While Judy Blume has expressed that this exercise does not actually work in increasing bust size, I’m sure most women can admit to trying it at least once in their lives. Incredible commentary on the coming of age for girls, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret describes the stressors of becoming and being a woman. Boys have Catcher in the Rye with prostitutes and we have Margaret getting her period. Awesome.
I remember, as a teenager, when my chest started developing. They just kept growing. I was terrified. As a dancer, I had to fit into costumes and worry about my breasts bouncing on stage. I even asked my parents for a breast reduction at one point. To me, I was HUGE. In reality, I was maybe a B-cup.
This was also a time when boys in school would type out the word “boobs” on a calculator, show it to you, and fall into fits of laughter. While, as adults, we may have put our calculators away, it seems there is still a fascination with the female anatomy and a constant pressure on body image (both healthy and unhealthy).
Take, for example, the controversy in social media regarding the “indecency” of breastfeeding in public versus a well-endowed woman wearing a low cut t-shirt. Why is one okay and the other is not? Breasts, boobs, jugs, chest pillows, mosquito bites, bazongas, tits, perky pears, rack… no matter the size, shape, and nickname, breasts are beautiful and life-giving gifts that women possess. They should be respected, not judged or taken for granted.
Fast-forward, I am an adult and truly appreciate what I have, but that doesn’t change the fact that our breasts face many struggles: scrutiny, judgment, comparison to others, breastfeeding, gravity! While there are no exercises that can increase bust or cup size, Judy Blume overlooked the exercises that can increase the muscles underneath the breast tissue. By strengthening these muscles, a woman can give herself a mini, non-surgical breast lift. By shifting focus from the size of our breasts to overall appreciation for our strength, we can increase our confidence and healthy body image.
Here are a few exercises that do just that:
1) The Push Up – the exercise, not the bra
The push up is a great and basic way to work the pecs, or pectoral muscles. The pectoralis major muscle looks like a fan and spans out underneath the breast. Hence why exercising it, making it slightly bigger, will lift the breast tissue that lies on top of it. Push ups in the full plank position where you use your full body weight can be difficult, lead to potential mistakes or body misalignment, and cause injury. That is why, for the purpose of this list, I suggest you use a ledge, countertop, or bar (barre).
With your arms and legs spread wide, lean yourself on the support. Lift your heels off the floor so your weight is in the balls of your feet. Squeeze your quads and glutes and tuck your tailbone underneath you so your low back is supported. Pull your belly button inward to the small of your spine. Leaving your shoulders down and core pulled in, bend your elbows to lower your chest. You’re basically making the balls of your feet the hinge or lever point and lowering your body down like a board. It is important to keep your shoulders down so that you concentrate the exercise in the pectoral muscles.
Complete 3 times:
• 10 full push ups
• 10 pulses at the lowest point
• 20 full push ups
2) Chest Press
The chest press can be done on a core ball, bench, or on the floor using 5, 10, or 15 pound weights. If you’re on the floor, just plant your feet flat and have your knees pointing to the ceiling. If you use a bench, lie flat on your back with your legs over the sides. If you have a core ball to use, this will also work your glutes and core as a bonus!
The ball should be placed under your upper back to support your upper body as well as your head. Your feet should be planted making 90 degree angles at the knees. This allows you to push into the floor and keep your hips lifted. Squeezing your glutes helps maintain this position. It will look like you’re making a table or shoulder bridge. While in this position, hold your arms out to the sides with the weights pointing towards the ceiling. Your palms will be pointed away from your face as you lift the sides of the weights together above your chest. Your arms will move from a goal post like position to fully extended in front of you. Ideally keep all the work in line with the middle of your chest; which is essentially the nipple line.
12 to 15 reps, 3 times.
3) Chest Flies
Chest flies are very similar to the chest press. The setup is the exact same except the palms of your hands are facing in towards each other. When you press your arms above your head, rather than fully extending them, keep them slightly rounded as if you’re squeezing a ball. Again, keep the movement in line with your chest and don’t let your elbows come too far behind you.
Note, you may want to use a lighter weight because this is slightly harder than the press.
12 to 15 reps, 3 times.
4) Hulk squeezes
“Hulk Smash!” Have you seen the Hulk? He has killer pecs. Now he may not do this particular exercise, but it works. All it requires is a small ball or other object that has some bendability. Stand upright with your abs pulled in and squeeze the ball/object in between your hands. You want to keep your shoulders down and your elbows lifted. Focusing on the pecs, press your palms into the ball and hold. This isometric hold really works the chest.
Complete 3 times
• Press in and hold slowly for 10 reps
• Quick pulses in for 30 reps
Author Bryn Chafin is an instructor at Atlanta’s FIT: TO BE