Hannah Scott |

Will a sports bra make your boat go faster?

A sports bra is essential for providing proper support and stability to the breasts during intense physical activities. But while it’s obvious how this applies to high-impact sports that involve running, the benefits to rowers are less clear. GB Rowing Team athlete Hannah Scott explains more.

My journey into the world of high-performance sports bras began at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

On the day of my race, I instinctively reached for the individually tailored sports bra provided by my team physiotherapist, Liz. This specialised garment was part of an initiative involving the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and Clover Global, a renowned bra manufacturer. Embracing the concept of “marginal gains,” I recognised the significance of this choice on the morning of my competition.

However, on reflection post-Olympics, I realised the missed opportunity of only using this sports bra on race days. Why limit its benefits to competition days when its support could enhance my training sessions daily? This revelation prompted a shift in my perspective towards my sports bra choices, acknowledging its potential to contribute significantly to my overall performance beyond race days.

Providing proper support and stability to the breasts is crucial in rowing because we often operate on unstable platforms.

At regattas, coaches frequently worry about the movement of mini weights or sandbags in underweight hulls. However, the lack of proper breast support likely impacts a women’s crew more than an extra 1-2kg of weight tied down in the boat. A supportive sports bra can prevent injuries, boost upper body strength for weightlifting, and increase confidence in the gym. All of these contribute to improved athletic performance and success.

Breaking barriers in high-impact sports bras

In the realm of high-impact sports bras, several barriers to entry have hindered their widespread adoption until recent years. One significant obstacle in the past has been the lack of exposure to them being worn by elite sportswomen. This in turn has limited their visibility and awareness to younger women.

However, the tide is changing as top female athletes now realise the importance of a good sports bra with increased female health research in sports to thank for this. Big sporting brands have also started to design more fashionable, fun high-impact sports bras, and therefore we are seeing an increase in them being worn on the world stage.

Additionally, the cost factor poses a challenge to high-impact sports bras visibility, as some high-quality sports bras can be expensive, making them less accessible.

Issues such as chafing around the armpit area (if the bra is not fitted correctly) can also deter individuals from embracing these bras for their athletic pursuits.

Concerns about unflattering designs or perceived embarrassment associated with wearing certain styles can also act as barriers to entry for high-impact sports bras in girls and young women. Addressing these barriers are crucial to promoting and encouraging young athletic women to prioritise support and performance in their sporting journey and ultimately see better results for themselves.

3 top tips for choosing the right sports bra

Tip 1: Get measured

It is crucial to prioritise fit over size. Seek out retailers that offer free professional measuring services to ensure you find the perfect fit for your body. Renowned brands like Bravissimo and M&S, known for their quality and expertise in providing well-fitted bra size guides, are among the preferred choices for the GB Rowing Team. By focusing on fit rather than simply relying on standard sizes, individuals can enhance their comfort and performance during physical activities.

Tip 2: Be aware of these key considerations for high-impact sports bras

Rear view of sports bra showing adjustable straps and clasp
  • A good underband: The underband should allow for two fingers to fit comfortably between it and the skin, ensuring it is neither too tight nor too loose.
  • Full and contained cups: The cups should adequately contain the breasts, with too much breast visible indicating a cup size that is too small, and vice versa for too much material suggesting a cup size that is too big.
  • A secure clasp: You should be able to attach the clasp on the loosest setting when the bra is brand new, allowing for adjustments as it stretches over time.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps: These enable customisation of the level of support needed for your body, with one to two inches of give from the shoulder skin to the strap recommended.
    If your size is unavailable, consider moving up a cup size and down an underband size or vice versa to find a similar fit. For instance, someone fitting a 34DD could try a 36D or a 32E for a comparable sizing experience.

Tip 3: Shop smart

Keep an eye out for sales events, such as the January Sales, to secure quality sports bras at more affordable prices.

Care of your sports bra

Proper care and maintenance of sports bras can significantly extend their lifespan. Avoid tumble drying and opt for washing them on a gentle, low heat setting to preserve their shape and elasticity. Remember, a good sports bra is a worthwhile investment in your comfort and performance, so taking care of them properly is paramount to ensure their longevity and effectiveness.


By following these guidelines, athletes can ensure they select a sports bra that provides optimal comfort and support, enhancing their performance in all physical activities.

Photo: Benedict Tufnell