If there’s something to admire about Nataliya Kuznetsova Trukhina, it’s that she is determined. As one of the biggest and most successful female bodybuilders in Russia, Nataliya has broken multiple lifting records and won international competitions since she began her powerlifting journey 14 years old.
Unfortunately, even with all of her success, people often make rude comments about her muscular appearance. But even the haters have to admit her transformation from skinny teenager to world-famous bodybuilder is impressive. Read on to learn about Nataliya’s moving story and see her “before photo.” You won’t recognize her!
220-Pounds Of Pure Muscle
At the age of 27, Russian bodybuilder Nataliya Kuznetsova Trukhina is the European arm lift champion. But her status as a powerlifter isn’t the only reason she’s made a name for herself in the niche sport.
Nataliya weighs 220-pounds with, what looks like, little to no body fat, making her the heaviest female in the sport. It’s no wonder male bodybuilders look tiny next to her muscular body! Ironically, the world champ grew up with an opposite body type.
As A Child, Nataliya Was Slim But Athletic
As a kid, Nataliya was skinny, maxing out at 88-pounds when she was only 14 years old. Her slight weight didn’t stop her, though. Since she was little, Nataliya loved playing sports, her favorite being combative activities.
Even though she was athletic, she was often teased for her slight build, so she began hitting the gym. No one could believe it when Nataliya won the title of Zabaikayle Region Champion, only two years later, at the age of 16.
Her Arms Measure 18.5 Inches Around
Today, Nataliya is the opposite of a skinny teenager. At five foot seven, her build is made up of mostly hard muscle, contributing to her 220-pound weight. But you’ll never guess how large her arms and legs actually are.
Nataliya’s thighs measure around 28 inches while her arms are 18.5 inches around. Pretty impressive for someone who used to weigh only 88 pounds! Obviously, she can thank her 529-pound deadlift sets and 374-pound bench presses for those muscles.
People don’t get a body like Nataliya’s by solely working out; there is a strict dietary plan and, perhaps, some performance-enhancing drugs to help speed up the process. Nataliya has admitted that steroids and estrogen blockers have helped her during competitions in the past.
She has also tried insulin and peptides at one point but did not care for the results. Luckily, the competitions Nataliya participates in do not require routine tests to see if the competitors are using performance-enhancing substances.
Side Effects Are Real
Unfortunately, with the intake of performance-enhancing substances come a long list of side effects. Most people are surprised when they hear Nataliya’s voice for the first time because it is deeper than the average female.
Other side effects are considered similar to what males go through during puberty. That includes a deeper voice, baldness, and an increased amount of facial and body hair. Nataliya’s love for the competition didn’t sway her from the substances, but it did pave the way for some bullying.
Not Embarrassed About Taking Substances
Nataliya never hid the fact that she was using performance-enhancing substances or estrogen blockers. She has admitted on several occasions to taking anywhere from 150 to 220 mg of Proprionate or Primobolan before competitions. And on training days she’ll ingest 20 mg of oxandrolone.
All of the substances allow her to maintain her muscular build, and she’s not embarrassed by it. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who will speak ill of her body, especially in the comments section on her social media pages.
Cyberbullies Vs. In-Person Bullies
Nataliya is very proud of all she’s been able to achieve since she was a skinny teenager. But with her lifestyle choices comes the risk of hateful messages. She has had her fair share of bullies hating on her body, but cyberbullies are different than in-person bullies because she doesn’t even know the person.
In an interview, Nataliya says that, unlike her childhood, people would never dare make fun of her appearance if they passed her on the street, now they wait to insult her online.
Nataliya Stopped Posting On Social Media
Due to all of the hateful messages that were taking up a vast majority of her comment sections, Nataliya decided to stop posting to social media. In an interview, Nataliya claimed that whenever she posted a picture of herself, hateful messages would swarm her inbox and comments.
Even though there were plenty of encouraging comments and people calling her their role model and idol, Nataliya couldn’t deal with the hurtful and negative things others were saying about her body.
She Was Born To Be A Powerlifter
Just two years after Nataliya began lifting, she won her first competition. When asked about the quick success, she said, “Just a few months after I started exercising, I performed at regional competitions, and I liked it very much.”
“I became an absolute champion of the Zabaikayle Region when I was sixteen. That’s how it all began. I even did army dogfighting. I was not too bad. Results became visible pretty fast.” This girl was born to be a powerlifter!
Breaking Records And Taking Names
Becoming the region champion at the age of 16 was just the start! After her first win, Nataliya decided to dedicate her life to the sport. As the years flew by, she only got better and better.
