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Meet Juan Carlos Santana of Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Juan Carlos Santana.

Juan Carlos, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My love for human performance and training started at a young age. As far back as I can remember, I was always in awe of athletes, especially fighters. As a youngster, I played all little league sports. At the age of 12, I started a formal exercise program that I would complete every day after school. My 90-minute program consisted of various calisthenics and spring-resisted exercises. By the time I was 13, I was introduced to Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do. I loved the way Bruce saw the world, as a student of life. I credit him with teaching me how to learn “outside the box.” Bruce always saw things, especially the martial arts, with childlike eyes; he saw things for what they were, not how they were portrayed by tradition. His “no-holds-barred” philosophy became my “systemless system.” He taught me that change was to be welcomed if it was a part of learning.
By the time I was 14, my training had become deliberate but unorthodox. My disciplined training and practice honed my martial arts skills to a very high level for that young age. During my high school years, I focused in the grappling arts and learned about true sacrifice and discipline from my wrestling coach, Andy Siegel. Coach Siegel is still one tough son-of-a-gun that hates apathy and lack of heart. I have always credited coach Siegel with christening me into manhood. The discipline I developed with him still carries me to this day. Since those early years, I have competed at the state and national level in five different sports. My competitive career ended in 2004 (at 45). I was fortunate to take a Bronze Medal at the 2004 Masters’ Judo Nationals, in the 100 kg class. My body is pretty beat up from over 30 years of hard training and competition, now I concentrate on helping my young athletes avoid the abusive pitfalls of useless and excessive over-training.

What has been your career progression that has led you to where you are right now?
I have been in the fitness industry since I was 14 years old. At that young age, I was named manager and given the keys to Brody’s Gym in the heart of Miami. That meant, I got paid to open, close, clean, take money for the apple cider and I did not have to pay for a membership. Since Mr. Brody was a Miami Dade Sheriff, Brody’s Gym was home to FBI agents, police officers, champion bodybuilders, powerlifters and other professional athletes. I spent countless hours at Brody’s and the older guys really appreciated my enthusiasm, discipline and maturity. Many of them wanted me to train with them because of the intensity I displayed. Many of these older guys became my friends and they took me under their wings. Through them I learned what real, hard-core training was all about. I look back to the Brody’s Gym years with great fondness and now realize that environment gave me a great insight into training and life in general. Since then, I have managed several fitness facilities in the Miami, Hollywood and Boca Raton areas at different stages in my life. The experience I gained in those early years served me well, every time I needed a job in the fitness industry.

I could not have imagined the success I have been blessed with over the last 25 years. Over that period, you (my friends and colleagues) have welcomed 70 videos, 17 books and over 300 articles in trade and peer-review journals. In my years as a musician, I was never asked for an autograph or a picture (but I did push my autograph on a third grader once). Now, that I’m just Juan Carlos, many of my industry friends flatter me with those same requests. I always humbly accept and thank them for the compliment. In 2001, I had the opportunity to open a dream training facility that is slowly becoming a true “institute” in the fitness industry, the Institute of Human Performance (IHP). IHP is the home of several special fitness professionals; they are the IHP Family. Without them, IHP would just be bricks and mortar. Instead, IHP is a place where creative energy lives without restrictions. I can tell you without hesitation, IHP is the birthplace of some of the most cutting-edge training methodologies the fitness industry has seen, and we have not even scratched the surface.

Did you have a mentor?
I have learned from many people I have called my mentors and teachers at some point in my life. The four that stand out are, my hero and father, Arnaldo Santana, philosopher and martial arts icon, Bruce Lee, my wrestling coach, Andy Siegel and functional training authority, Gary Gray.

I have seen from your bio that you have accomplished so much in the industry, are there things/goals that you still want to accomplish? What might they be?
I’m in a different very interesting stage in my life now, where I have accomplished more than I thought I ever would, in 25 years. However, I feel I’m coming into my own now and ready to expand consciousness to a new level and allow that expansion to manifest in my work. My next phase is to expand my educational materials globally. I now have the IHP educational system in over 20 different countries and want to continue that global effort! I also want to see IHP continue its growth as an R&D institution, a research facility and a successful commercial fitness facility. Of course, in this age of the internet, I would like to improve internet related activities at IHP, from improved educational experience to a more comprehensive offering of unique IHP fitness accessories.

You wear so many different hats in the industry (trainer, CEO, educator, researcher) can you tell me what one of your many hats is the most rewarding? Challenging?
Coaching my fighters is the most fun. Lecturing and developing our educational system worldwide is the most exciting. Administration of IHP, as commercial training facility (a fitness facility) and dealing with personnel is my least favorite.

What does a “typical” day in the life of Juan Carlos Santana look like?
Wake up at about 7 am and take care of emails till about 9 am. Go to IHP and handle daily issues of combat training, administration and meetings with my directors. Try to get some training in and finish up on emails and writing. Done by 5-6 pm – family time after that!

What is IHP? What makes it different than other training facilities?
IHP is the home of several special fitness professionals; they are the IHP family. Without them, IHP would just be bricks and mortar. Instead, IHP is a place where creative energy lives without restrictions. I can tell you without hesitation, IHP is the birthplace of some of the most cutting-edge training methodologies the fitness industry has seen and we have not even scratched the surface.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Life provides one what one needs and sometime, it is not palatable, lol! There have been beautiful moments and difficult ones. I have seen the birth of 3 of my 4 children while at IHP; I have seen them play and learn about fitness withing its walls. I have also seen 9-11 while at IHP and survived the 2008 recession. I have had FPL transformers blow and ruin tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment when I had not money to repair them. I have survived hurricane outages that almost too me to ruins at times. BUT . . .

I have published books, developed award-winning programs, brought people from commas to complete function and trained world champions at IHP. I have seen young people launch careers, get married, buy homes and start families while working at IHP. We have been visited by professionals from over 30 countries due to our educational programs. Even through hard times, IHP has provided for all under its roof!

I have lost love and found new love at IHP. I have seen life end for some and have seen new babies come into IHP. We have lived through many challenges with our clients and won many battles standing by their side. We have grown strong and learned by seeing our clients battle through their challenges.

SO yes – many challenges. But, I offer training at IHP. What is that if not a regular physical challenge to fortify the human WILL. Just like IHP provides regular challenges to its clients for the sake of physical, emotional and spiritual growth, so does life. Life is IHP, that’s why IHP tries to mimic life. Provide challenges so one can continuously evolve and expand. SO – I thank LIFE for all that it has put in front of me to facilitate my evolution:) That’s my mantra of GRATITUDE. So – yes – many challenges seen in the last 17 years at IHP.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Institute of Human Performance – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
IHP has become the MECCA of functional training worldwide – period. We specialize in optimizing the human potential and use physical training to do that – that is what sets us apart; most gyms concentrate on exercises and programs, IHP concentrates and created a new awareness of a new potential using exercises. Performance, at all levels and in all areas of live start at your CORE – the HUMAN WILL – that’s our target. Our coaching translates the training to the conciseness that governs your belief system, and thus, your WILL; WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO DO.

This is our difference. Of course, we got there being the best at the MECHANICS of training (cool exercises and the best training system), but the mechanics has takes a back seat to the coaching we employ – which is still a work in progress! 🙂

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Expand and update IHP and increase our global outreach.


  • IHP offers memberships – starting at $30/month
  • IHP offers private and semiprivate trianing – starting at $50/hour
  • IHP offers the best group class experience – IHPX – come check it out – packages starts at $15/class

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