Interview: JC Santana

Insights Interview: The Underworld, The BIG controversy, and Being a Family Man


Firstly, JC it is important for me to thank you for doing this interview.  You have been a major influence in my life both directly and indirectly.  Directly, you have been a great friend and someone who I can trust.  You respond to emails quickly, you are keen on helping, and you always have great words of advice.  Indirectly, people you influence continue to influence me, these people are many.
Thank you for the kind words Anthony.  It is words like these that allow me to do my work willingly, happily, and often. No one can ask for a better scenario to make a living.  At the end of the day, it’s not what you take with you that counts (which isn’t very much) it’s what you leave behind that defines your history.  If I touch people and they touch people, then, my history will be told one day and it will be a good one.

Anthony Close
How did you get started into the “industry”?  Give me some details and stuff not so commonly known.

I guess I have always been “in the industry”.  As a child my super heroes were strong men like Hercules, Samson, Tarzan, etc.  I was never into the “Sci-fi, Superman, Batman, figures because they were not Men Like enough for me.   I always loved MOVEMENT and HUMAN ABILITY, not necessarily sports.  Thus, my super heroes fought animals, battled army’s, swung from trees, and picked up heavy stuff (LOL).

My formal entry into the Industry was back in 1973-1974, when I formally had the keys to Brodie’s Gym.  I was called a manager at 14 because a ‘manager’ opened, closed, cleaned, collected money for membership ($10/month), sold protein bars and apple cider.  I did that and I did it well.  That is when I learned a TON from bodybuilders, police officers, military and para-military officers who took me under their wings due to my maturity.

At 12 I stated studying a slew of martial arts and that has not stopped.  I did not care about the history or the belts; I cared about how they worked and what worked.   As soon as I started the martial arts I started training for performance, NEVER FOR LOOKS!  I wanted to break boards, jump high, win tournaments, and basically have the ability kick people’s asses (Although I have never been in a major fight in my life).  I’m not a bad ass – but I can take care of myself enough to not have to back down or take any shit from anyone!

I have studies immensity (academic) and worked in multiple professions. I have studied and worked in the engineering, medical, and music industry.  I have toured with my own band, owned and operated a bar/liquor store, and owned and managed fitness clubs.   I’m a dissertation short of a PhD, and have produce over 70 DVDs and written 14 books.

I have also had my history of the fast life, which many in the industry may not know but all of my friends do.  If you have heard tales about my life from the 1980s and early 1990s, I hate to tell you it is most likely true, or at least based on some truth.  Yeap – from wining and dining with the underworld of Miami, to ending up in the middle of flying bullets with the same crew – it’s all true.  So my journey has been a movie with several sequels.  So know this – I’ve done everything twice and loved it all.

How about that for something you may not know!

You just got back from training with the Bartendaz, in NY I believe.  Tell me about that experience.

I have been disgusted with fitness for some time now, that is why I don’t do anymore shows (they have become circuses and whorehouses – all in one).  I have actually become disgusted with our society.  We have become lazy, soft, full of excuses, and without accountability.

I have been looking for a return to the basics: to see the complex in simplicity, to see the elite in the basics, to get back to basic principles and values. The BARTENDAZ are a prime example of all of that.   We don’t see basic human movement as sexy, moreover, we don’t see what can be done with hard work.  Instead, we jump on the latest and greatest to keep our attention (from stability balls, to bands, to vibration, to all of he diets and gadgets you have seen).  The Bartendaz experience is a re-connect for me to something that is real, basic but yet extremely advanced.  So it is a perfect example of how powerful the basics can be.

We film in a couple of days and this is as excited as I have been about a project in a long time.

Very true JC!  I am excited to see what you and the BARTENDAZ produce.  Now, moving into choppy waters.  There has been some major controversy going on between the NSCA (which you are on the board) and Mike Boyle.  What is the outcome of this?  What is hype and what is fact?

This is what I sent out to people who contacted me on this issue. These people were blindly contacting the Board of Directors (BOD) and sending in form letters without thinking, asking, or knowing ANY facts.

Your email was sent to me so I will offer you a long but accurate account of the situation.

