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what is a sports bra

It goes without saying that a supportive sports bra is absolutely crucial to protecting your breasts and ensuring you have a comfortable workout. During exercise, your boobs are subjected to a much wider range of movement, and keeping them contained to limit that movement can prevent damage over time (think: sagging and soreness). Of course, it’s crucial that your sports bra fits flawlessly. But it’s also important that you’re wearing the right type for your breast size/shape as well as the physical activity you’re engaging in.

There are several options when it comes to sports bras: compression, encapsulation, and styles that combine both. So, how do you know which kind of sports bra is right for you? Read on for insight into each style that can help you choose which best suits your needs and preferences.

Compression sports bras

compression sports bras

As the name suggests, these bras essentially compress the breast tissue, firmly holding it closer to the torso. They tend to work better for women with smaller busts, but can also work for those with full busts engaging in low-impact workouts such as Yoga or Pilates. However, women with larger breasts may find that they don’t like the look they achieve with compression sports bras — as they don’t separate the breasts at all, they can create a “uniboob” effect. Also, because of this lack of separation, compression sports bras are more likely to cause chafing from the breasts rubbing up against each other.

When you’re exercising, your breasts move in a number of different directions — from side to side, up and down, etc. Compression bras are most effective at minimizing projection movement — in other words, in and out from your chest. If you have larger breasts, you’ll definitely want to seek out compression sports bras that have an adjustable band and straps to ensure you get the best fit and the most support possible.

Related: Are Wired Sports Bras More Supportive Than Wireless Sports Bras?

Encapsulation sports bras

encapsulation sports bras

Parfait Active Sports Bra P5541 in Infinity Blue and Black/White

Unlike compression bras, these have separated cups. Some encapsulation sports bras also feature underwire, and most have an adjustable band and straps. As they support each breast individually, it’s no surprise that these are often preferred by full-busted women over compression bras. This aspect also helps them to reduce movement in every direction, thus better protecting the Cooper’s ligaments in the breasts (which are responsible for keeping them looking perky while preventing sagging). They’re particularly helpful for high-impact workouts, such as dancing, running, and plyometric training (think: jump squats and jumping lunges — anything that causes a lot of bouncing for your boobs). Additionally, many women like the shaping benefits of having separated cups to avoid the dreaded aforementioned uniboob.

Combination compression/encapsulation bras

Can’t decide between the two options? Then go for a bra that fuses both compression and encapsulation construction, which offers the best of both worlds. This type of bra undoubtedly lends maximum support as it holds the breasts closer to the body while also separating them. Combination encapsulation and compression bras are particularly popular for runners, who tend to find that this style helps to prevent chafing and overall discomfort by reducing breast movement in every direction.

Ultimately, choosing the best sports bra for you comes down to multiple factors: how large/heavy your breasts are, and what level of impact exercise you’re participating in. If you like to engage in a wide range of activities, it’s a good idea to have a variety of sports bras in your arsenal. Just remember: sports bras that combine encapsulation and compression will provide the most support of all. And of course, before you go ahead and invest in new sports bras, it’s wise to get professionally fitted to ensure you’re aware of your accurate size — after all, fit is just as important as style in regards to leveraging maximum support from your sports bras!

Related: How To Find A Supportive Sports Bra

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Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!

Featured image lingerie:
Parfait Active Sports Bra P5541 in Claret Red
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Published by

Rebecca Strong

Rebecca is a Boston-based freelance writer who focuses on style, fitness, food, and travel. She has contributed to such publications as HuffPost, Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. When she's not writing, she can be found at home or in the studio working on the songs for her upcoming album. Her favorite bra is a black demi-cup style with all-over-lace — timeless and feminine.

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