This Is What Child Bodybuilder ‘Little Hercules’ Is Doing Today
Meet Richard Sandrak — once known as the world’s strongest boy and Little Hercules. His body was unlike any other child’s, or for that matter, any adult’s. His journey to becoming super ripped has been a wild ride. As a child, he was doing 600 sit-ups and push-ups a day and bench-pressing over three times his body weight. Sandrak grew up only knowing a life of intense exercise and a strict diet so that he could become the world’s youngest bodybuilder. However, now that he’s all grown up, Richard Sandrak has decided to take a different path and his life looks completely different now. You’ll also be surprised to learn about his newfound passion.
1. Humble Beginnings
Back in 1992, in a small village in Ukraine, Pavel and Lena Sandrak welcomed their son Richard into the world. With talented people as Pavel and Lena as parents, it seemed like Richard was destined for greatness from the get go.
Pavel and Lena both came from athletic and competitive backgrounds. Pavel was a successful martial arts world champion, while Lena immersed herself in the world of competitive aerobics. It seemed only natural for Richard to head in that direction as well. Turns out it happened quicker than anyone could have anticipated.
2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
When Richard Sandrak turned two, his parents Pavel and Lena decided to move the family to Pennsylvania in search of a better life. It was there, at just at the tender age of two, that Richard was introduced to weightlifting.
Pavel built a home gym where Richard would totter around while his father worked out and trained. Usually, a father would just let his child be or entertain him with more child-like activities, but Pavel had another idea in mind.
3. Starting Young
Without even putting much thought into it at the time, Pavel started giving his little toddler, Richard, light weights to hold. He also taught him some basic stretching and martial arts techniques in his home gym.
Pavel immediately picked up on Richard’s potential, almost forgetting that his son was just a toddler. As a proud father, Pavel had very high hopes for Richard’s potential and wanted to make it a reality. He knew exactly what he had to do to make that happen.
4. First Weights
Lena Sandrak recalled in an interview how her son’s fitness career started out. “He was about three and a half or four and we had a huge barbell. He was trying to lift it and hold it and shake it and I said ‘You know what? Let’s try something lighter.'”
Pavel and Lena made Richard his own set of custom-sized small dumbells weighing only half a pound. To work on his balance, Pavel would have Richard do things like standing on one foot on a basketball. The kid was becoming a force unseen ever before.
5. California Dreamin’
Pavel Sandrak decided to move his family once again, and this time to California because he knew this was the place to network and use his connections to secure a spot in the limelight for his son Richard.
So, off Pavel went with his wife Lena and their muscle-bound son to the Golden State in search of stardom, and it wouldn’t take long before people started taking notice of the small, iron-pumping child prodigy.
6. Personal Training
Pavel kept training Richard to prepare him for the career he envisioned for his son. That’s when Frank Giardina, a fitness trainer, noticed what looked like a miniature version of Arnold Schwarzenegger gallivanting around the gym, lifting weights like nobody’s business.
Giardina was fascinated by this young bodybuilder, and even quite taken aback. He along with his wife Sherry Goggin had once been the stars of the competition show “American Galdiators” and knew how to combine strength and stardom.
7. From Novice to Advanced
When Pavel asked him to train Richard, Giardina agreed, but at the time he wasn’t aware of how much he’d help mold Richard’s future and career. Since the goal was finding stardom for Richard Sandrak, the couple began training him and choreographing an extravagant show.
Giardina started training Richard with an intense fitness regimen of 90 minute sessions, at least five times a week. By the time he was four-years-old, Richard had spent his entire childhood in the gym and could perform 600 sit-ups and push-ups, as well as 300 squats daily.
8. Strict Routine
Out of the gym, Pavel ensured his son stuck to a strict bodybuilding diet with no junk food or sweets. It was a childhood devoid of friends, school, or even toys. Meals consisted of a mysterious powdered drink that Pavel would feed to Richard three times a day.
There was no negotiating his daily routine with Pavel. His father ensured Richard was working out with his trainer every single day, so they could reach their goal as soon as possible, which was for Richard to be the best mini bodybuilder around.
9. Chiseled Like a Statue
Soon enough, Richard could bench press 82 kilograms (180 pounds). By the time he was six, he had tripled his weight and boasted a chiseled body with less than one percent body fat. When Richard was eight, he was already bench pressing 95 kilograms (210 pounds). That’s a lot of weight for a small kid.
Pavel was ready to unveil his mini bodybuilding son to the world, and boy, was his son going to get the attention he had hoped for. All the hard work was paying off, but the question was, could Richard keep up with the intense schedule and diets for much longer?!
10. Introducing Little Hercules
After months and months of training and preparation, the show was ready. Here, young Richard Sandrak would make his debut as Little Hercules. They began touring across the US and the show was an instant hit.
