The endless reach for the ideal body can feel like a catch-22. Women are expected to be thin and fit, but to have large breasts -- an often unreachable goal for thin women. Many women worry that physical fitness routines -- particularly chest exercise -- will shrink the size of their breasts, and some women hope to make their breasts smaller with exercise. But chest exercise is unlikely to decrease breast size and may even make your breasts slightly larger.
Understanding Breast Tissue
Breast tissue is composed primarily of fat. Underneath the thick layer of fat is a layer of muscle -- commonly referred to as the pecs. Breasts also contain glands and ducts designed for breastfeeding. During pregnancy and lactation, the breasts frequently swell as the breasts prepare for lactation and fill with milk.
The Pectoral Muscles
Chest exercises target the pectoral muscles, and may also work your arms, shoulders and back. When you work your pectoral muscles, your muscles may increase in size. This can result in larger and firmer-looking breasts, and may increase the appearance of cleavage. Targeted training such as bench presses and other chest exercises does not typically burn fat, which means it's unlikely to reduce the size of your breasts.
If you diet in conjunction with chest exercises, you may begin to see a reduction in breast size. Reducing your caloric intake will, over time, reduce fat on your body. For most women, breast size will be reduced in proportion to the fat reduction on the rest of the body, but some women find that they lose weight on their breasts first or last. To lose one pound of fat, you'll need to eliminate 3,500 calories from your diet through a combination of diet and exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise is fat-burning exercise that works large groups of muscles. Running, jogging and cycling are all examples of cardiovascular exercise. If you combine cardiovascular exercise with dieting and remove a sufficient number of calories from your diet, your breast size may shrink as your entire body loses fat.
- American Cancer Society: What is Normal Breast Tissue and What Does it Do?
- Fitness: Can I Lose Weight Without Losing My Bust?
- Biology: Life on Earth with Physiology; Gerald Audesirk et al.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.