A First Timers Look at the Arnold Classic Ben Tatar interviewed by Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
1) As a first timer visiting the Arnold Classic, what can you tell us about the actual expo building? What do you see when you first enter?
Ben Tatar: The Expo is just one great big fancy room with many aisles. Every aisle has booths with supplement companies, athletes, bodybuilders and fitness models. People normally go to the aisles and get their pictures taken with the fitness models, bodybuilders, and athletes. You can also sample new supplements or talk to the people at the booths, look for sponsors or just make a new friend. There are always fitness models to give you bags and there are people working the booths who will also give you free supplement packages, free t-shirts, and autographs.
There are other extravaganzas at the Expo such as a booth that gives you the opportunity to see how many chin ups you can do. There is a bench press cage, run by hardcore athletes and you get the chance to see how many times you can bench press your body weight. Then there is a strongman platform where you have to pick up 80lbs stones and put them on a podium and it's timed. There is also a section where pro athletes show up and just talk.
In front of all the aisles that take place at the Expo, you will see a main stage that has events going on all day such as the Arnold bench press, strongman competition, arm wrestling, female bodybuilding contest and many others. So, there is always something to do from talking to people to watching shows.
2) Many people associate the Arnold Classic with bodybuilding but we know there's much more to it. What other events or competitions
Ben Tatar: There are many events during the Arnold weekend. Some events include: Strongman, Fighting, Sumo Wrestling, Bench Pressing, Ping Pong, Running, Gymnastics, Cheerleading, Figure Skating, Wrestling, Boxing, Martial Arts, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, Arm Wrestling, Hockey Skills competition, Wrestling, Figure Ms. International and many other events are held. There are really many many events that take place that weekend so if you are into athletics of any type, you will see the best of the best, and you are bound to be highly entertained. What else makes the Expo interesting is that different athletic events take place on different day's so on different days you will see different types of athletes.
3) Do you have to pay extra to watch certain competitions or events or does the entry fee cover everything?
Ben Tatar: It only cost $10 to get into the Expo for a day. Once you're in the Expo all the events that take place at the Expo are free and so are all the booths. If you choose to go to the Expo during all 3 days then it will cost $30. I went to the Expo with my friend Bill everyday and it really wasn't too expensive. You have to pay for meals, Hotels, to travel and other than that it's pretty cheap.
4) If you were looking around the Columbus Convention Center how would you describe the energy in the air?
Ben Tatar: Experiencing the Expo was a real emotional high. Being at the Expo was like experiencing one dream after another! Although all of the dreams of being at the Expo might be over, I feel like I have some special memories that will be with me for the rest of my life. Every moment you feel like you are entering the epitome of athletic excellence in a new culture since all parts of the Expo features the best of the best in different athletic avenues.
5) Would you say most of the people at the event are fans or professionals working in the field? How would you describe the mass of people?
Ben Tatar: The audience is diverse. There are over 100,000 athletes and over 20,000 fitness models. Since you have a wide variety of athletes from ping pong players, to kids competing to pro bodybuilders to gorgeous models, you see all different types of people. However, most of the people there were fans or appeared to be fans and families. However, the only people that I really noticed were the superstar fitness models, powerlifters and my friends. My friends and the stars over shadowed all of the fans at the Expo because I was talking to them most of the time, and I'm more inclined to notice the people who talked with me.
I'd also like to add that you will see different people on different days. Day 1 (Friday,) is exciting because everything is new and fresh. Day 2 Saturday has the biggest events and the Expo is just absolutely mobbed, so it's a better day to watch events. Day 3 Sunday is when you get to meet all the pro bodybuilders, and it's a nice day. So, all three days at the Expo have something very different and special to offer.
6) When you came back to NY who would you say is the one person that left a permanent positive impression on you for the first time and why?