I think before you assume you know or take sides on an issue, you should at least hear both sides; for nothing it what it seems here.

We have only received around 15 emails on this issue.  This is NOT the big deal it is being made out to be.  That is the nonsense of dealing with these VERY PERSONAL ISSUES through a public forum like Facebook, which I find totally immature, unprofessional on the part of Mike Boyle.  I’m very surprised at this behavior coming from a 50+ yr old ‘man’.

Since you sent this to me, I will answer you personally.   JUST man to man.   Now this is just my opinion and has nothing to do with my NSCA involvement.   I roll off the BOD (Board of Directors) in July after which I will much more open on these types of issues.

First – The BOD has nothing to do with the selection of speakers, or Conference Committee policies, procedures, etc.  That is how we keep the NSCA clean, independent, and NOT being a BOY’s Club. For Mike to send all of his friends to write to the NSCA BOD clearly shows he has absolutely no idea about how we run the organization.  This is totally immature and unprofessional.  He could have and should have taken it up with Dave Sandler (Conference Committee Chair), who made the decision along with other conference committee members (INDEPENDENT OF THE BOD – that is the way it is operated exactly for these reasons).  I informed Mike of this personally – so I know he knows what the deal is. Why he has done what he has done and said what he has said clearly shows he is NOT interested in the truth, the organization, or even uniting the industry – this is all self promotion.

Second – Mike was UNINVITED by the Conf Committee, NOT BANNED.  He was also not uninvited because he was controversial.  I suspect that the reason the Conference Committee has decided to uninvited Mike to this year’s conference is because of slanderous comments Mike has repeatedly made about the NSCA (some in my presence – so he can’t say he has not!).   Frankly – if it would have been up to me, I would un-invite any presenter that slanders me to my conference, wouldn’t you?  I don’t mind respectful criticism of the NSCA –that is how it grows.  NOBODY HAS CRITICIZED THE NSCA MORE THAN I – but I have done it with respect. (editors note: There is a BIG difference between slander and criticizing, one of those difference being of the legal sort)

Mike Boyle has (In front of me on more than one occasion) defamed the NSCA publically and in an unprofessional manner.  That should not be mistaken for disagreeing or constructive criticism – which we all advocate!  However, after talking all sorts of garbage about the NSCA (without really knowing the facts because he has NEVER done anything with or for the NSCA), Mike always asks to present at the NSCA conference.  By the way all of this done under the “Skirt” of Perform Better (PB); through PB’s endorsement/sponsorship relationship with the NSCA.  He will tell you he never asks to present, PB asks him to present at the NSCA and that he is hired by PB and not the NSCA – that is an outright lie!  The NSCA always has presenters sign contracts – remember I was in Mike’s shoes for many years!

Thirdly, much of this comes from an axe Mike has been grinding with Jay Hoffman for almost 3 years now but Mike won’t talk about that!! If Mike Boyle has an axe to grind against Jay Hoffman or someone else then this should be taken up one to one – like real men do.  Not in a public forum like some 14 yr old boy breaking up with is girlfriend through text messaging.  For the love of mankind, I truly feel like a dinosaur in these times.  Where have the men gone in this world?

In my opinion, if you are an honorable MAN and stand by your convictions and opinions, then you will not present for any organization you don’t feel is up to your standards (which is the way I operate).  However, Mike does not want to do that, neither does Perform Better, due to the Money and Brand Recognition they get from being involved with the NSCA!  I find that extremely hypocritical, don’t you?

I no longer support many fitness conferences because they have sold out (the NSCA is the only one that still stands for something – with ALL of its problems).  So what do I do?  I DO NOT present at the conferences I don’t feel are up to my standards.  I do this at great financial sacrifice but I will not sell out and I do not hide behind any forum, company, or third-party endorsement.   Also, I do not call out each and every company, or presenters spreading crap for that matter it is NOT professional.  If anyone wants to mud sling, I’ll do it  but I will not start it (especially in a public forum).

