It’s Day 11 of March MATness, which means Pilates geeks around the world are depicting The Saw from Joe Pilates’ book A Return to Life through Contrology. Truth be told, in the beginning of my Pilates addiction, this one was one of my most hated exercises. I came in strong, but man, was I TIGHT.  Today, that experience helps me help my tight clients.

Related Exercises that we’ve already done:

  • Roll Up
  • Spine Stretch

The Basics:

  • Sit upright with your legs splayed in a straddle position.
  • Reach your arms wide.
  • Keep your sit bones and legs down on the mat as you twist and reach forward, sawing off your little toe with your little finger.

Pilates Magic Happening here:

  • Power Leg: the backs of my legs are pressing down into the mat. This turns on more muscle fibers throughout my entire body, than if I just flopped my legs down on the mat. Squeeze more work out of your exercises by incorporating more muscles. (Yes, I realize there is a space behind my knee. I have a 17″ viking calf! Look at my kneecap — the joint is fully extended.)
  • Super Hero Shoulders: the fancy photography hides my super hero shoulder a bit. In the start position, my shoulder stays lined up with my earlobe; it doesn’t slide forward into a hunch. As I twist and reach, my shoulder blades stay back.
  • Control Freak: Press. Those. Legs. Down.  I know, I know, mine want to edge around and float up too. Push them down and you’ll feel more ooomph in your Powerhouse.
  • Two-way Reach: yes, it’s happening here too! The stomach pulls back, as the heels push forward.

Teaching Tips:

  • Right from the get-go, check how easy or challenging it is your client to sit tall in this position. I like to get those legs working on full extension, so I’ll often add a moon box (or an additional mat) under the hips so that they can start with good posture.
  • Try doing this exercise with your feet pressing into a wall. Having the tactile feedback often gives clients a greater range of motion.
  • Doing this on your own, and you wish you had someone to give you a little pull? The Pilates are NOT watching. Put your back hand down on the mat and PUSH your torso forward. As long as your sit bones stay down, you’re doing fine.
  • I love to use the Tower Push Through bar when working on this exercise with clients. Start with basic push-through and push-up, and then move to the 1-arm version that includes reaching behind and then sawing off a foot.
  • Advanced: try adding a weighted dowel across your shoulders. Some of my students like using small hand weights to get a little extra pull.