So, you want to know How to Fix Sternum Pain From Dips?
I totally get you, and this is definitely something that I have experienced myself before.
However, it wasn’t long before I discovered that the source of my sternum pain was nothing more than poor form.
In fact, there were quite a few things I was doing wrong.
So, in this article I’d like to discuss why you feel sternum pain during dips and how you can go about fixing this.
How to Fix Sternum Pain From Dips?
There are various reasons why you feel sternum pain from dips. The main issue is usually that you’re going too deep. This causes your shoulders to internally rotate, which then shortens the pec muscles, thus causing the connective tissues to pull on your sternum. Additionally, weak serratus anterior muscles can cause sternum pain from dips. So, exercises like dumbbell pullovers will help to improve strength and mobility in the serratus anterior muscles.
1. Stop Going So Deep on Dips
One of the main issues when it comes to dips is how deep you are going.
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Unfortunately, there is a tendency to go too deep in the mistaken assumption that deeper is better.
I’m here to tell you it isn’t.
Basically, you should only ever dip until your upper arms are parallel to the ground.
If you go any further you’ll find that your shoulders start to internally rotate.
Prior to dipping you should retract your shoulder blades, i.e. pull them back and down, and then maintain this shoulder position throughout your set.
However, when you dip too deep, as I say, your shoulders will internally rotate, which immediately places a huge amount of stress on the shoulder joint.
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Furthermore, once your shoulders are internally rotated you’ll shorten the position of the pec muscles, which in turn will pull on the sternum.
What happens here is that the cartilage which connects the sternum to the ribs literally gets tugged on every time you lower yourself into a dip.
And this is why you feel dips in your sternum.
You have to remember that dips themselves not only work the muscles, but also various ligaments and tendons as well.
So, in effect, if you’re overstretching by going too deep, you’ll aggravate any potential feeling/pain/soreness.
2. Fix Your Serratus Anterior Weakness
For such an inconspicuous muscle, the serratus anterior can certainly cause a lot of issues when you exercise.
The serratus anterior is a fan-shaped muscle that is located on the sides of the chest and spans from the 1st to the 8th rib.
Its main role in the body is to lift the ribs (when the shoulder girdle is fixed in place), which assists with respiration.
The serratus anterior is often referred to as the “boxer’s muscle”, as it is responsible for the protraction of the shoulder blade.
This is the same movement that occurs whenever you throw a punch.
However, protraction of the shoulder blade is the exact opposite of what you want when you’re performing dips.
Furthermore, the serratus anterior is probably one of the most under trained muscles in the human body.
So, in reality, this can be a recipe for disaster whenever you do dips.
If your serratus anterior muscles are weak then your shoulder girdle won’t be strong enough to hold your own bodyweight.
Therefore, once again, this means that your connective tissues, such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons have to take the strain.
In other words, you’re no longer working your muscles, but rather these connective tissues.
And it is this that causes discomfort (possibly pain) in the ribs and sternum.
So, it makes sense to increase strength and mobility in the serratus anterior.
Not only will this help you dip pain-free, but it will also help you perform many other exercises more effectively.
As an example, many people claim that they suffer from lat pain during push ups, but this is actually due to weak serratus anterior muscles.
RELATED===>Why Are My Lats Sore After Push Ups?
A few exercises that will really help with serratus anterior strength and mobility include any type of pullover.
Therefore, dumbbell or barbell pullovers, where you can really stretch out the serratus anterior muscles.
Plus, scapula push ups will also work the serratus anterior to great effect.
Scapula Push Ups
3. Perform a Dip-Specific Warm-Up
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you just how important performing a warm-up prior to exercise is.
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However, a decent warm-up shouldn’t just involve a few “easy reps” on the exercise you’re going to perform.
Granted, this does prepare the muscles for what they’re about to face, but it definitely isn’t enough.
Plus, this is especially true when your shoulder girdle is involved.
Basically, there’s too much opportunity for injury here without a proper warm-up.
So, your warm-up for dips should involve opening up the front of the body, in other pulling your pecs apart.
Furthermore, you’ll also want to stabilise your thoracic spine.
And of course, all great warm-up routines will also elevate your heart rate, as well as working your core muscles.
I would even include muscles such as your glutes and hamstrings during your warm-up, as you’ll be surprised that they do have some involvement during dips.
Here’s a great video by Fitness For Freedom which completely covers how to warm-up for dips.
Warm-Ups For Dips
So, as you can see, the fix for sternum pain from dips is actually threefold.
Firstly, you shouldn’t allow your upper arms to go beyond parallel.
In other words, if you dip too deep, you’re more likely to feel it in your sternum.
Secondly, sternum pain often points to a weakness of the serratus anterior muscles.
Now, considering these are some of the most under trained muscles in the human body, this could be a very likely cause.
Thirdly, and finally, you should always perform a dip-specific warm-up, as evidenced in the video above.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.