Sports bra is a bra that provides support to female breasts during physical activities. Sturdier than typical bras, sports bras minimize breast movement, alleviate discomfort, and reduce potential damage to chest ligaments.

WHY SPORTS BRA IS IMPORTANT

Before mentioning how a sports bra should fit, it’s important to understand why a sports bra is needed when exercising. As the breast has no muscles and is not connected to any muscles in the body, the breast moves independently of the rest of a women’s body. The breast is only supported by 2 weak structures: the skin itself and ligaments named Cooper’s ligaments. Therefore, a good sports bra is needed to give support, prevent breast pain and limit the movement when exercising, especially when running. The breast moves individually to the rest of the body and the skin is able to resist a certain amount of strain. However, if the breast moves 60% or more then irreversible damages can occur meaning that the Cooper’s ligaments and skin will not return to their original shape once stretched. This can lead to a case of mastalgia (breast pain) and breast ptosis (breast sag). This makes a sports bra vital during exercises as it prevents damage to the breasts by not allowing the breasts to move as independently as they would without a sports bra.

HOW TO SELECT A SPORTS BRA

When you are looking for sports bras it is important to consider what type of exercise you will be doing, as there are different categories of sports bras depending on the level of impact. For example, for someone doing yoga / pilates or less impact sports, a lower category of bra would be suited. However, for someone who is running a higher category of bra would be needed. While selecting a sports bra one must be aware of one’s regular bust size and cup size.

1. TYPE OF ACTIVITY

Sports bras offer three different levels of support: low, medium, and high impact. The type you need depends on your cup size and the type of exercise you do.

  • Low-Medium Impact Sports Bras
    Low impact activities: Walking, yoga, strength training.
    Medium impact activities: Dancing, skiing, cycling.
    Construction: Low-medium impact sports bras typically feature a cup-less design and restrict movement by compressing the breasts tightly against the chest wall.
  • High Impact Sports Bras
    High impact activities: Running, aerobics, mountain biking.
    Construction: High impact bras are made with a defined cup structure – akin to regular bras- to encapsulate and support each breast. Some high impact bras will use a combination of both encapsulation and compression methods to maximise support.

2. TYPE OF SUPPORT

  • Compression: Shelf bra styles work for smaller cup sizes (A and B) or for low to moderate impact workouts.
  • Encapsulation: For larger-breasted women, sports bras with individual cups are better than compression style ones.
  • Compression/ encapsulation sports bras: Many sports bras combine the above methods into a supportive and comfortable style. These bras offer more support than compression or encapsulation alone, making them generally best for high-impact activities.

3. TYPE OF CUP

  • Moulded cups are seamless cups that provide shape with less structure and no added padding. They are designed to complement and maintain the natural shape of the breast.
  • Contoured cups are used in bras with padding or liners. They provide shape, modesty, and support. An easy way to tell if the cups are contoured is by laying the bra on a flat surface; if the cups maintain their shape, they are contoured.
  • Removable cups add protection, modesty, and support. As the name suggests, they can be removed easily. Removable cups are sometimes referred to as “cookies.”

4. TYPE OF STRAP

  • Racer back: Because they cinch in back, the straps anchor the bra closer to the body, providing more support.
  • Wide straps: Shoulder straps help distribute weight better than T-backs (key for bigger cups) and are more likely to be adjustable and padded.
  • Crisscross: These straps crisscross in back and usually provide good support. The straps are often adjustable so you can fine-tune the fit. Depending on the style, crisscross straps can hide nicely underneath a sporty tank top or make their own fashion statement.
  • Tank top: This strap style is most similar to an everyday bra. The straps are often adjustable so you can fine-tune the fit. Bras with tank top straps often have a back closure, which offers additional adjustment. Some tank top bras are designed to allow the straps to be crisscrossed for versatility.

5. TYPE OF CLOSURE

  • Pullover: Tank styles typically cover the back more than clasps, but those with all over stretch lack the rigid front straps, adjustability, and support to anchor large chests.
  • Back clasp: Clasps let you tighten the band, from which 70 percent of the bra’s support comes. This is especially vital for larger breasts, which place more demand on the band.
  • Zippers: This type of closure allows for easy on and off. Many women who have larger breasts prefer this type of closure because they still get a full, supportive fit without having to pull the bra on over their head.

