A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Answers Your Top 4 Questions About Breast Augmentation for Bodybuilders

Posted December 17, 2018 by Paul M. Parker, M.D., FACS


People often ask what my typical breast augmentation patient is like. Having performed thousands of breast augmentation procedures over my career, I can tell you there is no “typical” patient, other than a woman who wants to improve her breast contours.

Many female bodybuilders have come to me hoping to accomplish exactly that—and breast augmentation is common among bodybuilders as they progress through the sport. Since fat is a major component of the breasts, reducing body fat often results in a loss of breast volume. The change can be minor, or a woman may lose most of her breast volume. Breast implants can help restore feminine curves in lean athletes, but it takes a special approach to get natural-looking results that won’t interfere with workouts.

Below, I’ve answered some common questions that I hear from my New Jersey breast augmentation patients who are bodybuilders to help you better understand the unique considerations of surgery for patients like you.

Will breast implants look natural on a bodybuilder?

With less natural breast tissue to cover an implant, achieving a natural look with breast implants for low body fat patients can be a little more challenging, but it is definitely possible with the right plastic surgeon—someone who is board certified and who has specific experience helping muscular patients achieve their desired look.

Choosing the right implant size and shape for your body is key; your plastic surgeon can help you with this. In general, leaner patients will get a more dramatic result with a smaller implant compared to non-athletic patients, and many bodybuilders prefer a more conservative breast augmentation to ensure a look that fits their proportions and lifestyle. Implant placement can also make a difference in how natural breast implants look, which I address in the next question.

Should implants go over or under the muscle for bodybuilders?

This is an often-debated topic among plastic surgeons when it comes to breast implants for bodybuilders. While there are benefits and considerations with each placement option, ultimately it is a personal choice made between you and your plastic surgeon.

With subpectoral implant placement, the lower attachment of the pectoralis major muscle is released from the chest wall to create a space for the implant.  While commonly called “under-the-muscle” placement, the implant is actually only partially under the muscle, with the top portion of the implant covered by both breast tissue and muscle, and the bottom portion covered by breast tissue only. This technique usually provides a more natural breast appearance, especially in leaner patients, as the implant has greater tissue coverage vs. over-the-muscle placement. The risk for capsular contracture is also thought to be lower.

Dual plane placement is an advanced version of subpectoral placement that I have been using for many years. The lower attachment of the muscle is released, and the overlying breast tissue is partially released from the muscle as well. By releasing the tissue only slightly or to a greater degree, I can correct minor sagging while avoiding a full breast lift procedure. This can be a very attractive option for athletic patients, as the recovery is shorter and there is less scarring.

As a bodybuilder or avid weightlifter, you may be concerned about a possible loss of chest strength if the pectoral muscle is altered, as well as a visible change in breast shape when flexing the chest. When breast augmentation is performed correctly, loss of muscle strength is usually temporary and more due to taking time off exercise for recovery than it is to implant placement. Following recovery, most women are able to build back up to their previous fitness level.

With less natural tissue to cover an implant, achieving a natural look with breast implants for low body fat patients can be a little more challenging, but it is definitely possible with the right plastic surgeon—someone who is board certified and who has specific experience helping athletic patients achieve their desired look.

The bigger issue is a change in breast shape during exercise called “animation deformity.” Put simply, flexing the pecs can momentarily flatten a submuscularly placed implant. This can be conspicuous in certain situations, such as during a fitness competition where you may be wearing a bikini top while flexing. More permanent implant malposition with submuscular placement can also be a concern for powerlifters, as developing very strong pecs after breast augmentation could cause the implants to shift.

In such cases, subglandular placement may be a better option, with the tradeoff being that your breast implants may not look as natural. However, there are a few advantages to this option, such as a shorter recovery, and many patients are very happy with the way their breasts look with over the muscle placement. If going over the muscle, I would recommend silicone gel implants to minimize risk for visible rippling.

What are the best breast implants for muscular women?

Along with implant size, you’ll also need to consider what breast implant filling type and shape is best for you. There are many excellent breast implant options available; the best implants are those that fit your proportions, lifestyle, and goals. Most of my patients today choose silicone gel implants, as there is less risk for visible rippling or wrinkling with silicone vs. saline. Silicone implants also feel more natural, especially in patients who have little natural breast tissue to pad the implant.

If a naturally sloping breast is one of your goals, you may consider teardrop-shaped implants, which are designed to achieve this shape. That said, round silicone-gel implants often provide an equally natural shape that always persists, even if the breast implant shifts in its pocket.

As far as the risk of rupture, there’s very little difference between saline and the latest generation silicone gel, and the risk for both is very low—about 1% for every year old your breast implants are. Just keep in mind that a rupture will be noticeable with saline implants, as the implant will deflate, while an MRI or ultrasound will be required to detect a silicone rupture.

You must be okay with fitness taking a backseat for a little while after breast augmentation. A gym hiatus may be hard, but taking time to rest and recover is vital: you want to avoid complications and ensure your results heal beautifully.

When can I workout after breast augmentation?

Expect to take up to 3 weeks off of strenuous exercise, and 6 to 8 weeks off of exercises that directly involve the chest. This does not mean you have to sit on the couch the whole time. I encourage short, frequent walks ASAP after surgery, and most patients can gradually resume cardio and lower body exercises after about 2 weeks.

Before undergoing breast augmentation as a bodybuilder, it’s very important that you can accept your plastic surgeon’s terms of recovery and are okay with your fitness taking a backseat for a little while. A hiatus from the gym will undoubtedly be hard, but taking appropriate time to rest and recover will not only minimize risk of complications such as bleeding, seroma (fluid buildup), or poor scar healing, but will also ensure your results heal beautifully.

That said, most experienced plastic surgeons understand the desire to get back to normal as quickly as possible and take that into account throughout the surgery process. At The Parker Center, we have a unique Rapid Recovery program, which incorporates surgical techniques, medications, and massage to promote quicker healing. With this protocol, my patients are usually able to return to their previous activity level more quickly than expected.

Have more questions? Give us a call at The Parker Center

No matter what your body type or sport of choice, the most important thing you can do to get breast augmentation results you love is to choose a board certified plastic surgeon who understands your needs and who has the experience and skill to achieve your goals. If you have more questions, I invite you to contact us. We offer several options for initial consultations at The Parker Center to meet your needs. Call 201-967-1212 or contact us online.

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