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Sports Bra Sizing

Does your sports bra fit properly?
Does your sports bra fit properly?

The 1970s was a decade that gave the world the Pet Rock, mood rings and VHS video recorders. Each one had it's moment of glory, only to be tossed aside as trends changed. But one thing that appeared in the 1970s had real staying power, the sports bra. An early version invented by Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith was nothing more than a couple of jockstraps sewn together to help prevent bounce and soreness. They called it the "jockbra." After awhile they renamed it the "jogbra," and sports bras quickly became big business.

Over 50% of women experience exercise-related breast pain during and after workouts. Chests have suspensory ligaments known as Coopers ligaments. Those ligaments are responsible for holding breasts up and giving them their size and shape. Women that run or engage in vigorous activities stretch those ligaments. All that bouncing around really hurts, but that isn't the only problem. Once those ligaments are stretched, they don't return to their original position, leading to a condition known as Cooper's Droop and stretch marks.

Sports bras are designed to prevent those problems. They minimize movement, reduce pain and help stop excess stretching of Coopers ligaments. But to do that properly, the bra has to be the right size. Here's how to get the best fit.

Bust Measurement

Stand up straight, wearing a regular non-padded bra, (NOT a sports bra) in front of a mirror. Use a cloth measuring tape and wrap it around your chest. Make sure the tape isn't twisted or sagging. Take the number you get and round it to the nearest whole number, that's your bust measurement.

Band Measurement

Still standing up straight, take the measuring tape and wrap it around your ribcage just under your breasts. Keep the tape flat, make sure it isn't twisted or sagging, just snug. Look in a mirror and confirm the tape isn't lower in the back than the front. The following numbers show your measurement and band size. For example, a measurement of 27 equals a band size of 30.

[27 = 30]
[28-30 = 32]
[31-33 = 34]
[34-36 = 36]
[37-38 = 38]

Anything higher than 38 and the band size is the closest even number to your measurement.

Cup Size

Subtract your band measurement from your bust measurement. The list below is accurate until you get past a 4-inch difference. If you're larger than that, you might consider getting a professional fitting.

[1/2" = AA]
[1" = A]
[2" = B]
[3" = C]
[4" = D]
[5" = DD or E]
[6" = F]
[7" = G]

With your band size and your cup size, you now have your bra size. Of course, this is just a starting point to help you narrow down which bras you should try on.

The next step is choosing a sports bra appropriate for your activity. The higher impact your activity is, the more control you should get from your bra. Here are some samples of various impact levels.

Low impact activities are things like gardening, road cycling, walking, weight training and yoga. Medium impact activities include high-intensity workouts, hiking, in-line skating, pilates, power walking and skiing. High impact activities are boxing, dancing, horseback riding, jogging, mountain biking, running, soccer, step aerobics and tennis.

The next big decision is between compression or encapsulation bras.

Compression bras work by compressing the breasts against the chest wall. They typically don't hook in the back, they simply slide over the head. Compression bras are considered a better choice for women who have smaller cup sizes, A or B and for lower or moderate impact sports.

Encapsulation bras have separate molded cups that surround each breast separately. They allow independent movement of each breast and are considered a better choice for larger-breasted women and high impact activities. They may or may not include an underwire for additional support.

Hybrids are available. You can now find encapsulation bras (with separate molded cups) combined with a compression bra. These are designed to give optimal support during high impact activities for women who have C and D cup sizes. They can be pulled over the head or secured by fasteners.

Follow these guides for the best size and type of bra.

Click Here for tips on how to pick a bra that won't pinch, chafe or slip and create a "wardrobe malfunction."

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