6-Year-Old Bodybuilder Known As ‘Little Hercules’ Now Looks A Bit Different As An Adult

Society craves things that are out of the ordinary. Whether portrayed positively or negatively, there are entities which captivate all of our attention. There are people, places, and things which cannot really be described. As opposed to finding a definition for these marvels, the more acceptable form of appreciation involves simply gawking in sheer wonder.

Richard Sandrak knows a thing or two about having all eyes focused directly on him. Most children enjoy the simple things in life — such as eating junk food, watching television, and playing with friends. These are enjoyable activities normally geared towards young people. However, this was not the case for young Sandrak.

From an early age, Sandrak was instructed — and even groomed — to be the world’s smallest bodybuilder. One look at his physique would make even the most veteran of bodybuilders envious. It was almost as if a tiny robot was created in a lab somewhere. Though Sandrak was incredibly impressive and strong for his age, there were underlying factors behind the scenes which made his childhood somewhat traumatic.

As many say, the simple things in life are often enjoyed when you’re a kid. Things are fun, easy, and occur without any semblance of stress. The same cannot be said for Sandrak. As you will learn, one driving force made the life of Sandrak and his family very difficult… and in some cases dangerous.

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Richard Sandrak was born on April 15, 1992 in the country of Ukraine. His father Pavel was immersed in the world of martial arts. His mother Lena was also an athlete (working in aerobics). Wanting a better life for themselves and their children, the Sandrak’s decided to make a gigantic move.

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The Sandrak family first settled in Pennsylvania. At this time, Richard was only a toddler. The family began realizing Richard’s natural athletic ability even as a 2-year-old. This prompted his father, Pavel, to do something many would deem as controversial.

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As a toddler, Pavel began having Richard participate in weight training. Of course, the weights couldn’t be too heavy — as Richard was a small child without a ton of coordination. However, quick improvement in both lifting and stretching paved the way for the Sandrak family to move out to a city known for entertainment.

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The Sandrak’s moved out to Hollywood, California in search of fame and fortune. Pavel believed the change in location would allow for Richard to fully showcase his unique talents. While taking trips to various gyms in the Los Angeles area, Pavel met a man named Frank Giardina. Giardina would forever change the lives of both Pavel and his son.

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Giardina was known as a personal trainer/promoter for many celebrities. He was astounded upon first meeting Richard:

“At first I thought, “Is this a [little person]? Or is this some kind of a trick photography? Pavel [Richard’s father] had told Richard to go up and hit the speed bag. So Richard jumps up in the air, kicks it three times before he hits the ground.”

This began the start of a money-making scheme based upon Richard’s impressive physique.

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Quote source: ABC News

Giardina decided to start working with the family. By the age of five, Richard was doing 600 push-ups, 600 sit-ups, and 300 squats every single day. At six years of age, Richard maxed out on the bench at 180 pounds. Richard turned into a physical marvel. At this point, Giardina decided to showcase Richard in the media with a very famous nickname.

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Richard became billed as ‘Little Hercules’ everywhere he went. He began a tour junket which included appearances at bodybuilding events, interviews on television, and print ads in magazines. Richard — a small child — even endorsed certain supplements for a brand called Pinnacle. From here, the legend of Richard Sandrak only grew.

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By age 7, Sandrak was touring all over the country. He’d routinely meet celebrities — and simultaneously made loads of money. An appearance on The Howard Stern Show clearly signaled one thing: Richard had become a national phenomenon. This led to the young boy making a leap into the world of acting.

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Richard starred in multiple films — including the children’s film Little Hercules in 3-D (featuring Robin Givens, Hulk Hogan, and Elliott Gould). Everything seemed to be falling into place. Richard was on the path to becoming the next Arnold Schwarzenegger as a dual-threat actor/bodybuilder. However, things behind the scenes weren’t as cheerful as one would think.

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Richard was never in any sort of formalized school. Instead, he was tutored at home by his mother. Along the same lines, Richard never had the opportunity to act as a normal child. He didn’t have play dates with other kids, and was kept on a strict schedule by his father. One day, Giardina began to suspect something strange about Richard’s father, Pavel.

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Giardina spent a ton of time with the Sandrak family. When going over to their home, it became clear to Giardina that Pavel was not training Richard appropriately — but rather on the verge of it being abusive and exploitative. Those in the media also questioned Richard’s abnormally impressive physique for a boy younger than 10 years of age. Later on, something else occurred which confirmed Giardina’s feelings.

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Richard was not allowed to eat junk food of any kind. Various reports insisted that Pavel would eat junk food in front of Richard on purpose. Instead of pizza or chicken tenders, Richard would have to consume lettuce. He had to sleep on the floor in order to maintain back posture. At one point, Richard was said to have less than 1-percent body fat. This is dangerously low for any human (let alone a child). The intensity of Pavel only worsened as time went on.

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Giardina disassociated himself with the family after becoming increasingly upset with the way he perceived Pavel’s treatment of Richard. One report even had Pavel threatening to kill Giardina. Things had started to go downhill, as Richard’s movie career hadn’t taken off as they had anticipated. One night, things suddenly took a dark and dangerous turn.

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Pavel physically assaulted Richard’s mother — ultimately breaking her nose and wrist. Watching in horror, Richard phoned the police. He insisted that no sirens be blaring upon arrival, as he was worried for his mother’s well-being. Pavel was arrested for domestic abuse, and was sent to jail.

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From here, things normalized a bit. One of the producers from a movie Richard worked on moved in with the family to help him acclimate better to a ‘normal’ childhood life. This included the introduction of pizza and other vices enjoyed by adolescents. Giardina also returned to work out with Richard in a slower, more relaxed manner.

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Richard and his mother cut off all ties with Pavel upon him being released from jail. From there, Richard progressed as the average teenager. He worked out sparingly, and offered sporadic updates about his life throughout the media. In 2005, a TLC documentary entitled The World’s Strongest Boy chronicled Richard’s life.

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Richard stayed out of the limelight for quite a while. In 2015, he resurfaced looking unrecognizable. No longer cut and muscular, Richard sat down to discuss his life. You’d be surprised to hear about his current plans.

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Instead of weight lifting, Richard skateboards, runs, and does chin-ups. He’s also a stunt man in the Waterworld show for Universal Studios. Richard gets lit on fire up to five times per day before plunging (safely) into a pool of water 50 feet below.

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The story of Richard Sandrak is a cautionary tale. This is the classic case of a parent who may start out with good intentions, but suddenly gets swept up in all the hoopla surrounding their child. Fortunately, Richard appears to be a well-adjusted individual — and one with no qualms about recounting the past.

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