Support for the Girls: Strengthening Your Coopers Ligaments

Question: How do you make five pounds of fat look attractive?

Answer: Put a nipple on it.

It's an old joke, but it touches on at least a couple of fundamental truths. One being the pervasive and contradictory standards with which we judge female beauty, and the other being that breasts are essentially that: fat.

Fat, and glandular tissue.

There is no muscle in our breasts, and therefore no amount of push-ups, bench presses, dips, chest flyes or pullovers will actually tone up the girls. Here's another truth: sagging breasts happen. They happen because we age, and as we age, our body's production of skin plumping and fortifying collagen and elastin slows down. During menopause, the breasts glandular tissue is replaced with more fat and fat cannot support the breast. Hence, more sagging. Smoking, drinking alcohol, sun damage and poor diet have also been shown to break down collagen and speed up sagging.

What else? Weight gain can cause breasts to sag -- though good news for you nursing mommas out there: breastfeeding will not!

Slouching can also result in sagging breasts, since it shifts the weight of your breasts forward and strains the Cooper’s ligaments  — the connective tissue that helps lift and support your breasts.

Another big contributor to breast sagging? Not wearing a sports bra during high impact exercise. The jumping and jarring movements in activities like running and HIIT can seriously strain your ligaments.

Of course, like we said, some stretching will happen over time regardless, but there are things you can do to mitigate your breasts' express trip to sag city. First, put on a properly fitting sports bra before you train. Live a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate some collagen into your diet . Limit your sun exposure, and -- even though you can't strengthen breast tissue -- you can strengthen your Cooper's ligaments.

Yes, ladies! There is hope!

By strengthening your ligaments’ connection to your pectoral muscles, you can create create and maintain perkier breasts. And, to help you maintain the good posture that also supports perkier lady bumps, you should also do exercises that strengthen your back, shoulders and core.

What exercises?

You know us: we love compound moves that target multiple muscle groups at once. That’s why our fave bust-lifting exercises will work all the muscle groups you need to work to strengthen your Cooper’s ligaments.

The Dip

Dips work your back, triceps, shoulders and chest all at once, so you can smash out this move knowing you’re working wonders for your ligament integrity.

How to perform dips:

1) Placing each of your hands slightly behind your hips, grasp a chair, bench, stool or Challenger Minis (as shown). Having your legs out in front of you like Sean will make the move more difficult, since you will have to lift more of your own bodyweight. Step your feet back so your knees are bent in if you need to make it easier. Just keep in mind this SHOULD be challenging. Your aim is to do 12-15 reps of the exercise, so if it is super simple for you, extend your legs fully. If it is still easy, slip on a weighted vest for some extra resistance.

2) Lower your body down so your elbows are at a 90 degree angle  — about in line with your shoulder, or even a smidge lower. How far you’ll be able to go will depend on your joint mobility and flexibility. Feeling a little stretch across your chest and shoulders is fine. Feeling pain is not. Gauge your range of motion and respect your limits.

3) Push yourself back up. Leave a slight bend in your elbow at the top of this movement to keep stress out of your elbow joint, and in your muscles where it belongs. Repeat for 12-15 reps, 3-5 times.


The Push-Up

Push-ups are a classic chest exercise and there are dozens of variations. The variation pictured above is an incline push-up, and is ideal for targeting the notoriously difficult to train lower part of your pectorals. What’s more, it’s a good place to start for beginners since you aren’t required to work against as much of your bodyweight.

Other solid variations include the decline push-up (which you can read all about here) and the standard, military style push-up with which most of us are familiar, which is done with your body in alignment with the floor. This variation will target mostly the middle of your chest.

You can also vary your hand placement to shift the focus of the movement to specific muscle groups. For instance, taking a narrow stance with your hands will work your triceps more. Taking a wider stance will work more of your shoulders.

Which variations should you do?

As many of possible! Just switch it up regularly and you’ll get a well-rounded workout. In addition to your chest, shoulders and triceps, push-ups will also strengthen your core and back.

Regardless of which push-up you decide to do, here are some general notes on form:

  • Keep your spine straight  — don’t allow your hips to sag to the floor.
  • Engage your core by pulling your navel up toward your spine.
  • Keep a soft bend in your elbow to keep the work in your muscles and out of your joints.
  • Don’t let it get easy! Aim to be able to do 15-20. Once it gets easy, change it up by trying out new variations and even adding resistance with a weighted vest or even resistance band. (We love using The Pink Thing, since it has easy looped grips!)

Remember: breasts will sag. Short of plastic surgery  — and even with plastic surgery — some saggage is inevitable. This said, these tips will definitely help keep your girls perkier for longer.