By Mafiapinkdog, MuscleTalk Member
Almost every woman wears a bra every day of her life for the majority of the day. Underwired, non wired, moulded, soft cup, strapless, push up, minimise, maximise… the list is endless! Most women wouldn’t think twice about owning different bras for different occasions or dress styles, after all, a girl’s got to have the correct wardrobe, right? So what do you do, where do you go and what do you consider when you want to buy a bra for exercising / training in? There are lots of garments labelled ‘sports bra’ on the market so where do you begin?
The first thing to understand is why you need to wear a specific garment in the first place. The breast is supported by the ‘Coopers ligament’. Regardless of the size of the breast, if this ligament is allowed to stretch, the breasts will sag. It is also irreversible! From an outward appearance, most people would concur that larger breasts sag quicker. This isn’t really accurate. A ‘B’ cup breast will sag just as much as an ‘E’ cup, the weight of the larger breast will, perhaps appear to give more indication of gravity. However, there are more factors to this, e.g. bust shape. In order to prevent the Coopers ligament from stretching, it needs support especially from the demands of exercising. Training the pectoral muscles will strengthen the muscle beneath the breast but won’t be a contributory factor to halting a sagging breast.
A study has produced results to suggest the actual movement of the breast during exercise, particularly jogging/running. The breast moves first in a downward movement and then forms a figure 8 motion. They also move from side to side at the same time and in and out. Of course the speed of this motion is dictated by the level of exercise, e.g. walking will produce less motion than running. An everyday bra only helps to support the up and down movement of the breast, therefore it is important to consider a different level of support for exercising and therefore a different bra that is fit for this purpose.
It is important to point out that every woman’s breasts and bodies are different shapes and also the exercise each person does varies. The following is merely a guide and although I am suggesting points to take on board, the individual should endeavour to check what is right for themselves and their level of activity.
Buying a Sports Bra
It is easy to think that you should buy a sports bra in the same size as your day bra. First of all, a large percentage of women wear the wrong size anyway! So what hope has a sports bra if you don’t know your size? The following points can also apply to day bras but are aimed at this article.
The underband should always be perfectly horizontal on the body. The underband should lie underneath the breast, flat on the rib cage and that should be horizontal all the way around the body. To check, stand sideways on to a mirror and lift your arms directly in front on you, not above your head as you might pull the bra upwards. The underband should be a perfect line. Not going up towards your shoulders (too big) or digging in (too small). Put your hand behind you where the hook and eyes are, or where the centre back of the bra is. Pull back the bra. If you can easily pull more than ¼ inch, the bra is too big or you need a tighter fastening. If you can pull the bra quite a distance from your body then your underband is too big.
All bras have what we call a ‘bust point’. In layman’s terms, that is the point your nipples should sit at within the cup. All bra cups have a peak point that is generally considered this position. (By using the word peak, I’m not referring to Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier pointy type bras, just the top most part of the cup when producing the pattern). The correct way to put any bra on is to lean forward into it, and fasten with your hands behind your back. Yeah right! If you’re like me, fasten at front, spin round to the back! If you follow this method, make sure you lift you breasts up into the cup properly. If your nipples appear to be pointing down, to the side etc., put your hand in the cup and position them until they appear to sit in a place that your nipples fill the ‘peak’ part of the cup. The breast should be completely encased in the cup with no bulges out to the sides. Because of the range of motion the breast makes during exercise, the neckline of the cup will sit much higher on the rib cage than your day bra. This is important as it helps to limit the range of motion and therefore limit the ‘bounce’ factor. Your breasts should be supported and apart from one another at the centre front, if they are squashed together the cup is too small.
Larger cup size wearers should look for 2 or 3 piece cups with overbust seams as this gives more strength to the cup. Moulded cups have no overbust seams; however you must check that the breast sits comfortably in the shape of the mould.
In smaller sizes, up to a D cup, the straps are less functional as the breast weighs less. In larger cup sizes the straps become more integral to the support of the breast. You should look for wide straps with padding as this will stop the straps digging into your shoulders. If you are experiencing a lot of pain from straps digging in, look again at the size of bra you are wearing because this can indicate that the cups/underband are struggling to give you support and therefore it is relying too much upon the straps to hold up the cups. Check the straps don’t slip off your shoulders, if this is happening, the cups will be allowed to fall down and offer less cup coverage on the breast and therefore less support.
Underwired Sports Bras
Personally I wouldn’t encourage these, however, there are styles on the market and it is a personal choice if you wish to wear one. The reason I don’t agree, is because if you aren’t in the correct size, the wire can rub and damage tissue. Wires exist to essentially create a framework that will help the projection of the cups, they don’t help to support the breasts and without a secure underband, they can slide too low beneath the breast. It is the shape of the cup that will determine support. Also, non-wired bras actually offer much better support… they’re just not as attractive! If you do choose this option I recommend that you look for styles that contain a flexiwire. These wires are much softer and are a smaller gauge than everyday bra wires therefore shouldn’t cause as much discomfort.
Increase/Decrease in Your Breasts or Ribcage
Obviously your body will change over a period of time, exercise and gaining or losing weight will affect the bra you are wearing. Underband gain/loss: If your underband increases and your cup size is the same, you need to go up on the underband, and down on the cup size; e.g. 34B will become 36A. If your underband decreases and your cup size remains the same, you need to go down on the underband and up on the cup size. For example, a 34B will become 32C.
As a guide to sizes, e.g. a 34 B cup is the same cup size as 36A, 34B, 32C, 30D; the only thing that changes is the underband length.
Cup Gain / Loss
If your cup size increases and your underband is the same, you need to go up on the cup, e.g. 34B will become 34C. If your cup size decreases and your underband remains the same you need to down on the cup size e.g. 34B will become 34A.
A wide underband is needed to help anchor the garment to the body. It should be firm enough to offer support but if too loose will ride up your back. Again, the neckline should fit quite high up on the ribcage and the position of the straps should be in line with the bust point to maximise support.
I can offer suggested sites if you want to buy on the net. Bravissimo offers larger sizes, Lessbounce.com covers nearly all the best brands, Boobydoo.co.uk and Figleaves.com.
It is worth noting that information on sports bras is inexhaustible and this is just my guide to help you find a decent fitting, supportive product. Thanks for reading and happy sports bra shopping!