Monday’s are devoted to female related topics to help females begin or continue to train. This particular post is borderline irrelevant.
It’s not that I’m above posting about boobs (I’m not), it’s just that I routinely get questions about them. I have a stinking suspicion that the questions are from male readers disguised as women, but, alas, I am a man of the people! The most common questions I get are:
How much do you love boobs?
What if my boobs are too big for cleaning and snatching (the Olympic lifts; stay focused)?
What should a big-boobed woman do about her big boobs when she benches?
Well, my good readers, to answer these questions we will need a lesson in anatomy. Boobs, uncommonly referred to as “breasts”, are a collection of adipose tissue that lay over the pectorals. They are held to the clavicle and pectoral fascia via suspensory ligaments that extend through the mass of the boob to help maintain structural integrity. I find suspensory ligaments interesting. Normal ligaments hold bones together to form joints; their strength is dependent on their cross-sectional area, and they respond to loading by becoming stronger and stiffer. A regular ligament’s strength decreases due to immobilization and lack of stress. This is why un-fit, sedentary, and old people will injure themselves easily (especially when attempting activity that they are not adapted to). Suspensory ligaments are a very different in that one end is anchored on a bone, and the other end attaches to organ tissues, namely boobs, penises, ovaries, eyes, intestines, and so on.
Suspensory ligaments of the boob are probably under stress when the boob is subjected to gravity. The modern woman often wears a bra, and this probably relieves the suspensory ligaments of tension and may help prevent the “sagging” appearance of boobs (that is, until “old age” has its effect). We can probably observe middle aged women from primitive or tribal cultures and see a distinction between their level of “boob sag”, yet I don’t think this hypothesis has been scientifically tested. I would also hypothesize that a woman who routinely exercises would maintain the integrity of their suspensory ligaments in a way that keeps them “stronger and stiffer” like their bony ligament cousins; consistent exercise probably staves off the “saggy boob effect” to some extent because of applying stress to the tissues (other than gravity).
However, we are more concerned with working around the boobs when lifting. The modern woman, especially one with above average boob size, wears some sort of supportive garment when exercising. This usually harnesses this “boob issue” to the point in which it’s a non-factor. But there may be other women that actually do have an issue with the size of their boobs, and this is probably most related to their size. No, not boob size, but the size of the gal. Consider D-cup size boobs on a woman who is 5’11” tall. Despite these boobs being large in the absolute sense, they are relatively normal looking because her frame is tall. Now consider D-cup size boobs on a woman who is 4’11”; her boobs will look extremely large, joyously massive even. Her body’s frame is much smaller, and therefore the same size boobs will appear to be extremely large. Boob size, like time, is relative.
I would expect females that have lifting problems due to the size of their boobs to either a) have a smaller frame with relatively large boobs or b) have extremely large boobs regardless of her frame. The former isn’t common (given that boobs typically fit the body frame), and the latter doesn’t really exist in nature. Ah, but of course, the modern woman has resources to obtain unnatural boobs (I don’t like saying “fake”, because they are most definitely not fake).
Unnatural, or artificial, boobs pose additional considerations dependent on their method of placement. There are four ways in which the implant is placed into the boob:
1. Subglandular – The implant is placed behind the glands and in front of the pectoral muscles.
2. Subfascial – The implant is placed behind the fascia of the pectoral muscles, but in front of the pectoral muscles themselves.
3. Subpectoral – The implant is placed partially behind the pectoralis major muscle tissue, but the lower portion of the implant is in the subglandular area. This method “releases the inferior muscle origin” of the pec major; it severs the lower attachment sites.
4. Submuscular – The implant is placed entirely behind the pectoralis major without severing the inferior muscle attachments. Instead, the lateral muscle attachment — serratus, pentoralis minor, or both — is severed and they are sutured to the pec major after the implant is inserted.
I don’t know which of these methods “looks better” or is “more durable”, but I do know that I would not want any of my trainees getting their anterior shoulder muscles severed for the sake of implants. I do not know how the muscular severing/suturing has an effect on the performance of the muscles in lifting (e.g. real lifting, not fitness or dumbbell lifting), but I can’t imagine it being very efficient for transmitting force, especially if fibers of the serratus or pec minor are reattached to the pec minor. I did find some research comparing the function with implants that were administered subglandular (in front of the muscle) or submuscular (under the muscle) in women who exercised. Overall, women with submuscular implants had a longer recovery before returning to exercise. Some of the submuscular women also reported a decrease in function in exercises that use the pectorals and a couple reported pain. The subglandular women didn’t report any pain, and most of the women (regardless of implant placement) said they would have the implants placed in the same way again. (ARTICLE LINK)
It’s clear that women who want implants must take these varying surgical procedures into account if they care about their training. If they already have had the procedure, then their focus is probably on preventing their investment from damage. Women with large natural boobs are probably interested in not damaging theirs as well. Here are some methods.
Most of the questions I hear about large boobs relate to the bench. In fact, one female reader (who has experienced some boob trauma while handling 36DD’s) has seen a woman at a meet use her implants to her advantage in a powerlifting meet (the implants were apparently hiked up higher by her boyfriend’s hands to give her two more inches on top of the five inches she allegedly already had). Let’s ignore the outlying “excessively large unnatural boobs” issue; that trainee will just have to work around them. Let’s focus on the women who want to train their bench through a full ROM.
A proper bench set up will have maximal scapular retraction (shoulder blades pinched) with thoracic extension (chest pulled up). Note that the lumbar spine does not need to be in maximal extension. Using a proper grip (one that allows for vertical elbows at the bottom ROM) and proper shoulder and elbow positioning (with external rotation for maximal muscle recruitment), the bar will usually be lowered to the top or middle of the sternum. If the bar is being lowered to the boobs themselves, then the lifter is either a) lowering the bar with too much shoulder internal rotation (flaring the elbows) or b) not in enough scapular retraction and thoracic extension. The point on the chest or sternum that the bar is lowered to is dependent on body dimensions, but it will typically be the sternum instead of the pecs, boobs, or nipple line. When in doubt, lifters should take the bar to the top of the sternum as it will help them achieve proper external rotation (since the elbows will need to be at a 45 degree angle with respect to the torso in order to lower the bar to the sternum).
If the lifter is in a meet, then it’s probably in their best interest to abuse the rules and use their boobs to decrease the total ROM that they have to move the bar. Note that I think this is “jelly dick” behavior.
No! This isn’t a discussion on the boobs should or shouldn’t be doing when a woman is cleaning the house (with help from her scantily clad man-friend, obviously)! Stay focused! I’ve never seen a woman who couldn’t clean properly due to large boob size — if the boobs are hit, it’s usually because the lifter did something wrong — but theoretically it could happen. My first suggestion would be to strap those babies down with two sports bras. I knew a girl in college who did this when she was going to use the elliptical or run; it’s necessary to prevent excessive movement (and probably reduces strain on those suspensory ligaments). Assuming the boob potential is harnessed with proper attire, and the lifter is routinely hitting or skimming her boobs, then her form fault should be addressed. If such a lifter doesn’t have a coach, she can link her clothed video to me (I’m being serious, this isn’t a request for racy vids, but if you are hurting your boobs, then I can help clean up the technique so that you don’t hurt your boobs — hurting boobs is like hurting puppies and I want to put a stop to it).
We have been on quite the journey today, indeed! We have learned some basic anatomy about boobs, inquired about the longevity of boobs, discussed boob relativity, learned about different boob implant procedures, learned how to accommodate large boobs in lifting, and allowed me to say the word boob 55 times. A joyous day indeed!