👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Yo! My name is Kiko (Mark) Dos Santos but you can just call me “Kiko”, I’m a 28-year-old ex-physique competitor/ entrepreneur who lives and breathes both fitness & business.
My background is Portuguese. I was born in Melbourne, Australia and baptized in Lisbon, Portugal. I grew up travelling to Portugal from Australia every two years for three months at a time until the age of 12.
I run a headphone company called “ARMED AUDIO” where we innovated the world’s first speaker headphone. I am also a part-time personal trainer where I plan to use my following to start an online training program, which I am currently designing to cater for mental health, eating disorders, and helping others to learn how to structure realistic short and/ or long term goals and completely demolish them.
I met my missus Jazmin through the fitness industry while doing a photoshoot I came across her while browsing through the photographers portfolio on Instagram and instantly fell In love. I did what any other guy would have done and slid in her DM’s right away and the rest is history as we have been together for over four years now Ha!
In March, 2015, I competed for the first time in the INBA Men’s Physique Novice. I came 3rd place out of 16 although it was my first time on stage, I was still completely shattered with the results as I had given it my all. Soon that bad luck was turned around as I was later approached after the show by a photographer offering to shoot me for a Magazine feature.
In June, 2015, I was reached out by an agency from Naples, Italy through Instagram for a two part segment on a television show on (RAI 2) to compete and represent Australia in a Fitness Model Show.
In July, 2015, I moved to Phuket, Thailand and decided to become a personal trainer/strength & conditioning coach, which led me to working with a lot of K1 and 1FC fighters.
In September 2015, I decided to compete one last time in Phuket, Thailand placing 4th out of 16.
In March 2016, my best friend of over 10 years passed away, which affected my mental health drastically so I decided to return back to Melbourne, Australia soon after and leave the fitness industry to take time off to self-reflect and take another pathway in my life.
In August 2017, I decided to create a fitness-niche Instagram page in order to stay in the loop with the whole fitness industry. Growing it to over 160k+ in just three years.
In March 2020, I decided to make my whole fitness-niche Instagram page to my very own personal content only and do a “Comeback” back to the fitness industry!
I first set foot in a gym back in February of 2009 weighing at only 53kg! I was literally a stick and picked on in school for it. It took me just over five years of consistent training before I could gain the confidence to compete on stage.
Overall, I have been training for about 10+ years. I had a huge gap of not training for almost two years after my best friend died in March 2016, which led me to seek a different direction in life.
I grew up playing football (soccer) literally obsessing with it playing both outdoor and indoor competitively until fracturing my ankle at 17, which led to around three months of rehab and crutches. It forced me to quit the following season due not being able to play the same nor have the same pace on the pitch and from then on I decided to pursue my journey in the gym replacing one fitness passion for another!
I’m addicted to constantly improving and learning new set of skills through short courses online, specifically anything related to nutrition, gardening, landscaping, finance and business.
I feel as if I neglected Highschool so much that I’m making up for it now! I felt that due to the fact I was never studying anything that ever interested me in school that I subconsciously tended to just do enough to pass and that was ever it. Who would have ever thought the “Secret” to enjoy studying was to just chase your passion. Ha!
I have a vision board filled with all my goals I want to achieve within a certain amount of time, where I practice my “Law of Attraction”, which has two brands that I constantly visualize myself becoming part of within the next 12 months! - (Let us see on the follow up Interview whether I have accomplished this or not). Ha!
I feel as if the confidence boost I have gained alone just from my physique drastically progressing over the years is a key factor of what I enjoy most about bodybuilding - (Mental Health). Also love the fact that I have been able to attribute my everyday life along with my business to the consistency and hard work ethic that bodybuilding has taught me.
Whether you are a businessman, work 9-5, studying full time or even a stay home mum, if you figure what is fun to you while exercising (F45, CrossFit, gym, yoga or Sports). It can be anything if it challenges you, it will help you zone out of your “structured” life and allow you to continue to grow as a human.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I will forever preach the same philosophies that I live by when it comes to training: Technique over everything, strength is useless if you cannot do the right form. I was lucky to learn this early on into my bodybuilding journey.
Overtime, I have seen over and over young kids who have just joined the gym who tend to try lifting the heaviest weights with each exercise they do. Completely neglecting the technique every time.
