Prepare To Be Amazed By This Unrecognizable Former Child Bodybuilder
Richard Sandrak, better known as Little Hercules, surprised the world with his unbelievable strength at age 8. The kid had an insane body builders physique and became known as the world’s strongest boy.
We were first introduced to the amazing boy more than a decade ago and he looks awfully different today. Catch up on the amazing story of Little Hercules and see how he’s grown over the past 15 years. You might be shocked to see what he looks like now!
The Beginning of Little Hercules
Building a physique takes the time, effort, strength, and discipline that most adults lack. Most of us have skipped the gym to eat good food and watch a movie. So, we can appreciate that it’s unbelievably impressive that an 8-year-old boy could build such an unbelievable physique.
Little Hercules is certainly one of a kind and he won the hearts of the world with his unique determination. But he seemed to have disappeared soon after the world met him, leaving us all wondering what happened to Little Hercules.
The young bodybuilder was born in 1992 to parents Lena and Pavel. They named him Richard Sandrak and while they did prioritize an active lifestyle, the parents had no clue that their son would become known as Little Hercules.
Lena was an aerobics teacher and Pavel was a martial arts trainer, so the parents were fully supportive of their son beginning his body-building journey early on in life.
The Student Surpasses The Teacher
Young Richard started working out with his parents when he was very young, but after a few years, he had reached a new level. He was becoming so built that his parents decided they should move the family from Ukraine to the U.S. to continue his success.
They came to Pennsylvania, where they would raise their son into Little Hercules. As soon as they were moved in and settled, they found a gym nearby and continued their training with Richard in tow.
His Father Starts Taekwondo Training
It was in Pennsylvania that Pavel decided it was time to start teaching his son Taekwondo. He noticed very early on that his son was something special. He could learn and perfect the moves more quickly than other students he had taught.
Pavel explained that Richard had excellent balance and mental strength, which was essential for the martial arts. Eventually, he decided to introduce his son to weight training.
Another Movie to California
Pavel started teaching his son about weight gaining, stretching, and simple moves to get him started on the journey. Richard picked everything up with a natural ease and improved with each lesson he had with his father.
They realized his skill would soon require more professional training so the family relocated again to California. They searched high and low for the right trainer and settled on the esteemed Frank Giardina.
The Trainers Knew He Was Something Special
Frank Giardina owned his own gym franchise and had personal experience in bodybuilding so he was the ideal trainer for the young Hercules. With his tools and experience, Little Hercules was sure to become the next best bodybuilder.
When Frank first met Richard, he was immediately impressed with the kid. They made a great team and the family was excited to work with Frank to start building up Richard (literally).
Are They Pushing Richard Too Far?
Now that the team was assembled, they were ready to begin the work. Pavel and Frank would both work with Richard to build him into the strongest and youngest bodybuilder in the world. His early promise made this seem like a completely achievable goal.
That meant training Richard as if he was an adult, rather than a child. Very quickly, Richard’s body began to change week by week as a result of his training. However, this made people call into question if this was healthy for such a young child.
Proving He Was Special
At the ripe age of 6 years old, Richard already looked different from every other 6-year-old on the planet. He started to gain a lot of attention for his unique look and quickly gained the name that we all know him as today: Little Hercules.
He could bench an impressive 180 pounds at age 6! This is a weight that most adults would fail to lift and he was able to do it with ease.
He Started To Shock The World
As he aged, his ability to lift heavy weights only increased. Richard was becoming more and more invested in breaking world records. By age 8, he could lift 210 pounds with hardly any struggle.
The world was interested in his transformation but hardly anyone could see that actual effort that it took to craft such a physique. Things could get pretty difficult!
Richard Was Pushed To His Limits
While he had the determination and work ethic of an adult, Richard was still a child at the end of the day. He was at the gym every day with Frank at his side, pushing him to be the best. When he went home he was pushed further by his father.
His father’s regimen was as difficult if not more difficult than the gym regiment Frank had him following. The poor kid never got a break. He wasn’t allowed to take a break until he had done 600 push-ups, 300 squats, and 600 sit-ups every night.
An Unhealthy Balance
The workout regimen was becoming increasingly unbalanced and unhealthy for a young kid. It was a gruesome routine for anyone, let alone an 8-year-old child. The public began asking questions.
Was this too much for one kid to handle? Was he a willing participant or was it becoming obsessive? People were starting to get really concerned and the regimen was growing as Richard continued to build muscle.
His Childhood Was Not Normal
Every aspect of Richard’s life was dedicated to his workout and “health” regimen, including his diet. While other kids were eating junk food and candy, he was eating broccoli and chicken. He didn’t have time outside of working out to make friends.
He was so determined to make his parents and trainer proud that he remained on the path without complaint. His dedication was so rare but this was not a healthy life for a kid.
His Meal Plans
His meals were mainly made of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. There was no room for sweets or carbs if he was going to continue to build his unbelievable physique. No straying from the plan was permitted.
To make matters worse, his parents didn’t have such a strict meal plan for themselves so they ate all the pizza and candy they wanted while Richard was forced to stick to his meal plan.
People Start Asking Questions
While people were undeniably impressed with the state of Richard’s body, they began to ask questions about the health of the poor boy. The routine required to maintain this physique couldn’t be healthy.
The parents were questioned if they were forcing Richard to continue his intensive schedule. When Richard, himself was questioned he responded that his intense lifestyle was “mostly his choice”. He defended his father in that no one was forcing him to stick to the regimen.
