Giuliano and Claudiu Stroe are aged 9 and 7, respectively, and one glance at their tiny but wiry bodies will make you wonder how an ankle-biter can lift more than you.
These Romanian “Hercules Brothers” have been trained and conditioned from a young age by their bodybuilder father, Iulian Stroe, who’s determined to make them famous via YouTube videos and Facebook posts. Since they were in diapers, the boys have been pumping iron for hours every day, and are quite the gymnasts, too — videos on their YouTube page show how the boys balance compact bodies on poles, doing vertical push-ups and handstands.
Based on various Facebook posts on Giuliano’s fan page, the family was struggling to make ends meet, and Iulian Stroe now works in strap metal trading but hopes to visit the UK in search of a sponsor for his sons. A Facebook post from last week reads, “my dad is an big worker ,he are not lucky for find a job near ,job it is in Italy,UK,Germany,France,Spain...but if dady go for work ,who take care of us,alone is sad and dangerous here,help hem to begun a job near us,thank you.”
However, the various videos depicting the young boys straining their bodies and exerting almost super-human strength have stirred backlash among people who blame Iulian Stroe for pushing them too hard, and borderline abusing them. Though some basic strength training and exercise for kids can’t hurt, weightlifting and bodybuilding is an entirely different arena. Bodybuilding, with its emphasis on competition and building bigger muscles than other athletes, “can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven’t yet turned to bone (growth plates) — especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of weight,” a Mayo Clinic article reads.
If completed properly and safely, however, strength training in kids can be beneficial by developing endurance and protecting a kid’s muscles from injuries. Making sure the child is properly instructed, warms up and cools down, receives enough rest in between workouts, and is supervised, is essential for keeping kids on a safe strength training program.
And the Romanian boys certainly aren’t the first to make headlines for being mini bodybuilders. Over a decade ago, Richard Sandrak became known as the little Hercules for being able to bench press 200 lbs. at age 8. Then there’s 8-year-old Brandon Blake, whose idol is Frank Medrano and is also developing a remarkable physique at a very young age. “He loves learning new ways to move his body and loves spending time on the trampoline and using the chin-up bar he asked for off Santa,” Blake’s father Mark said. “Yes, he really did ask Santa for a chin-up bar.”