Best advice I can give is to get used to the motion of an exercise is to just do the machine version of the free weight exercise you want to perfect. Like that you can practice the tempo of each rep and focus on the contraction of the body part you are working out.
Secondly, overtraining seems to be another rookie mistake but also something that many people tend to do all the time, which leads them to crashing. Slow & steady wins the race!! Over working on your body will only slow your progression with both your strength and physique gains.
I tend to aim to train up to five days as a minimum and anything more is just a bonus and considered an active rest day and only ever strategic so I am not overworking my body. Saying that the hours I train vary session to session depending whether I add calisthenics to it or not that could have me training anywhere from only one hour to nearly three.
To have my training routine structured around my busy lifestyle, I work closely with an online coach to monitor me weekly. Like that I can constantly be on top of everything without the stress of having to over think what I am doing all the time. Although I can do this myself, I prefer to have the accountability laying on my shoulders.
I believe you can gain good results from any program really. As it is not necessarily the routine itself but how you approach it. Saying that I have found through trial and error a few things that I preach to my clients.
"Consistency is key", literally there is no point in starting a program if you are going to half cast it, which follows up with my second tip: Be Realistic”, I could not tell you how often I come across people that will be super excited for their new workout program, which is way too advanced for them and struggle to put in 100% due to not having the right knowledge to do each advanced exercise. Therefore, I recommend something else in life to start at the beginning of the pyramid and slowly progress until you master each step.
I have been fortunate enough to build my very own 6m by 6m gym during the lockdown motivated due to all the gyms being closed for the last five+ months here in Melbourne, Australia. It had always been a “Goal” of mine to have my very own gym catered to my Niche and specialties. Having both calisthenics and bodybuilding equipment to fulfill all my training needs.
There is no specific ritual that I follow to the tee. Although I do like to zone out when I work out, this is where owning a headphone company has its perks. Constantly having different prototypes to trial while working out. Saying that I could not preach to you how deadly the combination of having both good music and the right pre workout can be!
Make sure to stretch, could not preach this anymore! I feel this is a very unpopular topic, which leads most beginners to overall avoiding doing so! Although I guarantee you each and one of their idols are stretching before and after each session.
Whenever I do head to the gym, my bag will consist of a few things. Starting with the Weight Belt for when I attempt to smash a cheeky Personal Record. I also generally have at least 2 shakers on me (1) for either Pre-Workout & BCAA and (2) for a Whey Protein for my post workout. If I am only bulking, I like to try a new whey protein from the counter of the gym this tends to excite my taste buds. Additional must haves- Water Bottle, Towel, Journal, and deodorant.
Muscle ups would have to be my favorite exercise to do in the gym- anything related to Calisthenics really. I feel with Bodybuilding exercises you can only get so advanced with a particular exercise once you reach it.
As for Calisthenics, each exercise may have a minimum of three alternatives to it. Which cannot be learnt overnight and may take months to perfect it. Challenging you to train consistently to get it right!
I have only gotten into using a smart watch recently, which happened to be a gift from my missus as she had been suggesting it for me to get for a long time. I now cannot go a day without it. I have set the step counter to a minimum of 15,000 everyday (except for my active rest day) which I highly recommend for others as I find it challenges me to be creative with the way I do my cardio.
A simple tip which can take you a long way is to write down all your body measurements including your weight in either a log book or some sort app. As well as writing how much weight you are pushing each session. Like that you can constantly be on top of your strength and muscle progression. Even try to add in a yearly DEXA scan.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
If you ever feel as if you are hesitating to go to the gym, just rock up once you have entered those doors. You have made yourself accountable to train!
Hardest challenge I ever faced was coming back to the gym after I had taken so much time off when my best friend died. It has been a roller coaster for me, I am not going to lie. I was constantly on & off; it was not until I learnt to love fitness again that I could train consistently!
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My training has never been better; I feel as if I currently have the same work ethic, I’d put in prior to a bodybuilding show.
Growing up running every day for football (soccer) I was just naturally good at it. Soon as I quit it and began to focus my time on the gym, I soon neglected it completely. Recently I have gotten back into it. I must admit this is partially because I have seen several ex-bodybuilding competitors start their new ventures in marathon or triathlon races! Which has been a huge motivation factor for me.
I am not fussed whether I ever become a household name in the fitness industry. My only intention is to teach and inspire the uninspired. Hope to be recognized as genuine as possible with everything I represent and preach to others.
