Kid Bodybuilder 'Little Hercules' is All Grown Up and Chasing a New Dream

Little Hercules. What happened to the famous boy bodybuilder in 16 years?

In the early 2000s, few people in the United States had not heard of Little Hercules, an amazing boy bodybuilder. Already at the age of six, Richard Sandrak amazed the audience with his athletic form, and by the age of eight he actively participated in all popular American bodybuilding shows and became a real celebrity. They wrote about Sandrak in magazines, invited him to television and movies, and thousands of people came to his performances. We will tell you how Richard managed to come to this form and what it cost him.

How did the strongest boy in the world train?

Richard Sandrak was born in 1992 in Ukraine, and when he was for two years, he emigrated to the United States with his parents - Pavel and Lena. For Richard, the path of little Hercules began in childhood. He was less than a year old when his mother began doing stretching exercises with him. And as soon as the boy learned to walk, his father took him seriously.

Richard's parents themselves were directly related to sports. Pavel Sandrak is the world champion in martial arts, and Lena was professionally engaged in aerobics. As they said in one interview, it was not necessary to force Richard to train. He watched parents do the same and wanted to be like them.

Little Richard was quite easy to work out, and the results were amazing for his age. The father could not help but pay attention to this and began to approach the boy's training with all seriousness. Martial arts were added to stretching and simple exercises with weight, in which Sandrak also excelled. Paul understood that his son could achieve great success. But quiet and provincial Pennsylvania did not have much prospects.

In 1997, the entire Sandrak family moved to a city in the Hollywood Hills - Los Angeles. There Pavel met Frank Jardina, the owner of the then popular fitness club Gold’s Gym. Jardine worked as a personal trainer for celebrities, and his wife Sherry, a former American Miss Fitness, helped him with the gym. Impressed by Richard's accomplishments, they agreed to coach him. However, the last word - both in the gym and beyond - still remained with Pavel.

Sandrak worked out daily for several hours. His training minimum was several times higher than the adult's program: 600 push-ups, 600 repetitions of abdominal exercises and 300 squats. And that's not counting the intense martial arts training and special stretching. The result was obvious, or rather, on the body. At the age of six, Richard looked, to put it mildly, impressive and was very strong for his age. The boy could press about 82 kilograms from his chest, which was more than twice his weight. By the age of eight, he had already mastered about 95 kilograms.

Little Hercules. What happened to the famous boy bodybuilder in 16 years?

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Little Hercules in Hollywood

The young bodybuilder started competing and was nicknamed Little Hercules. He participated in the most popular American bodybuilding shows at that time: Mr. Olympia, Night of Champions, Mr. USA, Emerald Cup, Arnold Classic. The fame of him spread throughout the country: Richard appeared on the covers of magazines, he was invited to television shows. He even toured the United States. It was hard for people to believe that at a young age the boy achieved such high results, and everyone wanted to see this miracle with their own eyes. By 1999, Sandrak was performing on major stages across the country, from Las Vegas to New York.

Little Hercules. What happened to the famous boy bodybuilder in 16 years?

Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Richard has completely absorbed the fitness world and show business. To keep up with everything, he had to live on a strict schedule: powerlifting, training, posing, dancing and choreography, and in his free time - homeschooling. The life of little Hercules was scheduled by the minute.

Sandrak reached his peak of popularity in 2001, when at a bodybuilding show Arnold Classic met his idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The action star was amazed at Richard's accomplishments, and the boy himself realized that at least one of his dreams had come true.

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Criticism of Richard Sandrak and his family

It seemed that the little bodybuilder and his whole family were invariably lucky, but not everything was so smooth. Of course, many admired his success, but there were also those who criticized his parents for a strict upbringing, without which such results would hardly have been achieved. Sandrak was accused of doping. Allegedly, the boy could not maintain a relief shape only with the help of training and nutrition. To refute the rumors, Pavel forced his son to pass three different tests.

Later, Frank Jardine, Richard's coach, said that Pavel was very strict and demanding not only towards his son, but also towards other family members. He completely controlled the boy's life and raised him in almost Spartan conditions. Jardina said that he had not seen a single toy in the Sandraks' house, and Richard almost did not communicate with his peers - he had no friends. All he did was train hard.

It is not known what kind of diet Richard followed, but there were many rumors about the strictness of his diet. For example, that he could not eat almost anything but white beans. Or that he never tasted sweets or fast food, and his father made him look likehe eats junk food himself.

The end of his career: little Hercules left bodybuilding

At some point, Pavel completely relied on his son's earnings. And when he suddenly stopped generating income, Sandrak Sr. began to abuse alcohol. Richard's father became more and more aggressive, snapped at his wife, and later raised his hand to her. In April 2003, Pavel could not control himself at all: he beat Lena, breaking her nose and wrist. Richard managed to assess the severity of the situation and quietly called the police. The father was convicted and sent to prison, and little Hercules was finally able to heal like an ordinary child.

For a while, Richard continued to train and even began acting in films. In 2005, a documentary about him was released - The Strongest Boy in the World, and in 2009 Sandrak played in Little Hercules 3D. Although Richard's film debut cannot be called a great success, he managed to work on the same site with real Hollywood stars and wrestling legends - Hulk Hogan and Paul White. The boy took part in a couple of other projects, and then suddenly disappeared.

Little Hercules. What happened to the famous boy bodybuilder in 16 years?

Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Little Hercules. What happened to the famous boy bodybuilder in 16 years?

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How does Richard Sandrak look now?

In 2015, Richard gave an interview to one of the American TV channels, in which he told what he had been doing recently. It was difficult to recognize the famous boy bodybuilder in the man on the screen: no striking reliefs or muscles. Viewers saw an ordinary 23-year-old guy who only occasionally visits the gym.

In the program, Sandrak walked along the beach without a T-shirt and talked about what his days are now. He refused intensive training with iron. Probably in childhood he trained for life ahead. And the whole fitness routine was reduced to rare exercises on the horizontal bar, cardio exercises and skateboarding.

Although Richard is no longer acting in films, he has not abandoned his childhood dream. He's only now a live-action actor at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Sandrak's position is more like a stuntman: during performances he goes water skiing, jumps off buildings, and sometimes even sets himself on fire.

It is unlikely that the life of an animator can be compared with the real popularity in the world of bodybuilding, but Sandrak is not complains. It seems that a busy childhood in the role of little Hercules gave Richard all the possible impressions of fame and stellar life. He himself decided to give up all this and only now, according to him, he became truly happy.

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