I think if more men had real balls and stood behind their convictions, this profession, and this world.  It would all be a better place. But it seems that the fashion now is to use the Internet to mud sling and talk the crap that would never be said to someone face to face.   It takes no courage to take things into Internet forums, chat lines, and text instead of handling business through up-close and personal processes!  This is the sad the state of affairs of today’s generation.  I expected more from Mike and the rest of the PB management.  They [Mike Boyle/PB Management] have shown a childish way of handling business.

Hearing both side of the story is so important.  Many people haven’t had a chance to do that, so I thank you for being open regarding the NSCA vs. Boyle controversy.  Moving on (and its a great transition) how do you deal with the haters?

I wish I could tell you I’m mature and I live and let live  but I don’t all the time.  Sometimes I’m able to ignore them.  But Sometimes I tear them a new asshole, in private, in public , verbally, physically – anyway it needs to get done.  I hope to God I get better because one day I might end up in jail for beating an asshole an inch from his/her life.

People have become so disrespectful these days, someone needs to do something.  I don’t want to be that somebody and I hope I can control myself  but sometimes I just can’t. That’s the honest truth.

I struggle sometimes with the same stuff JC.  Again, thank you for being open.  We all have our 15 minutes of fame.  Some people capitalize on that 15 minutes to make it a lifetime and some people don’t.  Obviously, you capitalized.  What was your “big” break and what has been your “big” trial/tribulation?

I owe my break to Lee Brown (The NSCA’s former President).  Lee was the one who suggested and insisted that I write an article and do a presentation for the NSCA.  After my first presentation I was invited back to a standing room only. From there the rest is history.  So my BIG BREAK was the NSCA Annual Conference, 1997, in Vegas.

My biggest challenge has been to maintain a balance with all of my work, my family, and my private life.   The balance of being a family man (with ALL of its responsibilities), staying at the top of my industry, and having time for me (e.g. my own personal development) is very hard.  I do it fairly well and have fun doing it.  So it is not too bad.


As you mentioned JC, you are a dad, business owner, and international speaker.  How do you manage your life?

I’m very disciplined and a hard worker.  I have to be because I don’t have any natural talents to speak of.  I have a very strong character that keeps me real, grounded, and focused.  I make sure I do all that is necessary daily, from giving my family love and safety, to dealing with issues at IHP, to training and getting rest.  Some days I do better than others but at the end of the month I take inventory and get most of it in.  I do that month in and month out.  Because I’m well balanced like that I’m able to stay happy and creative.   It’s not easy but I get it done.

I’m very hard to live with if you are not with the program and don’t give me space so I’m blessed with a very understanding wife that is very supportive and gives me the freedom a person like me needs!  TRUST ME, I’m good at what I do, I’m all man and take care of my family but I’m no prize.  It’s a package deal with me; you want to ride and show off the stallion, no problems, but you better leave your spurs at home.  You spur me once and I impale you on the first low-lying branch I find (LOL). As a matter of fact, when my wife is giving me a little more “BIZNESS” than I’m willing to take, I tell her, “you’re spurring me”.  Then she knows she needs to back off and give me room.   We
are great together and laugh a ton at ourselves THAT IS WHAT KEEPS ME GROUNDED AND BALANCED.

Many people think that all the sudden you just became internationally known but we know it took years of work.  What is the best advice you have for people wanting to lecture internationally?

10,000 hours or 10 years OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE (not to be confused for pure repetition)!  Get out the clock and calculator and get ready to pay the piper; that is what it takes for anyone to accomplish world-class excellence at ANYTHING.


These new guys and gals all want to do it through a web site, pictures opps, and e-books!  They all attempt to cheat the 10,000 hours/10 yrs, but they won’t be able to.  What is happening is the BAR IS DROPPING in all aspects of entry criteria into various fields of work (from armed forces, to professional schools, to presenting at conferences).  Just look at the Internet claimed experts and new conference presenters – who the hell are most of these people?  They are artificial and market driven figures who usually have only accomplished half of what they claim and only have a third of the knowledge needed to be who they say they are!  Much less the ability to possess WORLD-CLASS EXPERTISE.  This is why I don’t do conferences anymore (except with the NSCA).

Your expertise and hard work has paid off and you inspire people daily JC.  That is an amazing talent.  Are you able to give readers (and me) some pointers on being a great teacher?

