There are individuals who simply know how to make people better. They turn good into great. Stars into Legends. When it comes to elite athletic performance, one of the masters of the craft is South Florida based performance trainer Nick Soto.
“Just trying to help other guys make it where I couldn’t,” Soto shared while describing what he does. He explained that he got into coaching as a self-described “failed athlete.” Soto played college football and he qualified for the Olympics in Tae Kwon Do, but was unable to compete due to a knee injury. He had numerous injuries, ten knee surgeries, with four of those to repair a chronic ACL issue. He’s had a replaced knee and shoulder in the past year alone because of his playing days. He credits his injuries to his relentless pursuit of greatness.
“I’m not afraid to kind of push myself and push my body a little bit to get an edge that I may not have had,” said Soto. Even though his injuries limited his potential as a player, he feels they benefited him for his career now.
Soto’s strategies are proven successful because he commits time and energy into doing research and reading studies before putting anything into practice. His most famous athlete serves as a testimonial. What may surprise you is that this athlete isn’t a football player or a boxer. It’s a baseball player – Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres. Machado along with fellow Major League Baseball player Yonder Alonso reached out to Soto eight years ago, wanting him to put his methodology into practice for them. The results were undeniable.
Alonso’s power improved significantly within one year of working with Soto. Prior to the 2017 season, he had never hit more than nine home runs in a season. He hit 28 in the 2017 season between his time with both the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.
“I got exposure to plyometric training very early on” explains Soto. “I got exposure to coaching very early on also because I was thrust into training into a lot of the Tae Kwon Do sessions. This was in the early 1990’s.”
Soto was working under the tutelage of his Tae Kwon Do trainers in high school, and they were using strategies from other sports such as track and figure skating. As a result, Soto found himself to be in better shape overall. Helping train the other athletes was also helping lay a foundation for a coaching career.
Fast forward several years, and Soto went on to open his own training facility in Miami, Florida. While the focus was on regular people (also known as gen pop, for general population), Soto wanted to stand out in his field.
Dan Solomon, President of Muscle & Fitness and the Mr. Olympia adds, “It’s always our privilege to shine a spotlight on those who are raising the bar in the world of athletic performance. Nick is a gifted trainer and his clients understand how valuable he is.”
“We wanted to train folks like we trained our athletes,” Soto shared. They would also train competitive athletes in the same facility, with a lot of emphasis being placed on football players, track and field athletes, and boxers. He had a clear mission statement when asked about how he likes to train or coach players.
“The thought process has always kind of been there, which is make athletes as explosive as possible, make them as resilient as possible, and make them as capable as possible from a movement perspective.”
Soto likes to train his athletes in sprinting, regardless of what sport they play because of how it can benefit them in other aspects of performance.
“It also makes them safer, less likely to suffer groin injuries, and they don’t have to tax themselves because they are running efficiently.”
What Soto doesn’t do is interfere with the work that the athlete’s coaches in their specific sports do. His goal is to make the athlete better overall without compromising their skill sets.
“They should be able to succeed in their sport if they have the kind of skills necessary. I don’t want to take on the responsibility of teaching the sport part of it. I don’t tell wide receivers what route to run or how to brace. I’ll leave that to their skill coaches. I just help give them the tools they need from tissue and neurological perspectives.”
“At the time, my experience with baseball players was with a couple of high school teams and a few local guys,” Soto recalled. Nonetheless, he saw the opportunity and seized it by analyzing what they needed from him and determining the best way to serve them.
“It went back to the same thing I’ve been doing – making them resilient and robust, agile and capable when moving, then making them explosive and powerful.”
As for Machado, Soto feels he would’ve been a superstar regardless of what he did. However, he does feel he has helped Machado’s resiliency – as shown during the 2022 season. Machado suffered an ankle injury after landing awkwardly on first base in a game against the Colorado Rockies. The initial thought was that he would be on the Injured List for six to eight weeks. Shockingly, he was back on the diamond 11 days later, ready to resume his role as one of the game’s best.
“He texted me ‘thank God we did all that bull**** ankle stuff we did.’” Soto said with a laugh. “He was always complaining about that when we did it, then he came back and said, ‘thank God we did that.”
Those were the only games that Machado missed in the 2022 season. He batted .298 with 32 home runs and 102 RBI’s, nearly receiving an MVP award. A few months later, Machado signed an 11-year contract extension for a reported $350 million, ensuring Machado’s status as one of the top earners in the history of baseball. Regardless of how Soto’s tactics are described, they will be used regularly throughout the duration of that historic contract.
The Director of Performance at Lox Performance in Doral, Florida, Soto is great at what he does, and he’s successful because he is in the business for the right reasons – helping athletes get better, improving quality of performance and life. His latest program, Gorilla Baseball, is designed to help smaller players increase strength, which he feels is vital for their well-being and longevity.
“We do Olympic lifts like crazy, snatches and split jerks, power cleaning and squat cleaning,” he explained. “We’ve had nothing but great results from it. Our guys are going way harder, are much more resilient, and they’re stronger by doing these movements. It’s only going to benefit them.”
For more information about Gorilla Baseball or Lox Performance, go to www.thelox.com. Follow Nick on Instagram @nicksoto_performance.