Richard Sandrack, known as “Little Hercules,” caught the public’s attention for having the strongest and most sculpted body of any 8-year-old on the planet. His rigorous workout routine and dedication helped him achieve the physique many professional bodybuilders never will. As impressive as it was, Richard’s body and lifestyle began to raise questions about his health and whether he was being forced into the sport. See the controversial life of Richard Sandrak and where he is today after a far from normal childhood as a bodybuilder.
Born In Ukraine
On April 15, 1992, Richard Sandrak was born in Ukraine to martial arts world champion Pavel Sandrak and aerobics competitor Lena Sandrk. In 1994, his parents moved the family to Pennsylvania in hopes of having a better opportunity for their son.
It was here, at the age of two that his father introduced him to light weight training. Not long after beginning to lift weights, it was clear that Richard wasn’t just good at it but also had a promising future as a bodybuilder.
Richard Showed Serious Potential
At just two years old, Richard showed serious potential in the sport. His dad then promptly moved the family to California for more bodybuilding opportunities as well as exposure. He knew California would make his son famous.
While touring a gym in California, they met trainer Frank Giardina who the Sandrak’s hired to mentor Richard. Giardina began to work very closely with Richard and stayed with him for many years throughout his career.
A Brutal Training Regimen
After meeting Giardina, Richard was in the gym training every day from then on. Being a young boy, he didn’t always want to, but it didn’t matter. His father and trainer helped him keep his eye on the prize to be the best he could be.
While other boys his age were playing and making friends, he was doing over 600 push-ups and 300 squats each day. His coach and dad worked together on Richard to help sculpt his body.
More Than Just Gym Time
Along with the daily training regiments, Richard’s diet was equally as important. His father strictly controlled Richards food intake, monitoring exactly what he put into his body. It was this combination of intense workouts and carefully structured diet that allowed Richard’s body to show serious results.
It was during this time that he earned the title “LIttle Hercules” at his local gym. After spending some time perfecting his body, it was decided that Richard would begin competing in competitions.
Questionable Training Methods
Although Richard was never physically forced to do anything against his will, as an adult, he recalls some rather odd training exercises. He remembers that his father would eat pizza in front of him while he could only eat lettuce to learn self-discipline.
He also had to sleep on the floor to improve his posture as well as other things that most parents would find to be mildly abusive. Richard, however, didn’t see it as abusive at the time and still doesn’t today.
Starting To Compete
By the time Richard was eight years old, he began to participate in national bodybuilding events throughout the country. He was also hired to do photo shoots and represent various companies’ health products.
As famous as he was getting in the little boy bodybuilding world, it was only a matter of time before he caught the eye of the public. Once he started attracting serious attention, he agreed to do radio and television interviews.
It wasn’t long until Richard, now known as “Little Hercules,” had become a household name. People wanted to learn more about his life. He then starred in the documentary The World’s Strongest Boy which showed his life and training practices on a day-to-day basis.
The documentary also announced that he had less than one percent body fat which began to raise some eyebrows. People also began to feel bad for him because of how much time he spent training.
Questions Are Raised
After the documentary was released, people began to ask questions concerning Richard’s health both physically and psychologically. It was alarming how hard he was being pushed and many wondered if it was too much. It was also clear that he wasn’t having much social interaction for his age.
Having one percent body fat isn’t considered to be healthy either and people began to question if he was taking testosterone or other performance-enhancing drugs.
Richard Responds To The Suspicions
Richard responded to these comments by claiming that although he did receive help from his dad, he was never pressured to work as hard as he did.
He emphasized that he was self-driven and that he wasn’t being put into any dangerous situations. However, even Richard’s trainer claimed that his dad was pushing him dangerously hard. This would later prove to be true after his father was sent to prison for domestic abuse. For many people, this answered a lot of questions.
The Beginning Of The End
When Richard was 11 years old, his father was arrested and sent to prison for domestic abuse after breaking his wife’s nose and wrist during a fight.