Ben Tatar: Mike Witmer all the way! I have been friends with Mike Witmer for the past 5-6 years. I met him in a truly huge chat room, and he has taught me most of what I know about training today and he has given me advice that has allowed me to accomplish weight lifting goals at my body weight that I have never seen anyone else perform before. He has always inspired me. I have never met him in person in my life and in Columbus Ohio I had the chance to meet up with him for the first time ever. It was a true honor meeting Mike. Witmer also enjoyed meeting me. He even said in an email after meeting me that " I have met tons of intense mother fuc*ers! From the greatest strongman ever Bill Kazmaier, to the most intense powerlifter Chuck Vogelpohl and he then said that I was honestly the first person that he could feel their intensity and that I was one of the most powerful people of all!" It was definitely cool meeting Mike. Witmer looked young, good, and when you see him he really represents athleticism, raw power, and bodybuilding all in one package. He's also a lean 275-300lbs, so that makes him even more impressive face to face. Together we sure looked like 2 meat head studs (haha)! Witmer is the real deal as he has succeeded in bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman and sports. I was very excited after meeting Mike Witmer, so excited that I jumped over a rope from a standing position that was at my stomach level. Mike is the type of man that most of us really would like to be, and everything about him is genuine and real.
7) Who was the biggest bodybuilder that you saw or spoke to?
Ben Tatar: The biggest bodybuilder was Kenny Gipson. When you look at most of the big bodybuilders in the magazines and that compete you would think that they would all stand at 6'5 while being that big and ripped, but in reality if you are a guy from 5'10-6'1 like me, you will discover that most of the pro bodybuilders are under 5'6. However, when I saw Kenny Gipson he had to have been a good 6'5 and he also had some freaky size and definition! Gipson looked like a TRUE freak, like super man, and he didn't seem like a short pretty boy with excessive muscles, he was the real deal and far more convincing then the rest of the Pro's! He was also a very nice guy and he didn't try to come across as a mean bastard, he looked more intimidating and impressive than the rest of the pros naturally! He told me I'm doing a great job and that I'm jacked, powerful looking and it meant a lot coming from him. Everyone at the Expo presents a hardcore vibe, but when I saw Kenny he was the freak of all freaks! He was just so impressive and scary in person! Everything about him was inspiring!
8) We saw you pictured on the cover of Flex Magazine for all to see at the event. How did that feel?
Ben Tatar: At the Arnold they had these "Flex" magazine covers and we would have our picture taken for $5.00 and after our pictures were taken they would put our picture on the flex magazine cover. Well, out of the hundreds and thousands of athletes that got their pictures taken, they hung a photo up of me over everyone! I was wearing a "bleed bench" critical bench shirt and everyone at the Expo got to see me on the cover of Flex magazine wearing a critical bench shirt and a critical bench hat!
Since I was wearing my Critical Bench gear on the cover of FLEX, it made the experience that much more special! I felt that Critical Bench and I were being promoted for all to see! The feeling was that of an epiphany, enlightenment, it was pandemonium and the pinnacle of emotional highs! My 7 chakras were smoking in harmony! This was a very special experience for me because I remember starting from the bottom and then I see myself climb to the ladder of success with my business/ and lifting to the point I was the featured writer/athlete on the cover of Flex in my Critical Bench gear for all to see at the grand daddy event of all, the Arnold! And I was featured on the cover of FLEX Magazine for all 3 days for the hundreds and thousands of athletes and fans to see! For everyone reading this interview, that is just another reason to go to the Arnold because it's a place where we experience memories that last a life time and it's something that I will share with my grandchildren someday!
9) What advice would you give to someone visiting the Arnold for the first time that wanted to get the most out of the experience?
Ben Tatar: I would say that it's up to you to decide how exciting this experience will be. If you want to meet some of the best bodybuilders, fitness models, and athletes in the industry then you will have to talk to them. Don't be afraid to communicate with successful and experienced athletes/models or whomever you want to talk to. I have found that 85% of the people were really cool and nice, and those who were shallow or negative are still unique in their own way. Just approach people, understand them, be direct with your communication and see if you feel a connection and go from there. After talking to people learn, move on, celebrate, go to the next person, remain friends with those you connect with and enjoy the whole process. This philosophy has always worked for me as I went from a hermit to being successful with networking over the past 5 years.
10) You got autographs and spoke with some of the biggest names in the industry. Would you say that most of the big names were very approachable?
