Rieser said if he accomplishes that, his marketability will be even better. He said he already has had more offers to promote gym openings and local body-building shows. It is the same thing - albeit on a smaller scale - that happened to Schwarzenegger.
"He used the name, the title, to market himself, promote himself," he said.
A Buffalo, N.Y., native, Rieser said he moved to Hagerstown full time last year. He worked as a personal trainer at Rando's north of Hagerstown and stayed on when the gym was taken over by Gold's Gym in October. He also has a part-time job at Exhale, a nightclub in Frederick, Md.
Having a Mr. Universe on staff is great advertising for a gym, said General Manager John Link.
"It's awesome exposure," he said.
Gold's Gym, the largest international gym chain, has mushroomed to 800 locations over the last 18 years, Link said. When customers can identify world champions like Rieser with Gold's, it only helps, he said.
At the Mr. Universe contest, competitors are judged on the size and shape of their muscles. Rounds include posing, muscle symmetry and definition.
At 6-foot-2 1/2 and weighing 255 pounds, Rieser is an imposing figure, even without the sculpted physique. He said he can bench press between 475 and 500 pounds and can dead lift about 750 pounds.
While strength is a natural byproduct of bodybuilding, Rieser said it does not have anything to do with the sport. Many power lifters, who do not look as well-built, can lift much more weight, he said.
A former Golden Gloves champion, Rieser said he took to bodybuilding when he began lifting weights 11 years ago.
Rieser took the Mr. Universe title on his first try, a year after he won the Mr. America bodybuilding contest.
As a personal trainer at Gold's Gym, Rieser said he stresses moderation to his clients. It is important to know your body's limitations and not exceed them. His own workouts generally last less than an hour, he said.
"You'll find you make better gains going with a shorter workout," he said.
Although he has conquered the amateur bodybuilding scene, Rieser almost didn't get to the top. He said he dropped out of the sport for a few years because he felt performance-enhancing drugs were infesting the competitions during the 1980s.
But a recent emphasis on strict drug-testing by several of the sport's governing bodies has improved the situation, Rieser said.
"It used to be there was no future in the sport without using anabolic steroids," he said. "You couldn't compete."