Fitness Articles

Are You Wearing the Right Sports Bra?

A Guide for Women of All Shapes and Sizes

Every active woman, regardless of her breast size, should have a sports bra as a part of her fitness wardrobe. Not only do these specially designed bras offer better support and more comfort than a regular bra, they also help minimize movement during your workout. Exercising in the wrong bra can lead to more than discomfort. A number of issues, including tension in the arms and shoulders and restricted breathing, can occur if the band is too tight.

A woman's breasts are composed primarily of adipose (fatty) tissue, mammary glands, connective tissue, and the Cooper’s ligament, which keeps the breast firm and prevents sagging. Because the underlying chest muscles do not support breast tissue, exercising in anything other than a well-fitted sports bra can stretch the Cooper's ligament, leading to greater sagging and even pain during exercise.

Finding the right sports bra for you can be a daunting task when there are hundreds of styles from which to choose! Don't worry—we've done the homework for you.

Believe it or not, just any old sports bra won't supply the support you need to prevent sagging, stretching or pain related to exercise. One size certainly doesn't fit all.

Studies have shown that between 70% and 80% of women are wearing the wrong size sports bra, and therefore, they may not be getting the benefits of support and comfort from their fitness wardrobe. Many department stores, including Nordstrom or Macy's, offer free fitting services for customers. But if modesty is a concern, you can take your own measurements before leaving home. Measuring can save you lots of time and aggravation when choosing the right bra.
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About The Author

Nancy Howard Nancy Howard
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.

Member Comments

    For plus size ladies, the Ulla Dessous Kate Sports bra is a bit pricey but well worth it. You can get it with wire or without and depending on the one you choose, it goes up to a size n!
    You can order it online at bbasic lingerie (http://www.bbasi
    /bras/sports-bra) - 11/18/2014 10:50:16 AM
    I always prefer to use sports bra while doing yoga and exercise ..Along with that I prefer to use along with t-shirts so that it gives more comfort - 3/25/2014 4:50:12 AM
    The best sports bra for those D or over is sport by cacique. They have underwires and lightly padded wider straps that are easily adjusted. I wear mine for tennis and aerobic type activities and have no bounce, no digging in, and no neck or shoulder pain even when wearing for a whole day. After I wore mine for the first time, I came home, threw out every other sports bra I owned and bought two more. - 3/12/2014 5:51:16 PM
    Maybe you are not familiar with the sports bra, not to mention the way to choice. When you need a sports bra, you may confused by so many kinds of styles in the market.
    Compression/dp/B00EID1M1G - 12/12/2013 4:42:48 AM
  • My friend owns an underwear shop and I have mine measured every time because each make can be massively different. Even different styles from the same brand can mean you need a different size. It doesn't cost to have one fitted and you can always find the right make and size and then buy it cheaper online when you know that a professional has fit it. To be perfectly honest, now that I have all my bras fitted by an expert I would never just buy because the difference, not just during exercise but for the rest of the time is unbelieveable. Those little pains in your legs, hips, neck etc can all be attributed to poor posture because of incorrect bra fitting. I'm a uk 34 H and I can do any exercise with only 1 properly fitted bra. All these different methods of self measurement do not take into account manufactures difference that someone trained can identify by knowledge. - 8/11/2013 2:08:56 PM
  • Your chart stops short:
    Over the bust / band measurement difference and cup size
    Difference (inches) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
    Cupsize U.S. AA A B C D DD/E DDD/F DDDD/G H I J K L M N - - -
    Cupsize UK/Austr. AA A B C D DD E F FF G GG H HH J JJ K KK L

