Your Complete Guide To Attending The Arnold Classic 2020

The Arnold Classic is the largest fitness and supplement exposition in the world. This year, 2020, it will be held March 5th-8th at the Columbus Ohio Convention Center. The most popular event at the Arnold Classic is the exposition also called the expo for short. The expo is where companies can display their products that they want to promote to the thousands of people that pay $20 or $25 to enter. The expo is very popular because it gives attendees a chance to receive free product samples, try various forms of equipment for working out and fitness, and get their picture taken with their favorite fitness personalities. The Arnold Classic expo has about 400 vendors in categories such as nutrition, athletic apparel, fitness equipment, insurance, military branches, and sports training.  

arnold classic 2020

History Of The Arnold Classic

The Arnold Classic was first started in 1989 and founded by famous movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The main event back then was the men’s bodybuilding contest, which gives away about $100,000 to the winner. This has made it the second most men’s bodybuilding contest right under Mr. Olympia, which is held in Las Vegas.  

The Arnold Classic EXPO 2020

The Arnold Classic expo is easily the biggest and most popular event at the Arnold Classic. Each year over 200,000 people pay the entry fee to see all the booths. At some points of the day, especially on Saturday and Sunday, one cannot even walk down the aisles of the expo; it is so crowded and jam-packed.  

The expo is held at the Columbus Convention Center in downtown Columbus Ohio. If one is going to attend the Arnold Classic, this article will give one tips to beat the crowds and to get the most enjoyment out of attending.

Getting to the convention center is relatively straightforward. It is located off the main highways of Ohio.

Arnold Classic Schedule For 2020

The expo is open for three days, March 6th, 7th, and 8th. On Friday and Saturday, it is open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Staying Overnight

If one wishes to attend the Arnold Festival the entire time, lodging is required. Hotels nearest to the Arnold Classic sell out very quickly. As soon as the Arnold classic is over, rooms around the convention center are getting booked one year in advance. Finding a room is nearly impossible. If one happens not to be able to get a room walking distance to the convention center, I suggest staying in Easton, Ohio, at the Courtyard by Marriot at Columbus Easton. The rooms are usually available, and the cost is only about $200 for the night. It is about a 15-minute drive from the hotel to the convention center. The hotel is nice and clean, and the rooms are great. The best part about the hotel is that it is walking distance to the Easton Town Center, which is a vast shopping and entertainment area. Easton is reminiscent of a little city. There are plenty of bars and restaurants, plus plenty of things to do at night. Therefore after a long tiring day attending the Arnold Classic, one can go back to their room, rest for a couple of hours, and then walk over to the Easton center and have a wonderful evening enjoying food at a restaurant, seeing a movie, or going to a comedy club.  

Arnold Classic 2020
Easton Ohio is a great place to stay if you’re attending the Arnold Classic


Parking is a big problem due to the hundreds of thousands of people that attend, and if one does not plan, one might end up parking miles away. I suggest purchasing parking from the convention center themselves. There are four parking lots to choose from at the cost of $20. Here is the link to purchase parking.

After one parks their car, it is about a 15 to 20-minute walk to get to the expo. The convention center is very big. Therefore a lot of walking is required.  This is one of the largest convention centers in the US, so be prepared!

Getting Into The Arnold Classic Expo

The Arnold Classic is a massive event, and the crowds are gigantic. If you don’t want to get stuck in the crowds, I suggest you get there plenty early. Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days with peak time being the afternoons. I highly recommend purchasing your expo ticket BEFORE getting there. If one does not, they will be standing in line for a long time. Typically the line will stretch as far as the eye can see. Tickets are available online via Ticketmaster. The cost is $20 to $35. Twenty get one general admission, and $35 get one fast pass. I highly suggest getting a Fast Pass. It is well worth the extra 10 dollars. The crowds are enormous. Once the expo opens to the general public, people are running to get samples and trying to beat the lines. Therefore getting in early before all the super impatient people get in will save one some headaches.  

Outside the expo area, there is plenty of places to get food and drinks. But again, due to the size of the crowds, be prepared to wait in long lines to get something as simple as a coffee. Eating and drinking before you get there will help you save time. 

Inside the Expo

Inside the Arnold Classic expo, 2020, one will see about 22 aisles with company booths lined up on each side. This equates to about 500 booths. You’ll find bathrooms as well.

Pro Tip: The bathrooms at the expo are super crowded. Instead, take a walk to where they are doing gymnastics. Keep walking until you can’t go any further and you’ll find bathrooms that are far less crowded. It is also a good place to find some REAL food and sit down and eat. I would buy my food and sit in the stands to relax a bit and get away from the crowds.  

I suggest that before one goes to “map out” the booths that are most important so that you can hopefully get there before the enormous lines form. Here is an interactive map of the expo. One can hover over the booth spaces to see what company is located where.

arnold classic 2020

Getting Samples

By far, the most popular thing to do at the Arnold Classic Expo is to get free samples. Most of all, the nutritional supplement booths will give out some free samples to take home or try on the spot. Some of those are protein powders. Here are some tips on sampling.

Remember, there are about 500 booths, and out of those 500 booths, there are about 110 nutritional booths. Therefore technically, one could end up sampling over 100 items, which could be problematic.

