Gravity is a rather essential part of your existence, but you could do without some of its unfortunate effects. As you age, your skin becomes less elastic and the weight of your breasts can make them less perky than they used to be. In addition, pregnancy and weight gain or weight loss can take their toll on your breasts. While there's no magic bullet — aside from plastic surgery — you can do exercises to strengthen your chest, back and core muscles, which can give the appearance of more uplifted breasts.
Exercises can't tighten sagging skin, but they can give the breasts a slightly lifted appearance.
Breast Anatomy 101
Breasts are composed primarily of fatty tissue. They also contain lobes filled with smaller lobes called lobules, which produce milk for nursing. While there's no muscle tissue in breasts, there is muscle tissue directly beneath them.
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 child birth, according to plastic surgeon Gary Burton, M.D., LLC. Frequent weight gain and loss can stress the skin and affect its elasticity. When this happens, the breasts become saggy.
Will Exercise Help?
The answer is yes and no. It depends on what type of exercise you do and how it affects your body composition. Unfortunately, weight loss may increase breast sagginess because you will lose some breast volume. Weight gain can actually make your breasts fuller and firmer because the extra fat fills out the skin.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight has many consequences for your health that you shouldn't ignore for the sake of more lifted breasts. Plus, the look of your overall body shape with weight loss will make much more of an impact than any sagginess in your breasts.
If you are underweight, gaining weight can help increase the volume of your breasts. Being underweight has its own set of ill health effects, so it's a good idea to work on putting on weight for both aesthetic and health benefits.
Muscles Under the Breasts
The muscles underneath the breasts are called the pectorals. The pectoral region extends from the collarbone to the ribs and includes four separate muscles:
- Pectoralis major
- Pectoralis minor
- Serratus anterior
As with all skeletal muscle, you can make these muscles larger with resistance training. This won't affect the breast tissue or skin, but the increase in size and tone can slightly alter the appearance of the breasts.
Exercises for Saggy Breasts
Any exercise that targets the chest muscles will help saggy breasts. The most common exercises to include in your workout are:
- Pushups — These are easy to do anywhere and are easily modified for anyone's fitness level. You can start with wall pushups, progress to pushups with your hands on a bench and then move to knee pushups and finally traditional pushups.
- Bench pressing — It's a good idea to master your pushups before moving to the bench press. Think of the bench press as a more advanced pushup. When you're ready, start with a light weight and be sure to have the correct technique, as there is an increased risk for pec and shoulder injuries with bench presses.
- Dumbbell flys — Variety in your workout is important, and flys switch things up with a lateral movement. You'll have to use a lot less weight for this move than a chest press, but you will still feel the burn.
With all these exercises, really focus on contracting the pectoral muscles in the eccentric phase of the exercise when the muscle is shortening.
Other Muscles to Strengthen
Exercises for the chest muscles should be part of a total-body workout that targets all the muscle groups, including the shoulders, arms, back, abdominals and legs. Having a toned body can do wonders for your overall appearance and may make you feel better about your breasts.
In addition, the muscles of your back and core can also play a role in improving the appearance of your breasts. Having a slouched posture can make the breasts appear to be hanging lower than they are; correcting poor posture can make a big difference in lifting your breasts.
For your upper back, do face pulls, rows and lat pulldowns. Concentrate on drawing the shoulder blades together. For the core muscles, abdominal planks, bicycles, Russian twists and supermans are go-to exercises.
The Importance of Good Posture
Stand in the mirror and practice slouching, then pull your shoulders back and down. It's easy to see how good posture can make a big difference in making your breasts appear more lifted.
In addition to the exercises you do in the gym, make sure you are practicing good posture throughout your day. When you are sitting at your desk, be mindful and correct your posture whenever you notice that you are hunching over. Replace your desk chair with an ergonomic chair that improves your body position.
Also, be conscious that you don't stand with a flat back and your pelvis tucked under, as the NHS points out. Sitting for long periods of time can cause this "stooping" posture. Whatever your postural challenge, getting up frequently and taking a brief walk with good posture can help correct the problem and give your breasts a noticeable lift.
Read more: The Best Exercises for Every Major Muscle
Invest in a Good Bra
According to plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Deuber, most women don't have bras that fit them properly. In addition to exercises and postural correction, a well-fitting, supportive bra can dramatically improve breast appearance.
Many women don't know their correct bra size, which results in breast bulge and poking, digging straps — or a bra that is too big and doesn't provide enough support. That's why it pays to get fitted by a professional.
Dr. Deuber warns that although you might be tempted to buy a super-supportive bra with a lot of extra lift, this can actually weaken the pectoral muscles underneath the breasts. He also says that comfort and fit shouldn't be compromised for style. You may love lacy, pretty bras, but if they don't fit right, they won't give you the look you desire.
- National Breast Cancer Foundation: Breast Anatomy
- Gary Burton, M.D.: Eliminate Sagging Breasts After Weight Loss
- Teach Me Anatomy: Muscles of the Pectoral Region
- NHS: Common Posture Mistakes and Fixes
- Mark Deuber, M.D.: How to Prevent Sagging Breasts
- MSN Lifestyle: Face Pull
- Performance Treanor: Your Core Is Not Just Your Abs! 6 of the Best Exercises to Target It Right