What Was Richard’s Choice In All Of This?
Richard maintained that his father had not forced him into anything. Rather, it was his choice to stick to the lifestyle and excel. He saw himself as no different from any other athlete who wanted to be the best.
The only difference was the young age that he started out. He believed his dedication was a necessary tool every athlete needed to excel.
At Age 10, Things Were Changing
After years of training and gaining some level of fame, Little Hercules continued to insist that he was in full control of his choices regarding his health and lifestyle. With more fame came more scrutiny for him and his parents.
People were eager to meet the young boy. They couldn’t believe that he was, in fact, real. While some people were simply in awe of him, others were beginning to suspect there was something illegal afoot.
Fame Brought New and Exciting Opportunities
The world of fame brought some amazing opportunities to Richard and his family. They were able to travel the world, they met Hulk Hogan and other bodybuilders, and they started to receive brand deals.
He was invited on many talk shows to talk about his journey and in 2009 he was offered his big break. He would star in a movie called Little Hercules in 3D, about his own life.
Richard decided to return to the world of martial arts in addition to his bodybuilding regimen. This was the sport that had started his entire journey so he and his father integrated this training back into his weight lifting workouts.
This meant an even more disciplined routine, if that was even possible. He was becoming stronger, gaining more fame, and making money all the while. The public’s concern for Little Hercules’ health only increased.
Professionals Started Weighing In
People on the internet always like to give their own opinions, but even professionals began to share their thoughts on the young boy’s lifestyle. Some professional bodybuilders came forward and expressed their concerns by explaining the long-term consequences of such extreme weightlifting at such a young age.
People were going to bat for Richard and the narrative began to harden around his transformation. People were insistent that this was obviously his father’s dream rather than Richard’s and that he shouldn’t be forced to follow someone else’s path instead of his own.
There Was Positive Feedback As Well
While a lot of the feedback from the public was negative, there were some positive repercussions that came from Richard’s training. His physician journey being shared online inspired other kids.
Perhaps they were not training on such a severe level, but the ideas of healthy competition and dedication to hard work at a young age were received by some people as very encouraging. Some people felt that the current generation needed a push like that.
The Money Aspect
Some people were of the opinion that the parents were taking advantage of young Hercules for the money and fame that came their way. But others actually felt it was a good thing that Richard started his training so young because he was saving money for the future.
If he was seemingly content with his lifestyle and putting money away for his future, what was the problem, right? Some people applauded his ability to manage fame and his personal life.
Fame Started To Intervene
It was exciting to be invited on so many talk shows, but fame was starting to interfere with Richard’s workout regimen. It’s difficult to fly all over the world for television appearances when you have workout and diet restrictions.
It was becoming too much to handle for anybody, let alone a kid who was dedicated to being the best. Soon enough, the police came knocking.
Things Started To Crumble
Things took a turn for the worst when Richard began losing interest in the gym. His trainer, Frank, apparently became more uncomfortable around Richards’s father and people online were losing interest in the story of Little Hercules.
Meanwhile, things really got bad when Pavel was arrested for domestic violence. Lena was left to care for Richard, who was in a major transitional period in his life. The rosey period of fame and fortune had come to an end.
His Training Declined
With Pavel away, Lena did try to encourage her son to continue his bodybuilding endeavors, but she was not as strict as her husband had been with the workouts and dietary restrictions. Health experts started to reach out with more concerns for Richard’s health.
At the time, he had no more than 1% body fat, which could give way to many health complications in the future. Rumors started to spread that he was taking illegal substances to gain his physique, which discredited all the hard work he had put in to get where he was. Naturally, all of these outside factors were weighing on Richard.
A “Normal” Life
Since he had begun bodybuilding, Richard hadn’t gotten the opportunity to live a normal life. Now a teenager, he would get to actually spend some time relaxing, being with friends, and doing all the normal things that he should have been able to do all along.
For the first time ever he was able to be around his friends without worrying about missing workouts or what he was eating. He was still working out but it was not nearly as strict as it had been before.
Adjusting And Seeing The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Adjusting to a “normal” lifestyle took some time. It was understandably odd for the boy to spend more time at home or with his friends than in the gym. He could enjoy the fruits of his efforts still because he had made himself a good nest egg through all his hard work.
While he was adjusting to the lifestyle, one question was still on his mind: What was he going to do with his life? His entire life had been bodybuilding, so what was next for Little Hercules.
The New Phase Begins
Richard knew that his passion was fitness so he wanted to pursue a career in this even if it meant he wasn’t bodybuilding in the extreme way he had been as a child. He was offered a position at Universal Studios as a stuntman in Waterworld: A Live Sea Spectacular.
This job allowed him to use the skills he had learned over the years and made him very fulfilled in all the ways bodybuilding had. It also meant having a healthy personal and professional balance in his life.
Little Hercules is not so little anymore and he still remains proud of his accomplishments and dedication to an active lifestyle. Now, he just has more balance in his life and knows the value of hard work.
He still uses all his combined skills in his adult life. While his physique isn’t that of Hercules anymore, he still hits the gym and stays in shape to keep up with the stunts necessary for his job.
His Dreams For The Future
Richard has already proved to the world that he can accomplish the seemingly impossible if he puts his mind to it. Little Hercules now sets his sights on space. He hopes to work for NASA one day.
The stresses on his mental and physical health at such a young age did not deter him from achievement. This famous bodybuilder might be going up into space before we know it. We certainly wouldn’t bet against him!