The young man with the charming expression to the left of this text is nine-year-old Giuliano.
Like many boys his age, Giuliano wants to be big, strong and tough. But unlike most boys his age, Giuliano is already big and strong. In fact, his lean little figure is as close as the human body gets to actual ‘pure muscle’.
Giuliano and his younger brother Claudiu Stroe, seven, are from Romania. The two little boys have recently become an internet phenomenon, with photos of their mini body building efforts going seriously viral.
Their father, Lulian Stroe, has had his sons doing four-hour weight training sessions since they were in nappies. And now dad has taken to posting their training and successes on YouTube and Facebook in the hope they’ll become famous.
And it’s working.
Giuliano’s Facebook page has over one million fans and his official YouTube video channel has huge growing audience numbers too.
The nine-year-old’s muscles aren’t just for online show either; he holds the world record for 90 degree push-ups and for doing chin-ups on a vertical pole.
But – as I’m sure you can probably imagine having seen the images for yourself – not everyone is comfortable with the sort of strain these little guys are putting on their bodies.
Many commentators are weighing in, saying that they are worried it’s cruel and unhealthy to make such young boys train so hard every day. And also that initiating a body-building obsession in kids so young isn’t the best thing for their mental health.
While other seven and nine-year-olds are breaking the heads off Transformers and making glorious ‘soup’ concoctions with everything they found in the kitchen pantry, the Stroe brothers are endlessly pushing their bodies up and down on gym bars.
The boys’ father is a body builder himself and has been struggling to make ends meet in his home country of Romania. He is hoping to go to the UK in search of a sponsor for his now internet-famous boys and to make a better life for the family.
I won’t lie… every video the family has posted made me squirm a little in my seat. They were not easy or fun to watch. It’s as if there’s a hint of innocence being ripped away with each bench press, push up, or weight-lifting exercise.
Of course, we need to make sure our kids are healthy and active, and pushing your kids to achieve their best is the mantra of many parents.
But where do we draw the line between what is healthy and what is an obsession that is stripping a kid of their childhood?
Giuliano and Claudiu look happy. They’re proud of their achievements. And no doubt so are their parents. But for the rest of the world who are now watching? Those achievements make for pretty uncomfortable viewing.
How far is too far when pushing your kids physically?