Workout Tips

How to Deal With Sternum Pain

Diagnose and treat a common weightlifting-related injury.

How to Deal With Sternum Pain

WHAT YOU DID: While performing dips, you felt a sharp pain in your breastbone, which runs down the center of your chest, between your pecs.

WHAT YOU FEEL: There’s tenderness and discomfort where your ribs attach to your sternum. It may begin as a dull pain but can turn sharp with movement. It may hurt when breathing or coughing.


Costochondritis—inflammation of the cartilage that attaches a rib to the breastbone. It can be caused by heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, upper respiratory infection, or sustaining a sharp blow to the chest.


*See your doctor first to rule out any possible cardiac issues. When the pain begins to subside, perform the program below in the following sequence.

1. Doorway Pec Stretch


Stand in a doorway with one arm raised to your side at shoulder height. Bend your el- bow and place your palm on the frame. Gently lean forward until you begin to feel a stretch. Hold 10 seconds, then switch arms. Perform three sets.

2. Swiss Ball Isometric Squeeze

Hold a ball with your arms fully outstretched. Now gently hug it into your body with your arms, making sure you feel a contraction in your chest. Perform three sets of 5- to 10-second holds.

3. Swiss Ball Walkout

Lie with the ball under your chest. Slowly walk your hands forward on the floor until the ball is at your hips. Pick your hands up—do not drag them—then walk your hands back. Perform 10 reps.


Don’t lower your body too fast on dips. Keep both portions of the movement smooth and controlled. Be sure to warm up properly before any pressing workout, and include some pushup variations.