Ben Tatar: Oh definitely! When I talked to big names like Jeramy Freeman, Ronnie Coleman, and the other pros I was joking around with them and the energy was positive the whole time. All of the big names in the industry are very hardcore and passionate about their training, and it's great to meet people who love training as much as I do! I saw every opportunity as win, win, and the big names were all win-win! Everyone was totally cool! Just compliment and flatter the big bodybuilders, talk training, or whatever feels natural and let them know how great they have done and just tease the fitness models in a positive way and they will all love you! I felt that I had a connection with all the big time lifters and everyone that I met.
11) What kinds of samples were companies giving out? Did you bring home any souvenirs?
For souvenirs, if you go to the Expo, bring a camera and be prepared to take hundreds of pictures and a couple of videos. I think pictures are the best souvenir that you can bring back from the Arnold. I repeat be ready to take some pictures! Some souvenirs that I brought back were posters with autographs, supplement samples, supplements from Beverly International such as Muscle Synergy, and lots of t-shirts. My personal favorite souvenir was to have all the best bodybuilders, athletes and wrestlers sign my Critical Bench Shirt and I got Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler to sign my Critical Bench shirt, take a picture with the Critical Bench shirt, which is going to be on the Critical Bench home page! Next year, I hope to get more souvenirs and I want to get more athletes on the camera to say "Critical Bench is number 1!" Remember go into the Arnold next year with some plans so you can accomplish all of your goals when you are there.
12) Were you exhausted at the end of the day or was there anything entertaining to do in Columbus?
Ben Tatar: I never got exhausted and I was too excited the whole time to ever want to really relax. There's stuff to do at Columbus at night. For anyone attending Columbus next year, go to Friday Night Fights after the Arnold Expo in the Nation Wide Arena. I went to the Nation Wide Arena and it only cost about $10 to get in. The Nation Wide Arena holds up to at least 20,000 people from my estimation! The Nation Wide Arena is only walking distance away from the Expo.
On Saturday Nights try to go to the WPO powerlifting meet at the Nation Wide Arena. You can also go to the Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition and after party too! If you choose to go a different route, there are always the local bars to attend, and most of all I suggest that you go to Columbus with a good friend! Traveling buddies are important, and it's good to go with someone who wants to do things that you want to do. The last thing you want to do is go with someone who wants to take a nap during the evening when you want to see the LIVE events!
Finally, transportation in Columbus is very easy. Everything is close and there are taxis, and buses to get you to places. All you do is tell the taxi's where you want to go and then you are there in minutes. So, if you go to the Arnold next year, I don't think that you will need to bring a car, unless you are driving there. In fact a Taxi might be easier because the Taxi driver's already know the area of Columbus and they will know where to take you!
13) From a motivational standpoint, did the Arnold put a spark in your ass to train even harder than normal?
Ben Tatar: Oh yeah! The day after the Arnold I floor pressed 315 for easy 15 reps and I was smoking 405 on the floor press like it was the bar! I'm going to floor press 3x my body weight soon. I also have been eating stricter and supplementing more since the Arnold! I squatted 675x10 with the most painful reps of my life and I want to squat 800lbs weighing under 200!
14) Tell us one funny story from the weekend.
Ben Tatar: Just one story? Hahaha, I have like 50 insane and funny stories to tell! I have so many stories, so please email email@example.com if you want to see some crazy pictures and videos that describe stories that are too extreme to be told here.
However, one wild story was that I kept taking high energy stimulation supplements over and over again. I'm intense by nature, so I probably shouldn't take any high energy stimulation supplement in the first place. Well, I probably had 10 times the amount of a high energy stimulation supplement than I was suppose to. And after being over-dosed on energy supplements I started shaking and my finger was shaking so bad that I couldn't use the camera to take pictures. I honestly kept thinking that I would pass out and go unconscious! It was a very scary experience, however, I feel much better now, and that is what counts. I think that when I was high, I went CRAZY on the camera, I got down and dirty with the models and just had a blast, so no regrets! haha
15) Okay Benů.Read the Recommended Dosage next time we want to see you around here for years to come! Were there any huge upsets that had people talking?
