What Little Hercules Is Up To Today
Remember Little Hercules? He was the pint-sized 8-year-old Ukrainian-American bodybuilder from the early 2000s who perplexed your slow internet connection while making you feel very inadequate. He was cute as the dickens and scary as heck, in equal measure. They called him the World’s Strongest Boy; naturally, such a title would suggest an eventual World’s Strongest Man, yes? So what does this short stack of shredded muscle look like now in his twenties? Would you believe his appearance is actually … pretty
When Richard was young, his parents moved from Ukraine to Pennsylvania. By the time he was 2 years old, his parents were already drilling him on his strength and flexibility, according to the Guardian, and eventually moved to California in hopes of getting publicity for their son. As Richard’s muscles and fame grew, so did concern from doctors. Some believed the only way for such a young body to get muscles like Richard’s would be through steroid or testosterone supplements — definitely not what a growing boy needs. His parents denied the use of steroids. Reports also suggested that Richard underwent “six- or seven-hour training regimes.” That … would be a weird childhood for anyone.
As his muscles bulged and he got a little older, tensions rose in the Sandrak household. Richard’s father, Pavel, tried to break into the fitness supplement market, which probably made those skeptical doctors even more concerned about Richard. Richard’s trainer, a man named Frank Giardina, also became worried about the parenting choices being made and quit training Richard. (A little late, perhaps?) Pavel was eventually sent to jail for assaulting his wife — he broke her wrist and nose. The Guardian reported that “it was Richard who called the police — asking them not to use sirens, for fear of how his father would respond.” Being a teenager is hard enough without that kind of stuff going on.
Like anyone, Little Hercules had good times to go along with the bad times. Because of his notoriety and unique build, he got opportunities that a lot of kids would have loved. Above he’s pictured at the premiere of 2005’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ with professional wrestler and professionally muscled man Hulk Hogan. Sandrak later made his first feature film, titled Little Hercules in 3-D, with Hulk Hogan, Elliott Gould and several other big Hollywood names. The film wasn’t particularly well-reviewed, nor did it make much money, but hey, have you ever been in a film with Hulk Hogan? Didn’t think so.
Little Hercules grew up
As a teenager, how do you recover from that sort of violence and upheaval in the home? In 2007, a Guardian reporter caught up with him to check in. Perhaps the biggest change at the time? Little Hercules had lost much of his signature build. Richard looked “almost disappointingly normal” at the time, the reporter wrote. “He trains five times a week, 90 minutes a session, but only when he has to get in shape for a part,” the report noted. However, his old trainer, Frank Giardina, was back, and Richard had returned to a “strict diet and exercise regime.” Could he regain his vaunted muscles as he prepared to enter adulthood? And more to the point, would he even want to?
Little Hercules is proud of his past
Richard isn’t upset about his childhood. On the contrary, he insists, “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.” A mature outlook! No one would fault him for being bitter about how things went down in his early years. Though he maintains that the working out was his idea, saying that as a child he had “never been forced to train or do anything against my will,” his father, whom he trained with, had a reputation for outbursts and intensity. On top of the reported hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups a day, restrictions against junk food, and high-intensity interval training as punishment, it’d be understandable if Little Hercules had turned into a moody teenager, hulked out, and leveled an entire city with his rage. Instead, he grew into a strong, chill, good-looking young man with kind eyes who seems fond of the beach. Hey, is this dude single?
At last report, Richard is a stuntman at Universal Studios Hollywood’s “WaterWorld” show, performing feats such as being set on fire and diving into water from a 50-foot drop. Fun! Pictured: Richard taking a dive from afar. Now that he’s not spending so much time at the gym, he keeps in shape by skateboarding, running, cardio, and occasionally lifting. And, again, jumping off of platforms while on fire.
Is … is that really Little Hercules? It’s been awhile. Now in his twenties, the man they once called Little Hercules has proven not to be a big Hercules but a mortal human, just like you or I. Standing 6 feet tall now, you would never guess he’s the same person we met all those years ago, when he was 8 years old and shredded.
Little Hercules is taking it easy
“No, I don’t lift weights [anymore],” Little Hercules announced recently. “If anything, it just got boring.” And with that, he’s blown our minds. The Little Hercules we knew didn’t live for anything but weights. He seemed like the kind of person who got bored between reps. But given the pressures he was reportedly under, it’s probably healthy that he’s moved on to more normal pursuits in life.
There is a particular part of Richard’s recent Inside Edition interview that we’d like very much like to highlight. You will notice, following the question “If you could have your dream job today, what would it be,” that less than half a second elapses before Richard has given the question all the thought he needs to in order to give a perfectly chill reply. “Quantum scientist. For… more specifically, maybe even an engineer at NASA,” he informed the interviewer before slapping his knee and nodding his head while the camera zoomed in (it’s like he’s achieved borderline McConaughey levels of cool). He’s the platonic ideal of beach bae. He loves his parents, he takes care of himself, he’s proud of his past—it almost makes you want to swoon, especially after the interviewer swoops back in for one last check on Lil Herc’s NASA aspirations, asking, “Would you see that becoming a reality?”
But our man is unflappable. “Absolutely,” he replies. No hesitation. “There’s no reason that it couldn’t be.” Oh, Little Hercules. We are swooning. This is what it feels like to swoon. Hang in there, baby.