By Bari Lieberman, SELF magazine
While chatting with my girlfriends at book club last month conversation turned to the topic of sports bras, and which ones were best for double bra-ing it. I was appalled... haven't we moved past the days of having to double bra while jogging? (Admittedly I've been guilty of the fitness sin.) And that wasn't the first time (nor the last) my friends have come to me about what to wear under their workout clothes. Apparently, we've all been blessed/cursed with big breasts.
So friends, this is for you, I've sacrificed my chest in order to test out the best sports bras for big-busted fitness lovers. (The test included treadmill interval sprints and an intense jump rope session.)
To make the subjective term "big busted" more concrete, if you're a small C cup or below, this post isn't for you. I'm talking to the ladies who avoid jumping rope out of fear that the excessive bouncing will somehow cause permanent sagging or have difficulty with some yoga poses because their breasts start to constrict their breathing. (I've tried explaining this to my flat-chested yoga instructors, but they just can't empathize.)
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If you're ready to give up wearing a double bra when running, and I highly recommend you do, here are my top big bust sports bra picks:
Panache Sports Bra
The claim: Panache is a British brand that specializes in lingerie for larger cup sizes, and they've recently applied their big-bust technology to the sportier side of bras with the Sports Bra by Panache. It claims to reduce bounce by 83% in all directions... amen!
The fit: Currently, most sports bras for larger cup sizes rely on compression as the means of reducing bounce, which results in an unflattering, flattened, uni-boob look. However, Panache uses encapsulation (meaning each breast is separately supported) for a super-flattering look. TMI alert: When wearing this bra, my chest looked phenomenal, it hugged in all the right places, created a little lift so my girls looked perky, all without being too tight in the straps or back and the neckline was a perfect height... not too much cleavage, but not up to my neck either. Plus the bra design is really cute (it comes in fun colors like the purple above) so you don't have to fret about looking frumpy if you dare to rock a sans T-shirt look.
The test: I can't give a statistic on bounce reduction, but wearing this one bra felt more supportive during my sprints than most double bras I've sported before. It has underwire that's wrapped in silicone and sewn between fabric layers, which means you won't feel them at all. Overall: I loved how the bra was supportive (and flattering) without feeling like I was constricting breathing.
The stats: Sports Bra by Panache, sizes 28-40 D-H, $68, available at Nordstrom.com, BareNecessities.com, HerRoom.com, Intimacy and other retailers nationwide, more info at panachesport.com.
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Under Armour's Armour Bra
The claim: This is more of a bra system than single sports bra, so alert your smaller-chested friends that they, too, can take advantage of the new Armour Bra, set to debut on February 25. How it works: Under Armour has developed a color-coded sports bra system based on cup size, and each size bra is tailored in design to support and address each cup's unique issues.
The fit: One major issue facing sports bra is strap style, and to address this, the Armour Bra features different styles for different cups. For example, while smaller chests can use a cross-back style, the larger cups utilize an adjustable, over-the-shoulder, wider-strap design, similar to regular bras, to help deal with bounce. Major plus: even when worn extra tight, the supportive straps don't dig! Each size features a gel-back closures and mesh ventilation in strategic spots (like between the breasts). The bra band is snug without being crazy-tight and, because straps are adjustable, you can create a perky chest that's supported, without worrying about whether you have dreaded back fat or a uni-boob.
The test: I tested the sports bra during an editor's preview event late last year, which included a Drenched workout by the swoon-worthy trainer Keoni Hudoba, and have been wearing it ever since. The flat seams create support under, between and along the side of the breasts, creating an underwire-like effect without actually using underwire and is anti-chafing. The black bra looks super-sleek by itself and looks great under almost any workout top. My only concern is that I wish the scoop neckline was about a half inch to an inch higher.. if you wear plunging neckline tops, be prepared for some cleavage. (Not like we're not used to that issue though!)
The stats: The Armour Bra by Under Armour ($57.99), available February 25 on underarmour.com and various retail locations.
Enell Sports Bra
The claim: When I asked my followers on Twitter (follow me at @BariLieberman) for their favorite big bust-approved sports bra, there was an overwhelming outpour of love for Enell Sports Bra. And they weren't the only ones; in a past issue of SELF, the champion of sexy curves Christina Hendricks touted the Enell Sports Bra saying, "It's strong and sexy, and I feel like a superhero in it." Plus, celeb trainer Kathy Kaehler is listed as a fan of the brand on its website.
The fit: The 11 hook-and-eyes on the front makes putting on the bra a bit of a process, but on the flip side, it makes it super easy and comfortable to remove the bra after a sweaty workout. The design is part encapsulation, part compression, so the bra band felt a bit tight, but a snug fit is preferred, according to their fit tips. The nylon/Lycra fabric blend has a silky-look and is soft against the skin. When designing for larger chest, performance trumps design and my only gripe with the bra is the extra-high neckline, which is a design feature to help stabilize/control motion the breasts... it is visible under most workout tops. Also, be sure to consult their sizing guide when ordering because straps are not adjustable.
The test: The reinforced panels and full coverage, cross-strap back design felt supportive and snug, without being compressing, and my chest didn't feel achy after an intense jump roping session. (Note: the full-coverage design also creates a smooth back and no side boob!) I would definitely recommend this pick for athletic activities or workouts like this. The Enell Sport is designed for high-impact activities, and the recently released the Enell Lite is meant to be a sports bra for well-endowed women for low-to-medium impact activities.
The stats: Enell Sports, sizes 32C-52DD, $64-$66, available at Enell.com and retailers nationwide, more info at Enell.com.
Other favorites include: lululemon's ta-ta tamer ($58), CW-X Xtra Support Bra ($65) and Nike's Victory Adjust X-Back ($55).
If these picks aren't your style (or price range), when shopping for sports bras, look for: encapsulation styles, wide, cushioned straps to help redistribute the weight, less stretch fabric and wider rib bands to help secure the bra, bounce guru (and adjunct professor of exercise and sport science) LaJean Lawson Ph. D. told SELF.