It consisted of Richard performing a number of his feats of strength and balance, as well as martial arts skills, while surrounded by an entire team of backup dancers. All this, and he wasn’t even 10 years old yet! It certainly started to work.
11. Strongest Boy
Richard Sandrak had risen to fame as a mini bodybuilder and proved his “Little Hercules” title because of his bulging six-pack abs and biceps. It didn’t take long for the media to dub Richard the strongest boy in the world, which is exactly what his father wanted to hear.
As a small bodybuilder, Richard was also incredibly flexible and could contort his body and do the splits with ease. As a result of his talents and abilities, his trainer Giardina entered him into nationwide weightlifting events. However, this was just the start of something big.
12. A Child Star
Richard Sandrak garnered attention everywhere he went and it didn’t take long for him to be invited to modeling and advertising photo shoots as a product ambassador for different companies and magazines. In short, he became a hit star featuring on TV and radio shows like The Howard Stern Show.
Pavel and Lena Sandrak, particularity Pavel, were extremely proud to introduce their son to the world. Richard landed contract after contract with bodybuilding nutrition companies and other fitness initiatives. He also traveled across the country for competitions and reaped the financial rewards. But it wasn’t all as glamorous as it seemed.
13. A Lost Childhood?
With such a grueling routine and lifestyle, the public grew concerned about Richard’s well-being and criticized his parents for not letting him live the life every child so needs and deserves. After all, stardom isn’t so easy on a child, let alone adults.
Richard’s non-stop workout routine and strict diet seemed unrealistic because it kept him away from friends and the classroom. He couldn’t even enjoy a piece of pizza with his parents because Pavel would pass him a bowl of lettuce instead.
14. Giardina’s Reservations
As Richard’s trainer, Frank Giardina had to implement strict exercise and bodybuilding routines, but that didn’t mean he didn’t care for Richard’s overall wellbeing. He noticed Pavel Sandrak’s harsh personality when he forced his son to repeat exercises that he had failed and made his son train through the night.
“We didn’t know that Richard had no toys at home,” Frank Giardina said in a 2003 interview. “He had no bicycle. He had no skateboard. He never was allowed to go outside. He never went to the park.”
15. Training By Choice
Giardina knew how physically and mentally taxing the lifestyle was, but Richard never once complained. In fact, Richard later told Inside Edition that it was his choice saying, “I’ve never been forced to train or do anything against my will.”
He continued, saying that “My parents used to train all the time and I wanted to join in. It was mostly my choice.” He emphasized that it never bothered him as a child. “It’s just what I grew up doing. I was never forced. It was never an issue,” he said. However, there was something else that did bother Richard.
16. Drama Behind-the-Scenes
Frank Giardina grew more and more agitated having to witness Richard miss out on his childhood, so he stepped in and told Pavel that perhaps it would be healthier for Richard to give bodybuilding and training a bit of a break.
Both Frank and Sherry also began to worry that Pavel was keeping Richard thin on purpose in order to make the muscles stand out even more. “Richard had never even had pizza. Never seen it and the father wouldn’t let him have it.”
17. Strange Powder
The main food that Frank Giardina and Sherry Goggin remember Richard Sandrak eating was a powdered drink, provided three times daily. This began rumors that the powder may have contained steroids.
When asked at age 11 if this could have been true, Richard fiercely denied it, pointing out that his mother made the drinks for him most of the time. When Lena herself was asked what was in the drinks, she said she didn’t know because she was too afraid to ask her husband, who became violent.
18. Spiraling Down
Finally, Frank Giardina brought his concerns to Pavel Sandrak and he was clearly furious. He told Giardina to stay out of their business, which led Giardina to quit being Richard’s trainer. Would things change for Richard now?
Things bat home also spinning out of control. Pavel was beating up his family, punching and kicking them until they were bruised. In public, Richard continued to be celebrated as a mini bodybuilder, until things took a turn for the worse. Things were really about to change.
19. Domestic Issues
The turning point for Richard occurred in 2003 when he was 11-years-old. Frank Giardina’s concern about Richard pushed the Sandraks into a rough spot, which brought out the worst in Pavel. He took his frustration out on his wife Lena, and became more violent than ever.
In Spring 2003, Richard had to call the police on his father. He begged them not to use their sirens so his father wouldn’t hear them coming, an indication of how life at home really was for Richard and his mother. Pavel’s arrest and imprisonment would become watershed moments in Richard’s life.
20. Looking Like A Monster
Shortly after the arrest, Richard was interviewed about the whole ordeal. When asked if he missed his father, he said “No, not at all. It’s a relief he’s gone.” Richard was still training, but not as intensely as before.