Two years ago, Nataliya became the world bench press champion and the world arm lifting champion. Titles that are not easily earned. Again, that wasn’t enough to quench Nataliya’s appetite for competition. She’s also the European bench press and deadlift champion!
Lifting Is A Hobby
Although Nataliya has dedicated her life to the sport of powerlifting, she still considers it to be nothing more than her hobby. She said, “hobbies should be fun, if not, what good is a pastime?”
Honestly, there is no arguing that logic! It’s ironic, too, because her mere hobby turned her into an internet celebrity and role model for girls wishing to get into the sport. Nataliya does have one warning to those who want to follow in her gym-shoe footsteps, though.
She’s Had Financial Troubles
Unfortunately, in the pursuit of becoming the best, this young bodybuilder experienced some financial strain. Traveling to competitions, outfits, training, paying for trainers, and not to mention the cost of a gym membership has taken up a considerable sum of Nataliya’s money.
Since her time is mostly spent at the gym, keeping up with her muscular physique, she can’t get a part-time job. Thankfully, she’s made a name for herself in the niche sport and can look for sponsors to provide a steady income.
Sponsors Are Hard To Find In Russia
Female powerlifting and bodybuilding are not popular sports in Russia, making sponsors difficult to find. Nataliya has said that it is nearly impossible to find a steady sponsorship in the country.
This means that Nataliya has to rely on credit cards in order to travel to competitions and pay her numerous gym fees. She raked up quite the debt because of it, making it seem like the sport isn’t really worth the trouble.
She’s Shared Her Personal Email For Donations
Because Russia does not support the sports, Nataliya has had to become creative in her financial pursuits. Even though she isn’t the biggest fan of social media, it hasn’t stopped her from utilizing sites such as Facebook in the hopes of finding a sponsor.
Nataliya’s gone as far as releasing her personal email address to her followers, hoping for any donation. She then set up chat rooms and skype sessions, chatting with fans.
$7 A Minute For A Personal Skype Session
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Nataliya was in dire need of money. She decided to sell Skype sessions for $7 a minute and training/posing videos for $5 a minute. They didn’t do as well as she hoped.
Nataliya decided on a new plan of attack, offering training and advice on Skype for $100 a session. She then created a private Facebook group to promote her “services and various products.” Money was a serious issue, but it didn’t stop other females from pursuing a body and powerlifting lifestyle.
Julia Vins, Nataliya’s Student
Through all of the financial struggles, Nataliya gets peace of mind during training. And although powerlifting is not a popular sport among Russian females, she also gets the opportunity to use her champion status to mentor other young girls.
Julia Vins is a young powerlifter that sometimes trains under Nataliya, hoping to learn new workouts and techniques in hopes of becoming as muscular as her teacher. Is that even possible? Only time will tell!
Are Those Muscles Even Real?
Speaking of her muscular build, there have been online trolls commenting that there is no way she is actually that big and that her photos are edited and fake. Listen, haters, all you have to do is visit Nataliya’s Youtube channel, and you’ll see for yourself just how fit this lady is!
While we understand the speculation surrounding Nataliya’s body, especially with all of the photo editing people do to their social media pictures, don’t let your biases fool you! She is just that muscular.
Don’t Call It A Comeback, She’s Been Here For Years
After taking a hiatus from Instagram, Nataliya recently rejoined the world of social media, opening a new account. With the new profile, Nataliya’s well-hidden personal life was out in the open for her 547,000 followers, a number that has tripled since 2017.
Her photos mostly consist of her on the beach, vacationing, random holidays, and, of course, the gym. But social media leaves your life wide open to the public, so there are other things we’ve learned about the powerlifter!
She Has A Husband And Young Son
Nataliya likes to keep her personal life just that, personal. But even this 27-year-old couldn’t help but post a few pictures of her family to her Instagram account. Nataliya and her husband have been married for a few years, and they have a son.
Of course, this love story makes total sense because the two met at the gym! Nataliya says her husband is her number one fan and fully supports her. He even trains her, at times!
She Looks Like A Famous Celebrity
Aside from her Instagram posts of her posing in beautiful locations or competing for the next championship title, Nataliya also expressed her admiration for a certain celebrity. She is a big fan of Ms. Angelina Jolie!
Nataliya even went as far as posting a picture of her striking the same pose alongside Jolie. Despite Nataliya’s muscular build, the profile of the bodybuilder and movie star’s faces have a weird similarity! It must be their marvelous bone structure.
She’s A Huge Foodie!
Another thing that no one would have guessed had it not been for Instagram is that Nataliya is a mega food lover! Even though she has little to no fat on her entire body, the bodybuilder loves posting pictures of her carbo-loading and enjoying the occasional cheat meal.
