Josh Nissan
Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara is a great town for active folks. I know this from experience; I’ve participated in many fitness classes — and enjoyed them all. But last year I developed a condition that made it nearly impossible for me to do anything sporty. Seemingly out of nowhere, unremitting and at times excruciating pain engulfed my left shoulder. Apparently it had been coming at a glacial pace for decades, finally revealing itself in “thoracic outlet syndrome,” caused by years of repetitive stress movement related to hunching over a computer. (Who knew typing was so dangerous?) I had to curb my physical activities.

After months of twice-weekly chiropractic care and at-home rehab exercises, the ache subsided enough that I felt I could return to working out. Still, my condition lingered; I was keeping the debilitating pain at bay, but I wasn’t reversing the problem.

Then I met physical therapist/fitness trainer Josh Nissan. Recommended to me by a friend (whose enviable figure was enough to convince me to make the call), Nissan has spent the past 14 years in Santa Barbara helping folks of all ages rehabilitate injuries, perfect their exercise form, lose weight, and firm up.

He has branded his particular method of training PHIT (as in “fit”), an acronym for “Performance High-Intensity Training.” It’s an apt title, for the 30-minute workout not only gets your heart rate up, it also isolates muscles all over the body, giving them an anaerobic workout of epic proportions. In addition — and what drew me to working with Nissan — the routine can be tailored to specific physical limitations caused by injury.

Nissan has an impressive résumé: A graduate of Loma Linda University’s physical therapy department, he began his professional career as the personal trainer for Saudi Arabia’s royal family. Ten months later he’d whipped the royals into shape and was back in the States, living and working in Santa Barbara.

Nissan incorporates myriad exercise equipment, like Swiss balls, BOSU balls, and various weighted balls to throw and catch, into his routines. Each session is different, dynamic, and fun. “The workouts consist of compound muscle group routines that enhance your endurance and metabolic rate for two to three hours after you finish,” said Nissan. “The 30 minutes are designed to increase fat burning and lean your body at the same time.”

At just half-an-hour long, it’s hard to believe PHIT is all you need to get — and keep — a firm body, but it works; it’s an intense, highly focused 30 minutes, with Nissan moving you fluidly from one exercise to the next, each one accomplishing several goals. For example, one move might target balance, spinal alignment, shoulder stretching, and quad strengthening. Although that description may make awkward Twister positions leap to mind, movements aren’t daunting, just efficient.

For those who wish to shed pounds, Nissan couples the training with customized eating plans that cater to each person’s weight-loss goals. After one month with Nissan, I lost 12 pounds (not kidding!) by following the meal plan he gave me, which outlined both what and when to eat throughout the day. It was easy to stick to since the foods were common-sense choices — nothing processed, lots of lean meat, veggies, and fruits. “It’s a super-food diet with Mother Nature as the chef,” Nissan explained.

I’ve been working with Nissan for five months now, and my shoulder doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve kept the weight off and toned my muscles — and had a lot of fun along the way. Nissan deeply engages with each of his clients, always available for advice and moral support, as well as a smile and a laugh. And while he’s serious about his work, he doesn’t take things too seriously.

“This isn’t a job for me; it’s my passion,” Nissan confessed. “I love helping people feel better and achieve their fitness goals.”


For more information about PHIT, call (805) 705-1691 or visit


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