Ben Tatar: I don't believe in upsets at the top level. I know that people were disappointed with the bench press competition because of all the strict rules of the Arnold and the bomb outs. People bomb out on the bench when the rules are too strict. Also, Marius Pudzianowski who always wins the World's Strongest Man Competition, wasn't a dominate force in the strongman competition this year at the Expo. However, the environment and the events at the Expo rely more on brute strength in shorter burst than in the World's Strongest Man Competition. I think some people had some off days but for other people the Expo was where dreams came true. I think everyone is a winner though just for being there and for giving it their best.
16) Which main event or Final at the Arnold drew the biggest crowd?
Ben Tatar: I think all the crowds were pretty big; you had to get there early and sit down all day to actually get a seat and see an event at the Expo. I never could see that well because the chairs in the Expo were taken. I could stand from a distance and watch the Expo events and look onto the overhead and see what was going on. The attitude of the Expo wasn't too extreme; most of the events don't play loud music or anything. The Expo presents itself more with a glamorous culture than hardcore. I mean, I have seen more of a hardcore atmosphere at basement powerlifting meets. However, outside of the atmosphere the best athletes are still competing, but just in a glamorous setting.
I didn't go to the Arnold Classic (steroid bodybuilding competition) that took place at the Arnold Classic. The bodybuilding competition cost over $300 and it's in a different building than the Expo, a couple blocks down the street. The bodybuilding competition takes place on Saturday Night. I just wanted to meet the bodybuilders on Sunday at the Expo and read about the Events. However, there is always that package where you can go to the Arnold Classic and then the after party on Saturday Night at a night club where many of the stars hang out and party. The after party goes from 10:00pm to 1:00am and it's like a fitness fantasy. Everyone sits at a table, Arnold gives a speech, there are lots of groupies and it's just a place to socialize. It's something extra to do if you're up for it!
17) Which booth had the hottest fitness models?
Ben Tatar: I did a survey with my friends and the general audience liked the blonde girl from EAS. For entertainment, I liked Brandy out of all the girls working the booths. We all have our own interest and the Arnold has many different breeds of models so everyone will go home happy. Let me just say, when you are around fitness models you might feel like a kid in the candy store, but reverse the psychology and make them feel like kids in a candy store, never give them power over you, and you might just be able to have the fitness model that you want! The Expo is a place to make dreams reality.
18) You're an original character Ben, I'm laughing right now. Before you got to the Arnold was there anyone in particular that you were hoping you get a chance to meet?
Ben Tatar: Yes, I wanted to meet the World's Number 1 Motivator and one of the best drug free athletes on the planet Chris Mitchell because he invited me to go to the Arnold Expo. Chris Mitchell invited me out for meals and to hang out with the Beverly supplement team and help him with business. Chris crowned me the athlete of the month not that long ago and we have had positive email communication ever since. Chris was a very nice individual and he is willing to help anyone reach their weight lifting goals. I ate dinner with him. I also got the chance to meet Mike Wolfe who is one of the best heavy weight bench pressers in the world, and one of the most massive men at the whole show. Most of all Wolfe is as cool as they get. I also got to meet Mike+ Christi Witmer who I have wanted to meet for years. Christi looked amazing, centuries beyond our time, and watch out for their son Ryan, he is going to be the next greatest athlete ever! Mike and Christi are so athletic and mentally strong, with amazing genetics, so their son is going to be something special someday! So, I had the opportunity to meet all of my friends! I also got a chance to meet other great people like Bridget from www.bodybuilding.com who I had a very entertaining conversation with at a bar at lunch! I also got to see pro wrestlers like HHH, Batista, and many other people that I never anticipated to meet. So, the Expo was everything I expected it to be and more.
19) Any closing thoughts for those of us that are thinking about taking the trip next year?
Ben Tatar: If you really want to live life fully and experience the biggest event in the iron game then go to the Arnold Expo! It's the biggest weight lifting and athletic event in the world. If you go, you will have the experience of a lifetime. If you don't go you are really missing out on some of the best things that a lifter/athlete could ever want.
Thanks for representing Critical Bench at the Arnold and giving us the behind scenes scoop. After talking to you, I feel like I got to experience some of the excitement myself.
Check out some of the pics below that Ben took for CriticalBench.com.