Choose the right sports bra for military fitness

Choosing the best sports bra for your body and activity level is important for both your health, comfort, and performance. To borrow an old sports saying—feel good, play good! When it comes to choosing a supportive bra, tighter is not better. Use this graphic to find a sports bra style that best fits your activities, and learn how to properly measure yourself for the best fit.

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Published on: August 3, 2021

Logo: USU, Uniformed Services University, and CHAMP, Consortium for Health and Military Performance, a Defense Center of Excellence

Logo: HPRC, Human Performance Resource Center

Sports bra basics


Some are adjustable; some are not

Greater strap thickness equals greater support

Straps, from least to most support: Crisscross, tank top, racerback


Greater support equals greater activity intensity:

Encapsulation: Individual cups to support each breast; Little to no compression; Support: Least support; Best for low-impact activities; Yoga, walking, light weight-lifting

Compression: Most amount of compression to provide stability; No built-in cups; Recommended for cup sizes A–B; Support: Hiking, biking, moderate weight-lifting

Compression and Encapsulation: Combination of encapsulation and compression; Individual cups molded into design; Compression to provide stability; Provides the most support of the three types; Best for larger breasts (cup sizes C–D); Support: Best for high-impact activities; Running, high-intensity weight-lifting, martial arts/combatives

Fitting your sports bra

How to measure

  1. Measure your rib cage just below your breasts. The tape measure should be snug but not so tight that it is hard to breathe. Round down to the nearest inch.
  2. Use the top table on the right to find your band size based on your rib-cage measurement.
  3. Measure around the fullest part of your breasts. Make sure the tape measure across your back stays parallel to the floor. Round up to the nearest inch.
  4. Subtract your rib-case measurement in Step 1 from your bust measurement in Step 3. The difference in inches is your suggested cup size. If you’re between sizes, round up.

Band size


Rib cage 25–27” equals band size 30

Rib cage 27–29” equals band size 32

Rib cage 29–31” equals band size 34

Rib cage 31–33” equals band size 36

Rib cage 33–35” equals band size 38

Rib cage 35–37” equals band size 40

Rib cage 37–39” equals band size 42

Rib cage 39–41” equals band size 44

Cup size


Bust size minus rib-cage size 3” equals cup size AA

Bust size minus rib-cage size 4” equals cup size A

Bust size minus rib-cage size 5” equals cup size B

Bust size minus rib-cage size 6” equals cup size C

Bust size minus rib-cage size 7” equals cup size D

Bust size minus rib-cage size 8” equals cup size DD

Bust size minus rib-cage size 9” equals cup size E

Bust size minus rib-cage size 10” equals cup size F

Bra-fitting criteria

Once you have determined your approximate bra size, watch for these common ways a bra can be a poor fit. If none of the issues below apply to you, or if the hooks or straps can be adjusted to correct the fit, your bra fits properly!


Too tight: Skin bulges over the top of the band, or the bra “feels too tight.”

Too loose: Band lifts when you lift your arms overhead, or back of the band is not level with the underside of your breasts.


Too big: There are wrinkles in the fabric.

Too small: Breasts bulge above, or below, or to the sides of the cup.


Incorrect shape: Underwire sits on your breast, under your armpit, or in the center of your chest; or the bra just feels uncomfortable.


Too tight: Straps dig into your shoulders; straps feel uncomfortable; straps are carrying too much of the weight of your breasts.

Too loose: Straps slide off your shoulders with no ability to adjust the length.

Front band

Not in contact with your breastbone (sternum).

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