Working out can be a pain (literally!) if you have large breasts.
For us larger gals, it’s often challenging to find the perfect sports bra fit – and getting tangled by neon straps in small fitting rooms can be so demotivating that exercise is often shoved to the bottom of our priority list.
The experts weigh in…
Recent studies suggests that more than 60 percent of women work out in regular bras (not even sports bras), with 80 percent of women wearing incorrect sports bras. Women’s Health spoke to physiotherapist Natalie Gouws, owner at NCA Physiotherapy, to get the dos and don’ts when deciding on the correct sports bra.
We also quizzed our fashion editor, Anja Joubert, on how to rock the crop in style – while still giving your bits the support they deserve.
According to Gouws, the female breast contains no supportive muscle and breast tissue is relatively free to move over the chest wall. So, while most people believe that the size of your boobs determines the chance of sagging, it’s actually caused by stretching of the ligaments that hold the breast tissue in place.
Irrespective of your size, you need a correctly fitted, supportive sports bra.
Why do boobs sag?
Gouws says that repetitive upwards and sideways motion of the breasts can lead to the fragile Cooper’s ligaments (aka connective tissue in the breast that helps maintain structural integrity) becoming stretched and lax.
This laxity, once lost, can’t be regained – gasp! – and will ultimately result in sagging and those dreaded stretch marks. The size of your breasts doesn’t change the anatomy, so whether you’re an A-cup or a DD-cup, once the damage is done, it’s likely to be permanent.
Bra giving you literal headaches? What!?
Who knew: besides the damage to your boobs, there are also other health concerns associated with wearing the wrong sports bra. Ever suffered from headaches where you can’t quite pinpoint the reason?
Wearing the incorrect bra can lead to back and neck pain, putting you at risk of developing headaches or nerve entrapment. Medical professionals have also noticed heart burn among their ill-fitting bra-wearing patients, adds Gouws.READ MORE: Your gym bag wishes you would stop hoarding fitness gear from two years ago
6 Critical things to consider in a sports bra
A sports bra that can both encapsulate (the bra has moulded cups that separate and support the breasts individually) and compress your breasts provides excellent support. The top layer of the bra should compress, while the inner layer should encapsulate your girls.
2. Tight underband
The underband must fit tightly – even tighter than your everyday bra. This area provides the most support and will prevent that potential downward stretch from occurring.
3. Adequate coverage
The sides and top of your sports bra should provide adequate coverage; this is to limit upward and sideward stretch.
4. Non-elastic materials
The bra should be made from mainly non-elastic materials that are non-allergenic, non-abrasive, and have good moisture management properties – check the label for these attributes.
5. Tight fit
Make sure the fabric over your breasts is tight enough. Too loose? Move on!
6. Firm straps
The straps on your shoulders should be firm, but shouldn’t dig into your skin.
Luckily for us larger-breasted fitsters, fashion is moving towards layering of bras, multiple back straps, visible broad straps and encapsulating-cup sport bras as part of your athleisure wardrobe – all in favour of our larger bits! The below styles will provide the correct support according to our top tips, whilst keeping you trending during your workout:
The Layered Bra
- Layered cross-front sport bra, R649, Ivy Park Topshop
Layering looks are on-trend, while offering that extra support.
- Layered mesh sport bra, R899, Reebok
The sheer detail is so pretty, it can easily “double up” (pun fully intended) as a layering item underneath a sheer dress or even as a crop top with a high-waisted bottom.
The Back-Strap Interest Sport Bra
- Multiple cross-back sport bra, R299, Cotton On
Multiple straps that are contrasting in colour or fabric and impactful back detail come together in a style that ticks all the boxes for us.
- Back interest sport bra, R750, New Balance
Make a statement with back detail. There are so many interesting styles to choose from!
The Firm Broad Shoulder Strap Bra
- Firm broad shoulder strap sport bra, R999, Adidas by Stella McCartney
This broad shoulder strap bra is super-comfy and will complete your look if it’s visible under your workout vest.
- Firm broad strap sport bra, R1 149, Under Armour
Remember: the straps must be tight, but they shouldn’t dig into your shoulders.
The Encapsulating Bra (individual support per breast)
- Zip-through encapsulating sport bra, R1 299, Puma
This uniquely designed bra will certainly keep you in style and also serve its function by encapsulating your breasts during high-intensity training.
- Encapsulating colour blocked sport bra, R1 299, Puma
Hold everything in place with this crazy-cute encapsulating sports bra – and look ah-mazing while you sweat!