Interview Series Part 4 of 5: Chris Tran

Exercise, Experts and Spine & Joint Health

(Back for more? Skip the introduction and go directly to Part 4)

The health benefits of regular exercise are well known.  We exercise for weight loss, physical therapy, enhanced performance, aesthetics, and general well-being.  I see patients from all walks of life and each one of them faces his own unique set of challenges to health and fitness. Injuries can pose short-term or long-term challenges and frustration.  It’s easy to feel as if you’re backsliding rather than making strides toward your fitness goals.

As a chiropractor, I know that spine and joint protection are key to avoiding injury during exercise. I look at exercise through this lens and attempt to educate my patients about the structure and function of their spines and joints.  I also want my patients to enjoy the fulfillment which comes from exercising in a variety of ways while experiencing pain-free training.

With that goal in mind, I’ve created a 5-part educational series in which I interview a master Pilates instructor, yoga instructor, physical therapist, strength coach, and a spin instructor.  I want to introduce you to different types of exercise with an emphasis on spine and joint protection.  I hope you’ll benefit from the unique insights provided by these fitness experts.

Christopher Tran, Lead Personal Trainer

My fourth conversation was with Chris Tran, lead trainer and co-owner at Elite Generation Training.  I talked with him recently about personal training, mechanics, integrated care, and the fitness industry.  You can learn more about Chris by visiting: Elite Generation Training. Here are the questions I posed to him and excerpts from his responses.

What attracted you to pursue personal training and what about the job excites you?

Answer: I’ve been into fitness for 13 years. It seems like so many people in the health and fitness fields have different views about the purpose of personal training.  They seem to compete against one another rather than working together for the purpose of empowering the client to achieve his health and fitness goals. I pursued personal training to do this task. There’s only so much a personal trainer is able and allowed to do, but for my part, I prioritize my client’s goal before anything.

The most exciting part about personal training is seeing my clients reach their goals. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings to see them do things they never thought that they could do (or ever do again).

How do you balance results with injury prevention? Can you provide a specific example?

Answer: It’s actually quite simple. I start with a couple of handpicked screening processes to evaluate which movements the client is able and unable to do.   My screening process tells me everything I need to know about how the client’s body moves.  From there, I proceed with exercises that incorporate the seven basic human movements. Then, I develop a workout schedule/program to help keep everything on track.

This next part is the most important: I teach/coach the squat, deadlift and overhead press. They are my staple exercises because when done properly, they can prevent injury.  This enables me to achieve results and maintain the client’s safety.

From my experience most people need to work on their posture. Does this play a factor in how you approach movement and function?

Answer: Of course, but I don’t like to think of it as posture work. I’m very exact when I teach positioning for every single exercise. I know if I get the client in a certain position, it will cause a chain reaction and fix poor posture indirectly. I don’t like putting too much focus on the traditional methods of posture work, (i.e. saying “pull the shoulders back,” or doing cable rows to help with rounded shoulders).

What sort of things do you consider when developing a training strategy?

Answer: I prioritize getting the client to be able to feel what I need them to feel, such as what muscles are turned on and off.  Another major priority of mine is getting the body into anatomical neutral—aligning everything in all three body planes and checking the fascia lines.

Elite Generation Training, Lake Forest

Elite Generation Training, Lake Forest

How do you devise and implement a program with joint preservation in mind?

Answer: This goes back to the squat, deadlift and press. Getting into the right position in these movements will preserve all the joints.

Do you face client pushback and if so how do you remove those constraints?

Answer: Actually, not really. My clients love that fact that I’m so specific about what I want them to do. I always explain why it’s so important to get into a specific position, which I find reassures and develops a strong rapport with the client.

What training method(s) do you utilize i.e. non-linear periodization, cluster, block, conjugate, etc?

Answer: This is a hard one. I incorporate a little bit of everything depending on the client, the goal, and previous exercise experience.  If I had to pick two methods, I would say non-linear/linear periodization and conjugate.  If the goal is prehab/rehab, I utilize isometric/eccentric work and partial repetitions.

If you could correct one mishandled exercise, which would it be and how would you go about it?

Answer: Definitely the squat! Oh my…where do I start? I guess it would depend on the person and how his/her hips and socket move. Since most people have an anterior pelvic tilt, they naturally hinge at the hips, shifting most of the tension of the weight in the low back and hips. I’m a true believer in sweeping the knees under the hip, or starting the movement with the knees instead of the hips. This keeps the torso more upright because the hip starts in a more neutral position.

I thank Chris for this interview. It's clear that his passions and purpose are in alignment. I suppose that is why he works hard to help his clients reach their goals.  I respect his approach to training and personalized health care. If you have questions for Chris or would like to find out more about Elite GenerationTraining's services click here for the contact info.