6. UNDERWIRE

The benefit of underwire in a sports bra is that it supports each breast individually and can help to minimize movement. The underwire should lay flat against your rib cage, below the breast tissue, and should not poke or pinch.

7. MOISTURE-WICKING TECHNOLOGY

This garment technology uses synthetic microfibers to help lift sweat from your skin and transfer it to the surface of your garment, helping you stay dry and fresh. Best for cardio activities during summer season.

8. SEAMLESS DESIGN

In order to extend the life of sports bras, many have a seamless design or incorporate ‘flat seaming.’ This stitch type can be strong and is designed to prevent rubbing and chafing on areas that are commonly stretched during movement. You can also use body lubricant such as BodyGlide for preventing chafing from sports bra.

9. VENTILATION

Many bras feature mesh panelling or cut out detailing on the side. This can allow for natural air flow as you train.

10. PADDING

Padding and removable cups can act as built-in modesty tools or serve an aesthetic purpose. Padding and removable cups can provide additional layers of material to ensure your “headlights” stay off. They may also be moulded to give added shape for aesthetic purposes.

11. FABRIC

Sports bras come in a variety of fabrics. Cotton bras are soft and breathable, but not recommended for sports that lead to high levels of perspiration. Spandex sports bras are a common option because of the elasticity. Finally, microfiber is a thin, synthetic fiber that is popular for its moisture-wicking ability.

HOW TO FIND THE CORRECT SPORTS BRA SIZE

Step 1- Rib cage measurement: Measure around your rib cage, just beneath your breasts. The tape measure should be snug, but loose enough that you can fit two fingers underneath. Round down to the nearest full inches.

Step 2- Band size: Use the table below to find your corresponding band size based on your rib cage measurement.
sports bra band size

Step 3- Bust measurement: Measure around the fullest part of your breast. Again, the tape measure should be snug but not so tight that it restricts breathing.

Step 4- Cup size: Subtract your rib cage measurement from your bust measurement. The difference is your cup size. If you’re in between sizes, round up.
sports bra cup size

HOW TO CHECK SPORTS BRA WHILE TRYING IT ON

When trying the sports bra itself, don’t be afraid to do similar movements to what you would normally do when exercising, such as jogging on the spot or stretching. It is also important to ensure that you have a good range of arm movement, so make sure to adjust the straps while trying it out. Measurements vary from country to country, brand to brand, range to range and the person herself (just like shoes!). And so when you are trying a sports bra on, the following points should be checked:

  • Band Size– Always check the band is firm (1-2 inches give) and level around the whole body. It should also move with you rather than independently and if it is adjustable, start on the loosest setting. Slide a finger under the band between your breasts; you should not be able to pull it more than an inch from your chest. (For an adjustable band style, set the clasp on the first eyelet; if you have to use the last eyelet to get a snug fit, you’re better off with a smaller band.) Next, reach your arms overhead; if the band creeps up, it’s too big. In both cases, pick a smaller size.
  • Shoulder strap– There should be 1-2 inches give and it should not fall off the shoulders or dig in. If you have broader shoulders, then you may benefit more from a cross-strap bra. Hold the top of one strap and the centre of the corresponding cup, then pull. Whether they’re adjustable or not, the less stretchy the front straps, the more motion control they’ll provide.
  • Chafing- Make sure there is no chafing around the armholes, shoulder straps or seams. If the bra has hooks or snaps, make sure those don’t chafe, either.
  • Cup– Always check if the breast fills the whole cup and that there is no bulging or wrinkling of the material. Whether it’s a compression or an encapsulation style, the cup should hold the whole breast — no spillage. If it doesn’t, choose the next larger cup size.
  • Underwire– Check that it is not sitting on the breast tissue itself at the front or at the under arm.
  • Support– Make similar motions to the activity you are doing.
  • Comfort– No matter what do check if the sports bra is comfortable or not.

BEST SPORTS BRAS FOR LARGE-BREASTED WOMEN

Here are the best sports bras for big breasts that will keep the girls happy and healthy, no matter what kind of a workout you put them through:

1. BEST OVERALL- LULULEMON ENLITE BRA

LULULEMON Enlite BraSHOP NOW!

