Your sports bra does a very important job: it supports and protects your breasts while you workout. When you exercise your breasts can bounce around quite a lot, and not only is this uncomfortable, but it can also cause damage to both tissue and skin.
However, the vast majority of women do not own a properly fitting bra, let alone a properly fitting sports bra. Many problems can arise if you do not have a good quality and supportive sports bra: chafing, heat rash, breast injury, or even premature sagging.
To help stop this problem before it starts, here is our three-step guide to choosing the perfect sports bra.
Choose Specific Sports Bra Styles and Features
There are three basic styles of sports bra to choose from: compression, encapsulation, and compression with encapsulation.
Compression: These bras are typically shelf style bras. They work by holding the breasts close to the body without the use of separate cups. Compression bras tend to be more comfortable and effective for smaller cup sizes such as A or B, but they can also work for larger bust sizes when doing a very low impact workout. Compression bras sometimes have adjustable straps, but not always.
Encapsulation: These bras have two separate cups, and often have a band closure either at the back or front. The straps are typically adjustable to allow for optimum support. They are designed to support larger bust sizes, specifically C, D, and upwards.
Compression with Encapsulation: This type of bra provides the most support. It combines the separate cups, band closure, and adjustable straps of the encapsulation bra, while also providing firm support by holding the breasts close to the body. These bras are recommended for larger busted women, or anyone doing high impact, sustained workouts.
Measure For a Perfect Fit
Many women make the mistake of assuming that all of the support in a bra comes from the shoulder straps. This is not true. More than 70 percent of the support in a well-made bra should come from the band. So, getting your band measurement correct is absolutely vital.
Using a measuring tape, measure your rib cage just below your breasts. Make sure that the tape is lying flat and even around your back. Now use the following table to determine your band measurement:
- 25 to 27 inches – band size 30
- 27 to 29 inches – band size 32
- 29 to 31 inches – band size 34
- 31 to 33 inches – band size 36
- 33 to 35 inches – band size 38
- 35 to 37 inches – band size 40
- 37 to 39 inches – band size 42
- 39 to 41 inches – band size 44
Next, put on a sports bra and measure across the fullest part of your breasts. Subtract your band size measurement from this measurement, and the difference in inches will determine your cup size. Use the following chart to determine your size:
- 3 inches – cup size AA
- 4 inches – cup size A
- 5 inches – cup size B
- 6 inches – cup size C
- 7 inches – cup size D
- 8 inches – cup size DD
- 9 inches – cup size E
- 10 inches – cup size F
Test The Fit of Your New Bra
Once you have found a sports bra which meets your measurement requirements, it’s time to try it on.
Sizing the Band: When trying on a compression style sports bra, you should not be able to pull the band more than one inch away from your rib cage with your fingers. If you can, you need to go down a band size.
With encapsulation or compression with encapsulation bras, the band should fit snugly on the loosest clasp setting. If you have to go all the way to the smallest clasp setting to get an appropriate fit, go down one band size. And remember, you should not be able to pull the band of the bra more than one inch away from your body when it is properly sized.
Sizing the Cups: If you are spilling out of the bra at the top or under the armpits, you need to go up a cup size and try again. Your breasts should feel firmly supported, not painfully crushed.
On the other hand, if the cups are gaping or there is visible space, you need to come down a cup size. Cups that are too loose will provide poor support, and will also leave you open to issues such as chafing.
Sizing the Straps: If your bra straps are adjustable, adjust them so that you can easily fit two fingers between your shoulder and the strap. Overly tight straps only serve to dig into your shoulders, while loose ones can fall off, slip down, or provide too little support.
If you are concerned that your breasts have been damaged by the use of poorly fitting sports bras, there are a few things you can do to improve their appearance. Workouts that engage the pectoral muscles can help give that “lifting” effect, and of course, never work out without a properly fitting sports bra. Topical creams are also available which can help provide a visible lift, such as Vollure, available from Bauer.