In need of a plus size sports bra? Thought you were alone? Do not know where to turn and what will actually live up to the promises from the manufacturers? Read on to find out what is driving the rise of the plus size sports bra and which brands you can trust to deliver.
Breast, boobs, knockers, call them what you will, are made of glandular tissue and fat with some strands of connective tissue (known as Cooper’s ligaments) running through. Understanding this anatomy helps you immediately realise why your breast size changes so readily- whether through hormonal cycles or weight change, the glands and fat content change accordingly. So does your bra size.
It is now recognised that more than 35% of women have what are deemed large or hypertrophic breasts. Large breasts are defined as breasts where each is over 700ml in volume. Hypertrophic breasts are greater than 1200ml each in volume. Just to put this in context- two 700ml breasts would total up to be the equivalent of two loaves of white bread, 16 satsumas or a pair of 8 week old kittens. Two 1200ml breasts equates to 2 pineapples, a standard sized brick or 2 toasters.
It is difficult to equate these volumes exactly to bra sizes. Owing to differing back and cup sizes and breast shapes it is hard to be accurate. But hopefully the examples above give you a good idea.
Whatever way you look at it, it’s a lot of weight to be held up by nothing more than skin. Yes skin. The terms Cooper’s ligaments is banded about a lot, but according to University of Portsmouth research group into breast health, these are nothing more than fibrous strands that help to give the breast internal structure. They are not like the tough fibrous bands of your cruciate ligaments that hold your knees together. So the primary supporting structure of the breast is skin.
What’s behind the big breast boom?
One thing we do know for sure is that breasts are getting bigger. This is the case both in USA and UK and is almost certainly linked to the rising BMI seen in both countries. Breasts are composed of glandular tissue and fat. Sadly, we get fatter, so do our breasts.
Is this such a bad thing? I guess that depends who you talk to?! I am trucking around a pair of E cups myself and personally somedays wish I had something more petite up front. Large breasts do have negative health implications– they are associated with postural difficulties and musculoskeletal pain in shoulders, neck and back. Pressure from bra straps digging into shoulders is a common complaint and is frequently owing to an improperly fitting bra trying to take too much strain in the straps.
So what I am really saying is that bigger breasts move more, with greater force and it will be harder to stabilise and prevent this movement. It makes it that much harder to find a bra to provide the support that is needed. So you can see that a plus size sports bra really is a specialist bit of equipment, especially for higher impact activities such as running and equestrian.
If support is inadequate, what results is greater breast movement and associated pain and discomfort. Not to mention self consciousness and distraction from your workout. Inevitably, this leads to decreased desire to exercise and potentially this decreased activity leads to weight gain and increased breast size- effectively a negative spiral.
Pain in the bust
Breast pain is experienced by more than 50% of women. It can be associated with hormones but also commonly with inadequate breast support. This is not just during sports, but in everyday life. How many of us have clamped an arm over our boobs when running down the stairs?
You might think that this breast pain during sports is for amateurs- people who have just discovered sports and have not yet got the right gear. Nope, 32% of female London 2012 marathon participants said they experienced breast pain citing exercise as the primary cause (read more here). 17% said it affected their participation in sports. Despite this, astonishingly 44% of respondents took no measures to relieve the pain- such as using firm breast support.
Plus size sports bras we swear by- but what’s your priority?
1- Locked in ultimate support. My number 1 concern.
It has to be Enell. Of all the bras we stock and use, here at KnockerLocker we find the Enell sports bra to be the ultimate for support in the plus size sports bra field. Designed for D cups and above, we have back sizes up to 42. Be warned- if you have a fear of the monoboob and your breasts being squished, this is not the bra for you. Front fastening, lifting and compressing; this bra has a full back which distributes pressure evening- no more painful shoulders.
2- Sustainability is high on my priority list
Let me introduce you to BXM. 100% Recycled. 100% Ethical. Both medium and high impact plus size sports bras, that actually hold everything in place. A new kid on the bra block, BXM launched in 2022. The bras are ethically made in the UK from 100% recycled fabric made of ocean plastics; currently available upto H cup and with plans to go bigger. We love the ethos behind this company and are championing them every chance we get! Super comfy, super supportive, people and planet positive.
3- Breast separation and shape is key to me
It has to be Elomi energise. The goddess of the plus size sports bra industry. Designed specifically for women of significant breastage, the encapsulating cups separate and shape the breasts; a wide back band and 4 hook and eye fastenings keep you secure and the sliding J hook on the straps allow you to go for regular or racerback strap orientation. The cups are not padded, so no additional bulking under your kit, which I love.
4- Big bold vibrant colour is what I’m about!
Well then, you are in luck! New to KnockerLocker in 2023, from UK based Panache Active, we bring you 3 different designs of plus size sports bras (wired, non wired, moulded/ padded/ non padded) and some fabulous colours. All three designs offer really solid support, but we do suggest the wired version is slightly superior from this aspect. With super comfort and breast separation, these bras are tested and rated 5/5 by University of Loughborough progressive sports lab.
It makes me so happy to see that manufacturers are understanding more and more that sport is not the exclusive kingdom of waif like women. Let us build an inclusive community where women of all sizes can join in cheering each other on to better health and body positivity. Seeing more plus size sports bras that are designed exclusively for fuller figures is another step in the right direction.