Another journey to Columbus, Ohio is in the books. This was my second
year at the annual Arnold Classic Expo. It was also my second time
working at the Animal booth, The Cage. To put it bluntly, I would
refuse to be a part of any other booth at that expo. It's as simple as
On Thursday, I sat in the terminal at Newark Airport waiting to board
my plane. As I took a quick glance around the area, it was easy to pick
out who was going to the expo. Broad shoulders and XXL shirts
represented the population headed to Columbus. The coolers at their
sides were also dead giveaways.
After a few minutes a man walked up to me and asked if I was headed to
Columbus. After I told him I was headed to The Arnold, he asked if I
was a competitor. Wouldn't that be nice? Someday... We ended up talking
for half an hour. It was his first trip to The Arnold, so I gave him
all the ins and outs. I told him the hot spot at the expo was The Cage,
and that he should be sure to get there nice and early. That guy did
end up showing up at The Cage, and guess what? He walked away with an
experience in his heart and an Animal Gym Bag and Wrist Wraps in his
Since I was in Ohio for The Arnold last year, I sort of knew what was
coming my way. The entire 2009 weekend was definitely a shock and awe
experience. This year, I was prepared for what I knew lay ahead.
When I got to the hotel, I quickly dropped my stuff off in my room and
headed right down to get in a meal. Arnold weekend or not, ya gotta get
your meals in. I met up with Enforcer and his buddy and we took down a
12 oz. steak and baked potato in seconds. As we were finishing up, Big
Al and Big Ant came strolling through. Big Al was wearing a bright
yellow polo shirt and he looked like a giant school bus coming through
the crowd. We sat there shooting the shit for a while before calling it
a night. We had to get to bed. Tomorrow was day one.
You have to respect the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the official show hotel,
for catering their buffet to the likes of us bodybuilders. Eggs, egg
whites, chicken breast, oatmeal and fresh fruit filled my breakfast
plate. A quick meal and then it was off to The Cage to start the
weekend-long festivities. On my way to the booth, I spotted some
familiar faces rockin' the Animal uniform. It may have been a whole
year since I've last seen them, but we picked up right where we left
off. It's just like seeing family. We all keep in touch as the year
goes on, and when we meet up every year at The Arnold, we make
This year I got to spend more time in The Cage than I did last year,
which gave me a chance to bullshit with all the athletes and pick their
brains. Animal has an incredible amount of young talent and being able
to talk with the likes of Ox, The House and Kuclo is invaluable. I
scooped up some very solid advice from them about dieting and
Since I was able to spend more time in The Cage this year, I got to see
all the events firsthand. The open benching contest, “Bench your body
weight for reps” was really popular. Some of the guys that enter this
contest are straight up strong... Others, not so much. One stud walked
away thinking he pressed 405 for 2 reps-in reality, The House got in a
quick bicep workout. I also loaded the bar for Snookie's new man as Ox
gave him a spot from above. Yes, I said Snookie.
One of the most impressive things over the course of the weekend is the
exhibitions put on by our athletes. These guys come in ready to work
and they always seem to up the ante. Year after year they seem to push
the limits even further. Some of the most impressive things my eyes
have seen were done this past weekend. Kuclo squatted 405 for 30 reps
and Higa Monster wasn't too far behind with 24 reps. Nick Winters dead
lifted 800lb with nothing but straps. And, by far the most impressive
event of the weekend was Big Byrd's record-setting 765lb raw squat. It
was incredible. These guys really set the bar when it comes to drive,
focus and determination. If you want to model you're training and
mentality after someone, turn to any of these guys and you can't
possibly go wrong.
The National ABC Event is another thing that never ceases to amaze me.
In 2009, we had roughly 100+ people show up. Twelve months later the
total doubled. The Animal Barbell Club movement is strong. For the
second year straight, LittleMan55 and I hit a solid workout, destroying
our shoulders and triceps. We started off with a Hammer Strength Press,
working in with Big Al and G Diesel.
The workouts always take a bit longer when at the National ABC Event,
but I'm OK with that. Everywhere you turn you run into someone and
conversation starts. It's hard to catch up with 200 people, but you fit
'em in where you can. After the workout, we grubbed on the catered food
while sitting atop the exercise bikes. Then we all parted ways and
strolled through the streets of Columbus back to our hotels.
Before I knew it, it was the final day. The Henchman/Watchman breakfast
was a great time on Sunday morning. It was a very comfortable setting
and I'm grateful that corporate set it up. After breakfast we headed to
the expo for the last day. The Shop was not as crowded as the first two
days, so I spent most of my time in The Cage.
Watching the crew from Skiba's Gym put on their exhibition was really
exciting. These young, talented guys are so intense in their training.
They seem to have found the perfect balance between life and
powerlifting, which can sometimes be the most difficult aspect of this
sport. Next up was the last segment of “Pros. vs. Bros”. My boy
treetrunklegs was up against Hola Bola. Bola knocked out some
ridiculous squats with 315lb while treetrunklegs manhandled the same
weight on the deadlift.
Next up was the event that I've been salivating over. A few months ago
Scals17 called me out on the FORVM, saying that he was going to take my
crown. Back in August, I deadlifted 225lb for 37 reps, and he laid it
out there stating that he can best me. This was going to be a grudge
I lost the coin toss and pulled first. I got 42 reps. Scals pulled an
impressive 50 reps, and he won a crisp $100 bill from Rage, who had
offered to put up that cash for hitting 50 reps. Lifting in The Cage
with a huge audience watching was a surreal experience, one that I will
never forget. Don't get too excited, Scals… I'm coming for you next
When reading between the lines, the Arnold Classic represents a serious
gut check for me. Being the biggest/strongest dude in your hometown gym
is all fine and dandy and being the thickest in your group of friends
is pretty damn cool, but when you come to The Arnold to strut your
stuff in The Cage, you find out where you really fit in the food chain.
Every year I leave Columbus, I leave with a new drive. Each year
represents an opportunity to show up better than the last. Since the
last Arnold, I've put on 20lb, and cut a total of 50lb for my first
contest. I came back to Ohio weighing the same as I did last year. The
number on the scale might have been the same, but the type of weight
was far different. More muscle, less fat, more strength. My goal for
next year is to come back yet again with plenty of progress behind me.
365 days left…