expert advice for women
Perk Up: The Scoop on Breast Health & Proper Bra Support
Once a woman’s chest is fully developed, she faces a lifetime struggle—to support that which is naturally unsupported. Because breasts lack musculature structure, it’s important to strengthen the pectorals beneath and to protect the breasts when working out. Paying attention to key exercises and wearing proper fitness apparel makes a positive impact and keeps breasts lofty longer.
Cooper & Genes
Breasts are composed of fatty, fibrous, and glandular tissue. Cone-shaped membranes called Cooper’s Ligaments give your breasts their shape and connect them to your chest. How pert your breasts are depends partly on genes and partly on Cooper’s Ligaments. Without proper bra support, these ligaments will stretch and lose elasticity. While there’s no fix for Mother Nature, these tips will help you protect breast elasticity and avoid a droop.
Tone, Pump & Press
Exercise will not firm breast tissue but it can, indirectly, give your breasts a little lift. When you work out, you’re working the pectoral muscles across your rib cage and under your breasts. Your pectorals support your breast tissue. Target them and you may notice a slight change in elevation.
Lance Ogren, a certified trainer at Chelsea Piers in New York, urges proper stretching first and foremost: “It’s important to warm up the body before any workout and dynamic stretching, such as flings, is a great way to do it.”
For an example of dynamic stretching, click here.
Flat Dumbbell Chest Press
To strengthen pectorals, Ogren recommends the Flat Dumbbell Chest Press:
- 1 Lie on a flat bench. Keep knees bent and feet on the floor.
- 2 Hold your weights next to your armpits with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Keep your navel drawn in to create core stability and allow your arms to do the work.
- 3 Push the weights up, away from your chest, until your arms are straight out above you and hold for 2 seconds.
- 4 Slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position. Do 3 sets x 10 reps.
For a progession, try this exercise on a stability ball.
As a solid chest strengthening exercise, Ogren says, “The classic push-up cannot be beat. They can be done anywhere and require no equipment, yet they can be difficult to perform properly. Be reasonable when approaching a new workout regimen. A great place to start is knee push-ups. This exercise recruits the same musculature as push-ups with a straight leg.”
- 1 Place hands on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and knees directly under hips. Cross your ankles and lift them off the floor.
- 2 Draw your navel in and contract your glutes. Keeping a flat back, slowly lower your body toward the ground.
- 3 Push back up to starting position. Do 3 sets x 10 reps.
Too difficult? Try wall push-ups in the standing position.
Too easy? Try a push-up with hands on a bench and feet on the floor.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Any major change in body fat, whether weight loss or gain, effects breast firmness. Lose or gain weight and your bra size will go down or up. Simple enough, but the overall effect is a change in your breast’s elasticity and, therefore, firmness. Elasticity may be reduced significantly if the weight loss or gain is greater than ten percent of your body weight. Maintain a healthy weight to maintain healthy elasticity.
Wear a Proper Sports Bra
If you’re a runner, keep trekking, but wear a sports bra that provides a secure, bounce-free fit. If your ligaments are not supported, constant motion will break them down and erode breast support and positioning. The larger your cup size, the greater the force on your breasts and the more restraint required to prevent ligament and connective tissue damage. Compression sports bras are best for lighter workouts such as walking or even gardening and keep the breasts close to the body. If your workouts are more intense, such as kickboxing or high impact cardio, encapsulation bras are essential. Where compression bras press the breasts against the chest, encapsulation bras separate, lift, and contain each breast for a stronger, defined, more secure fit. For performance bras by low to high impact, check out perfect sports bras.