This Is What Little Hercules Is Doing Now

There was a time not so long ago when internet users could open an email with scores of "FWD"s in the subject line and see, to their amazement, pictures of a child who could effortlessly crush them to death with his hands. That child was known as "Little Hercules," and inexplicably, he was not some superhero comic creation brought to life by a lonely little boy's very special birthday wish. Instead, he was Richard Sandrak, a rippling pile of physical excellence whose "Atlas Man" physique gained him international fame in the mid-2000s.

Today, Sandrak looks like a pretty normal guy, though he has spent a good chunk of time set on fire for money as a Hollywood stuntman. Compared to what Sandrak's early years were like — when he reportedly slept on the floor to maintain his posture and performed hundreds of squats and pushups on a daily basis, among other exercises — that all may sound like an improvement (via The Guardian). At the age when some kids are largely sustained by a diet of their own boogers, Sandrak's caloric intake was carefully monitored by his parents.

To the typical person, that might seem like child abuse or questionable parenting, but in a 2007 interview with The Guardian, Sandrak disagreed. "I've never been forced to train or do anything against my will," Sandrak said. His parents trained heavily, "and I wanted to join in. It was mostly my choice. It's just what I grew up doing. I was never forced. It was never an issue," he continued.

Little Hercules: Smoke on the Water

Viral fame aside, Richard Sandrak, formerly known as Little Hercules, made a movie appearance in 2009 in "Little Hercules in 3-D," alongside Hulk Hogan, Judd Nelson, Elliott Gould, and John Heard. The role that Sandrak played was named — what else? — Little Hercules. Around that time another Sandrak film project was in the works, "Fancy Moves," described by Sandrak's then-manager Marco Garcia as "like 'The Karate Kid' with some hip-hop" (via The Guardian).  Unfortunately, that movie never saw the light of day. 

From the world's strongest boy to aspiring action star to Hollywood Stuntman, in 2015, Inside Edition caught up with Sandrak to shed some light on what the lapsed bulked-up pre-teen had been up to since he fell from the international spotlight. Employed at that time by Universal Studios Hollywood's "Waterworld "show, Sandrak was set on fire and jumped from buildings, sometimes five times a day. 

At that point, Sandrak said, "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." In 2016, an Instagram post from "Iron Man Magazine" explained Sandrak hoped to one day work as a NASA engineer and maintain his career in movies. Over the last few years, the Ukranian-born child star otherwise kept a low profile. In December 2022, Sandrak's Instagram page was open to the public and said, "Fire bad. Water good. Me no like humans." By May 2023 it was made private and said simply, "" He used Ukrania's blue and yellow flag colors as his bio pic. 

Sandrak's dark younger years

In the years since pictures of Richard Sandrak first arrived in our inbox, details emerged about the nature of his youth. Some of those claims emerged in the 2007 Sandrak documentary, "The World's Strongest Boy." Born in Ukraine but raised in Pennsylvania, Sandrak's father, Pavel who was primarily responsible for his kid's strict training, served prison time for beating Sandrak's mother, breaking her wrist and nose. Prior to that point, Sandrak, who was homeschooled, earned thousands of dollars a month due to his fame. His career and finances, though, were reportedly controlled by Pavel.

Around that same time, at the age of 11, Sandrak stopped bodybuilding, according to the Daily Mirror. All throughout, stories about Richard's "swole "years raised eyebrows and inspired mutterings about child abuse. Accusations that Sandrak could only look like he did at such a young age with performance-enhancing drugs or steroids were denied by Sandrak's mother, Lena. As a boy, Sandrak was also reportedly forced to maintain 1% percent body fat, a potentially fatal level, according to medical experts. At the height of his notoriety, Sandrak said (per the Mirror), "Lots of people will come over to try touch my abs and my muscles check if it's fake or not [sic]."

Considering some of the stories that emerged from Sandrak's childhood, his current life sounds pretty relaxing. Most notably, though, Sandrak, aka Little Hercules, no longer lifts, bro. "If anything," he told Inside Edition in 2015, "it just got boring."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.