AN ELITE powerlifter who was born in complete poverty became a millionaire after his hilarious gym pranks went viral.
Vladimir Shmondenko‘s journey to success is the ultimate rags-to-riches tale, as he ditched his humble farm life for online fame.
The YouTube star managed to build up a legion of adoring followers with his comedic clips winding up gym buffs as they work out.
Fans know him better by his online pseudonym Anatoly Powerlifter.
He dons bizarre disguises, typically dressing up as a cleaner or pensioner, to trick fitness fanatics before surprising them with his extraordinary lifting skills.
But Vladimir, 24, staunchly believes pumping iron is a walk in the park compared to the weight he carried on his shoulders as a child.
The Ukrainian body lifter was born on a cattle farm in the small village of Krishtopovka, with a population of just over 200 people.
Even as a boy, Vladimir was keen to escape his poverty-stricken hometown that struggled to rebuild after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Discussing his childhood on Instagram, the muscleman explained: “I realised that life could be very different and that it wasn’t necessary to spend it working in the fields and tending to livestock all day.
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“I really wanted to become a blogger, so that I could show people my life, motivate them and become at least a little bit famous.”
The online world soon became a much-needed escape for the teen, who was keen to try out the exercises he had seen for himself.
Vladimir had “never seen a gym before”, yet incredibly managed to craft his own using old parts from Soviet-era tractors, wood and bricks.
He even created an ad hoc powerlifting belt out of a horse harness.
Although he admitted his DIY exercise equipment “wasn’t exactly professional”, Vladimir made the most out of what he had.
He continued to research bodybuilding and soon discovered that one of the most crucial components is a protein-heavy diet.
Vladimir relied on his family’s produce from their farm to help bulk himself up, eating eggs and cottage cheese seven times a day.
The content creator said he was mocked by both his teachers and classmates when he brought containers of oatmeal to school.
But he needed as many calories as he could get, as he still exhausted himself with gruelling formwork alongside his training.
He continued: “Gaining weight was very difficult for me because I was spending so many calories a day. But I was getting stronger.
“Farm work, cows and the garden required a lot of energy, but everything that was left over I spent in the gym.”
The bodybuilder was forced to move his workout gear inside as the cold Ukrainian winter hit, but refused to let the small space stop him.
I knew that all of this would come in handy and give me more opportunities.
He later uploaded his first-ever YouTube video on December 20, 2015, after filming his impressive workouts on his budget phone.
Vladimir continued: “I recorded absolutely every set, corrected exercise technique and developed my own program to work with what was available.
“I did it with a dream and a goal in mind. I knew that all of this would come in handy and give me more opportunities.”
Vladimir’s goal was to save up cash to afford a Canon 600D camera to help elevate his YouTube channel.
The determined teen would clock on at 5am as a courier, attend his classes, then begin his shift waiting tables until 10pm before shooting straight to the gym to film more content.
But he was slowly beginning to reap the rewards from his persistence as he racked up 7,000 subscribers and gained first place in his first regional powerlifting competition.
Aged 18, he channeled all his focus into his online presence – ditching his jobs and side gigs while saving up for better equipment.
Vladimir explained: “I was on the verge of being expelled from university and I found myself without a place to live.
“But at that moment, one of my videos went viral. It was a sign that I was on the right track.”
His YouTube channel suddenly boomed and the powerlifter was in high demand, seeing him begin to form celebrity diet and nutrition plans as his subscriber count climbed.
But Vladimir’s best days were still set to come – as his years of hardship had made him quite the comedian too.
He began shooting his first prank videos in the gym with his pal Nikita, donning amusing disguises to trick unsuspecting gymgoers.
The hilarious clips quickly racked up millions of views, while his subscriber count soared to a whopping 1.94million.
Vladimir then challenged himself to become the number one Russian-speaking fitness blogger on YouTube – which proved an easy feat for this tough cookie.
He has since branched out to English-speaking audiences after moving to Dubai after the war in Ukraine began.
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But the powerlifter again persevered with his teenage dreams to conquer the net, which eventually came to fruition in a matter of months.
Vladimir now boasts a net worth of around £1.45million thanks to his illustrious YouTube channels and fitness brand sponsorships.