Richard Sandrak was asked when he was 11 years old how he managed to move on from his uncommon upbringing and be a normal kid. “I try not to think about [my past] as much because life is short and I want to enjoy it as much as I can.”
21. Freedom At Last
When Pavel Sandrak went to jail, Richard no longer needed to be a Little Hercules anymore. His trainer Frank Giardina came back into his life, but let Richard enjoy a normal childhood filled with play, and even some pizza and junk food. He even started going to school for the first time, making friends his age, and started rollerblading.
Meanwhile Lena was undergoing divorce proceedings to leave Pavel. It seemed like he was finally getting his life back to normal, but the world of bodybuilding, and all that came with it, wasn’t over just yet for Richard.
22. Overcoming His Childhood
Richard Sandrak was faced with huge challenges already from childhood but persevered nonetheless. After his father’s arrest, things began to normalize and he gained interests in many other interests that would end up influencing his current career.
After the arrest, a social services judge forbade him from lifting weights until he turned 16. This caused his muscle mass to go down but he was totally okay with that. “I looked like a monster,” Richard Sandrak recalled, referring to his childhood bodybuilding days. “I had these huge, huge muscles which were way too big. I overworked a little bit.”
23. The World’s Strongest Boy
About a year later, Pavel was released from prison, but he was placed under psychiatric guidance and also faced the possibility of deportation. At around the time this development occurred, Richard was featured in a documentary called The World’s Strongest Boy in 2004.
The documentary detailed Richard’s life and how it was possible for him to be able to bench-press three times his own body weight at only the age of six. The film also made some medical speculations about him.
24. New Workout Routine
The 2004 documentary “The World’s Strongest Boy”, followed Richard Sandrak for an entire month during his summer vacation. Only 11 at the time, he still had a huge fan base and his mother maintained a fan site for him, featuring news, photos, and videos.
It also showed his new “post-Pavel” workout routine, which still consisted of tough five days of training a week as he prepared to film a movie trailer. However, the filmmakers noted that however grueling the boot-camp-style exercises seemed, they were still nothing compared to what he was forced to do by his father.
25. Chasing the Dream
Richard and Lena Sandrak completely cut ties with Pavel, but Lena still encouraged her son to somewhat pursue his bodybuilding career. After all, he was extremely talented and could still achieve great things now that he had attracted international attention.
This is when Marco Garcia came into the picture. Lena hired him as Richard’s live-in talent manager to ensure that her son’s career didn’t fade into oblivion, and what do you know, Garcia helped actualize Pavel’s initial dream for his son: to earn Richard a spot in show business!
26. Keeping Healthy
By the time Richard Sandrak turned 15, he was still training five times a week but he also ate almost everything he wanted, like any other teenager. It was Garcia’s goal to normalize Richard’s everyday life as best he could while maintaining his bodybuilding physique.
Richard traveled the country and starred in a fitness series for kids on YouTube called Workout Videos for Kids to raise awareness of childhood obesity. He wanted to use his talents to encourage children to lead active lives. However, Richard’s biggest break would come in 2009.
27. What happened?
After staying out of the limelight for a number of years, he started gaining attention once again in 2008. More and more people began to wonder: whatever happened to the kid once known as “Little Hercules”?
He had a candid interview with Inside Edition when he was 15 years old and said that in the past, his father pushed him to maintain his physique but now, he was pushing himself. He called the rumors that he had ever taken steroids “completely not true. I’ve taken numerous tests and they all turned out negative.”
28. Hollywood Fame
In 2009, Garcia produced Richard Sandrak’s debut film Little Hercules in 3-D, starring Hulk Hogan and Judd Nelson. The movie is about 12-year-old Hercules, called Little Herc, who leaves Mt. Olympus for Earth against his father Zeus’s will. When he descends in Burbank, California, he’s in for a whole lot of adventure and culture shocks.
Richard could never have imagined starring alongside one of his idols, Hulk Hogan, let alone securing himself a career in acting, but thanks to Garcia, a lot of dreams became reality for him for the rest of his teenage years.
29. Career Decisions
In 2012, Richard starred in two more science fiction and action fantasy movies: The Legends of Nethiah and Assassin Priest. It seemed like having a live-in talent manager was doing him good both professionally and personally.
However, Richard soon realized that Hollywood just wasn’t for him after he had his shot at acting. What’s more, he would soon make another significant and life-changing decision about his bodybuilding career and his future overall as time went by.
30. The Cost of It All
It became very clear to Richard Sandrak that he hadn’t led the most normal childhood, or even teenage years for that matter. Most of his life was dedicated to exercise, strict diets, and media attention and he was ready for a change. Despite it all, he was never bitter about it.
