Mar 3, 2022 - Things to Do

Guide to The Arnold, now back at full strength

A bodybuilder flexes his muscles and smiles

Sergio Oliva Jr., of San Diego, competes in the 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Grab a swag bag and get ready to flex your muscles. For the first time in three years, the Arnold Sports Festival and its massive expo are back at full strength.

Why it matters: The annual event typically attracts upwards of 100,000 visitors and generates at least $50 million for the local economy, according to Experience Columbus.

What's happening: Starting today and through Sunday, more than 20,000 athletes from 80 countries will compete in bodybuilding contests and countless strength, combat and fitness sports at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and other venues.

  • Meanwhile, the Arnold Expo kicks off Friday, with 1,000 vendors selling sports equipment, apparel and nutrition items — with free samples and swag galore.

Flashback: Gov. Mike DeWine's decision to prohibit Arnold spectators in 2020 and cancel the expo was the first time the threat of COVID-19 became real for many of us, before a single case had been detected in Ohio.

What they're saying: With the Omicron variant waning, now the festival is helping Columbus return to some normalcy, spokesperson Brent LaLonde tells Axios.

  • "We're excited that the time is right for big events to come back … and Arnold is excited to get back into town."

If you go: Expo is 10am-7pm Friday and Saturday, 10am-4pm Sunday.

💭 Alissa's thought bubble: I covered the Arnold in 2017, highlighting a yoga contest, a man with one arm who power-lifts, and my favorite, the first-ever Pro Strongwoman competition.

  • I recommend checking it out at least once just for the novelty. Where else can you buy a bejeweled bikini and try free samples of whey-protein pancakes?
Arnold Schwarzenegger presents a trophy to the Arnold Strongman Classic winner, who holds it in the air
Arnold Schwarzenegger presents a first-place trophy to Hafthor "The Mountain" Bjornsson, of Iceland, in 2019. The "Game of Thrones" star retired after winning the past three Arnold Strongman Classic competitions. Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How to go and what to watch

So you're headed to the Arnold … what events stick out in a jam-packed four-day schedule?

Our picks:

🏋️ Watch the strongest people on Earth:

    • Friday, 10am-2pm; Saturday, 10am-1pm; Sunday, 10am-2pm (finals).

🥷 Witness strength displayed in unusual ways:

  • Ninja Warrior: Who can finish a "ninja course" the fastest?
    • Friday and Saturday, 10am-7pm; Sunday, 10am-4pm.
  • Pole Fitness: Performances on one or more vertical poles.
    • Friday, 9am-7pm; Saturday, 9:30am-9:30pm (pro finals at 7:30pm cost $25); Sunday, 10am-4pm.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Witness strength, but with kilts:

  • Scottish Highland Games: Competitors chuck burlap sacks and flip giant weighted poles in this old-fashioned contest.
    • Friday and Saturday, 10am-4pm.

🔥 See something new:

👀 If you want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger himself: Though he explores the expo and attends several events, your best bet is to buy a $30 ticket for the Sunday Showcase at 9:30am, organizers say.

A fitness competitor strikes a pose in midair
Marta Aguiar, of Uruguay, competes in Fitness International during the 2020 Arnold. Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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