A workout must-have for we ladies is a supportive sports bra. But how often have you noticed those who wear the wrong size or type of bra for the activity they are performing?
Having a solid sports bra is all about reducing bounce and supporting the skin and ligaments. The continuous movement performed during any form of exercise can cause breast pain, soreness, and most regrettable of all, sagging.
Our breasts don’t have muscle, but we do have something called Cooper’s ligaments near the breast which support their size and shape. When these ligaments break down and stretch – something that will happen if you aren’t wearing the right sports bra – they don’t “bounce back”, resulting in permanent damage to the structure of your breast.
Regardless of whether you’re an AA cup or well over a DD, wearing the right type of sports bra is essential whenever you head out for a run, hit the yoga mat, or grab a set of weights. Here is our guide on how you can choose the right sports bra for any activity.
First up: What type of exercise are you performing?
The form of exercise you’ll be doing will be a major determining factor when choosing your sports bra.
All sports bras are labelled by “impact” levels. The lower the impact, the less support they offer.
There are three “types” of sports bras on the market today:
Sports bras with encapsulation: These bras are typically designed with individual cups which surround and support each separate breast, very much like a typical day-to-day bra. Encapsulation bras don’t compress the breast, making them a better choice for lower-impact activities.
Sports bras with compression: Pulled over the head and pressing the breasts against the wall of the chest, these bras are designed to restrict moderate movement. This makes them an ideal choice for low or medium-impact activities.
Encapsulation and compression sports bras: These bras will give your breasts the ultimate support, often featuring the latest technology to ensure enhanced comfort and style.
Now that we’ve talked about the different bra “types”, let’s get into this “impact” business we mentioned.
Low impact activities are those where you’ll experience very little “bounce”, like:
- Strength training
Many of these bras can be pulled over the head, so there isn’t a back clasp to uncomfortably rub against your spine as you stretch out on your yoga mat.
Word to the wise
: These bras are best for anyone between an A and D cup. Larger breasts can still bounce and may not receive proper support while you’re shifting from that upward dog to a downward dog.
Medium impact activities, as you can guess, will have your body moving a bit more than stretching or performing barre exercises. Some sports best supported by medium impact bras include:
- Martial arts
- Road cycling (but not for your super intense spin class!)
They’re also perfect for women with larger breasts who want a bit more support when performing those lower impact activities.
Now onto the more fully structured bras, the high impact, and extreme impact sports bras. High impact bras are ideal for those who’ll be engaged in activities with a lot of movement like running, dancing, or playing tennis.
So when should you shift gears to the extreme impact category? Think of any activity requiring you to jump, like if you enjoy plyometrics (jump training). You should also probably throw one of these on before you head out to that next 30 minute HIIT sweat sesh.
Next thing: Check out the straps
As you’ve likely noticed, sports bras also come in a variety of strap types. Sometimes the style of strap you choose will come down to personal preference, though some strap types may be better for certain activities.
The tank-top strap style is common, and most are adjustable, though they often do come with a back clasp so it may not be best if you plan on being on your back for any period of time.
Crisscross style straps are certainly on trend and are also adjustable, making them a good pick for low- to medium-impact activities.
Racerback sports bras are the style of strap you’ll find on most medium- to high-impact sports bras. The downside: They aren’t often adjustable, so it’s important that you choose the right size and regularly check to see if the bra is continuing to give you the support you need.
As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the straps, the more support you’ll get and the more comfortable you’ll be (this is particularly true if you have larger or heavier breasts). Any thickness of strap should provide minimal stretch, and you should be able to fit two fingers between the strap and your shoulder snugly.
Finally: Finding the right fit
The easiest way to find the right fit is to measure your “underbust” and your “overbust”.
- Measuring your underbust
This one works best with a friend. With your arms down and by your side, have a friend pass a tape measure right under your breasts, ensuring that the tape is taut and straight all the way around. Have your friend write down the measurement.
- Measuring your overbust
With that same measuring tape, pass it along the fullest part of your bust (usually over the nipple) and have it rest straight across your back. Write down the measurement.
Different brands of bras have different sizes according to your underbust and overbust. As long as you have those measurements, you should be able to consult with a sizing chart or a salesperson to help you find the right size.
Before taking off the tags, make sure you try the bra on. Your breasts should be centred and fully contained in those cups, they should feel secure when you run or jump, and there should be zero chafing or skin irritation around the seams, shoulder straps, and armholes.
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