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Sports bras

To keep your bust lifted and youthful, a sports bra is one of your most important undergarments.

the science

Breasts are made up of fatty and fibrous tissue. They sit on top of the pectoral muscles, but do not contain any muscles themselves and are supported mainly by fragile ligaments called Coopers' ligaments. These ligaments are not 'elastic' and will stretch during high impact or repetitive sport. The breast bounce will pull on the ligaments forcing them to stretch. Once these ligaments have stretched they stay this way and the effect is irreversible. It is really important to protect your Coopers' ligaments and the best way to do this is by wearing a sports bra during sport of any impact.

Without a sports bra a high impact activity can cause the average woman's breasts to move up and down and cause discomfort. A sports bra will reduce breast movement by over 50 per cent and improve comfort.

types of Sports Bra

There are two basic types of sports bra:


Compression bras compress the breasts flat against the chest wall. These bras are recommended for smaller cup sizes or for low impact activity for larger cup sizes.


Encapsulation bras hold the breasts in the same way as a normal bra but with higher coverage on the chest wall. These bras are great for all sizes and all levels of sport 'impact'. Sports bras are designed with different 'impact' levels in mind. Women with smaller breasts still need the movement to be reduced but may need only low or medium level support. As a general rule, the larger the cup size then the higher the support level recommended, regardless of the sport.

Impact levels explained

High Impact

High impact sports bras may use encapsulation and compression methods. These styles will offer a firm fit around the band and the cups are designed to have a high neckline for minimizing movement. This style is recommended for larger cup sizes and for high impact sports such as aerobics, running, racket sports, trampolining and equestrian sports.

Medium Impact

Medium impact sports bras may be a crop top style for the smaller cup sizes with firmer fabrics than the low impact styles. This style is suitable for most sizes and activities such as aerobic exercise, jogging, cardiovascular fitness and weight training.

Low impact

Low impact sports bras are generally a crop top style using the compression method of support. This style is recommended for smaller cup sizes (A-D) and those looking for comfort. The activities that this might be suitable for include yoga, pilates, cycling or power walking.

Multifunctional sports bras

There is also a great offer of sports bras that are multifunctional and are suitable for a variety of sports. These will allow for good support with no restriction when carrying out repetitive movement activities.

what to look out for

Look for seamless cups and cushioned fastenings to stop the bra chafing against your skin, while moisture wicking fabrics help keep you cool. Some styles contain silver yarns such as 'silvatec', this has antibacterial properties and is great if you suffer from skin conditions that are irritated by moisture and perspiration. As for support, look for wide non-stretch straps and more rigid, but breathable fabrics. Deeper hook and eyes will also offer better support and security for your comfort. Many styles now contain underwires. Wires that are used in sports bras are more flexible than in normal bras, and their casings are designed not to rub through perspiration and repetitive movements.

How do I know I have the right sports bra?

Once you've tried the bra on. Try the following;

  • Stand in front of the mirror and move your arms around.
  • Try jogging or jumping on the spot.
  • If the bra moves around or lifts away, you should try a smaller band size. If your breasts migrate and come out of the neckline or the underarm area you should try a bigger cup size. If you're breasts move in different ways, you should try a bra with extra support.
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