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hands-in-circle-connections-teamwork

Cultivate Connections!

Cultivate connections and build relationships within your professional field. There are enough clients and work to go around for all of us. Consider how collaborating with other professionals in your area or the periphery of your field may make you better at what you do. We are better when working together, and I believe our clients are better off. 

As a Fitness professional working in the collegiate realm, this has been of the utmost importance to me and my career. Collaborating on a team to produce the best product has been a great learning experience. And let’s face it, when we work together, it expounds upon the individual ideas and makes them grander. We also get the opportunity to hear other points of view and fresh ideas.

Being able to draw on the knowledge of others is an immeasurable way to learn and grow in your area of expertise. The benefits of mentoring and being mentored by others are also invaluable. Think back to who has mentored you in your profession. How has that experience shaped your practice today? How can you pour into others to share your knowledge?

As a personal trainer, I try to build relationships with other professionals in my area. There will come a time in your career when a client presents with an issue outside your scope of practice. Having a list of reliable professionals, you can refer for your client is wonderful. This often yields better results for the client than searching the internet for a provider. And yes, I even have relationships with other trainers. Not every trainer is suitable for every person. Here is a list of the health professionals I have built relationships within my area.

  • Chiropractors
  • Acupuncturist 
  • Counselors/therapist
  • Group instructors
  • Massage therapist
  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Personal trainers
  • Physical therapist
  • Registered Dieticians

It has been one of my greatest privileges to work alongside a Physical therapist (PT) to graduate a client from PT to Personal training. I have learned so much about injuries and rehab and have built trusted relationships that I can refer my clients to, AND I have been referred to by those professionals as well. 

An important caveat; work within your scope of practice. If the opportunity arrives to work with another health professional, obtain the proper RFI or Request For Information. This document says that the client/patient has permitted the two professionals to share information on that person. Abiding by all HIPA laws and regulations, use this information to help bring the client/patient to better whole health. 

I know that what I offer as a personal trainer is not the only thing my clients need in their life for whole-body health. Sometimes possibly combining massage with our workouts is what brings their bodies to better health. Another example is counseling. It may be that the stress in life is making it more difficult for my client to reach their full potential; talk therapy may make the physical workout more productive. 

If we keep in mind, as health professionals, that we are working toward the whole-body health of our clients/patients, this style of practice is not complex. If we are honest, it is the same for us. Complete whole-body health has many different facets.  

Cultivate, Build, and Grow! 


Shannon Briggs is a multi-passionate fitness professional and educator. She brings 30-plus years of experience to a long, fulfilling career in the fitness industry. In the past 13 years at the University of Texas at Austin, Shannon has led continuing education workshops in multiple group fitness formats and topics specific to personal training; she also has written the curriculum and manuals for numerous workshops accredited by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Shannon is currently a monthly contributor to Campus Rec Magazine for Fitness and Wellness.

trainer-and-middle-aged-client

To Spoil or Not to Spoil…That is the Question

Personal Trainers, do you SPOIL your clients?

Do you keep your clients reliant on YOU?

I used to think this was a good practice. I even thought of it as Full-Service Personal Training. But in hindsight, I wasn’t teaching my clients to be responsible for their health and fitness.

I enjoy serving my clients, bringing their dumbbells to them, taking their dumbbells, and re-stacking them. I let my clients get comfortable on the bench before giving them the bells or bar to press. I move Bosu balls and re-adjust TRX straps for my clients constantly. I have spent many hours wiping down equipment for my clients before and after use. I have adjusted weight machine bench heights, placed pins in plates, safety hooks on barbells, and the list goes on and on and on.

I thought this action was being kind and a good service provider. I am willing to bet many of you have also done this with your clients.

Flash forward 30 years in the industry. I am about to have hand surgery on my dominant hand. It is a minor surgery, but surgery non the less, and I will not be able to serve my clients in this same way while I am healing.

I have spent the last month teaching my clients how to load and de-load dumbbells safely from a bench press and how to set each weight machine for their height. Many of my clients didn’t even know how much weight they had been lifting; they just did what I said and trusted me to hand them the proper equipment.

I have spent time explaining the lengths of the TRX straps for different exercises and shown them how to adjust the straps by themselves.

This has been a big lesson for me. Doing everything for our clients only creates a client with a considerable amount of dependency on you, the trainer. This, in turn, produces less self-efficacy outside of your sessions, resulting in less progress towards their fitness and health goals.

As Professional Fitness Trainers, our ultimate goal is for our clients to be healthy. We may not always be there for them. What if you move or they move? What if you have surgery or an accident? Make sure your clients can care for their fitness with knowledge and safety.

