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.

Click to enlarge

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.

You have no idea how hard it is to find a SFW boob training pic. Sadly, this one has a smith machine in it. Oh, and hers are probably subglandular implants.

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.

When Benching
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.

When Cleaning
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!

34 thoughts on “Boobs

  1. +1. I saw some real abusive jelly dick behavior at a meet last year. Even though that picture is technically SFW I had to minimize this three times while trying to read it because I don’t think I could explain myself if asked. Brb I’m thirsty.

  2. I meant for this post to be very quick and simple, but I started researching stuff in my anatomy and biomechanics books and got really fascinated. I’ve always been fascinated by implants. In my anatomy class in school, when we were learning about boobs, I raised my hand and asked about implants (and differences in subglandular and submuscular). Most anatomy is interesting to me, and today I learned more about suspensory ligaments (particularly the one that holds the penis in place during erection — basically it’s a boner anchor).

  3. Next post about penis in snatch..

    Today’s anatomy lessons: I learned that when you squat your torso must be vertical or otherwise you put a lot of stress at your lower back muscles. When I started talking about anatomy I learned that lower back muscles work alone and that abs’ job is to flex the spine and not hold your torso upright. Because what I know is wrong, next time I’m gonna get some books to read…

    I hate going to the gym in the evening! All the “experts” want to fix my training.

  4. Thanks Justin! This is a legit female concern when benching– but a concern that I have never been able to find the answer to until this post.

  5. i see you refer to the breasts as “boobs” and the penis as “penis” instead of its slew of slang terms (such as dick or wee-wee) this is sexist and disrespectful. Frankly, i am a man, yet I speak for all women when I say, we’re offended.

    good day sir.

  6. ^^^^We’re goinna go there again?

    Quite frankly I was mucho scared to read this at work, but I did it anyway. And I am also a visual learner, so example videos of said faults would be great since I do train with some women that have large breasts. Just for research purposes.

  7. I was always told that when doing cleans the lifter is supposed to find the “optimal” bar path that allows the bar to travel upward without touching any part of the body.

    So, as a guy (fat guy), this means I have to find a bar path that doesn’t allow the bar to hit/skim my gut(not abs) or my moobs (man-boobs). I watched clips of other similarly built lifters, ex: Shane Hamman and Vasily Alekseyev, and saw how they were able to properly maneuver around the bar then modeled my own technique after them. So I think Justin is right when he says that clean boob-strike is a form issue.

    Some people may be kidding when they mention AllisonNYC, but if you’re a female lifter with similar dimensions it may be worth it to watch a couple of her clips.

  8. The only time I’ve dropped a barbell in the gym was a few weeks into learning to powerclean. I was thinking of keeping the bar close to my body and getting a strong jump…then slammed it right into my boobs and dropped the fucking bar. That shit hurts. Being the only woman in the gym at the time was a little awkward…nothing to see here, gentlemen, carry on with your curls.

    On another note, this post makes me think I’ve been benching too high.

    • I did this very thing this morning. It brought tears to my eyes, I dropped the damn bar, and was also the only woman in the gym.

      So I thought I’d search here to see if anyone else had run into the bar and figured out how to fix it. I’d thought about wearing my fencing breast protector, but I’d rather correct my form.

  9. I’ll throw this in there too, I know it changed my world.
    If your athlete is having pain at the bottom of the bench press try having her roll a small towel or tshirt and lay it (or nestle it gently like a baby bird) between her boobs. It disperses the pressure and takes a considerable amount of discomfort out of the movement.
    And Upstream, I’m with you. I’ve only hit my tits one or two times, but that shit Hurts!! I find cueing “sternum to sky” helps a lot of lady types who are having trouble with the top of the extension on the clean and snatch.
    And now I must admit I am tempted to send a booby lifting picture, but sadly, no photos in the comments ;)

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