    Some brands size by adding 4 to your band measurement, some by adding 0. UK manufacturers are increasingly available in the US and offer busty girls relief from wearing 38/40 DD's when we should really be in much smaller back sizes and much larger cup sizes.
    - 7/30/2013 11:08:38 AM
    I'm sorry to say this, but your method of measuring is a bit outdated. Why should a woman with a 27" circumference wear a 30" bra? It is 3" larger than her and can't offer any support. 80-90% of your bust's weight should be supported by the bra band and only the tiny rest by the straps. You also have to take into account that a bra band stretches several inches. - 7/23/2013 1:45:57 PM
  • i have been buying and wearing the enell sports bras for years, i wear them to work out and for everyday wear, which works out ok, because i found a site that allows you a discount if you purchase two at once.
    they dont go by cup size, but are measured by number, each number represents a size grid of 3 to 4 sizes in one, the enell fits snugly and doesnt allow alot of movement, but, is still good for working out as it offers alot of support and comfort.
    i love them, they are a little costly, but is the only bra i can order online and always feel secure that i will receive the right size and fit. - 7/8/2013 6:42:07 PM
  • When at my largest (44h) I to wore my regular cacique full coverage to work out, of course I wasn't doing high impact! I then added one of those cheap compression bras over to prevent movement as I got more active. Glamorize has some good ones for small band/large cup without the uniboob i found them later. Currently I am loving my tata tamer! A good bra that holds the ladies still is worth a little extra. - 7/4/2013 11:48:01 AM
  • Lots of my busty friends wear 2 bras working out. One that fits well and a compression bra over that. I wear a 38 DDD and wear my Bali minimizers with everything. Love them. 38 is my actual chest measurement and my breast measurement is 9" bigger. I am getting a reduction in Sept as I am tired of the pain, dents in my shoulders and back aches. So hopefully I can wear something more comfortable in a few months. - 7/2/2013 10:57:12 PM
  • No mention of the need for adjustable straps those of us with a bustline that is lower than what is, apparently, average. - 7/2/2013 12:07:11 PM
  • I don't care for sports bras. I never did. - 6/20/2013 4:17:00 PM
  • This article must be for larger breasted women. I'm a 38 half an A. (Victoria's Secret Measurements not mine) LOL Try and find a bra size that fits THAT!!! - 6/20/2013 12:32:36 PM
    I agree totally with "Trynot" - and will add the following:
    Rather than trying to do it yourself, have your bra size measured by a certified person (yes, they have them in major dept and specialty stores, e.g. Nordstroms), at least EVERY YEAR - and sooner if you are either losing weight or exercising (or both). I haven't found a place yet that doesn't do this for free (even if you don't buy a bra right away).
    I am one of those lucky gals who has a size that isn't readily available in most stores - I am a 36II - mainly due to a regular exercise/diet program I've been on for a while. Unfortunately, most bra manufacturers assume that if you have big breasts, you also are plus size - and start the band sizes bigger than 36. Luckily, there ARE specialty web sites and brands that cater to us big girls, even with sports bras that provide us with the support we need for our bigger assets. I recommend BareNecessities.c
    om, which has a variety of brands to choose from.
    My only complaint is that I need a sports bra that is a racerback style, to allow me to wear exercise tops that are open around the shoulders - and they are hard to find. If anyone with a similar size to mine has found a good one - please let me know the brand so I can look for it? - 6/11/2013 9:34:42 AM
  • 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size because of bad information on measuring for your bra size. The way of measuring outlined here is outdated. One reason I think it's still being pushed though, is because it puts most women in a smaller range of sizes. Stores don't have to carry so many sizes when most women will end up being a 34, 36, or 38 after measuring this way.

    Measure your chest snugly right under your breast. That is your band size.(round up or down if you get an odd number) Measure around you bust with a normal un-padded bra on. Each inch difference between your band measurement and your bust measurement is a cup size. This is your starting point. Not every bra is suitable for every body and not every manufacturer will fit the same. If you feel like you need to go up a band size then go down a cup size(or down a band size and up a cup size). The band should fit comfortably snug and be horizontal all around your torso. It shouldn't ride up in the back. It should do most of the work, not the straps. A new bra should hook at the first row of hooks, use the other rows as it starts to stretch out.

    Since I found that way of measuring it's made bra shopping a lot easier. I still go down in band or cup size sometimes for sports bras though. - 4/6/2013 3:29:43 PM

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