Your new go-to bra, especially if you have a larger bust. With this one you get comfort, movement management, and natural shape. (And no bounce!)

2. BEST FOR RUNNING- SWEATY BETTY HIGH INTENSITY RUN BRA/ SWEATY BETTY HIGH IMPACT SPORTS BRA

Sweaty Betty High Intensity Run BraSHOP NOW!

This bra will become your best friend, there for you through thick and thin (and all those HIIT workouts). It’s supportive with breathable mesh panels and sweat wicking fabric that fits cup sizes A through E. The cups are also encapsulated, keeping your girls extra snug and secure throughout a long run.

3. BEST SUPPORT- PANACHE UNDERWIRE SPORTS BRA

Panache Underwire Sports BraSHOP NOW!

Fuller-busted women swear by this underwire sports bra, and for good reason—it goes up to size J! And unlike a lot of other sports bras, the Panache comes with wide, adjustable straps—ensuring you get the best support possible. (You can even convert it into a cross-back!)

4. BEST FOR YOGA- LE MYSTERE MID IMPACT UNLINED SPORTS BRA

Le Mystere Mid Impact Unlined Sports BraSHOP NOW!

I know what you’re thinking: This doesn’t look like a sports bra. Surprisingly, this subtle, understated number IS a sports bra, and it will actually hold your chest in place during medium-impact workouts like barre or yoga. And it runs up to size G!

BEST SPORTS BRAS FOR MEDIUM AND SMALL-BREASTED WOMEN

5. BEST OVERALL- MOVING COMFORT FIONA BRA

MOVING COMFORT FIONA BRASHOP NOW!

The Moving Comfort Fiona Bra is a consistent favourite among smaller-chested exercisers for a variety of reasons. Women with size A-C cups will find this a good choice for higher impact activities.

6. BEST FULL MOTION- MOVING COMFORT HOT SHOT SPORTS BRA

MOVING COMFORT HOT SHOT SPORTS BRASHOP NOW!

The Moving Comfort Hot Shot bra is another favourite for small-chested women because it’s comfortable, flattering, lightweight and it’s so comfy, you can wear it all day long. It has sweat-wicking fabric to keep you cool and dry.

7. BEST FOR RUNNING- OLD NAVY HIGH SUPPORT ADJUSTABLE STRAP SPORTS BRA

Old Navy High Support Adjustable Strap Sports BraSHOP NOW!

This bra wasn’t a typical racer back— the shape and adjustable straps worked really well for running.

8. BEST FOR YOGA- SPLENDID TWIST STRIPED SPORTS BRA

SPLENDID TWIST STRIPED SPORTS BRASHOP NOW!

This is perfect for yoga, Pilates, or any other low impact exercise.

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF SPORTS BRA

To maintain the sports bras follow these dos and don’ts:

  • Wash the bra in cold water with mild detergent. Avoid fabric softener and bleach.
  • Dry it flat or line dry it. For the dryer, use the cold tumble cycle only: Heat breaks down spandex.
  • Replace the bra if the ends of the spandex fibers start showing or the fabric no longer snaps back into shape.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SPORTS BRAS

  • Does wearing sports bra prevent breast growth?
    Sports bras don’t make breasts grow or stop growing, but wearing the right-size bra may help you feel more comfortable. Sports bras that are too small may cause breast pain because of how sensitive some girls’ breasts can be as they grow.
  • Does wearing sports bra prevent breast sagging?
    Sports bra will hold up your breasts to give you the shape and look you want, but it can’t prevent further sagging, which is caused by age and gravity.
  • Can sports bra cause breast cancer?
    NO! Sports bras do not causes breast cancer. Although it may cause temporary discomfort, the idea that constant pressure on the breast causes trauma is not true. Nor does it impact the lymphatic system.
  • Is it good to wear sports bra everyday?
    A sports bra is a bra which provides comfort to the breasts while exercising. They help in minimizing the breast movements. However, some people get confused about whether they can wear a sports bra for the whole day or not. The support is so comfortable that you wouldn’t mind wearing a firm sports bra for the day. Not only great for exercise, sports bras are very comfortable for wearing everyday if you make the best choice in style, size and impact level. The straps on sports bras are designed to stay put and can be wider or padded to prevent them digging into your shoulders.

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