Don’t get into the habit of full-service training. If you already have been doing it as I was, begin the de-programming process for your clients. That is the best long-term way to serve them and their health goals.

I know what some of you are thinking – if they can do it all independently, they won’t need us anymore. However, I’m afraid I must disagree. Your job is to program well and continually challenge your clients appropriately for their fitness level and health goals. If you continue to do that while educating them on the how and why of what you are doing, the sky is the limit for their success and yours! Happy Training!


Shannon Briggs is a multi-passionate fitness professional and educator. She brings 30-plus years of experience to a long, fulfilling career in the fitness industry. In the past 13 years at the University of Texas at Austin, Shannon has led continuing education workshops in multiple group fitness formats and topics specific to personal training; she also has written the curriculum and manuals for numerous workshops accredited by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Shannon is currently a monthly contributor to Campus Rec Magazine for Fitness and Wellness.

Senior woman with help of physiotherapist

Trainers Can Make a Difference: A Personal Trainer’s Effect on Knee Surgery Preparation

One of my highest honors as a Personal Trainer has been to work alongside my clients in preparation for knee surgery and post-surgery rehabilitation. Working alongside a Physical Therapist (with the client’s permission to share information) to bring the client to a complete recovery has been a privilege and an excellent learning opportunity.  

Pre and post-surgery are two very different stages, but both require the client and trainer’s knowledge, trust, and commitment. Today I will focus on the preparation for knee surgery from the perspective of a Personal Trainer. 

First and foremost, the Personal Trainer must act within their scope of practice.  Most nationally accredited Personal Trainer certifying agencies have clearly outlined the scope of practice that a trainer must work within. 

Here are a few DO’s and DON’Ts from The American Council on Exercise (ACE) that apply to the subject of pre-knee surgery clientele. 

Personal Trainers DO receive guidelines from Physicians or Physical Therapists. They DO design exercise programs, refer clients to appropriate allied health professionals or medical practitioners if needed. Trainers DO design exercise programs after a client has been released from rehab, and as trainers, we work with clients, not patients.  

Personal Trainers DON’T diagnose, prescribe, treat injuries or disease, rehabilitate or work with patients. 

There was a time when I would stop working with a client as they were awaiting knee surgery for fear of causing more damage. Still, after going through my own knee surgery, I realized there is much I could have done to prepare appropriately and that trainers can do for clients as they prepare for surgery to help put them in the best possible position for a full recovery. 

One significant preparation step for any knee surgery, often overlooked, is upper body strength. The client will likely be on crutches or possibly a wheelchair post-surgery.  When your legs are not fully functioning, you rely heavily on your upper body to move from place to place, from sitting to standing and getting to your Physical Therapy sessions.  I found success doing body weight work for the upper body in preparation is very helpful and can prevent shoulder injury as the client needs to move their body from bed to crutches or crutches to toilet and the like. Lifting out of a chair and putting a large amount of body weight on the arms is exhausting and, again, can strain or injure those joints and muscles, which can put the healing process from the surgery leg on a slower rehab pace. 

Body weight exercises for the client pre-surgery can be as simple as lifting and scooting themselves laterally across a bench, or maybe learning to use rail support to lift themselves out of a seated position, sitting with legs extended on a mat on the floor, lifting their hips to clear the ground to shift around.  Engaging and strengthening the shoulders, biceps, triceps, and even strengthening the wrists and handgrip has excellent benefits.  Encouraging core work from all six sides (Rectus abdominus – front, erector spinae – back, Obliques internal and external – right and left, diaphragm – top, and pelvic floor – bottom) to support the upper body moving the body weight is very beneficial.  We also shouldn’t forget mobility and stability in the upper body to assist in recovery. 

The second important step to surgery preparation is strengthening the muscles that support the knee in all directions. This will allow the client to be in the best possible condition to rehabilitate well. It may be necessary to be creative in finding ways to do this without putting weight on the knee joint.  Place a high priority on mobility and strengthening in the upper leg; quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, glutes: the lower leg;  gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis, and lower leg extensor muscles. 

Personal Trainers can make a difference. Stay within your scope of practice, educate yourself on knee health, and take advantage of every opportunity to collaborate with a physical therapist or medical practitioner to learn, grow, and serve your clients with the highest quality. 

With knowledge, trust, and commitment, trainers can make a marked difference in the clients’ recovery. 


Shannon Briggs is a multi-passionate fitness professional and educator. She brings 30 plus years of experience to a long, fulfilling career in the fitness industry. In the past 13 years at the University of Texas at Austin, Shannon has led continuing education workshops in multiple group fitness formats and topics specific to personal training; she also has written the curriculum and manuals for numerous workshops accredited by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Shannon is currently a monthly contributor to Campus Rec Magazine for Fitness and Wellness.