Big Boobs And Plus-Size Bodies: Helpful Workout Modifications

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June 2, 2022

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Here at Sweat, we know that every woman’s body is different. While there’s definitely no such thing as a “perfect” body (all bodies are beautiful!) sometimes these differences can hold women back when it comes to physical activity. 

Take being plus size, for example. While this doesn’t say anything about your health, fitness or strength levels and certainly doesn’t say anything about what you’re capable of, we can appreciate that working out feels different for everyone and your body size can play a part in that. 

Having large breasts or a plus-size body might affect how comfortable you feel exercising - both at home and in communal spaces. 

2017 research highlighted issues of weight bias and stigma in gym environments, and another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology pointed to the relationship between BMI and avoidance of strenuous exercise.

Having a plus-size body or large breasts can also make some movements or training styles more challenging. For example, burpees and mountain climbers are going to feel completely different for a woman with a small bust, compared to someone with a large bust. 

Doing exercises on your back can also be uncomfortable if you have a large bust or hold more weight around your torso, and pain in your back or joints is more common, too. 

An article published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport explains that having large breasts can be a barrier to exercise for women, especially when it comes to vigorous movement, due to the increased breast motion.

A survey by the University of Portsmouth's Research Group in Breast Health also found breasts were the fourth highest barrier to exercise for women, following a lack of motivation, time and poor health.

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Feel empowered to make modifications

No matter your fitness level, it can always help to have a few handy exercise modifications up your sleeve. Does that mean you’ve failed? Absolutely not! Your workout is as challenging as you make it, and remember - people modify workouts for all sorts of reasons, including joint issues, flexibility and injuries (or simply because a movement doesn’t feel good). 

With every workout you do, we want you to feel empowered to make it work for you and YOUR body. Being fit and healthy can look and feel many different ways. Want to sub out your burpees for something more low-impact, like a caterpillar walk? That’s totally fine! 

Simple exercise modifications

Here are some exercises that women with bigger bodies or breasts often find challenging, and helpful modifications you can make. It also helps to find clothes that are comfortable, and get a supportive and well-fitted sports bra. Always try it on (and get your bra fitted if you’re not sure about your size!) before you buy and do some jumping or jogging in the changing room to see how it feels. 

For some people, it can help to focus on slow, controlled strength training exercises rather than fast-paced plyometric (jumping) moves. This doesn’t mean your workout will be easy, it just means removing the impact on your joints or chest, reducing excessive friction and chafing, and making the session a whole lot more enjoyable.  

Modifications for running

When a workout asks you to jog or run, it’s usually about adding cardio to get your body moving and your heart rate up. If you have access to an exercise bike or rowing machine, these make great low-impact alternatives. Sprint HIIT sessions can also be done on a bike or rower.

Modifications for crunches

Exercises on your back like crunches and sit-ups aren’t comfortable for everyone, especially if you have a large bust or carry more weight around your torso. 

Instead, try standing oblique crunches where you stand and bend sideways at the waist, or standing X crunches where you bring your knee to the opposite elbow in a marching motion. 

Modifications for plank exercises

There are so many great ways to modify a plank. Instead of being on your toes, you can drop your knees to the ground. Keep your body in a straight line from knees to shoulders to engage your core. Experiment with what feels better between resting on your hands or your forearms if it hurts your wrists. 

You can also do a plank on your forearms up against a wall with your body on an angle to keep your core engaged, or try a high plank with your hands holding the seat of a chair. 

Modifications for mountain climbers

Mountain climbers mainly work your arms, shoulders and core. Easy substitutes include a plank hold (see additional plank modifications above), or commandos, where you start in a plank position on your forearms, then push up to a high plank one hand at a time. 

Modifications for burpees

Burpees are hard, end of story, so it’s not surprising that many people choose to swap them out or try a variation. A modified burpee involves having a chair in front of you that you place your hands on, before stepping both feet back into a high plank position, stepping both feet back in again, and raising your hands above your head. Impact, be gone! 

You could also try a caterpillar walk out where you bend at the hips, place your hands on the floor, and then walk your hands out in front of you until you are in a high plank position. Pause for a moment, then walk your hands back to your feet and stand up. 

Modifications for jumping lunges

Try some forward stepping or reverse lunges. Forward lunges can be more challenging to do with the correct form and can cause discomfort if your front knee is going over your toes, so reverse lunges are a great place to start and build your confidence. 

You can also try stationary lunges where you start in a lunge position and pulse up and down without moving your feet. Hold a chair or bench for stability if you need. 

If you feel confident and strong in your lunges and want to increase the difficulty without adding any impact, try holding dumbbells, a medicine ball or a barbell on your back.

Modifications for squat jumps 

Squat jumps can put a lot of strain on your joints, so don’t hesitate to remove the jump if you’re experiencing any pain. 

To make your squats easier:

  • Do a half squat rather than to full depth.

  • Hold a chair or countertop for more stability.

  • Put a chair behind you as a guide.

  • Start with your feet wider apart. 

For a more challenging low-impact squat:

  • Add a pulse at the bottom of your squat, or hold the squat and pulse continuously.

  • Rise onto your toes at the end of your squat.

  • Add some resistance in the form of a barbell, kettlebell, medicine ball or dumbbells.

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What exercise modifications do you prefer to take during your workouts? Let us know in the comments!

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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