Your breasts naturally become less perky as you age, when the skin covering them begins to lose elasticity and the breast tissue succumbs to gravity. Pregnancy, hormonal changes and fluctuations in body weight also affect the shape, size and perkiness of your breasts.
Unfortunately, specific breast-lifting exercises don't work. However, lifestyle changes, such as maintaining your weight through a healthy diet and exercise and targeting the muscles beneath the breasts with weight-bearing exercises, may help improve the appearance of sagging breasts and prevent further drooping.
Causes of Sagging Breasts
Breasts are composed mainly of fatty tissue, as well as glands and connective tissue, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While there's no muscle tissue in breasts, there is muscle tissue directly beneath them.
Ligaments and skin support the breasts, and over time, both of these support systems begin to stretch, resulting in drooping breasts and wrinkled, loose skin. The skin covering the breasts is prone to stretching as the breasts become larger with weight gain and pregnancy and then get smaller with weight loss and childbirth, per the Cleveland Clinic. Frequent weight gain and loss can stress the skin and affect its elasticity. When this happens, the breasts become saggy.
It's important to note that ligaments cannot be shortened once they have been stretched.
6 Exercises to Lift Sagging Breasts
While fat, glands, ligaments and skin can't be toned or tightened through exercise, the muscles beneath your breasts, called the pectorals, can be strengthened.
There's no guarantee that chest exercises can help tone or lift breasts that have already begun to droop. However, incorporating specific chest exercises into your workouts can help work out the muscles surrounding your breasts. This, in turn, can prevent you from losing muscle mass beneath your breast tissue, regardless of fat loss, and can result in a slightly lifted appearance. Push-ups, bench presses — flat, incline and decline — and flys are go-to exercises for sagging breasts.
Give the following exercises, recommended by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), to lift breasts a try during your next upper-body workout.
You should also balance your workout by exercising your back and shoulders with rows, overhead presses and front and lateral raises. Having a strong back and shoulders improves your posture, which can help prevent the rounded shoulders that can make breasts look even less perky.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Step your feet back and straighten your legs so that you're balanced on your palms and toes.
- Check your body and hand position: Your body should make a straight line from head to hips to heels, and your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly wider apart.
- Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your body to the floor.
- Make sure to keep your body in one straight line from the neck through the spine to the hips and down to the heels.
- Press into your palms and push the floor away from you to come back up to a high plank, still keeping your body in one straight line.
2. Dumbbell Bench Press
- Grab two dumbbells and lie flat on a bench (or the floor if you don't have a bench).
- Start in a prone (overhand) grip with your palms facing away from you.
- Exhale as you press the dumbbells upward and inward until your arms are almost fully extended and the dumbbells nearly touch.
- Inhale as you slowly bend your elbows again, lowering your arms gently back to the starting position.
3. Chest Fly
- Lie down on a bench (or the floor) holding a dumbbell in each hand directly over your chest.
- With a slight bend in your elbows, rotate your shoulders so your elbows point out to the sides and your palms face each other. This is the starting position.
- Lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest in an arcing motion until you feel a mild stretch (not pull or pain) in your chest.
- Exhale as you reverse the motion and use your chest muscles to press the dumbbells back to start.
4. Dumbbell Row
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Shoot your hips back and hinge forward at least 45 degrees (as much as 90 degrees), keeping your back flat. Start with your arms extended toward the ground, palms facing each other.
- Draw your elbows up toward your ribs and pull the weights up alongside your lower abdomen.
- As you lift the weights, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.
- Lower back down to the start with control.
5. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Begin standing or seated with a flat back, feet rooted in the ground, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lift the weights above your shoulders with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
- On an exhale, brace your core and press both dumbbells overhead.
- Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.
6. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Keep your back flat and knees slightly bent.
- Keeping your core braced, raise the weights out to your sides until they reach shoulder height.
- Lower the weights slowly to the starting position.
Best Workout Equipment for Your Chest
Several types of workout equipment and exercise machines can be used to target your chest.
1. Free Weights and Weight Benches
One of the most effective equipment combinations for working your pectoral muscles is free weights and a weight bench. Both barbells and dumbbells can be used in combination with either a horizontal or incline bench to do exercises such as the bench press, chest press and flyes, all of which work to strengthen and tone your pecs, per ACE, and provide a lift to your breasts.
2. Exercise Machines
Weight machines are a great alternative to free weights, and most gyms have machines specifically designed to target your pecs. These machines typically combine levers with either weighted plates that can be added or removed, or stacked weights that allow you to select the amount of weight you want to lift.
Chest targeting machines that can help build muscle include the chest press machine, decline chest press machine, and the seated fly machine, according to G-Tech Fitness, a leading fitness equipment company.
3. Resistance Equipment
Some equipment, such as the Pilates reformer and resistance bands, provides resistance without the use of weights. The Pilates reformer is a machine with a pulley system that uses springs to provide resistance, according to Studio Pilates International, a Pilates studio with locations worldwide. It allows you to do variations of chest presses, flies, and rowing exercises that target the pecs.
The same types of exercise can also be performed with resistance bands — lengths of elastic tubing with handles on each end that can be attached to a door or a hook on a wall.
4. Stability Ball
A stability ball is a terrific option for an at-home pectoral workout. These large, inflatable balls can be used in place of a workout bench to perform a number of chest-targeting dumbbell exercises. A stability ball can also add an extra challenge to basic push-ups, another great exercise for working the pecs, according to the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).
Stability balls also have the added benefit of challenging your core and stability muscles as you maintain balance during each exercise.
A Note on Diet as It Relates to Firm Breasts
If you've recently gained weight, you might find that your breasts are larger but have simultaneously become less perky than they used to be.
Losing that extra weight may be able to help your breasts become firmer and more lifted by reducing your breast size. However, whether or not this strategy will work for you will really depend on the size your breasts were prior to gaining weight and what size they are now.
The fat in your breast tissue can be lost through regular exercise and a healthy diet. Focus on adding more fruits and vegetables and lean protein from chicken, fish and beans into your diet, according to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Consume moderate amounts of whole grains and low-fat dairy and small amounts of healthy fats from nuts, olive oil and avocado. These foods will keep you fuller for longer, and they'll provide the nutrients you need to stay energized for your firm-breast workouts.
Your daily diet should include plenty of water — 64 ounces or more each day — to promote elasticity in the skin.
Do keep in mind these tips won't automatically shrink your breasts, though. Weight loss will just help you lose fat and may eventually reduce your breast size.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Breast Lift (Mastopexy)"
- ACE: "Chest Exercises"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Breast Anatomy"
- G-Tech Fitness: "Chest Machines"
- Studio Pilates International: "Reformer Pilates – What’s the difference and what’s all the fuss about?"
- ISSA: "Effective Alternatives to Your Favorite Gym Machines"
- USDA: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans"