much time during my workout fussing with them and picking at them to stop riding up. Bike shorts, on the other hand, served a practical purpose, but I didn’t feel good in them. The 7- or 8-inch inseam looked way too long on my short frame.
As SELF’s fitness director, I have the opportunity to try a whole bunch of lifting shorts, and I’ve found a few that work so well for me that I find myself reaching for them workout after workout. Take a look below if you’ve been searching for squat shorts that stay put—you just may find a pair that works for you, too.
One quick thing I wanted to emphasize, though: These kinds of shorts are going to fit differently on all bodies, and some of the things that bother me about lifting shorts—say, too long a length—may not annoy you in the least. So take these as a jumping-off point; consider them some vetted shorts that just may work for you, too. You’d definitely want to make sure you try on these first, and do a few lunges, squats, and hinges in them first to ensure they stay where you want them to when you’re actually moving!
Below are my three current favorite squat shorts that I’ve been wearing on repeat. No mid-set tugging, pulling, or adjusting required.
Old Navy PowerSoft Side-Pocket Biker Shorts With 6-Inch Inseam
These are technically bike shorts, but its inseam—6 inches for regular sizes—is a bit shorter than more traditional pairs. I snagged a petite size, which cut off three-fourths of an inch in length, making it a great fit for me.
While the PowerSoft bike shorts are called “high-waisted,” they hit just a hair under my belly button, making their light compression feel non-constricting across my abdomen. I loved how the fabric moved with me during more dynamic leg exercises like lunges, and the legs stayed put. And while the fabric was lightweight, it didn’t go sheer while squatting—no issues with coverage here. As an added bonus, the side pocket was big and roomy, and Old Navy continues to offer fun colors and pattern choices throughout the year.
Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6-Inch Inseam
For a sleek and supportive squatting experience, it’s pretty hard to beat the Lululemon Wunder Trains. These shorts have a high waistband that stays put without rolling down and looks great with cropped shirts. They include a hidden drawcord to really individualize fit at the waist—although honestly, these shorts conform to my body so well I don’t need to mess with it. The Wunder Trains are probably the most compressive shorts on my list, and I’ve been finding myself reaching for these on my heaviest lower-body strength sessions, when support is really crucial. The bright, vibrant, and fun pattern doesn’t hurt for giving me an extra dose of motivation, either. (Although if you do want to keep it a little more low-key, Lululemon offers darker solid colors too.)
Athleta Salutation Stash Short 5-Inch Inseam
With its 5-inch inseam, these are the shortest shorts on my list, but they’re still long and secure enough that they don’t need to be fussed with. Athleta advertises these as yoga or studio shorts, but I can say they hold up completely fine to heavy lifting too—so you get the buttery soft and smooth fabric that you expect with yoga shorts with the function you’d need for lifting. The pair I’ve been wearing is a summery, light-colored pattern, which initially made me a little wary about squatting in them. But the fabric is solid enough that you don’t need to worry about it going see-through. And its stash pocket is big enough to hold a phone!
- I’m SELF’s Fitness Director, and These Are the Running Shorts I Wear That Don’t Ride Up
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- Activewear Awards: Best Leggings and Shorts of 2022