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Charlotte Grainger

By Charlotte Grainger

How to Find the Right Sports Bra: The Complete Guide

Guide to sports bras

Whether you’re flexing your well-defined biceps or running a marathon, there’s one essential piece of sports gear you need.

Choosing the correct sports bra for your size, shape, and activity is vital to your training.

Despite this fact, many women find it difficult to know where to start when it comes to shopping for their ideal garment. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. From getting fitted to learning the industry terms, here’s your complete guide to how to find the right sports bra.

Sports Bra sizing and impact level

The importance of bra fitting

Before we delve into the topic of finding the right sports bra, let’s tackle the issue of bra sizings. Back in 2008, a study found that a massive 80% of women typically wore the wrong bra size. While there’s more education surrounding bra sizings these days, the likelihood is that many of us still make the mistake of failing to get measured regularly.

  • Your bra size changes frequently

Believe it or not, your bra size may change a whole lot over the course of your life. That is something of which many women are unaware. Hormone issues, weight changes, and age can all impact the size of your breasts. It’s quite common that your bra size will fluctuate and change over time. It’s worth getting bra fittings every few months for that reason.

  • Incorrect sizes are uncomfortable

You might wonder what the problem with wearing an incorrect size. The truth of the matter is that, if you want the right level of support and comfort, you need to make sure you’re wearing the right size for you. Should the bra be too tight, you will find that it’s difficult to perform some of the most common exercises without feeling restricted. On the other hand, if the size is too large, your breasts may bounce when you’re active.

  • Booking a fitting is free and easy

If you haven’t been professionally fitted for quite some time, you might not be certain where to start. The fact of the matter is that most lingerie shops and department stores offer a complementary fitting service. Search for a shop near you that has this service and then book online or call them up. The fitting should take no longer than 20-30 minutes and will give you an accurate understanding of your bra size.

How to find the correct bra size

Short on time? If you need to figure out your bra size in a hurry, you might want to try measuring yourself at home. You will need a tape measure to get this right. Take your top or blouse off, but leave your everyday bra on. Here’s what you need to know about how to measure yourself for an accurate bra size.

  • Finding your band size

First of all, let’s deal with your band size. This particular measurement is the number that you will find at the beginning of a typical UK standard bra size. For example, if your current bra size is a 34C, your band size will be 34.

Simply, wrap the tape measure about your ribs just below the bottom of your bra. Make sure that you keep the tape close to your skin. You need to span the entire circumference of your body. When you have your band size in inches, you can convert that to a number using the following guidelines.

  • Rib cage 25”-27”, band size 30
  • Rib cage 27”-29”, band size 32
  • Rib cage 29”-31”, band size 34
  • Rib cage 31”-33, band size 36
  • Rib cage 33”-35”, band size 38
  • Rib cage 35”-37”, band size 40
  • Rib cage 37”-39”, band size 42
  • Rib cage 39”-41”, band size 44
  • Finding your cup size

When you have identified what your band size is, it’s time to move on and figure out your cup size. This is the letter that you find after the number. If we use the same example of someone who is 34C, their cup size will be C.

Use a tape measure to measure the circumference of your back and your breasts. Then take away your band size to get your breast size. So, if your band size was 35 inches and this new measurement is 41 inches, you need to take 35 away from 41. Your breast size will be 6 inches. When you have found your size in inches, convert it to a cup size here.

  • Breast size 3”, cup size AA
  • Breast size 4”, cup size A
  • Breast size 5”, cup size B
  • Breast size 6”, cup size C
  • Breast size 7”, cup size D
  • Breast size 8”, cup size DD
  • Breast size 9”, cup size E
  • Breast size 10”, cup size F

The entire process should only take you a few minutes but make sure it’s accurate. When you have finished, you should have a number and a letter. Combine these two things to create your overall bra size.

Mid impact sports bras for cycling and studio classes

Finding the perfect sports bra

If you’ve never invested in a sports bra before now, you might need a little guidance. Finding the ideal garment for you is something of a process. It’s smart to try on a wide range of options before you decide on which to buy. Here are just three things that you should certainly keep in mind when choosing the right one for you.

  • Comfortable

Your comfort should be your top priority when you’re choosing a sports bra. From lifting weights to running track, you will do a whole range of activities while wearing this piece of clothing. Before you choose the right bra for you, be sure to try on a range of options.

  • Flexible

If you have the correct bra size, the one that you choose ought to be flexible as well as comfortable. That means that you should have no issue moving around when you’re wearing it. Again, it could be worth trying it on and testing your movement range here.

