Better Than A Plank: Body Saws

Cats, oatmeal, hot yoga, Barry Manilow, reality TV, and planks.  These are all things that people lovvvveeeee but are overrated.  There’s a lot of hype for each of those in their respective fields, but when you look at what you’re getting, it’s not a whole lot.  I did a super-scientific poll to look at the plank specifically, and these were my results:


Planks aren’t an inherently bad exercise, they’re great, but endurance planking isn’t very efficient, and it’s boring as all hell.  Who wants to stare at a clock with their abs burning when they’re not even moving?!  Only the Cat Lady.  Rather than staying stationary, let’s take the plank on the move with an exercise called the Body Saw.

Body saws are fantastic because they take that plank position and move it forward and backward, just like a saw moving through wood.  Despite the short range of motion, there’s a noticeable increase in the amount of tension needed to maintain that plank position throughout the exercise.  It may look like a saw to the casual observer, but to the person who is exercising, they might feel like they’ve met a magician.


Body saws are magical because they take something which looks very simple, the plank, and makes them very hard.  There are variations that can be done with exercise balls, ValSlides, a TRX, or socks on a slippery floor; we’ll touch those variations at a later date.  Today, I’m going to show you a variation with a slide board.

The key to doing the slide board body saw is having an awesome plank.  It you can’t plank properly, how can it be better than a plank?  Once in a plank position on the slide board, push through your forearms so your body slides away from your feet.  The further you go, the more tension is created, and the more strength is needed to maintain that plank position.  Slide several inches, then reverse the movement.  Here’s an example:

You can see that I’m maintaining a plank position the whole time, and that the range of motion is relatively short.  This ensures that throughout the range of motion the plank position is respected as “home”.  Shoulders don’t pop up, hips don’t sag, and we keep our lower backs in a safe position.  It’s a tremendous ab exercise and can be done without the volume that people typically use for planks.  3-4 sets of 6-12 reps.  After that, you may want to look for a more challenging variation.

And that, kids, is how I met your mother what makes the slideboard body saw better than a plank.

8 Replies to “Better Than A Plank: Body Saws”

  1. I introduced these to a Tabata Class using cardboard on wood flooring and after round 1 of 6 I had less friends.
    I lost 3x as many friends when I told them to do Bridging Hamstring/heel Slides right after with that same piece of cardboard.

    and you graphic is misleading there are not that many people who enjoy the plank.

    1. I take a perverse pleasure in demonstrating body saws and pretending they’re easy, and then watching the “HOLY SHIT WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!?” reaction that many of my clients/athletes have when they realize that these are a doozie.

      I was trying to be optimistic with the picture. I know pretty much everyone hates them!

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