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When it comes to workouts, there are a few essentials every woman shouldn’t go without: a can-do attitude, a full water bottle, a sturdy pair of sneakers, and, of course, a supportive sports bra. But did you know that choosing the right sports bra to wear depends on the kind of workout you’re engaging in? Think about it this way. You probably wouldn’t wear the same bra to run casual errands that you would wear to a formal event, right? Just as with your regular bras, there is a purpose for every sports bra, and knowing which ones are designed for which workouts will help to ensure you’re always getting the support you need.

Fortunately, in this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about buying sports bras for low-impact, medium-impact, and high-impact workouts.

Low-impact workouts

What they are

Any form of exercise where your feet aren’t making forcible contact with the ground can be considered low-impact. For example, yoga, barre, and Pilates. A rowing machine and an elliptical machine also provide low impact workouts. These kinds of physical activity are ideal for people with knee issues and are overall much easier on the joints.

What to buy

With low-impact workouts, you have the most flexibility in regards to selecting sports bras. Since you aren’t pounding the ground with your feet, your breasts won’t be exposed to nearly as much bouncing. As such, you’re free to wear slightly less structured sports bras. Depending on your breast size and shape, you could simply opt for a compression sports bra, which keeps the breasts contained by holding them closer to the chest. However, if you have large/heavy breasts, you’ll likely want to look for one that contains separated cups. Underwire is not typically necessary for these kinds of workouts — ultimately, it’s simply a matter of personal choice. Regardless of your breast size, though, we always recommend opting for sports bras that feature an adjustable band and straps to ensure you achieve a perfect fit (and get sufficient support as a result).

Medium-impact workouts

What they are

If your feet are making frequent contact with the ground, but you’re not making explosive movements, then you’re engaging in a medium-impact workout. Some examples include hiking, strength training, power walking, and the StairMaster.

What to buy

Your breasts are likely to move around more during these workouts than with low-impact exercises. As such, you should look for sports bras with slightly more structure. It’s a good idea to choose encapsulation sports bras — as they contain individual cups, they can separate your breasts and provide support for each of them. Again, it’s always advisable to choose sports bras with adjustable features. A sports bra that only comes in small, medium, or large is not recommended for workouts with medium to high impact — you’re far better off going for styles that come in standard bra sizes (band and cup) for a flawless fit that keeps your breasts secure from start to finish.

Related: Compression vs Encapsulation Sports Bras: What You Need To Know

High-impact workouts

What they are

Running, plyometrics, aerobics — what do all of these exercises have in common? They’re all high impact because they involve both feet leaving the ground at the same time. Dancing and HIIT are also considered high-impact exercises.

What to buy

It’s particularly important that you buy the proper sports bra for high-impact exercises, because these expose your breasts to far more potential strain. By buying an adequately supportive sports bra, you can ensure that you don’t put too much stress on the Cooper’s ligaments in your breasts, which are responsible for preventing sagging. You can also minimize any risk of discomfort or injury to your breasts. Look for bras that combine both compression and encapsulation technology. No matter your breast size, but especially if you’re large-busted, you will probably want to look for a sports bra with underwire for breast separation and extra support. A wide, sturdy elastic underband is crucial as well, as the band provides the majority of the support in any bra. All of these features will help to offer bounce control during high-impact activities.

Pro tips

Of course, the most important thing to consider when buying a sports bra is the fit. Regardless of whether you choose the optimal style for your workout, if the size is wrong, the bra won’t be able to provide the support your breasts need. So if you haven’t been fitted in the last six months, be sure to stop by your local department store or lingerie boutique to get measured before you invest in some fabulous new sports bras to wear during your sweat sessions.

Related: Where To Buy Sports Bras

We Highly Recommend

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 P5542 in Rabbit/White
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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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