There are people who simply know how to make people better. They turn good into great. Stars in Legends. When it comes to athletic excellence, one of the masters of the craft is South Florida-based performance coach Nick Soto.
"I'm just trying to help other people get where I couldn't," Soto shared while describing what he's doing. He explained that he came to coaching as a self-proclaimed "failed athlete." Soto played college football and qualified for the Olympics in Tae Kwon Do, but was unable to compete due to a knee injury. He's had numerous injuries, ten knee surgeries, four of them to fix a chronic ACL problem. He had knee and shoulder replacements last year purely because of his playing days. He attributes 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 advantage that maybe I didn't have," Soto said. Although his injuries limited his potential as a player, he feels they have now served him well in his career.
Soto's strategies have proven successful because he invests time and energy in researching and reading studies before putting anything into practice. His most famous athlete serves as a testimonial. What may surprise you is that this athlete is not a soccer player or a boxer. It's a baseball player - Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres. Machado and his Major League Baseball colleague Yonder Alonso approached Soto eight years ago and wanted him to put his method into practice for them. The results were undeniable.
Alonso's power improved significantly within a year of working with Soto. Prior to the 2017 season, he had never hit more than nine homers in a season. He hit 28 in the 2017 season between his stints with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.
"I was introduced to plyometric training at a very young age," explains Soto. “I came into contact with the coaching very early on, also because I was pushed into training in many Tae Kwon Do sessions. That was in the early 1990s.”
Soto worked under the guidance of his high school taekwondo coaches, and they used strategies from other sports such as track and field and figure skating. As a result, Soto was in better shape overall. Assisting in the training of the other athletes also helped lay the foundation for a coaching career.
A few years later, Soto opened his own training facility in Miami, Florida. While the focus was on regular people (aka Gen Pop, for the general populace), Soto wanted to stand out in his field.
Added Dan Solomon, President of Muscle & Fitness and Mr. Olympia, “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 people the way we trained our athletes," Soto shared. In the same facility they would also train competitive athletes, with a large emphasis on soccer players, track and field athletes and boxers. When asked how he likes to train or coach players, he had a clear mission statement.
"The thought process has always been there to make athletes as explosive as possible, to make them as resilient as possible, and to make them as capable as possible from a movement perspective."
Soto enjoys training his athletes to sprint, no matter what sport they do, as it can benefit them in other aspects of performance.
"It also makes them safer, they suffer fewer groin injuries and they don't have to strain themselves because they run efficiently."
What Soto doesn't do is interfere with the work of athletes' coaches in their specific sports. His goal is to make the athlete better overall without compromising their ability.
“They should be able to succeed in their sport if they have the skills. I don't want to take on the responsibility of teaching the athletic part of it. I don't tell wide receivers which route to run or how to brace themselves. I leave that to your skill coaches. I'm just helping to give them the tools they need from a tissue and neurological perspective.”
"By that time, I had experience playing baseball with a couple of high school teams and a couple of locals," Soto recalls. netheless, he saw the opportunity and grabbed it, analyzing what they needed from him and finding the best way to serve them.
"It went back to the same thing I did -- make them resilient and sturdy, agile and capable when they move, and then make them explosive and powerful."
As for Machado, Soto believes he would have become a superstar no matter what he did. However, he feels he has helped Machado's resilience - as demonstrated in 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. Amazingly, 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 these friggin' knuckle things we did.'" Soto said with a laugh. "He used to complain about it when we did it, then he came back and said, 'Thank god we did that."
Those were the only games Machado missed in the 2022 season. He hit .298 with 32 home runs and 102 RBIs and nearly earned an MVP award. A few months later, Machado signed an 11-year contract extension for a reported $350 million, which secured Machado's status as one of the top earners in baseball history. Regardless of how Soto's tactics are described, they will be used regularly throughout the duration of this historic contract.
The Director of Performance at Lox Performance in Doral, Fla., Soto is great at what he does and he succeeds because he's in the business for the right reasons - to help athletes get better, improve performance and... improve quality of life. His newest program, Gorilla Baseball, is designed to help smaller players increase their strength, which he says is vital to their well-being and longevity.
"We do Olympic lifts like crazy, snatches and split jerks, power cleaning and squat cleaning," he explained. “We have only had great results. Our guys go a lot harder, they're a lot more resilient, and they're stronger when they're doing those moves. It will only benefit them.”
For more information on Gorilla Baseball or Lox Performance, visit www.thelox.com. Follow Nick on Instagram @nicksoto_performance.