That being said, I wish to become what would have been both an inspiration and good mentor for a younger version of myself.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I have been lucky enough to avoid injuries throughout my years training.
That being said, learn your stretches, incorporate it before and after each session- this is super important to help avoid any potential injury in the future.
I’m a little contradicting with sleep as I believe it is an important factor to grow although I neglect this due to my crazy everyday schedule, which consists of me waking up every day at 4:45AM.
When travelling I allow myself downtime with my eating habits. Saying that I do not go crazy like anything else in moderation. Most of the time I book my accommodation around either having a gym in the facility or nearby. This helps me stay consistent with my training even if I am only sneaking in half an hour or so!
Massages are important key to recovery. I personally hate the process of massages but love the aftereffect in results. Which is why I tend to do this as often as possible!
Not placing first in a bodybuilding competition can affect you drastically mentally. When you have dedicated your last 12 weeks to one thing and result in placing anything other than first. This can be a huge obstacle to overcome.
I was lucky as I picked up the momentum of my first show to keep pushing through until the next. It was not until my last show in Phuket, Thailand that it took a massive toll on my mental health. It took me five+ months post competition to eat considerably healthy again and have my mindset stable.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I do not like to give a title to my eating routine as a “Diet”. I feel as if once you title it, it almost becomes a choir. Instead I tend to proclaim as a “Lifestyle” more than anything.
I am fortunate enough to have a coach who is constantly monitoring my eating habits and altering my training routine when necessary.
I plan around any social gatherings that I ever have coming up. Say for example I have not yet had a cheat meal that week, I will wait until the event to treat myself.
If I am prepping for a shoot, I will avoid having cheat meals overall. If I’m having any sort of cravings, I may plan a refeed day, where I raise the number of calories with the amount of carbs I consume. This usually does the trick!
I hate looking bulky. I try to be as lean as possible all year around.
Black coffee helps a lot when handling hunger.
I love my iced black coffee - no milk, no sugar. I’m so flat out with running my businesses that I cannot sacrifice any downtime this is why coffee is a big part of my day.
I don’t use any sort of fitness tracker for my daily calorie intake, having a coach helps a lot when coming to monitor all the attention to detail. Like I’ve said before I could do it all on my own but I love having someone else do it for me, which gives me a reason to be accountable.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I love all sorts of music, anything that gets my heart racing works for me!
“Consistency is the key” – this could not be any truer. If you stick by anything, you will eventually get the results you are seeking.
I love authenticity, I am huge on this! I hate anyone that tries to beat around the bush. For that reason, that is why I only am inspired by a small share of people. - (Charlie Rocket, Chris Heria, Brandon Schram, Steve Cook and Jazmin Burke)
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
YouTube is such a good source for beginners especially when first starting to learn how to train. Back when I started working out, it was mainly from forums or magazines only.
Stupidest thing I have ever seen other than bad technique in order to push heavier weight must be witnessing trainers neglect their clients. Whether they are socializing with other trainers during the client’s session or playing with their phone during a struggling set.
I oversee people who use the wrong technique. Too many egos focusing on the weight they are pushing other than the actual contraction of the movement itself.
Focus on stretching, mobility training, and cardio. Like that not only will you look like an athlete you will also function like one too!
Take that work ethic you put into your training towards your everyday lifestyle and I promise you, you will demolish it in life.
Spending money on supplements for yourself is the best way to indicate what works best for your body. What works for A may not work for B therefore is why you should have a trial and error phase with everything within the recommended supplements range.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
Do your research prior to hiring an online trainer. Look at their portfolio which is generally the client’s transformations they have helped transform. Seek for a reasonable price, not too cheap. This could usually mean it is only a cookie cutter plan. Therefore, go for something affordable yet not too pricey!
I am currently working on a huge project, which I discussed earlier. I am designing a program catered for not only transforming the physique but to help fix bad eating habits, mental health, and overall smashing goals.
I would love to do a follow up Interview where I can talk a little bit more about this project when possible, maybe even share a FREE trial for each reader.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
Please follow me on Instagram at @KikoDosSantos
💬 Kiko Dos Santos quotes
Kiko shares some great, motivating insights in this interview. Feel free to share these quotes on your Instagram, Pinterest and so on 😍