Even though Richard was grateful for the way his life had turned out, something in him had changed. He decided to take a new path in life; a path that would completely change every aspect of his life.
31. Feels Like a Lifetime
It’s been years since he first grabbed the the public’s attention with his ripped and chiseled body, so the media wanted to know what Richard Sandrak is up to today. Surely he kept up his bodybuilding ways now that he’s an adult, right?
Being active was always a part of Richard’s life, so it doesn’t seem like he’d throw that away for all the candy and pizza in the world. While that may be true, Richard’s transformation and career choices are not anything anyone could have anticipated. So what happened to Little Hercules after all this time?
32. Inside Edition Getting the Scoop
Inside Edition decided to take a look inside Richard Sandrak’s life today, and they were definitely surprised by what they came to discover. They were expecting just an older version of the little Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike who rose to fame at such a young age, but that wasn’t the case.
The mini bodybuilder pursued newfound passions in his life, and while they certainly require an active and strong body, they definitely don’t have anything do to with extreme bench pressing and sit-ups. Read on to see what Richard looks like today, as it’s a far cry from what we’ve seen so far.
33. Six Feet Tall and Bearded
Richard Sandrak is now 26 years old, a six-foot-tall man brandishing a beard and ponytail. He doesn’t quite possess the same ripped physique he used to boast as a child, but that’s not to say he isn’t in good shape.
He’s still athletic looking, but he ditched his bulging muscles and rippled biceps for a more lean and natural appearance. When Inside Edition find out about Richard’s new career they were shocked because it was so unexpected.
34. Keeping Active
Now an adult, Richard keeps active by skateboarding, jogging, and stair climbing. He might not work out every day and eat just lettuce, but he simply couldn’t give up on an active lifestyle because of his love for adrenaline pumping through his veins.
When Inside Edition asked him what career path he chose, he said he couldn’t just sit around in an office all day as he loves to keep active and moving, but they certainly didn’t expect him to say what he said next.
35. “I Set Myself on Fire”
When Richard Sandrak isn’t performing cool skateboarding tricks, he actually hurls himself off buildings and sets himself on fire. Yep you heard right, Richard works six days a week as a stuntman for Universal Studios’ Waterworld show in Hollywood.
“I set myself on fire,” he told Inside Edition. His job requires him to jump off platforms and buildings 50 feet high (15 m) into water while on fire, so it’s clear he didn’t opt for the mainstream kind of career path. However, he had another interesting fact up his sleeve.
36. Change of Perspective
“I don’t lift weights anymore. If anything, it just got boring to me,” Richard told Inside Edition about why he changed his career. He simply realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Many people would think Richard opted for a crazy career choice, but if you consider what he endured during his childhood, anything seems like a piece of cake for him. Well, he definitely believes he can achieve anything, and you won’t believe what he wants to work in after he’s done being a stuntman.
37. A Quantum Scientist
During the interview, Inside Edition asked Richard what he ultimately wants to do with his life and professional career. Turns out that being a stuntman isn’t the final stop for him. He said that his dream is to become a “Quantum scientist. More specifically maybe even an engineer for NASA.”
When he was asked if he really sees that becoming a reality, Richard replied pointblank: “Absolutely, I see no reason why I can’t.” So while that’s in the works, his stuntman job provide him with the ongoing adrenaline rush and adventures that Richard seeks.
38. Not a Freak
Looking back on his days as a bodybuilder, Richard doesn’t see anything wrong with it. “People seemed to try to make me out to be a freak of nature, but there were many kids who had similar physiques,” he lamented to Inside Edition.
He doesn’t look like a muscle man anymore, but he has no regrets about his past. He’s more than happy to embrace his new look today which includes a different body type. He never feels ashamed of himself which is something to admire.
39. Tainted Childhood?
Richard Sandrak is aware of the scandal that surrounds his childhood, father, and bodybuilding career. After all, The World’s Strongest Boy documentary didn’t exactly paint the brightest picture of him, and even made some sweeping medical assumptions about him.
In spite of all that, Richard certainly doesn’t believe he had a tainted childhood; he actually thinks he achieved quite a remarkable feat that many people can only dream about. “I’m very proud of my past. It’s not something I don’t want people to know, it’s just that I’m not going to be stuck living in it.” Now that’s the spirit!
40. Single and Ready to Mingle
Today, Richard still abides by a healthy lifestyle and embraces his past and future with open arms. He might not be that famous anymore, but he prefers it that way because of the privacy he gets in return.
When he isn’t setting himself on fire or jumping off buildings, Richard lives a good and simple life in Los Angeles. He’s single and ready to mingle — and ready for more adventures. Until then, who knows what’s in store for the former Little Hercules?
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