This past weekend I had the privilege of accompanying our team at Gaglione Strength to the XPC Finals at the Arnold Classic in Ohio. It was an awesome trip and I am very proud of what our lifters Renee Garcia and Sean Fagan were able to accomplish. I wanted to take the time to write a recap of the weekend detailing not only the meet but the entire trip itself as well as the expo
My girlfriend and I started our adventure from NY early thursday morning at 2 am. We didn’t fly like many, we decided to make the 10 hour drive instead to Columbus. You’d think it would be a restless experience but it actually went by quicker than you’d imagine. We were fully stocked with energy drinks and snacks and well prepared for the 10 hours ahead of us. I feel like if you mentally prepare yourself ahead of time for a trip like that it can actually be a pretty cool experience. You get to drive through areas of America that you’d normally never see otherwise. The traveling has always been one of my favorite parts of powerlifting meets, I have been fortunate to see a lot of places I probably wouldn’t have unless we had a meet ahead of us
The trip was pretty much a one shot on a single highway the majority of the time. Highlights for me were being able to see all these vast mountains we drove through, as well as the welcome to Ohio sign. I love those welcome signs for some reason, they instill a feeling of accomplishment in you. We also passed the exit to Punxsutawney PA where that damn gopher Phil lives. I guess the furry little guy was right about early spring this year because it’s currently 65 degrees outside as I write this, who woulda thought
What’s the first thing you have to do when visiting a new state? Check out the critters! First stop was the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. It was actually snowing a bit and as I thought, many of the animals were put away somewhere for the winter. No crazy African zebras and whatnot, but we did see an Asian elephant and a face painting Rhino, not to mention some real ruckus monkeys. I actually ran into a friend of mine from Massachusetts who I have done powerlifting meets with in the past. Funny place to meet up, hundreds of miles from home in a deserted zoo in the winter. Small world I guess
After checking in to our hotel and a couple attempts at finding a commercial gym bench I was comfortable enough to train in (no luck) we decided to call it a night. Before we cashed out though we needed some food. Let me tell you, Ohio has some real shady eating spots. The little african joints recommended to us looked like we might of gotten mugged. Not only were some of the spots shady but there was this wild liquor store set up that looked like a guy rented out a small car wash type garage and filled it with those pepsi coolers full of alcohol. People drove into this poorly lit barred off garage, told the guy through the window what they wanted, then drove out the back… We saw enough and it was time to book it over to the great american establishment that is the waffle house. Pancakes and home fries baby!
The morning of the meet slapped us in the face like a ton of bricks, 6am sharp (takes me a while to roll around and realize where I am). We got to the Rhodes Center for the XPC finals friday morning at 7am where we slowly began meeting up as our team rolled in. Big Coach Gags, Renee, Sean, and myself set up camp in the warm up room. The place was an incredible set up, plenty of space for multiple warm up rooms stocked with monitors to see the action, a backstage entrance to walk up to the lit up main stage overlooking a massive room stocked with seating for a big crowd. Vendors were lining the audience room. For a national level meet it definitely had a pro atmosphere. The experience of being around this environment and these lifters was definitely very motivating
The meet was run professionally, efficiently, and without any hiccups to my knowledge. The judging was strict but that is to be expected at such a high level meet. At the end of the day our lifters Renee and Sean did not exactly have the outing they wanted. Both lifters were coming off awesome 9/9 performances their last meet and expectations were high. None of them made excuses though and kept their heads high while they both finished the meet. Sean even ended up with PR’s on bench, deadlift, and total, not a bad day at all! Despite not reaching their goals, just the fact that they were there and finished the meet is an accomplishment in its own right and I couldn’t be more proud of them for the way they represented the team
They both represented the team and the gym with integrity and grits. They tasted the national level and they are both highly motivated and hungry to get back and kill it. I know the next time they are up there in the spotlight they will both put on a show and win their respective classes. At the very least I hope they had as great a time as I did getting to watch them lift up there. It is an experience not every lifter out there will get the chance to have, it is something that should be remembered in a positive retrospect
Now that the grand show was over, it was time to eat, rest, and switch gears a bit. Coach Gags was scheduled to give a seminar that night out in Dayton, about an hour out from our hotels. We both arrived at the location at the same time, a gym called “The Dirty Gym”. Perhaps not the name you’d expect from a typical gym but in the world of strength training anything goes. It was a fantastic facility, loaded with all the equipment you’d ever need for not only powerlifting but other strength sports such as weightlifting as well. It was a pleasure to meet Sarah Dooley who is an online client of Gags and who helped set this event up, and the awesome owners and lifters of the gym who were very accommodating of me training with their equipment
As everyone got together, the seminar soon began. This was actually my first time experiencing the Coach Gaglione Powerlifting for the People seminar. He did a great job of outlining the basics you must master to reach elite levels in powerlifting. Many people think you need a secret program or something to become great when in reality you just need to master the simple basics of lifting correctly. This includes lifting with correct joint angles, learning how to brace your body and create tightness, and have efficient movement to perform the lifts to the standards set by competition. During the seminar Coach Gags also touched upon programming and had an extensive Q&A in which he answered everyones questions fully and in depth. Not going to lie, we got pretty deep, I was feeling some feels
By the time we got back to our hotel that night it was almost 1 am, even later by the time I actually got in bed. To say I was exhausted would be an understatement. I wanted to get up early to experience the Arnold expo all day but I knew in my mind that sleeping a good long while was probably the best choice. Sleep we did, and amazing it was. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to have a great time at the expo. This was going to be my first time ever at the biggest sports expo in the world, the Arnold Classic Columbus Ohio!
