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Sternum Discomfort During Dips


Hello All,

I was doing weighted dips for the first time today. First, I wanted any tips people could give. Second, I was wondering if someone could explain what I am doing wrong.  While doing the dips, around the third set, rep number 4, when things were getting difficult, I felt an extremely uncomfortable stretch in my sternum. I decreased the weight, and this helped a bit, but it continued. Can someone help me out here? Thanks!


P.S. If you need more details, please let me know.


Don't need anymore details. I have experienced the same and my guess is, it is fairly common to those just starting either this particular lift with heavier weight, or those who do flyes (regardless of how useless flyes are as an exercise).

The picture above is what your sternum looks like. Do you see the ribs? They are attached to the sternum by what is called "costal cartilage". It is a slightly elastic material attached to the end of the bones in that area. In other words, it can stretch a little (your long bones can also bend a little without breaking if you didn't know which is why some people feel pain in their forearms when curling). The heavier you go, the more the stretch, the more the associated discomfort. How do you fix this? You keep getting stronger (leading to increased rigidity of bone attachments and strength), and regardless of who disagrees, you keep drinking milk...because it does a body good and all of that shit.


Does it hurt to take deep breaths? If so, look up costochondritis. It is an inflammation of the sternum/rib junction. A couple days rest and it usually goes away.


That is seen much more in females than males and it isn't associated directly with lifting weights.


Professor X is correct. As the saying goes, "when you hear hoofbeats, don't assume they are from zebras." Maybe I should have prefaced my remarks with "Professor X is probably right but..."


As if you need any more backup...I experienced the same thing when I first started doing weighted dips. I was convinced my sternum was separating along the longitudinal axis,(that was before I took an anatomy class). Just keep doing them, it mostly goes away after a month or so. At least that was my experience.


What X said is correct. Costochondritis can be quite a nasty injury. For some reason it is also associated with pain between the shoulder blades as well.

Rest is good but also some mobility work for the area would be of benefit. Often you can 'pin-point' the problem joint by palpating the area. When you find a painful 'lump' give it a few compressions with your thumb (about 20 should do. If you do too many you will just keep the area inflammed). Do this a few times each day and that should help.


Sorry. Just noticed this post as well. Costochondritis is the term given for the inflammation of the joint between the sternum and rib and yes, it can be associated with lifting. I have seen this in many lifters (although it is not ALWAYS the case). The tell-tale sign is the inflamed 'joint' and as I posted, the pain in the shoulder blade area that often accompanies the condition.


Hello all again,
Thank you so much for all the quick responses! It looks like this is nothing that serious. I do not have any pain around my shoulder blades or while breathing. It's only causing me discomfort if I lift something, like my baby girl :). Also, there does not seem to be any pain by pressing down on it. I will look out for all these symptoms.

Prof., I would like to ask you about this comment, maybe in a PM, since it is off topic. I have experienced forewarm pain as you have described.



I would be very interested in seeing all of these people who actually get this inflammation. I know that isn't possible, but what exercises were all of these people doing where they were actually inflamed in this area? You palpated the area?


I still get that discomfort if I use a straight bar on a preacher bench and go pretty heavy. This is why I always use an EZ curl bar (supination allowing greater distribution of stress over the two bones in that area leading to less discomfort). It is caused because the bone is actually bending. The pain is felt when the bone "snaps" back to original form.


I suspect it is from heavy weighted dips and dumbbell flyes. Yep, palpated the area. Guys only though...sigh


I have experienced this as well. I thought though that the E-Z curl does not get full activation of the Biceps? I usually switch to DB curls when this happens.



If you lift heavy enough, your biceps will be activated. If I use dumbbells on the preacher bench, this is counted as another exercise. Yes, I do usually do both in the same workout.


i was wondering why the straight bar hurt and EZ's didnt,its nice to have an on call medic,hehe Prof X


I do EZ curls especially on preacher benches...

My forearms also hurt doing DB curls, especially hammer curls, I allways attributed that to lack of grip strenght.

Could bone-bending be my problem or could it also be the grip? How would I know the difference?


If you shake people's hands and they don't say, "wow, nice grip" or "Ouch", then you need to increase grip strength.


That doesn?t work, I have very "small" hands. I have a "weak" grip because I do not have the leverage I would have with longer fingers, larger hands, etc.

That could be my problem right there, but your way of determining it does not work for me.

Would the pain be any different?


Chances are, it is from the exact same reason. It means you do need to not only build up the strength of your grip, but all of the muscles on your arm. Your bones increase in density through weight training. I very rarely feel this anymore. My body has adapted to it because of the amount of weight I lift and the size of the muscles now being supported by bone. Obviously, if you don't put on much size beyond where you are now, you won't see much of a difference.


i was once doing wighted dips, all the way down, when suddenly i felt a slight sensation, as if something was breaking, I quess i had teared the cartilage on the left side of my sternum, it didn't hurt much, but any movement, requiring the pectorals lead pain, in that specific area, it took about 3 weeks to recover completely, i guess somehintg like that happened to u