By Liana Jacob

MEET the strong muscle barbie who used to be labelled the ‘chubby girl’ but has since cultivated her body after being inspired by her idol Arnold Schwarzenegger to the point that her new hour-glass figure needs its own customised size and she can leg press over three-hundred-and-sixty kilograms.

Interior painter, Erika Dankova (21), felt like an outcast while growing up and labels herself as the ‘chubby girl’ in school. Her weight of 11st 1Ib put her off wearing revealing clothes and she had no confidence in her body.

Before. Erika Dankova /


It wasn’t until she was 14-year-old when she instantly fell in love with lifting weight after training in powerlifting. She idolised actor and muscle man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and desperately wanted to achieve his physique, but being a woman made her feel like she couldn’t do it.

Her new diet of high protein and bodybuilding exercises has helped Erika, who is from Slovakia, but lives in Florida, USA, sculpt an hour-glass figure of 12st 12Ibs. She can now leg press 363kg.

Before. Erika Dankova /


“Before I started training, I was the chubby girl in class. I didn’t like to wear things that would show off my body. I had no confidence in myself,” she said.

“When I was younger, I always admired Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Of course, as a girl, I never thought I could go down the path of bodybuilding.

Before. Erika Dankova /


“I didn’t speak any English when I first moved so that was challenging. I was quite an outcast for a long time. I began training powerlifting when I was fourteen years old.

“Once I got older, I realised the sport wasn’t just for men. That is when I decided to pursue it. I have been lifting weights for some time when I decided to start bodybuilding. I was seventeen years old.

Now. Erika Dankova /


“I have competed in one bodybuilding competition so far, I came third place and got nationally qualified in the Woman’s Physique Division.

“Ever since I’ve been training, I have been more energetic and passionate in all aspects of my life. It has taught me to stay consistent, work hard and believe that anything I set my mind to, I will achieve.”

Now. Erika Dankova /


While she used to be smaller in weight, she used to have a higher body fat percentage but since she has increased her intensity in her exercise routine, her body has dramatically changed.

She now has a diet with higher amounts of protein and weight lifts six days a week with light cardio near the end two to three times a week.

Now. Erika Dankova /


Unlike with men, it can take longer to see a result when women apply bodybuilding to their routine, which was the hardest part for her.

“I adjust my diet depending on my current goals. If I’m trying to add more muscle, I eat more food. If I’m trying to trim some fat, I lower the carbohydrates in my diet,” Erika said.

Now. Erika Dankova /


“The hardest thing about being a female bodybuilder is that the changes are slow. Naturally, women have a harder time gaining muscle, so our progress is very slow.

“This makes it hard for us to stick to the programme and a lot of people would get discouraged. You just need to trust the process.

Now. Erika Dankova /


“People often compliment my physique now and ask me for advice. If someone is interested in getting into the sport, I would primarily ask them why they want to get into it.

“If they want to do it for attention, they will not succeed. The only way to succeed in bodybuilding is to love what you do. The discipline is so hard that any normal person couldn’t stick to it.”

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