Your core is an integral part of daily functions and your athletic performance—it’s used every time you sneeze, cough, have a bowel movement, pick things up, or do something more obvious… like sprint. Professional sprinter and Olympic hopeful Jaide Stepter Baynes can attest to this and, here, she shares the ab exercises that have helped her prepare for the 2021 U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.

Training for the Olympics during the pandemic has had its challenges, but Stepter Baynes has taken it in stride, finding ways to get creative and accomplish her goal of representing Team USA in the 400-meter dash in Tokyo. Not having access to essential resources like a weight room and track, Stepter Baynes resorted to at-home strength circuits, road runs, and hill sprints. But one thing that stayed consistent in her training plan was her core routine.

To be an efficient, powerful, fast sprinter, you’ve got to be mentally strong, you need strong legs and arms, and you absolutely have to have a strong core to stabilize your hips and pelvis in order to produce power as you sprint around the track and maintain your technique.

“I actually started doing Pilates at the end of 2019. One of the things that I’ve always wanted to get stronger is my core,” says Stepter Baynes. In her off-season, Stepter Baynes began mixing up her training, doing road runs to the Pilates studio followed by a Pilates workout. “The strength I felt after doing that consistently was amazing. I could just feel a more wholesome foundation.”

Additionally, she noticed that the back pain she had been experiencing dissipated as Pilates taught her to be more aware of her body positions. On the track, she also sees the payoff. For example, as her body begins to fatigue during intervals at practice and during the final 100-meter stretch in competitions, she’s able to maintain proper form and drive her knees higher, “because I’m holding my body in the right position.”

Currently, Stepter Baynes does Pilates “at least once a week,” and says her go-to Pilates ab exercises are planks (especially the reverse plank variation), weighted V-ups, and the dead bug.

How to do a plank

“If you just only did planks for the rest of your life, you’re solid in my opinion,” she says. Here’s how to do it:

How to do a weighted V-up

Stepter says weighted V-ups and even weighted side V-ups strengthen and tone both her core and arms. Before jumping into a weighted V-up, nail the bodyweight version. Here’s how to do it:

How to do a dead bug

The dead bug is “super good for control,” says Stepter Baynes. Here’s how to do it:

Show your abs even more attention with this 15-minute runner’s core workout: 

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