Prior to arriving at my first Arnold expo I had all these grand expectations set from what people have told me about it. One guy told me he literally brought home 3 duffle bags worth of supplement samples. I was beyond ready to snag everything I could and then some. Upon walking into the expo I realized these expectations would quickly come to an end. It was the most packed area I have ever been in, including NYC at christmas time. I am fine with crowds but this was even over bearing for me. Granted we arrived at probably the worse time of the whole weekend, 12 noon on saturday, but you wouldn’t believe how packed in it was. I was completely disappointed. I did not see samples, I couldn’t even move, I stood in the same exact spot for almost a half hour no exaggeration. It was an awful first experience. One of the guys in line was trying to get out and told us in his 10 years of coming here he had never seen it like this. We followed along and fought our way outside where we caught some fresh air and rethought our strategy
I had to lower my expectations of this expo. Next time we went in we tried to move about the sides of the building, staying away from the packed aisles. Most the traffic was caused by massive lines to get to booths. No more were the days of walking up to a booth and grabbing samples, now you need to wait in a huge line to get a baggie of a few samples from the top supplement companies. What I hated is the lines caused traffic to all the other vendors as well so I could barely access anything at the expo
As the day went on the crowd filed out slowly, enough that it was at least possible to move around. I was able to see most of the booths. The only picture I took with anyone was with Tiny Meeker. The all time biggest bencher with a 1102 lb multiply bench. He signed a photo for me which I framed upon returning home and I bought one of his shirts. He is someone that has reached the absolute highest level in what I compete in so I respect him greatly. It was a pleasure to meet him in person and shake his hand. On the main stage were the strongmen. These guys are unbelievable, they look like cartoons. Many of these behemoths are 6’9” territory and 400+ lbs. If you think they are big in the videos, seeing them in person next to regular sized people is another thing to behold. Absolute monsters. I was also able to catch a glimpse of the famous Animal Cage, where amazing feats of strengths are performed almost every hour
That night I was able to go out to a nice dinner with my girlfriend and as soon as we got home I passed out for the night. The plan was to catch the UFC pay per view but once I start snoozing its lights out. Turned out it was a crazy event with both Conor McGregor and Holly Holm being defeated. The next day was sunday and that meant another 10 hour drive back to NY, but first I needed to catch the XPC Bench Freakshow on the Arnold expo main stage!
This was a multiply bench meet comprised of 8 lifters, sharing the same stage in which massive strongmen literally just set new world records minutes before. This was an event I had based my entire 2016 competition year around qualifying for the following year but unfortunately it was just announced a few days before that this would be the last bench freakshow. Luckily enough at least I was there to see the last one. The reason for dismissing the event was from too many missed attempts. The crowd doesn't like to see misses, they want to see massive benches move fast. After catching the event first hand I can see how they opted for this move. I personally was engaged in it throughout and thought it was the most awesome competition ever, but I also understood what was going on. From a spectators perspective I can see how you might get bored. There were some great moments but not one lifter went 3/3, many went 1/3, and one went 0/3 and bombed out. Not the greatest track record for the event. Nonetheless I had a great time watching and enjoyed seeing the last event
With the completion of the Bench Freakshow I pretty much crossed everything off my list for Ohio. It was time to go home and by then I was missing my regular routine. The whole weekend was an amazing experience, especially seeing the level of lifting on the XPC stage. It really is a collective group of some of the best lifters and is a great event to watch. I was happy for our lifters to get a chance to go through that meet. I know that next year we will be entering many more and we'll come back stronger. Looking forward to what another year will bring for our gym Gaglione Strength