Guest Post by Michelle Budet, MS
Does A Perfect Sports Bra Exist?
How can a woman with big breasts go about finding the perfect fitting bra for training? As an active woman who wears a size D cup bra, in a family of D and beyond, I understand how hard it can be to find the perfect fitting bra for training. Luckily, we’ve figured a few things out!
For larger chested women (cup size D or greater), finding the right bra can seem more challenging than your workouts, and let’s be honest, the last thing you need to worry about is your wardrobe when you have goals to conquer. Most importantly, the physiological impact of all that bouncing up and down can have some seriously detrimental effects on your breasts.
As I’m sure you’re aware, exercise causes your breasts to bounce, and more vigorous movements, such as running, radically increases breast movement. This increased action places additional stress on your breasts natural support system, Cooper’s ligaments.
These ligaments attach to the collarbone to hold the breasts up and help them to maintain their shape . Being heavier, larger breasts are already more vulnerable. Therefore, as exercise becomes more vigorous or after exercising for many years, Cooper’s ligaments can be compromised, leading to decreased support and sagging, and unfortunately, they cannot be repaired or replaced once damaged . Additionally, an ill-fitting bra can cause back and neck pain, numbness and/or tingling in the shoulders and arms, breast pain, deep bra furrows resulting from excessive strap pressure, and discomfort .
Getting the Best Fit Down to a Science
Lucky for us, scientists have investigated how to reduce pain in active women with several extremely helpful and translatable observations. Have no fear, a well-designed, well-fitted sports bra can greatly reduce exercise-induced discomfort and breast pain [3,5], allowing women to enjoy exercise!
Knowing that finding this magical sports bra is no small feat, a group of researchers investigated the effective design features of commercial sports bras. Using some cutting edge technology and a Thorax-Breast Coordinate System, they measured breast displacement during walking, jogging, and running exercises . Bra styles that were most effective in controlling breast movement included these features:
Compression to limit breast movement in all directions.
Short vest style and high neckline to maximize coverage.
Rigid cup seam to fit the breasts and prevent movement.
Side slings to restrict the medial-lateral breast movement.
Race-back panel to distribute tension to the back.
Slightly elastic bound neckline to fit the upper breast boundary for stabilization.
No center gore (the triangular part of the band that sits between the cups), no cradle, no pad, and no wire (up to a D cup, go with wire if larger than a D cup).
Most commercial sports bras are effective in controlling breast movement in the medial-lateral (side-to-side) direction, but they fail to control the anterior-posterior (back-and-forth) and inferior-superior (up-and-down) motions. This can be decreased by buying a bra with a front panel so high that the cups fully cover the entire breast. Also, make sure that there isn’t a gap between the top of your breast and the top part of the cup while standing, and most importantly, during movement .
But HOW Can I Find Such a Mythical Garment?
Unfortunately, well-endowed women don’t have the luxury of walking into the nearest fitness store and picking out your everyday sports bra. While there is the option to size yourself online, my recommendation is to find a quality lingerie store that specializes in larger chested women.
These stores have knowledgeable employees who take the time to accurately measure you, can determine the need for underwire, and understand the necessity of each unique feature of a bra. The staff can often provide the option of tailoring to your specific body type and needs. As you become more familiar with your bra during training, you will be better prepared to shop online, giving you more time to focus on your next race.
You Deserve It
Although more expensive, consider buying a quality bra as an investment in your training, the health of your ta-tas, and your future health and fitness success. The comfort of a well-fitting bra is sure to increase your confidence, and therefore your likelihood of better performance. So, what are you waiting for? Put yourself first, and go smash those goals!
Burnett, E., White, J., Scurr, J. (2015). The Influence of the Breast on Physical Activity Participation in Females. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 12, 588-594. http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2013-0236
Murray, D. (2017). What are Cooper’s Ligaments? The Structures That Support and Shape the Breasts. Very Well. Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/what-are-coopers-ligaments-431673
Milligan, A., Mills, C., Scurr, J. (2014). The effect of breast support on upper body muscle activity during 5 km treadmill running. Human Movement Science, 38, 74-83. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2014.06.001
Stamford, B. (1996). Sports Bras and Briefs. The Physician and Sports Medicine. Vol. 24, Iss. 12.
Wang, C., Wang, L., Kuo, L., & Su, F. (2017). Comparison of breast motion at different levels of support during physical Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 12(4), 1256-1264. doi: https://doi.org/10.14198/jhse.2017.124.12
Zhou, J., Yu, W., Ng, S. (2013). Identifying effective design features of commercial sports bras. Textile Research Journal, 84(14) 1500-1513. DOI: 10.1/177/0040517512464289