How Should a Sports Bra Fit?

By Marcherry Garnica
Aug 06 2022

How Should a Sports Bra Fit?

Lingerie, what a fantastic topic for a woman! Lingerie is one of the most evolving garments in history. In the past, you could associate this word to crazy corsets, but now it’s defined as how a woman feels when she is wearing something – as opposed to what she looks like in archetypal lingerie created with men in mind. And you know what’s the best part of this evolution? It’s that women are driving this new culture of body positivity and it appears to be getting stronger as the years move on.

To better understand this evolution, let’s keep digging into history. Do you know to whom we own the honor and comfort of wearing sports bras? The first “jogbra” (bra for jogging) was created in 1977 by Hinda Miller, a professor of the University of Vermont. Hinda started to jog around the campus before going to work and discover a problem with her breasts. The painful bounce that jogging originated on her breasts made her wear two bras. The bouncing was controlled but she was not comfortable. So she reached out to two other professors who were also into running to find a solution. After several trials and tests (some of them even involved hilarious experiences with their husbands) this wonderful team of smart women came up with a comfortable bra for sports. Their first idea for a name was Jockbra, but at the end they thought Jogbra was a better fit. It got so much attention that it became a national brand.

These days, women are privileged by the diverse offerings of sports bras, however, choosing one can turn into an overwhelming experience. We are bombed by all kinds of designs, brands and promising benefits. From the light, medium and high support to different fabrics and moisture technology. All these revolutionary innovations offer answers to the large market that sports bra represent. This study shows that the worldwide market for sports bras is expected to grow from 6300 million US$ in 2019 to 11700 million US$ in 2024!

Sports bras are not only important in the arenas of business and technology, they are a crucial part of a women’s active life and their health. A recent study showed that women who can’t find the right sports bra and are embarrassed by excessive breast movement while working out decide to quit doing sports. It’s very sad to hear that, because of a garment, women aren’t getting healthier, right? With the advancement of science, technology and access to buying sports bras, we should all be enjoying a bra that allows us to move the way we want to move, without worrying about our anatomy.

In this article, we are going to learn what is the best bra for a woman who engages in high-intensity workouts like CrossFit. I promise, you won’t read about brands, that’s not the objective. We are here to learn what we should consider in order to pick the best bra for our sweaty days at the gym and feel radiant! 

Learn how a sports bra should fit for CrossFit

Let’s start by understanding WHY we should wear a sports bra.

Breasts are an impressive network of milk glands, ducts and sacs, all suspended from the clavicle in twin masses held together by fibrous connective tissue, writes Amanda Hess. An average A-cup boob weighs in at about 0.43 of a pound, with each additional cup size adding another 0.44 of a pound.  So, without proper support, the skin and Cooper’s ligaments (ligaments near the breast which give them their size and shape) can break down and cause sagging and pain. Once your Cooper’s ligaments stretch out, they do not come back to their original state. It doesn’t matter what size breasts you have, everyone experiences bouncing during physical activity. Besides support, we should also think about the material of the bras. If the fabric in our sports bra retains moisture, it can lead to irritation, chafing and even a skin infection. Plus, when you exercise and wear an everyday bra, there is little control of the movement, everyday bras aren’t meant to control all the bouncing. On the other hand, a sports bra has better control and prevents stretching of the skin, the Cooper’s ligaments and, of course, pain. 

How to choose the best fit?

The professor of biomechanics of the University of Portsmouth, Joanna Scurr, is the head of a research group in Breast Health. Luckily for us, her research has a lot of focus on sports bras. So, we are going to take the insights of this study to learn about breast health and how to get the right sports bra for each one of us.

Before, some eye-opening facts from this study:

  • Only 10% of the women they studied always wear sports bra when working out. All these ladies said not being sure if their bra is the right fit for them.
  • 70% of women are wearing the wrong size bra
  • The traditional method of breast fitting is not reliable. It overestimates band size and underestimates cup size. In short, women are using bras that are too loose on the chest and the cups are not large enough, this means having inappropriate support.
  • Bras’ sizes differ among brands. There is not a standardized pattern of sizes for all the different brands. You can be 34B in one but 36A in the other.

Best fit criteria: You should search for your fit, not your size

Rather than using a tape measure to dictate your bra size, use this five-step guide to find your perfect bra. This method can be used for any kind of bra: everyday, fancy, or sports bra. Isn’t that awesome?

Step 1: The Underband

The underband of your bra should sit level all around your ribs and should be a firm fit. Allow only a 2 fingers gap when pull it away from your body. The band should stay level as you move your arms up and down. 

Step 2: The cups

Your breast should be fully enclosed within the cups and there should be no bulging or gapping at the top of the sides.

Step 3: The center front 

The center of the bra should sit flat in front of your body and it shouldn’t lift away. If it does, try to go up one cup size. 

Step 4: The shoulder straps

You should check this at the end. They should feel comfortable without digging into your shoulders. The straps keep the bra in place, but they aren’t the main support. Remember, your straps don’t have to be the same length on the right and left side.

Step 5: Sister sizing

Check the bra that you are wearing and see if it follows the descriptions on the previous steps. If not, you can go up/down in the underband or cup to find the perfect size for you.

Watch an explanatory video of these 5 steps

What’s the number one thing women should do when buying a sports bra? 

Dr. Jenny White from the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth, talked in an interview about finding the right sports bra. Here is a summary:

The number one thing women should do is to try it on before buying it. After, make sure you have the right bra for the right activity. For example, If you are going to go running (or doing CrossFit in our case) which is a high impact exercise, you need a supportive bra. If you are doing yoga, you don’t need a supportive bra, you will need a compression bra instead. Then, you really need to make sure it fits. Check the underbands, are they too tight or too loose? Also, check that all your breast tissue is in place within the cup and make sure that it looks right and it feels comfortable.

The best sports bra would be one with adjustable shoulder straps. Women have different breast sizes so you need one that adapts to your body. The shoulder straps should be wide enough so that the pressure on your shoulders is well-distributed when you are performing a high-impact activity.

Plus, you are looking for a high neckline; you don’t need to show cleavage on a sports bra. 

You should also get a new sports bra more often than you think. If you are a runner, change your bra every 500 miles or every time you change your trainers. The sports bra is made from a very delicate material and all the washing and wear can damage it very quickly. You should be looking to replace your sports bra when you notice that the fabric is getting loose, or as often as you can! 

Last piece of advice

Take a look to this interactive website: Sports Bra. It was created by the Research Group in Breast Health and it’s based on the results of their study. You will learn in more detail about exercise and breast support, and how to determine the correct bra fit.

Give it a try!


Was this information useful for you? I really hope so. And moreover, I hope you can share it with all your girlfriends. Women need to be more educated about their breasts and the importance of taking care of them while being active. The wrong sports bra can be one of the reasons for women to quit sports and feel embarrassed of their own bodies. Isn’t that unfair? Science has shown that regardless of the size, women need to think about breast health even more when they are working out. We need to learn how to choose the right bra and stop following the mass media marketing. Learn about prevention, share the information, empower other women. We are all together in this fight for a healthy and fit body! 

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