Visiting the Arnold Classic: A Brief Guide

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Here we are at the start of the Arnold Classic 2019. If you are attending for the first time, or have never attended and are curious we decided to ask our physique coach, and Columbus resident, Anthony D’Orazio Ph.D. who has been attending the Arnold since 2005 (well, he would note his first visit was in 2001, but it has only been yearly since 2005) a series of common questions that he has been asked about the Arnold.

What is the Arnold?

At its simplest, it is an athletic festival with competitions in dozens of sports ranging from bodybuilding, strongman, Crossfit, grappling, gymnastics, and many more spread across the greater Columbus area, but centered on the Convention center where there is also an expo where various fitness and fitness related brands have booths set-up. With that said, it originated as a bodybuilding contest started by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer. That portion of the festival remains and is the centerpiece event.

A very young Anthony and Jay Cutler Circa 2001

Why should I go to the Arnold?

If you have never been, I think it is worth at least one trip. Obviously, if you are a competitor in one of the disciplines that is there it can be a great place to compete as the competition is generally pretty high level and the events well run. From a spectator point of view it is worth it for a few reasons. Firstly, the athletes you will see across the more marquee events (and even the non-marquee events) are the best of the best. Even if you do not necessarily have an appetite for strongman or bodybuilding, seeing the very best athletes the world has to offer in those disciplines compete is absolutely amazing and will re-center what you think a human is capable of. Yes, there are other events in the world where you can watch one or two of these disciplines, but the Arnold is one of, if not the only, place you can see the best athletes across many disciplines.

Secondly, you have the people watching in and of itself. You will see shapes and sizes of individuals and all the wondrous variety that the human body can be just walking around. It is amazing and a ton of fun.

Ok, I’m going, what should I be prepared for?

You should be prepared to check your ego at the door. Yes, there is probably someone out there reading this that is world class in their particular discipline or sport and to you I say, “keep that ego” but to everyone else, it is best to expect a visual shock. As bodybuilding is the main event of the weekend there are many bodybuilders – from local level amateurs to top 2-3 in the world professionals – walking around. You are likely going to feel small, a out of shape in comparison. This is of course completely normal, and there are plenty of people walking around that look like they train and are in shape but are not elite competitors.

Next, be prepared for a mass of humanity. Saturday at the Expo it is so busy it is nearly impossible to move down the aisles. It can still be enjoyable if you have patience. Understand this is how it is going to be. Have a plan with where you want to go and when you want to get there. Plan on it taking longer than you would expect if you have to go through the expo itself.

Anthony posing in front of the famous Arnold statue formerly in front of Veteran’s Auditorium (now moved in front of the convention center) in 2014

Anything in particular I should bring?

Cash is a good idea. Most vendors in the expo take credit cards but connections are spotty, so cash is the more reliable option. Beyond that, you will likely be highly motivated to train (although keep in mind all the gyms will be packed all weekend) so workout attire is also a good idea.

Deodorant. This seems obvious, but you are going to spend many hours very close to many other very large humans. Do everyone a favor, yourself included, and be sure to bathe and put on some deodorant before attending.

Your sense of fun. Look, the Arnold is a blast of a time that I think everyone should attend at least once. The athletes are incredible. Columbus is a fun place to be – yes, it’s Ohio in early February so joke all you like – but the restaurants are good, the Short North (just north of the convention center) is filled with galleries and nightlife, you have The Ohio State University, the brewery district, COSI, and the Scioto park all within a 2 mile radius of where most of the action is. Yes, some parts of the Arnold can be frustrating (mainly the crowds) but overall, it is a blast of a time. So go ahead and enjoy the experience.


Anthony is a coach for Complete Human Performance with a Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. He works with a wide variety of clients on both their training and nutrition. You can reach him at

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