Pilates Mat Exercise | The Saw | Trifocus Fitness Academy

Just a twist and dip… The name of this Pilates mat exercise is so beautifully transparent and accurate in description as it conjures up such powerful imagery in one’s mind.

Just as a sharp strong saw glides through wood so too would one ideally perform this Pilates exercise effortlessly in a ‘saw’ or slice-through-the-air action on the required twist and dip down to the ankle, while your wrist sweeps towards your toes.

This Pilates exercise looks very simple but is actually incredibly challenging. One would think that sitting on the floor with your legs out, feet flexed, back straight and twisting your body from one side to the other with a dip down to the ankle would be a simple series of movements to negotiate, however if executed properly with precision, the saw challenges the body in its entirety.


  • Seated tall with legs apart and parallel. Feet flexed.
  • Lift arms to shoulder height and extend to the sides so they are in a stable T position, palms facing forward.

Breathing sequence

  • Inhale: Contract your abdominals tightly as you rotate your torso to the right (count three slow counts to rotate)
  • Exhale: Flex your torso over the right leg extend your left arm over your right foot.
  • Inhale: Sit up tall in your rotated position.
  • Exhale: Twist back to starting position.

(Repeat the movement on the opposite side)

Body benefits

  • Strengthening of abdominal muscles especially the internal and exetrrnal obliques as well as the rectus abdominis and tranverse abdominis.
  • Strengthening and flexibility of hamstrings.
  • Strengthening of back extensor muscles and the erector spinae that consists of three columns of muscles, the iliocostal, longissimus dorsi and spinalis.
  • Increased spinal rotation and mobility.
  • Pelvic stability.

Points to ponder

  • Sit evenly balanced on tightly squeezed buttocks.
  • Keep your scapulae stabilised by keeping your shoulders far away from your ears, especially when reaching towards your ankle.
  • Anchor your hips down.
  • Keep your abdominals connected at all times.
  •  Three – six  repetitions on each side.
  • Try sit on a prop like a thin block if your back is tight or hamstrings are very short.
  • One could also modify the exercise by standing. This is called the standing saw.

There are two exercises that come before the saw:

  • Spine stretch forward, and
  • Spine twist.

Master these two exercises before moving on to the saw as it is not only a rotational exercise but is also armed  with the added challenge of crossing the midline while in a forward bend. The movements performed in the saw are a certainty in our everyday lives. Providing you have no back injury, get on your mat and start practising!

If you are interested in starting an exciting career as a Pilates instructor, Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Pilates Certification is the course for you! Click here for more information.


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