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Choosing the right sports bra can make exercise a less painful experience

Ladies, you’ll need the right support to improve your workout performance. Here’s everything you need to know to choose the single most important item in your sports kit.

A good sports bra is the single most important item in a woman’s sports kit. If you do any kind of exercise at all, you must have noticed that boobs, unfortunately, are not made to withstand the rigours of many sports activities, particularly those that involve plenty of jumping about and running.

Without adequate support, your chest can get in the way of your workout (especially if you’re well endowed) or, worse still, suffer post-exercise pain or prematurely shift southwards. So, while pursuing your fitness goals, it is absolutely crucial to keep them properly protected.

Finding the best sports bra for yourself, however, isn’t quite as straightforward as buying a workout top and tights, or a regular bra for that matter – there’s plenty to consider in order to secure the right fit and comfort. Here’s all you need to know to help you identify one that fits perfectly.


The Alpha bra, S$69, by Nike, offers style on top of high support and a customisable racerback fit. (Photo: Nike)

Your chest requires different levels of support depending on the kind of sports you’re engaging in. Sports bras are designed in different ways that cater to three broad intensities of activity: High-impact sports like running; medium-impact sports such as Zumba or cycling; and low-impact activities such as yoga, Pilates, weight training or walking.

You might not have much trouble wearing a high-impact sports bra for a low-impact activity, but never wear a low-impact-sports bra for running – even if you have a smaller-sized chest – because the vigorous movement, in the long run, can cause even cup As to sag sooner than they should.


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Divide and conquer: Sweaty Betty’s High Intensity sports bra, S$88, separates your assets and creates definition. (Photo: Sweaty Betty)

Sports bras are available in a myriad of styles. There’s the typical model that looks like a cropped tank top, and others with encapsulated cups that separate the boobs and give them better definition and shape – a style that women with a fuller chest will appreciate.

Coverage, especially in the front of the bra, is crucial for support. For example, skimpy styles that barely cover two-thirds of the chest are clearly meant for fashionable wear and not for pounding the treadmill or even stretching. On the other hand, a sports bra with a high-neck cut – another popular style of late – can be sufficiently supportive while looking attractive, if it’s in the right fabric.

Coverage, especially in the front of the bra, is crucial for support.

Your safest bet is the traditional cut in the style of a cropped tank, or one with a racerback or crossed straps at the back, depending on your body shape and the level of support your sport demands.


Lorna Jane’s aptly named Incredible sports bra, S$82.99, features a mobile phone pocket built into its racerback strap. (Photo: Lorna Jane)

Straps, these days, afford sportswear designers creative play. With athleisure being all the rage, sportswear brands have seriously upped their apparel game, style-wise. You’ll find sports bras in an array of trendy styles – some featuring chunky, logo-ed straps and others with multiple skinny straps criss-crossing every which way.

Wearing a bra with straps that do not suit your body shape or sport can turn your workout into a thoroughly frustrating experience. For example, if you have sloping shoulders, get a racerback sports bra or one with straps that cross at the centre of your back.

Wearing a bra with straps that do not suit your body shape or sport can turn your workout into a thoroughly frustrating experience.

Avoid those with wide-set straps because they are likely to slip off your shoulders with every movement you make. The same applies if your choice of exercise requires plenty of arm motions (such as rowing) – you don’t want the straps to be digging into your shoulders throughout your workout.

If you have a fuller chest, look for sports bras with adjustable straps – they provide a customisable fit and will better accommodate figures with atypical proportions. They are also an excellent choice for women whose breast size tends to fluctuate before and after their period.


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Can’t find a size that fits your proportions properly? Try a bra with an adjustable back closure. Women’s training bra, S$79, by Puma. (Photo: Puma)

The best and only way to find out if a sports bra suits and fits you is to try it on in the changing room. Ensure that you’re wearing it properly by scooping your boobs and the flesh around them into the cups.

Don’t just put on the bra – do a few moves (twist around, do some side stretches, or run on the spot) while you’re in it and see if it also fits comfortably and provides adequate support while your body is in motion.

If going up or down a size both do not work for you, it’s wise to try another bra style.

Also check the overall fit. While the front of the garment might be designed for a closer fit in certain high-impact bras (like compression sports bras), it shouldn’t be so constricting that you find it difficult to breathe.

The band behind should accommodate two fingers (no more, no less) for the best fit and also sit straight across the back. If it’s pulled upwards, you’ll probably need to go up a size. Seams shouldn’t be digging into your flesh, either. If going up or down a size both do not work for you, it’s wise to try another bra style or brand instead of making do with the design you had originally picked.


Get a natural boost with a sports bra that features moulded cups like the Stronger For It soft bra, S$70, by Adidas. (Photo: Adidas)

Need a little lift in the chest area? There are underwired sports bras (though harder to find) that you can consider, but they can potentially cause discomfort while you’re working out. Instead, try one with moulded cups that are shaped to give your chest definition and a perkier look.


Under Armour’s new women’s UA Rush sports bra, S$69, boasts mineral-infused fabric that absorbs the energy your body emits during a workout and sends it back into your tissues and muscles. (Photo: Under Armour)

A key determinant of a sports bra’s comfort level is the fabric it is made of. Look out for moisture-wicking fabric if you have sensitive skin – it’ll help release sweat accumulated underneath it so that your skin won’t suffer from irritation.

Comfort should always take precedence.

There are many types of high-tech fabrics being used for sports bras that boast various benefits – some are anti-odour, while others claim to provide a customised fit by responding to the wearer’s movement or even improve your performance via energy return. Whichever you are keen to try, do remember that comfort should always take precedence.

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Source: CNA/yy