This Is What Dana Linn Bailey Wishes She Knew Before She Started Training

Building an award-winning physique requires years of relentless effort, dedication, and commitment. Former Women’s Physique Olympia champion Dana Linn Bailey revealed seven tips she wishes she had known before starting working out

“These…will enhance your training, improve recovery, and keep you safe.

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7 Tips Bailey Wishes She Knew

Use a weightlifting belt for heavier lifts

Wear knee sleeves throughout the leg workout

Squat in weightlifting shoes

Do hip circle resistance band exercises to warm up the glutes on a leg day

Use lifting straps in back workouts

Get a personalized training plan

Carry a gym bag

Check out a video of Bailey breaking each tip down below, courtesy of her YouTube channel:

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Use a Weightlifting Belt for Heavier Lifts

Bailey recommends using a weightlifting belt for heavy compound movements like squats and bent-over rows to keep the core and back safe. 

The 40-year-old did not wear a weightlifting belt in the early stages of her career, believing it would enhance her core strength. However, she added that lifting heavy without a belt was a contributing factor to her developing a hernia. In this condition, abdominal contents protrude through a weakened area in the abdominal wall.

Since then, wearing a weightlifting belt has kept her midline safe and improved her strength levels without compromising core strength development.

Bailey advises using a thick power weightlifting belt with a larger surface area, enabling a better brace. This helps generate greater intra-abdominal pressure, which supports the spine and reduces injury risk caused by rounding or flexing of the spine under load. (1)

Wear Knee Sleeves Throughout the Leg Workout

Bailey wears neoprene knee sleeves while training legs to keep her knees warm and safe. Neoprene is an insulating material that helps retain body heat around the knee joint, promoting blood flow, which can reduce stiffness and improve joint lubrication.

“I don’t feel safe not wearing knee sleeves [on a leg day],” said Bailey. 

Plus, the compression provided by the knee sleeves helps stabilize the knee joint, which can improve squatting and lunging form and performance. It can also reduce post-workout soreness and inflammation. (2)(3)

The compression and warmth from the sleeves can also help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with knee conditions like tendonitis.

Squat in Weightlifting Shoes

Bailey recommends against squatting or lunging in running shoes as their thick midsoles can create instability, leading to compromised form and increased injury risk. 

When training legs, [choose] a sturdy shoe with a nice heel height.

Weightlifting shoes have elevated heels that improve ankle mobility, enhance squat depth, and allow you to maintain an upright posture during the lowering phase of the squat, ensuring optimal quad loading. (4

Bailey prefers Reebok Legacy Lifters but recommends finding a weightlifting shoe that suits your foot anatomy. On a leg day, Bailey carries two pairs of shoes to the gym: a weightlifting shoe for heavy squats and a versatile, functional trainer for more dynamic movements like box jumps and step-ups

Perform Hip Circle Resistance Band Exercises To Warm up the Glutes

In addition to her gym essentials, Bailey ensures she has her hip circle, also known as a booty band, with her while traveling. She uses the hip circle to warm up before a leg training session, which can also be used to target the glutes during squats.

The Pennsylvania native occasionally wears the hip circle while squatting, which forces her to actively push outward against the band throughout her range of motion (ROM), reinforcing proper knee alignment and maximizing glute and abductor stimulation. (5)

Use Lifting Straps in Back Workouts

Bailey suggests employing wrist straps during pull-day workouts to prevent grip fatigue from limiting your ability to engage the lats and other major muscle groups fully. (6)

To grow back, don’t let your arms or grip be limiting factors.

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Get a Personalized Training Plan

A well-structured workout plan is key to maximizing gym performance and consistently progressing. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine concluded that personalized exercise programs may be more effective than standardized programs for improving training adaptations. (7)

Carry a Gym Bag

Commercial gyms offer standard equipment but often lack specialized tools to boost your training performance. A dedicated gym bag with multiple compartments is ideal for keeping your gear organized and accessible.

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Lander, J. E., Simonton, R. L., & Giacobbe, J. K. (1990). The effectiveness of weight-belts during the squat exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 22(1), 117–126.

Machek, S. B., Cardaci, T. D., Wilburn, D. T., Cholewinski, M. C., Latt, S. L., Harris, D. R., & Willoughby, D. S. (2021). Neoprene Knee Sleeves of Varying Tightness Augment Barbell Squat One Repetition Maximum Performance Without Improving Other Indices of Muscular Strength, Power, or Endurance. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 35(Suppl 1), S6–S15.

Mohd Sharif, N. A., Usman, J., Wan Safwani, W. K. Z., Siew Li, G., Abdul Karim, S., Mohamed, N. A., Khan, S. S., & Khan, S. J. (2019). Effects of simple knee sleeves on pain and knee adduction moment in early unilateral knee osteoarthritis. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Part H, Journal of engineering in medicine, 233(11), 1132–1140.

Pangan, A. M., & Leineweber, M. (2021). Footwear and Elevated Heel Influence on Barbell Back Squat: A Review. Journal of biomechanical engineering, 143(9), 090801.

Forman DA, Alizadeh S, Button DC, Holmes MW. The Use of Elastic Resistance Bands to Reduce Dynamic Knee Valgus in Squat-Based Movements: A Narrative Review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2023;18(5):1206-1217. Published 2023 Oct 1. doi:10.26603/001c.87764

Jukic, I., García-Ramos, A., Baláš, J., Malecek, J., Omcirk, D., & Tufano, J. J. (2021). Ergogenic effects of lifting straps on movement velocity, grip strength, perceived exertion and grip security during the deadlift exercise. Physiology & behavior, 229, 113283.

Weatherwax RM, Nelson MC, Dalleck LC. The Impact of Personalized versus Standardized Cardiorespiratory and Muscular Training on Health-Related Outcomes and Rate of Responders. J Sports Sci Med. 2024;23(1):209-218. Published 2024 Mar 1. doi:10.52082/jssm.2024.209

Featured image: @danalinnbailey on Instagram

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