Interviews

Nick Santonastasso Talks Beating Odds and Pushing His Limits

Nick Santonastasso was given a 30% chance to live. Now he’s living life to the fullest.

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Nick Santonastasso Talks Beating Odds and Pushing His Limits
Luis A. Battistini / M+F Magazine

Last September, Nick Santonastasso competed in his first men’s physique contest, which focuses more on upper body. That was key, because Santonastasso was born without legs. He still placed third that day, which should be no surprise—he’s been beating the odds his whole life.

Santonastasso was born with Hanhart syndrome—which results in undeveloped limbs or organs. He’s missing both legs, most of his right arm, and all but one finger on his left hand—and was given a 30% chance to live.

Today, Santonastasso is a fitness model and motivational speaker who aims on spreading a message of positivity wherever he goes. But it wasn’t always like this.

“Middle school and the first years of high school were my lowest points,” says Santonastasso. “I was out of shape, depressed, and wondering, ‘Why me?’”

To build his confidence, Santonastasso joined the wrestling team. This led to him hitting the gym, which took some creativity.

To work his chest, he’ll lift plates with his left hand while a friend holds his right side. To smash his back, Santonastasso rows his arms while someone presses on his triceps. For explosive power, he’ll flip 200-pound tires, which requires a hell of a lot of resolve.

The physical transformation has been gratifying, but Santonastasso says it’s his ability to motivate others that drives him. He posts his workouts to his 390,000 Instagram followers (@nicksantonastasso) and speaks at schools, churches, and corporations. Even The Rock is a fan. The two met in Las Vegas last year, and Johnson called him an inspiration. For Santonastasso, that was just further reassurance that he’s on the right track.

“The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves, and the only person who can make a change in your life is you,” he says. “I show people who I am, because maybe it can help them to make a change in their life, too.”

Santo Strong

Shoulders and Biceps

This is a modified version of Nick’s usual shoulder and back workout.

  • Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 15 reps
  • Face-Pull: 4 sets of 15 reps
  • Preacher Curl: 4 sets of 15 reps
  • Hammer Curl: 4 sets of 15 reps
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