Kal Szkalak: The Next Arnold Schwarzenegger!

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Kalman Szkalak is a great bodybuilding legend. Even Arnold was aware of him. A lot of people said that he would be the next Arnold!  Arnold has only watched him in two competitions – the Mr. U.S.A. in New York and the Mr. Universe in Nimes where he beat Mike Mentzer. Arnold was extremely impressed with his physique! And here’s Kal Szkalak’s diet, mental attitude and life (published 1977 by Armand Tenny)! -Mr. Berg

At the age of three Kal Szkalak was brought to America with his family after they had landed on the losing end  of the Hungarian freedom fight. The year was 1956. Twenty years later Kal became Mr. America.

The reason is obvious: He is uncommonly handsome, on the order of Mickey Hargitay and Yul Brynner, two other famous Hungarians who made it in bodybuilding and acting respectively. He arrives for the interview a moment after my knock on his apartment door in West Los Angeles. “Here he comes now,” says his beautiful Dutch-Indonesian wife Joan before she has even seen him. “He’s the only one around here who barks back at the dogs.”

If he gave the dogs a start, you can easily understand. He is stripped to the waist wearing cut-off jogging pants still wet from a post-workout ocean dip, the muscle mass dominating everything in sight. The development seems even heavier than in his photographs. He tugs at his pants and says, “Joan, I think I picked up a live sand crab from the ocean.” But he makes no attempt to remove it. He is more interested in the ten-speed bike sitting in the living room. “I just finished getting it all together,” he says.

“Even sanded it and spray painted it.” It looked as smart as the raciest Masi. he also point out a full length mirror, posing size, with an unfinished frame he says he got for a steal at a hundred bucks. A few big trophies, not many, also occupy the living room.

“Mr. America, Mr. California, Mr. Delaware,” he says. “All first-places.” His amber eyes rest on the tape recorder, and he comes to attention. “Where do we start?” “From the beginning,” I say.

he started bodybuilding at 17 following an earlier involvement in wrestling, football and diving. He quit team sports because they took up so much of his time. Though a top-ranking diver in the state of Delaware he found that bodybuilding appealed to him more as an individual effort, and he seriously got into the iron.

He won Mr. Delaware in 1973 weighing 174, while attending the University of Delaware.

Where did he learn his training techniques? “Muscle Builder was a big help,” he says. “Watching others, also. What really helped me was the anatomy and physiology I studied in college. It related directly to my bodybuilding. Even today when I see someone doing a wrong movement in the gym I tell them, hey, the muscle runs along the groove this way and comes out here, and you do it this way.”

During the early years Kal trained three or four times a week, and hour and a half per workout. “I finally outgrew the gyms there, and even the State of Delaware itself,” he says. “That’s when I came to California, in February 1975. I went straight to Gold’s gym. I had a week’s supply of food in my van and five bucks in my pocket. They charged me five bucks for my first workout at Gold’s. I was kind of pissed, but I couldn’t resist.
My first day in California I had to bust my ass at Gold’s.”

Kal’s big arms had Gold’s ogling and when he began bench pressing, his power was a startling challenge to the insuperable Franco Columbo.

On a good day he would do two reps with 465lb. “Arnold Schwarzenegger took an interest in me,” he says obviously fond of the memory. “Ken Waller chided me, and I knew I was in, but they never let me forget how bad my legs were. They were atrocious – 23 inch thighs” Now they are 27 1/2. They are big,” – as an afterthought – “and they are going to be cut-up this year, too. And my calves, poor things, have come up two inches – not fast, but they’re still moving, and that’s alright.”

Kal found the hardest part of California training was developing the kind of mentality that makes you perform. “Back east I thought I was working out hard,” he says with dismay, “but out here – shit! These guys were doing something I hadn’t even conceived of. And you try to tell a stubborn new guy he’s doing something wrong, and ‘Why, hell, I been doing it a long time this way.’

-‘Yeah, and that’s why you’re not getting anywhere’- you know they have to change something in their own mind, you can’t just tell them.”

Kal eventually submitted to changes, the intensity, the whole structure, really. “What I did was, make use of the Weider “Instinctive” principle and take a little bit from everybody’s workout – Waller’s, Franco’s, Arnold’s and incorporate it into what I thought was compatible system for me,” he relates. One of the big changes was in the legs.

Before California he had never experienced a leg pump. It took him six months in the west to finally achieve it. “I had overcome the pain barrier in my arms, chest and back a year before coming west. I could work them until they would not move. But never the legs. Now I can work legs with the same intensity as the upper body, beyond the pain barrier – beyond the ‘rational consciousness’.”

he manages a sly look with the last expression. The culture jargon has always been subject to mockery.

What kind of leg workout pushes him through the pain barrier now?