To fans’ surprise, the champion bodybuilder posted a picture of her eating a waffle covered in ice cream with all the yummy fixings, not to mention the pina colada next to the plate. Think of all of the calories she burns in her workouts, though!
Lots And Lots Of Protein
Even though she is a foodie, Nataliya still follows a strict diet plan of sorts. Like most bodybuilders, her diet is high in protein with some specialty food groups thrown in the mix, such as buckwheat grains and rice.
Her daily meals usually consist of meat, fish, lots of green veggies that are high in fiber, high-fat cheeses, and six eggs with only two of the yolks. To keep up her strength, Nataliya also takes vitamin supplements.
Workout Regimen: No Cardio All Lifting
While most gym fanatics watch their weight and muscle gain each day, Nataliya is the opposite. Even though she competes, Nataliya does not measure her muscles each day. Her secret doesn’t lie in her diet or measurements, but a rigorous workout routine.
Her training includes no cardio and a whole lot of powerlifting sets, which makes sense. We don’t know about you, but we would feel so intimidated watching her lift at the gym!
It’s All About Repetition
Nataliya’s workout ‘secret’ is actually pretty simple; it’s all about repetition and taking care of each muscle group at least once a week. Her back workouts, on the other hand, are usually twice a week because she has different sets for ‘width’ and ‘thickness.’
Another trick is that she doesn’t push herself too hard when a big competition is coming up. Usually, she’ll hit the gym at least six times a week, but if there is a contest, she cuts her gym time in half.
Female Bodybuilding Subculture
ABC News has called Nataliya’s world a “secret world of women’s bodybuilding,” even calling it a subculture! In the article, they say that women who begin bodybuilding never go into the gym thinking of gaining all of that muscle. It just becomes an obsession!
It seems that it was the same for Nataliya. She began going to the gym in order to get people to stop making fun of her slight build. And what started as a way to make the bullies back off became her life.
Bodybuilding Was Her Destiny
Since she was young, combat sports and power were always an interest to Nataliya. During an interview, she says that those two things most likely contributed to her feeling like the bodybuilding profession was her destiny. She was going to find the sport sooner or later!
Nataliya’s not sure where she would be without her chosen ‘hobby,’ and she doesn’t care to find out. Nowhere else are people going to give her nicknames such as the Russian Amazon!
While there are some that consider bodybuilding to be a type of body dysmorphia, there are others that consider it to be very therapeutic and good for their mental health. Some psychologists think the sport is beneficial, especially to female participants.
Nataliya, for example, began bodybuilding to boost her self-esteem. It worked! And now she is one of the, if not the female, to beat at competitions. The sport has allowed Nataliya to feel empowered.
Some Think She Might Be Addicted
Some psychologists say that bodybuilding is a type of disorder because people are desperate to make their bodies look a certain way. This led Nataliya’s fans to raise the question, “did she get addicted to the sport?”
She certainly looks different than before, even when she was in shape as a teenager, but that doesn’t mean she’s addicted to muscle gain. One downfall of the sport we know for sure is that she is always the center of attention.
Constant Center Of Attention
Like most women, Nataliya loves to go out shopping, to lunch with friends, and the occasional trip to the salon. Unfortunately, what seems like mundane tasks are difficult for her to accomplish because she is always the center of attention.
In an interview, Nataliya said, “When I go out on the street, I will know for sure that everyone will pay attention to me. In my life, it’s sometimes easier for an alien to go unnoticed than me. I try to ignore all of these distractions.”
After years of financial struggle and credit card debt, Nataliya is finally getting the recognition she deserves. In the world of female bodybuilding in her home country, she was able to snag two sponsorship deals.
Nataliya is now the proud face of two sports nutrition brands, RPS Nutrition as well as Oxytropin. Being a sponsored athlete means she no longer has to worry about how she is going to travel, letting her focus on working out.
An Idol To Young Girls
Her increased status in the female bodybuilding world has made Nataliya an inspiration for young girls who want to follow in her footsteps. The only thing is they’re afraid to start training themselves because of the stigma against females in the sport.
When asked what she would say to those young girls, Nataliya said, “Go and train yourselves, I know that many women are afraid of being perceived as ‘buffs,’ but this will not happen. You should go and grant yourselves a beautiful, athletic figure.”
Before Bodybuilding, She Was A Tiny Girl
When Nataliya posted a photo of herself as a young girl on Instagram, no one recognized her! Compared to her muscular build now, the girl in the picture looks beyond slight. What Nataliya accomplished in just a few years is something to marvel at.
It shows what happens when dedication and hard work are put to the test — in her case, transforming her body to become one of the most recognizable female bodybuilders in the world!
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 lightweight 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 Richard’s 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 photoshoots 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.
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
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!