It was at that moment that Richard’s bodybuilding career began to quickly fizzle out and the young boy was soon forgotten. His father going to jail and his bodybuilding career slowing down was also evidence that it wasn’t just Richard’s desire to work out that kept him going. His father clearly played a large role.
Richard Calls It Quits
With his father in prison, Richard decided to do something for himself and decided that he no longer wanted to continue with the life he was living. his mother never pressured him like his father, and was in full support of anything he wanted to pursue from that point on.
Now, he had the opportunity to live the normal life he never could before. It was finally time for him to start making friends his own age and trying new things.
Photo Credit: Michael Bezjian/WireImage
By the time he was 15, he had reduced his training to five times a week with 90-minute sessions. He also began occasionally indulging in things like pizza and soda. His live-in manager at the time Marco Garcia played a big role in normalizing his life.
Richard also went on to make appearances in films and raise awareness for childhood obesity. Thankfully, the public was supportive of Richard in his attempt to lead a normal life.
Film and Media Appearances
During his bodybuilding career and afterward, Richard became comfortable being in front of the camera. He has been on The Howard Stern Show, where he showed off his muscles and bodybuilding skills.
Then in 2009, he debuted in his first Hollywood film Little Hercules, as well as Legends of Nethiah, and the short film Assassin Priest.Along with acting in Hollywood, he also appeared on shows such as Hogan Knows Best and Inside Edition.
Quitting Bodybuilding Entirely
It wasn’t long after his father’s arrest that Richard made the personal decision to leave his old bodybuilding career in the past. As it turns out, he never loved it as much as he made people think, and he desperately wanted to try other things.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t ever even able to try being a kid because he was at the gym training the majority of the day, or his father wouldn’t let him. Luckily, he figured out what he really liked not long after.
Discovering His True Passions
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
After quitting bodybuilding entirely, Richard had some newfound time on his hands. More than he could ever imagine was possible. Although he continued making appearances in movies and being an activist against childhood obesity, he discovered some other things that he liked.
Because he wanted to still stay in shape, he began to participate in proactive activities such as stair climbing, swimming, making home videos, and more. You’ll never guess what he’s up to today!
After years of being out of the public eye and doing his own thing, Richard eventually announced to the public what he’s been up to. In a 2015 interview, Richard informed reporters that he has been working in Hollywood as a stuntman.
Whether it’s jumping off of structures or setting himself on fire, he is now working for Universal Studios where he lights himself on fire in front of large crowds up to five times a day!
He Needed To Spice Up His Life
The reason that Richard likes his job so much is because it is so different from everything most people do and definitely from what he used to do. He claims that there’s a new challenge every day and that the adrenaline helps to keep him on his toes.
He claimed that there was no adrenaline in the gym working out seven hours a day lifting weights. He needed something more exciting in his life, and that excitement happens to come from lighting himself on fire on a daily basis.
No Real Regrets
When asked about his childhood and past, Richard claims that he doesn’t have any regrets. By the looks of it, he’s made up for lost time by devoting the last years to pursuing things that he actually cares about. It also probably doesn’t hurt that he is unrecognizable from the “Little Hercules” that he used to be.
In an interview, he stated “I’m 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 it.”
Throughout the years that Richard has had to himself, there are a few hobbies that Richard has described as being his favorites. Although he doesn’t spend much time in the gym anymore, he is a big fan of all kinds of cardio workouts — especially stair running.
He also continues to maintain a healthy diet although not nearly like his father used to make him. For fun, he likes to skateboard which he views as a fun and exciting way to exercise.
Now 26 years old, Richard is content with his position in life at the moment although he’s not a very stagnant person. Although he says he will never get back into weightlifting, he does know what he wants to do as a career.
He wants to become a quantum scientist. While that may be hard to imagine, it has been his dream for some time now to work for NASA as a space shuttle engineer. He certainly has the work ethic and determination to do so!