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When it comes to exercise, women should do some pre-workout prep before they even begin their warm-up. And this prep should include a piece of clothing that is not just essential for us women, but also vital when it comes to working out.
That’s right, ladies, we’re talking about sports bras!
The right sports bra can not only affect your performance, energy level, and comfort during exercise but also after it. Sports bras can provide comfort during your routine, help ease your breathing, aid in sweat absorption, and even prevent rashes by allowing air to breathe through.
And these facts have not gone unnoticed by manufacturers.
The consumer market is flooded with sports bra styles — from colorful, strappy athleisure options, to high-performance activewear. If you’re looking to accent your day-to-day tee collection, you can choose a sports bra that best fits your style. But if you’re preparing to exercise or play active sports, you need a bra that offers support, comfort, and durability.
At BestReviews, we set our fitness goal high to present you with the very best sports bra choices, so your shopping experience will be no sweat. Through rigorous research, we’ve identified five bras that provide the perfect combination of performance and ease, whether you’re flowing through vinyasas or completing the final miles of a marathon.
Kelsi is a professional women’s rugby player and currently trains full time with the USA 7s team at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. Before making the national team, she played for the Seattle Saracens and helped win two National Championships. A true fitness enthusiast, Kelsi has also participated in cheerleading, basketball, volleyball, soccer, track, gymnastics, and wrestling.
Please see our product matrix above for five performance-ready sports bras that will help you go the extra mile. Read on if you’d like to learn more about finding and caring for the perfect sports bra.
Whether you’re into aerobics with an A cup or hiking with DD’s, your breasts should be well-supported during most activities, including exercise.
Exercise can cause your breasts to bounce up and down and side to side, straining your body and creating discomfort. Without bones or muscles to provide stability, the soft, fatty tissues in your breasts can, in fact, shift and bounce several inches. Over time, the strain on your skin and ligaments can lead to stretching and sagging - the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish by exercising.
A properly fitted sports bra minimizes bounce by about half, holding your breasts firm as you tone and sculpt your muscles. Engineered with the right material and design for active movement, a quality sports bra prevents stress, stretch, and damage to your delicate tissues and ligaments. What's more, it keeps you comfortable!
The size of your breasts and your chosen mode of exercise play important roles in the type of sports bra you need. A bra’s fabric and design also factor into its comfort and durability.
Remember the three Fs when choosing a sports bra: Fit, Fabric, and Function.
If you're trying on a sports bra for the first time, put it through a little dressing room workout by jumping or running in place. If you can feel your breasts bouncing, the bra is probably not right for you.
There are two bra types to choose from: the compression bra and the encapsulation bra.
Compression sports bras press the breasts against the chest wall, minimizing movement. Most pullover styles and shelf bras are compression bras. These bras bind your chest and restrict bouncing, but they can be uncomfortable for women with larger breasts.
Encapsulation sports bras feature individual cups that surround the breasts to maintain their natural shape, yet minimize bounce while moving. These bras often have rigid cups, bands, and straps in the front to restrict movement, making them ideal for larger cup sizes.
Most standard bras are encapsulation bras, while most pullover sports bras rely on compression to do their job. However, there are plenty of styles that combine the characteristics of both. These styles offer maximum support while you get your sweat on.
Proper fit could mean the difference between an under-performing, saggy sports bra and a bra that pulls its weight during your workout. Pay attention to both band and cup size. If you're in a dressing room, be sure to take it for a test run (or jump, or stretch)!
Band size: Make sure your bra is tight around the band, which provides the majority of support. You want it slightly tighter than your everyday bras, but not to the point that it restricts deep breathing.
To test if your band is the right size, pull the bra away from the center of your chest by holding the bottom of the bra. It should come out only about one inch. Also, raise your arms above your head. The band shouldn’t budge.
Cup size: To test for correct cup size, make sure the cup holds the entire breast. Spillage out the top or sides does not offer proper support, and could lead to painful chafing. Also, if you see wrinkles or puckering, it could mean your cup size is too big. The fabric should be smooth and flush to your skin.
In addition to the perfect fit, you want a sports bra style that suits your purpose and physique.
Bras with back clasps allow the front to remain rigid, which leads to better support and allows you to tighten the band.
You don’t want to get distracted during your morning run by a scratchy seam or straps that dig into your shoulders. When it comes to enjoying a killer workout, comfort is the key. And the fabric your bra is made of plays a key role in that comfort.
Moisture-wicking fabrics — polyester, nylon, Lycra, spandex, or a cotton blend that incorporates these materials — keep you dry during even the toughest boot camp workout. Some companies specialize in moisture-wicking blends that also keep you cool while providing support. Many of these lightweight fabrics offer varying levels of stretch, so you are supported but not constricted while moving.
Some bra fabrics trap sweat between your breasts, resulting in a rash or chafing. But moisture-wicking fabrics keep you dry during even the toughest boot camp workout.
Breathable mesh panels can also help keep you cool while maintaining adequate support. Such material absorbs sweat and also allows air to pass through to your skin, providing not only cooling but also drying of sweat. This ensures that moisture does not remain trapped on your skin.
When choosing a sports bra, ask yourself, “What type of activities will I be doing in this bra?”
Does your exercise routine involve a lot of running or jumping? Do you mainly practice yoga? Are you looking for a little extra support while walking? Just as there are different types of exercise, there are different sports bras that provide various levels of support.
High-impact sports such as tennis, aerobics, and running call for total bounce control. A rigid encapsulation bra will keep you comfortable throughout such high-impact workouts.
Most manufacturers specify whether a particular bra is meant for low-, medium-, or high-impact exercise.
Reduce friction against your skin with a bra boasting seam-free construction, molded cups, or padded straps.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.