The book opener stretch is a Pilates movement that gently rotates the spine whilst stretching the chest and mobilizing your shoulders one at a time. It requires no equipment but you may benefit from a yoga mat or soft surface as you will be laid down on your side.
It is popular in physical therapy and a great addition to any daily stretching routine.
We’ve featured it in lots of our virtual fitness challenges here at fitness drum.
How to Perform the Book Opener Stretch
Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to perform this movement.
- Step 1. Lay on your side, with your knees in line with your hips, legs bent and arms out straight in front of you.
- Step 2. Breathe in as your begin to raise your upper arm up to the ceiling and over your body. Imagine you are mimicking the movement of opening a book with your arm.
- Step 3. Follow the path of your outstretched arm with your head and allow your spine and chest to rotate with the movement.
- Step 4. Exhale as you allow your chest and spine to continue the movement of your arm all the way over your body until you begin to feel the stretch around your ribs. For some this may be when your arm is flat on the opposite side of your body but for others it will not be as far as this. Stop at what feels comfortable for you.
- Step 5. Once you feel the stretch, with your arm on the opposite side of your body, your spine and chest should also have rotated so that your chest is facing the ceiling and your back is flat. You should feel the gentle twist as your hips remains still throughout the movement.
- Step 6. Take a deep breathe whilst holding this position before exhaling as your rotate your body back to the starting position.
- Step 7. Repeat this movement for 5-10 repetitions on both sides of your body.
Book Opener Stretch Variations
You could use a pillow to support your neck and head or alternatively, use the arm that remains still to cushion your head.
Our recent buyer’s guide delves into the best Pilates head cushions and supports for movements just like this. Getting a head support can really help improve your alignment between your neck and back, ensuring you don’t strain your neck as you try to keep your head upright.
Elbows not arms
Some may find the stretch easier with both arms starting bent at the elbows and held either side of your head. As you rotate your chest, spine and shoulder, the upper arm will mimic the movement of opening the book and allow for the same gentle twist in the upper body as the hips remain still. It’s worth experimenting with what feels most comfortable to you.
Muscles Worked During the Stretch
The more obvious muscles groups worked here are in the chest, frontal shoulders and of course the thoracic region of your spine. You will also find your abdominals are engaged to maintain a stable core at your hips. This allows you to feel the gentle twist as you rotate your spine, chest and shoulders into the stretch.
For a stretch that’s both gentle and rewarding, try the book opener today. Remember to always be gentle on your body, particularly with the twisting motion and if you feel any pain, stop and seek advice from a professional.
Book Opener Benefits
Book openers are a great choice for improving the mobility of the thoracic region of the spine. This part of the body facilitates the movement and function of other parts of your body too, particularly in the shoulders and neck.
Maintaining and improving the mobility of your spine and shoulders, whilst also gently stretching your chest and arm muscles will help to reduce the chance of injury to these areas of the body.
Relieve Upper Body Stiffness
Particularly useful if you spend long periods sat at a desk, the book opener helps to loosen the areas in the upper body that commonly suffer as a result of prolonged stationary positions, such as the shoulders, neck and back.
Similarly, if you’ve been doing some strength training and followed some exercises to tighten and scuplt your chest, you may find a stretch like book openers really helps to avoid stiffness the following days.
A stable core is required to keep your hips from rotating with your chest and spine. Strength in your core is linked with many benefits including better posture, balance and stability.