Thank you for your kind compliment.  Frankly, I can’t believe I have had the success I have had.  ALL I wanted was to be a great coach but when you are a great coach, you inspire people, that is what coach does.  I made a mistake in thinking that a personal trainer needed to know about exercise to be able to do their job.  We ARE NOT THERAPIST’S OR EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS, we are coaches.

We inspire people to make behavioral changes and make better choices and those choices may start with exercise but they (positive choices) penetrate EVERY ASPECT of people’s lives.

All I can tell you is that to teach you have to inspire people to learn.  To illicit change you have to inspire people to work for what they want.  To inspire you have to be real, honest, grounded, and perfectly imperfect – so people can see you work through your own challenges.  People learn in part my imitation so role modeling is huge.  You have to live what you preach.

DO NOT take yourself too seriously – you are going to screw up and fixing it is half the fun of life.

What is your biggest advice to new trainers?

“Do unto others as you would have them do on to you” is an all time favorite.

Here is mine…….

“Work like you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow”

That’s about it brother – no secret, no rare words of wisdom, no complicate paradigms – there aren’t any.  The answers to most questions are usually right in front of us and simple.


Juan Carlos “JC” Santana is a world-renowned authority in the area of performance enhancement and is one of the most prolific speakers in the fitness industry. JC has been published extensively and has produced many videos on the subject of performance enhancement. His educational resources bring the most innovative and cutting edge training methodology to fitness professionals around the world.

JC is a proud graduate of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), where he received his BS and MEd degrees in Exercise Science. While at FAU he served as an adjunct professor of Weight Training Systems and Sports Training Systems.

JC is a member and a certified Health Fitness Instructor with the ACSM, and a member and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He is a certified Senior Coach and Club Coach Course Instructor with the USAWF, and a LEVEL I coach with the US Track and Field Association. JC has served as the Chairman for the NSCA’s Sport Specific Conference (1999-2000), an NSCA Conference Committee member (1998-2001) and was the NSCA’s Florida State Director (1997-2001).

JC has always believed in practicing what he preaches. This is why you can find him at IHP everyday training his diverse clientele. You will also see him giving back to the community through the many hours he volunteers to local athletes, particularly the Spanish River Wrestling Team where he is on his 4th year as their strength and conditioning coach.

JC is the director of his consulting company, Optimum Performance Systems (OPS), which is based out of IHP. OPS provides: Consulting for equipment manufactures, fitness organizations, fitness professionals and major sports teams, athletic development camps, education for fitness professionals and internships for graduates in the allied health professions.

In spite of his professional accomplishments, JC feels his highest achievement has been his family and the bond they share. His wife of 9 years, Debbie and his three children, Rio (14), Caila (5), Dante (3), Mia (newborn) remain his top priority. JC pledges to pass on the legacy to his children that his parents passed on to him; family first, then everything else.


About doctoranthony
As a spinal rehabilitation specialist with over 7 years clinical experience in the areas of - Spinal Manipulative Therapy, Active & Passive Spinal Rehabilitation, Functional Movement and Orthopedic Assessment, Strength and Conditioning Coaching, Fitness Programming, Business Development, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and Consultancy - you can feel safe knowing that I understand the worry and concern surrounding spinal pain. This is why self-efficacy lies at the heart of my practice. For more info:

9 Responses to Interview: JC Santana

  1. Spida Hunter says:

    Great interview which shows JC true colours!! Wait to you see him in real live Anthony it’s just as REAL 🙂

    Was great to hear the other side of the coin to on the Boyle thing, I asked Boyle why he was carrying on with it let it go that what we need more of people letting their shit go!!

  2. Fit4Life says:

    @ Spidahunta, this is true, this man in real life is incredible. I also appreciate hearing the OTHER side of the Mike Boyle Story.

    • Spida Hunter says:

      I think to date I’m the only kiwi who has taken the trip over to the states to meet him back in 2005!! That’s how powerful I think he is and not just in “personal training” either!!

      And the best thing about him is he’s human and prepared to admit it!!

  3. Pingback: Good Reads for the Week « Bret's Blog

  4. David Ratcliffe says:

    Thank you

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