“Geez, today for example, I started with ten sets of leg extensions with ten sets of leg extensions with the machine’s entire stack of 200 pounds, 12 reps every pop. I lighten the last two sets, do holdout reps, make them pump and burn, even before I start doing squats. Since starting with leg extensions my knees no longer bother me, and I don’t need wraps. Next, I do five sets of front squats up to 315 pounds, 10 reps each. I go to hack machine squats, five sets, 10 to 12 reps up to 400 pounds. I then superset prone leg curls with standing leg curls, total of eight sets, 10 reps each. I do this twice a week.”

Kal presently works legs twice a week. two months before the contest, the upcoming IFBB Mr. U.S.A. and Mr. Universe qualifying pose down, he will work them three times a week.

“Right now,” he says, “two times a week is ideal. The legs grow, I stay healthy and strong, I recuperate good, my energy stays up, it’s ideal. Whenever I see anybody train a body part three times  week off-season, I tell them they’re crazy. Both Franco and Arnold told me that.”

Kal takes a basic workout, has no novel systems or trick exercises. The intensity of every exercise is different relative to the workout, sequence, time and whatever. He suggests that newcomers shouldn’t try to imitate the workouts they read in the magazines by the champions. Read them, yes, but do them, no. Take a little bit from each and apply it personally. It is called instinctive training which Kal insists you learn from years of training. Mainly he does a lot of exercises from a lot of angles, relatively heavy, very much on the order of Arnold’s training.

His strength continues to soar. Without formal powerlifting training he recently bench-pressed 520. His bodyweight is also rising, slowly and consistently. Presently 225 with somewhat muted off season muscularity he plans to compete at a cut-up 230.

“Contrary to popular belief I diet all year around,” he assures. “Look in there, you won’t find anything with a preservative, additive, coloring – nothing. All my fruit, vegetable and meat are all organic. No hormones added. I drink only spring water.

I use Supplements, especially proteins, Super stress, BD/BU, Vit C, Vit E, and Vitamin-Mineral 100. I try to cover all the angles. I eat a lot of food, but training keeps me hungry. In the off-season I eat home-made goodies, all good stuff, nothing to be ashamed of. It is practically impossible to determine the best muscle building diet. I think a little body fat is good for you. I have good discipline, so when I want to cut up, I have no problem dieting. i have very thin skin, and I cut up quick. If I seem overweight now, the day of the contest I will be heavier than I am now, muscular and defined. My percentage of natural body fat is very low and I have had that tested.”

Kal has to compete in the AFAB Mr. U.S.A. contest in October in order to qualify for the pose down that determines who will make the U.S. team for the Mr. Universe contest. (World’s Bodybuilding Championships) At this point the AFAB does not recognize his AAU Mr. America win as qualification for the posedown. “I will compete if I must,” says Kal, “but I might take a trophy away from someone else not of my caliber. I don’t think that is fair. I don’t need the extra title, I’m not a trophy collector. I have entered only two big contests. Mr. California and Mr. America and I won them both. I don’t feel the Mr. U.S.A. title is a step up.”

He now trains three hours a day, six times a week. He feels the intensity increasing already, though the contest is still three months away. His stamina has increased. He had pulled in a training partner now which helps his training.

“I feel hungry all the time now, which is good. It tells me I’ve gotten down to serious business,” he says.

“You know what I made today for breakfast, babe?” he calls to Joan in the kitchen. “I made my sweet-tooth breakfast.” She gives a groan – “Oh no, not again!” He teases her: “I put nine eggs in the blender, a banana, blueberries,  strawberries, honey and I beat it up, put some butter in the pan, and fried it.” (Plaintively from her – “Oh!”)

“Sweetie, you don’t know what you’re missing. I put it on the plate, added some more blueberries, strawberries and honey, I put the spoon to it, and, man, that stuff went down.”

Ha adds that he had a Weider 90% protein drink after that, with some more fresh fruit, and was off to the gym for a workout. He also puts away two pounds of beef a day but six weeks before the contest he will stick with fish and chicken. He avoids food three hours before bed time when he is dieting.

“Too many guys are depending on thyroid and the anabolic to get cut-up instead of the discipline of diet. They are taking so much of that crap it really scares me. It’s crazy.”

Kal sums up his bodybuilding experience: “People can’t understand the good you can get out of bodybuilding unless they have done it. I always had a strong passion which bodybuilding channeled into strength of character and discipline. I think parents should be overjoyed if their fourteen-year-old son shows an interest in bodybuilding. I was not an easy kid for my own parents and I think my early interest in bodybuilding saved me. In fact, I think the future of bodybuilding lies with the very young who take to it with uncluttered minds.”

Uncluttered, too, is 24 year old Kal Szkalak’s life. He seems to have it all together for his age – a nice apartment with a great view of the distant Pacific, a perfect young wife, bicycles, trophies and an income from a night club job, and an outlook as handsome in scope as the man himself!

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