One must carefully plan the samples in which one consumes. If not, two things will most likely happen. The first is gastrointestinal problems. The second is overstimulated with amphetamines. In regards to gastro problems, the last thing you want at this immensely crowded expo is to have to take a poop. The bathrooms are not the cleanest, and one will always find people pooping in the stalls stinking up the joint. There will be numerous supplement booths offering free samples of things to drink and eat. I suggest not eating or drinking anything and instead asking for a sample to take home. I recommend this for two reasons. One is that sampling protein supplements on the spot is just for the taste experience. Protein powders should be about quality and not taste. Therefore taste is meaningless. The second reason is cleanliness. There are just way too many people putting their hands on things, coughing, and sneezing. This could lead to contamination of the product. I do not see the need to swallow something at the Arnold Classic Expo.  

However, if one feels the need to sample drinks, I would recommend limiting yourself to your favorite ones. Sampling 10 or 20 protein samples will inevitably lead to gastrointestinal problems. Because when one does this, they are mixing in their stomach, God knows how many different ingredients and artificial fillers, thickening agents, and oils.    

In addition, supplement booths will be sampling out their pre-workout products that might contain caffeine. If one samples 5 to 10 pre-workout drink, that might add up to an overdose of caffeine. Therefore be cautious about sampling pre-workout supplements. Remember it is not about taste, it is about quality, and quality cannot be judged by one small sample to try. 

Taking Home Samples

The best part for most attendees is getting free samples to take home. I highly recommend bringing some sort of bag. I recommend the big bags that one would bring to the grocery store, instead of a backpack. Yes, some supplement companies will hand out big plastic bags. One year when I was there, I would see one supplement company hand out a big bag with their supplements in it, and then the same person would go to another supplement company booth and put that bag they just got inside that bag! One needs a big bag because it is impossible to carry all the samples in your hands and pockets. If one plans accordingly, they could leave the Arnold Classic Expo with a decent haul of supplement samples.  

Without question, one will be waiting in line to get samples. Sometimes for up to one hour. Some of the more unpopular booths may not have a line, but most likely, their samples will not be that good. But you can bet your bottom dollar the larger companies that give away awesome samples will have a long line. Be prepared to fill out your name and email so the company giving away the samples can collect your info to market to you in the future. As I mentioned previously in this article, get to the booths that interested you the most, and use the interactive map to find them. If one waits till the peak times in the afternoon, it will be even painful to walk down the aisles. Nothing worse than getting “crop dusted” when your jammed packed in an aisle and can’t move or get away from the stench that someone just blasted out from drinking too many bad protein samples.  


For some unknown reason, free t-shirts given away by the exhibitors create the biggest crowds and frenzy. Attendees love free t-shirts and will do almost anything to get one. When I exhibited at the Arnold Classic in the mid-1990s, if we wanted to create a riot near our booth, we would stand up on chairs and toss out free t-shirts to the crowd. People would go crazy! It got so nuts that the expo BANNED throwing T-shirts into the crowd. Now attendees must wait in line to get a shirt. However, if you are walking around the expo and hear people screaming and yelling, it is because most likely, an exhibitor is not following the rules and throwing out T-Shirts into the crowd. If you get a free T-shirt at the Arnold, consider yourself lucky. 

Taking Pictures With The Fitness Models

Another fun activity, if you are attending the Arnold Classic, is to take pictures. There are a ton of good looking women and men. Most of the female fitness models are happy to take photos with attendees. However, there are some rules that I recommend you follow, so you don’t come off as a creep or accused of being a stalker.

Rule #1. 

If you decide to get a picture WITH the female fitness model, do not touch them. I have seen creeps put their arm around the model’s waist and try to get a side boob feel. This is entirely unacceptable. I had hired models in the past to work my expo booth, and they told me that this would happen to them all the time. Don’t do it. I have also seen attendees try to pick up the models and put them on their shoulders—another no-no. 

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Have fun getting pictures, but make sure you don’t fall into the creep zone.

Rule #2. 

Don’t be a stalker. Sometimes the models will be busy taking picture after picture and a line forms. Try not to stand there out of line and just stare at them. This is creepy. Instead, get in line, take the picture and move on.  

Rule #3.  

Don’t ask them on a date. This is totally creepy, and the last thing a model wants after a long and tiresome day is to go on a date. Most of them have boyfriends and are married anyway.  

Rule #4. Don’t follow them. Do not wait until they are done with their shift, and then follow them out of the expo to try to get a quick picture instead of waiting in line. That is stalkerish and creepy.  

Rule #5.  

Don’t do a photoshoot with them. Meaning, take one picture or two and move on. I’ve seen people in the past ask them to do different poses and try to replicate a photoshoot. Don’t do it. 

Getting A Glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger

If you are lucky enough, you’ll be able to see Arnold himself. Arnold makes an appearance by walking down the expo aisle to usually the booth that spends the most money (according to my guestimation, he never came to my booth and said, “Hi”!) You’ll hear screams and everyone yelling to get the hell out of the way. He’ll have like 50 bodyguards around him. So if you are in the right spot at the right time, he will walk by you. Other than that, that is your best chance.  

Arnold Classic 2020 expo
The name himself, Arnold

In conclusion, the Arnold Classic expo is a great event to attend. For a small entry fee, one can get themselves about $100.00 worth of free supplements along with free bags and T-shirts. Not only that, but there are plenty of things to watch like the strongmen competition, MMA fighting, and more. And if you’re lucky enough, a glimpse at the man himself, Arnold.  

About the Author: Alex Rogers is the owner of and has attended the Arnold Classic many times as well as been an exhibitor.