The official website of Calum von Moger says the bodybuilder was "skinny and not very strong" when he first started stacking plates inside an old warehouse in his native rural Australia.
A lot has changed since then. The kid from Victoria has since won Mr. Universe three times, overcome a pretty heinous bicep tear, and is set to make the leap from gym to screen in 2018, playing a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in the upcoming biopic Bigger. (It's a miracle he has any time for chocolate milk these days.)
Recently, Men's Health chatted with von Moger about his earliest idols, overcoming injury, and Schwarzenegger's advice for on-stage bodybuilding dominance.
Men's Health: What were some of your earlier inspirations? What got you into fitness?
Calum von Moger: My brother got me into it, he took me to the gym when I was 14 or 15. But the first bodybuilder I ever saw was Steve Reeves, in that classic movie Hercules. I thought he was just the best-looking body ever. I was a young kid; I didn’t know people could get that big. And then I have two other main inspirations. One of them, obviously, was definitely Arnold. I saw Pumping Iron when I was young and that was awesome. The other one was actually another bodybuilder named Dave Draper. All old-school bodybuilders. I remember looking at Dave Draper, I liked his physique and was into his lifestyle out here in California.
Do you remember the moment you realised fitness would be your life, not just a way to keep in shape?
Yeah, I do. There was a turning point when I was 22. I’d been bodybuilding and I’d done a few competitions but I’d never made any money from it. To me it was just a passion that I loved doing. But I still had to work hard. I did a few labor jobs. I signed with the military, to join the army. My mom was pushing me to get a good career or do what my brother was doing. So I went there and thought I would do that for four years, but I didn’t like it. So I told myself after that, “No, I have to do what I love.” I got out and made a promise to myself that I would succeed in the fitness scene.
What does an average week of training look like for you?
Currently, it’s a lot different from what I’m used to because I have this bicep injury. At the moment I’m training legs and lower body about three times a week. I do a quad-focused workout, and then I’ll do some upper body, some chest and shoulders. And then I’ll go back down, do the hamstrings the next day. Then another upper body, maybe my back, or whatever I can do on my right side. Next day, I’ll go back down to a quad workout. But it’s all very different. I never do the same workout in a row. I try and do my abs and calves, my lower back, those other areas three different times as well.
What’s the key to getting past something like that bicep injury?
I won’t lie, sometimes it’s hard. I get discouraged and unmotivated. I get frustrated when I go to the gym and it’s time to do the upper body I can only do 50 percent. Oh man, for myself it’s frustrating. I’m very impatient to see myself get better. But knowing that it is improving week to week gets me in a good mindset — and just knowing that this is a setback, but it is a chance to focus on other areas and make myself better. Work my weak points. Use it to my advantage to change up my training.
How did you get involved with Bigger? Were you looking to transition to acting?
No, that was about a year ago. A producer reached out to me, his name is Steve Jones. He is friends with [executive producer] Dan Solomon, and was telling Dan, “We need a guy to play Arnold.” He said, “Reach out to Calum, he’ll be your Arnold.” They were happy with my audition, told me they’d be filming in October and November of 2017, and that was just really exciting. The two months leading up to that I was training hard to get a similar shape to Arnold. Replicating his training and his style.
Can you tell me about any conversations you’ve had with Arnold?
I only spoke to him briefly a few times, and when I did it was at Gold’s Gym. I just picked his ears off a little bit. He was giving me some help with posing. I asked him, “What did you do up on the stage to guarantee you would stand out?” I remember him telling me all about the Vacuum Pose. He was telling me that you don’t see that too often. If you can pull that off, you’re golden. He told me to practice it in the morning, five times, hold it for as long as you can, every morning.
And you mentioned you looked up to him as a kid. How did it feel getting to play him in a movie?
It was a huge honour. I did look up to him for a long time. He’s probably the best bodybuilder ever. He’s done so much for the sport. Plus, I’m just a big fan of his from day one. So to be able to play him in a film was a lot of fun. My main thing was to just do the best possible version I can of him. If I was going to play him, I just wanted to make sure I did it as accurately as I could.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health