Diets, Training Plans

Robert Santana | PhD, RD, CSCS

Robert Santana is a Registered Dietitian and Strength Coach and owner of Weights & Plates Gym in the Greater Phoenix area. For the past two decades, Robert has developed and refined his knowledge, skills, and experiences through both higher education and practical experience. Robert earned both a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and a Master of Science in Kinesiology at Western Illinois University. His quest for knowledge and a deeper understanding of the scientific process led him to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing & Health Innovation at Arizona State University. 

He has extensive experience as a strength coach, nutrition coach, researcher, teacher, and competitor. He built upon his foundational knowledge by providing effective nutrition coaching in conjunction with teaching and coaching the barbell lifts through the application of the Starting Strength model of performing barbell exercises to help clients move safely while getting stronger and building muscle. As a firm believer that one must experience that which he or she is coaching, he has served as his own “guinea pig” experimenting with various diets, training programs, and has competed in the sports of Strengthlifting, Powerlifting, and Olympic Weightlifting. His key goal has always been to continuously build muscle, while minimizing fat gain, in a functional and sustainable way.  Integrating elements of all the various lifting approaches has enabled him to help clients achieve their body composition goals while becoming more functional human beings.


  • PhD –Nursing & Health Innovation, Arizona State University (2022)
  • MS – Kinesiology, Western Illinois University (2011)
  • RD – Registered Dietitian, Commission on Dietetic Registration (2010)
  • BS – Dietetics, Western Illinois University (2008)

Professional Certifications

  • USA Powerlifting – California State Referee (2016)
  • Starting Strength Coach – Starting Strength Coaches Association (2014)
  • Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist – National Strength & Conditioning Association (2012)
  • RD – Registered Dietitian, Commission on Dietetic Registration (2010)

Professional Experience

  • Weights & Plates – Owner/Head Coach (2015-Present)
  • Faculty Associate, School of Nutrition & Health Promotion, Arizona State University (2015-2019)
  • Consultant Dietitian, Jennifer Byrd RD & Associates (2011-2015)
  • Renal Dietitian, US Renal Care West Los Angeles (2011-2015)

Teaching Experience

  • Exercise Physiology/Physiological Foundations of Movement
  • Muscular Strength Instructional Competency
  • Advanced macronutrient metabolism
  • Energy balance and weight management
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy

Training Experience

  • Meet director for US Strengthlifting since 2016.
  • Competed in four US Strengthlifting competitions between 2014-2022, including 2019 US Strengthlifting Nationals
  • Competed in three USA Powerlifting (USAPL) competitions from 2016-2017
  • Completed Starting Strength linear progression in 2013 and have continued training and coaching the five basic barbell lifts thereafter.

About Me: Robert currently resides in Arizona where there are two seasons: Hot and Not Hot.  He hikes daily (yes including in the summer), enjoys the outdoors, is a whiskey and wine enthusiast, and spends lots of time with his fur babies. Once in a blue moon you may even find him behind a pair of turntables at the gym showcasing what’s left of his deejay skills. 

Why did you start coaching? My father was an avid lifter and took me to an old school weight room when I was 10 years old, and I could not wait to be old enough to train. In my early years in college, I spent more time learning about lifting and nutrition than my academics, which led me to switch my major. At age 19 I knew I wanted to coach people both on diet and exercise and saw the value of becoming both an RD and a strength coach since I saw the integration of both skills as essential in an industry dominated by marketing hype and in need of scientific knowledge. I coached anyone I could to gain experience and eventually my goal materialized years later. To this day, it never gets old to see my clients overcome big obstacles and achieve things they previously thought were not possible.

What is your coaching style? I challenge my clients while meeting them where they are. I can be tough while also empathizing with my clients' unique challenges. Difficult challenges require difficult choices, and it is important to me that my clients understand what the expectation of their journey is. Providing the most accurate information in a clear concise way, while maintaining accountability is the cornerstone of any successful coaching relationship.

What kinds of clients do you work with? Clients who want to increase strength, build muscle mass, and lose body fat in a functional and sustainable way that is compatible with their lifestyle and preferences.

What is your favorite part of coaching?  Watching my clients overcome mental blocks and lifestyle challenges to achieve their goals. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a client say that they cannot believe they achieved something they previously thought impossible. Seeing people learn and experience new victories never gets old and is my pride and joy.

What type of client would be the best fit to work with you? I work with a variety of clients interested in getting stronger, building muscle, and losing fat or maintaining fat loss. As an RD, I’ve worked with a variety of different medical conditions and have several years of clinical experience in an inpatient and outpatient setting. 

In terms of training, I can train people with a variety of widely available exercise equipment for hypertrophy and/or strength. I’ve trained people of all ages, including youth and older adults. I am no stranger to movement limitations and am proficient at programming around and or rehabbing a variety of musculoskeletal injuries. 

In terms of competitive lifters, I also have extensive experience training strengthlifters, powerlifters from novice all the way to advanced lifters. I have also trained various endurance athletes with off season strength programs and strength maintaining programs during their competitive season. 

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