“I must! I must! I must increase my bust! The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater, the boys depend on…” Not me, that’s for darn sure. (And for any of you that are going to point out how busty I look in that green-skirt pic in the rotating images at the top of my site – push-up bra + pose, for the win!) As a small-chested girl who’s always wanted to be just a smidge bigger I’ll admit that I’ve always read with interest anything that reasonably claims to enhance my bust size. Okay and I might possibly have read a few that weren’t so reasonable. Hush.
While growing up hasn’t changed my girls much – some women get bigger knockers during pregnancy, mine just stopped pointing in the same direction – getting older has changed my perception of them. As in, I really don’t care as much about size as I used to. They are what they are and they do what I need them to do and for all other occasions, Victoria kindly shares her Secret with me. No surgery, pills or creams for me. But if there were an exercise or two that helped perk them up? I’d be all over it.
When I first got into weight lifting years ago, there was a lot of talk amongst the lady lifters about the effects of different chest exercises on our boobs. I was even told by a female personal trainer not to lift heavy for chest exercises as it would give me “square boobs.” What on earth are square boobs?! I was reminded of this when I got the following Facebook from Reader Kristin:
“What kind of exercises are best for chest for ladies? I’ve heard mixed reviews, some say that BB [barbell] benchpress is totally fine whereas others claim it makes a woman look too “boxy”. I personally stick with cables but that’s only because I don’t know the exact effects of other traditional chest exercises (wouldn’t want to look boxy!). Thanks and I love love LOVE your blog!! :)”
First, thank you for taking the time to read my blog – seriously it means so much to me, you guys! Second, great question and imagining “boxy boobs” has had me giggling all weekend. You remember the old joke about the blond stuffing the actual box of tissues down her bra…? But anyhow, I think that square boobs, boxy boobs and manly boobs are all terms girls use in referring to over-developed pecs where you have a line down your chest that isn’t cleavage. Kind of like this:
I’m not body-snarking on Kelly Ripa – I adore her and I think she’s got a gorgeous bod but I remember a couple of years ago when she took a lot of flak for looking too muscular in a dress, particularly in the chest area. I’m not saying I agree with the criticism but I do know that a lot of women worry about weight lifting making them look too bulky and it feels even more personal when it’s in such a particularly feminine area. I know some of you will roll feel I’m getting too Cosmo up in here but this is a worry I’ve heard quite a few women express.
So what’s a girl who wants to be strong, wouldn’t mind perkier boobs and yet doesn’t want to look like a dude in a dress supposed to do? Here are my thoughts, keeping in mind that I’m as much an expert on this as Kim Kardashian is about marriage.
1. You need to work your chest. To maintain proper alignment of your spine, balance between your back and chest muscles and good posture you need to have reasonably strong chest muscles.
2. Most women don’t have enough testosterone to really bulk out but if you are particularly concerned you can take the advice of a personal trainer friend of mine. He said, “What do you do when you want hypertrophy (to make the muscle bigger)? You lift really heavy in short sets with long rest periods. So if you don’t want hypertrophy then don’t do that.” i.e. Use lighter weights for more reps and less rest in between. But let me go on the record saying while we do have some control over the shape of our muscles (but not the length, that’s genetically determined) that I think without steroids the differences here are going to be minimal.
3. A lot of how defined you look depends on how much body fat is covering your muscles. If you tend to lose weight up top before anywhere else (like me) then you’ll get that boxy look faster. Boobs are made up of a lot of fat and for a lot of women losing weight can deflate those puppies pretty fast. Unfortunately we don’t get much of a say where our body chooses to store fat but gaining weight and body fat can help you look softer.
4. Change is key. So what if you are enjoying your barbell bench presses and you do them every workout? That’s not going to be good in more ways than just the shape of your muscles. Vary your exercises so you end up working the chest muscles from different angles and using different supporting muscles. There’s no need to work your chest (or any other muscle) in every single workout either. And don’t forget to work your back too – gotta stay balanced! If you’re looking for ideas other than push-ups and bench presses, here are a few of my fave chest moves:
One-arm dumbbell chest press: Just like a regular chest press but this one works your core by forcing your body to stabilize the off-balance weight. You can do it laying on an exercise ball to up the instability if you want (and if you never read that story about the man doing this when his ball popped and he broke both arms…).
Towel pulls: Hold a towel between your hands about shoulder width apart. Contract your chest and pull out tightly on the towel. Hold for 15 seconds. This move is great because isometric exercises are very powerful but also because you look hilarious standing there with your arms barely moving and sweat pouring down your face. You can also do this with a Pilates ring, pressing inward.
Plate slide outs: Using a gliding disc or plastic plates on carpet or a rag on a wood floor, place one hand on the floor and the other on the plate. Assume a push-up position. Lower down slowly while sliding your hand on the disc out to the side. As you push back up, contract your chest to pull the plate back in to the starting position. You can work up to using plates under both hands. Warning: these are brutal!
So tell me honestly: does the whole weightlifting-boobs conversation bug you? What’s your fave chest exercise? Any advice to help Kristin out (or correct me)??