How Chris’s Hip Replacement Transformed the Way He Trains With Clients

by Sasha Reddy

Too much of a good thing is not a good thing – that’s why overuse injuries are so common in athletes and frequent exercise-goers. Personal Trainer Chris Dollard learned this lesson the hard way through a particularly challenging hip replacement and rehabilitation.

“I think I developed a lot of my issues from powerlifting,” says Chris. Before his days as a trainer at HAC, he became invested in strength training and bodybuilding. As often as five days a week, he was at the gym straining underneath weight in excess of 400 pounds. Over the years, Chris began to develop pain in his lumbar spine and right hip. Wanting to pinpoint the source of his pain and investigate ways to improve his routine led Chris to attain his Personal Training certification and become a Corrective Exercise Specialist. He joined the HAC team part-time shortly after that in 2012.

With his new fitness know-how, Chris began preaching to his clients the importance of practicing good form, improving balance, and determining how much exercise is too much. Injury prevention became his focus as a trainer; finding ways to exercise without exacerbating his pain became a personal priority.

Despite Chris’s best efforts to develop good exercise habits and strengthen his hip joint through corrective exercise, the damage from years of powerlifting had already been done. By 2017, the pain in his hip could no longer go unaddressed – Chris couldn’t even bend down to tie his shoe. After a near-fall, his doctor told him that he was long overdue for a replacement, and they put his surgery on the calendar.

Chris underwent an anterior hip replacement surgery, which involves incising the front of the hip rather than the back. The doctors chose this method to more effectively maneuver around layers of tissue and complete the surgery with minimal damage done. “My muscles were so tight from working out, they couldn’t move them,” Chris remembers. Though this operation typically takes about 90 minutes, surgeons worked on Chris’s hip for two and a half hours and could not prevent trauma to the area. This resulted in hip atrophy and, about four months post-op, hip bursitis – all of which spelled out a long, arduous recovery.

Chris’s 2016 SkiFitters

Though he’d heard that hip recovery is usually a walk in the park, it would be a much longer journey for Chris to get back to the athletic lifestyle he’d lived before. Because of the excess trauma he’d undergone, none of the post-op exercises he’d been asked to perform were really viable. “It took understanding my body, knowing what to do, reaching out to others in the field…to get myself back to where I was prior to surgery,” Chris says. His recovery strategy was three-fold: workouts and corrective exercise on his own around three times each week, physical therapy at ElitePT twice weekly, and muscle activation techniques (MAT) sessions with trainer Keith Glines as needed.

“I did a lot of corrective exercise around my quad muscles, my hamstring muscles, and especially my glute muscles,” Chris says. While rehabbing, he prioritized exercises that would strengthen but not strain his new hip and the surrounding muscles. Band work, bridges, and myofascial tissue rolling were in; squats, deep lunges, and other movements that required an extensive range of motion at the hip were out. Slowly but surely, the results showed.

Though Chris feels he will never be 100 percent back to the athlete he was, he’s built back up to a somewhat normal exercise regimen. In addition, his journey with pain and recovery has allowed him to empathize with clients that come to him with similar issues. “Everybody’s muscles are different,” Chris says, reinforcing the importance of finding an individualized approach for each client looking to regain strength and mobility while on the mend.

In addition to powerlifting, Chris is a life-long lover of skiing. He has taught SkiFit, a Small Group Personal Training class focused on preparing athletes for ski season, on and off since 2014. For years, he has partnered with the Wilmington Ski Club, hosting exercise demonstrations and talks for the club’s members to drum up interest in his classes at HAC. And, throughout his recovery, Chris’s SkiFit family has never ceased rooting for him, encouraging him to take it slow, all the while cheering him on at every milestone. Regretfully, Chris has yet to return to the slopes since his surgery; he was gearing up for a trip with his class participants early in 2020 right before the pandemic hit. Still, he’s excited to be able to return to teaching his beloved SkiFit class this season.

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