  • Supportive

Without a doubt, you need your sports bra to be supportive. As a golden rule, it should be the most supportive piece of underwear that you own. Research from the University of Portsmouth found that commercial (i.e. non-sports bras) allow up to a 21-centimetre breast bounce rate during sports.

With that in mind, the ideal sports bra should hold your breasts close to your chest and prevent any bouncing when you move. You can test this when you try on a variety of sports bras by jumping up and down. It might feel silly but it’s worth it.

How should a sports bra fit?

Now that you’re comfortable with your bra size, it’s time to consider how your sports bra should fit. Unlike other bras, this garment should sit a little closer to your skin and keep your breasts from moving too much when you’re active. When you first slip on a sports bra, there are some quick and easy ways to figure out if the fit is secure.

  • The cup should cover your entire breast

Does the cup fit you correctly? To find out, you only need to look at the fit of your sports bra. Each cup should fully encompass your breast. Should your breasts spill over the top of the cups, you are likely wearing a small fit. Trying going up a bra cup size.

  • The band should not move at all

When the bra is on, take a moment to raise both of your arms above your head. Should the band size be a little too large, the band will rise with your arms. In that case, you should measure your rib cage again and consider opting for a size down.

  • You should not feel any chafing

Next, let’s talk about the material. If you feel that it chafes in any way or rubs your skin, you might want to consider looking for another sports bra. Needless to say, you will be moving around a great deal when wearing this garment, and so comfort is key.

  • The straps should be a little flexible

Contrary to popular belief, the support of a bra does not come from the straps. Some women make the mistake of believing that the tighter the straps are, the more support and lift they will get. That is simply not the case. When the fit is right, you should be able to stick two fingers between the straps and your skin. If you can’t do so, they are too tight.

Selecting the right impact level

The impact level you choose will depend on the type of activity you plan on doing. If you enjoy all sports equally, you may need to get one of each so you can swap and change. However, if you tend to stick to the same types of activity, you could find that one sports bra does it all. Here’s what you need to know about each level and when you need them.

  • High-Impact Bras

Do you love running on the treadmill, speed-hiking up hills, and hitting up an aerobics class? If the answer is yes, yes, and yes, you might need a high-impact bra. These bras offer the top level of support which means that they are ideal for up-tempo workouts

The brand you ultimately choose may come down to the impact level you need. For example, top-end companies such as Falke, Adidas and Triaction often boast excellent high-impact sports bras. It’s worth taking some time to browse their collections.

  • Medium-Impact

From skiing to cycling, medium-impact sports bras can help keep you supported during some of the most popular sports and activities. These are the next level down from high-impact bras but still offer you a decent level of compression and support.

If you’re looking for the right sports bra, you may find that choosing a fashion-forward option is the way to go. Beyonce’s brand Ivy Park or Aussie-favourite Nimble are two examples of companies that provide both stylish and comfortable bras.

  • Low-Impact

Are you a fully fledged yogi? Or, alternatively, are you currently embarking on a strength training routine? These sports don’t involve fast-paced motions, which means that the bra you will need is likely to be a low-impact sports bra.

Luckily, there’s a broad variety of fashionable yet supportive bras that will easily fit the bill here. For instance, the fabulous Alo Yoga brand has a range of ‘studio bras,’ which could be ideal when you’re searching for low-impact choices.

Sports Bras

Different styles of sports bra

Do you know your encapsulation bras from your compression bras? If not, we’ve got you covered. At first glance, you might find these names a little bamboozling. Don’t let them spook you. Let’s take a look at what each of these terms means.

  • Encapsulation

Boasting separate cups, the encapsulation bra is a comfortable and supportive option. Most low-impact sports bras fall into this category as there is unlikely to be any level of compression here. However, these bras give you a natural form and work for sports, such as yoga, pilates, and walking.

  • Compression

As the name suggests, a compression sports bra compresses your breasts towards your chest. They will usually take the form of one piece of material or panels, but are not likely to have separate cups. These types of sports bra are most suitable for low-impact or medium-impact sports, like jogging or weight lifting.

  • Combination

Also known as compression/encapsulation sports bras, the combination choice offers the best of both worlds. These bras will give you a certain level of compression while also separating your breasts with cups. Combo sports bras are ideal for high-impact activity such as running or aerobic exercise.

Conclusion

Now that you’re well-versed in how to find the right sports bra, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get yourself measured before shopping for a garment that gives you the ultimate level of comfort and support. Getting this baseline requirement in the bag could help improve your training game more than you know.

Ready to get the support you need? Check out our comprehensive range of sports bras

Sorted your bra? Kit out your bottom half with our guide to the best workout leggings >

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