Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo Will Leave You Breathless


Two-day event at the Las Vegas Convention Center is a jackpot of thrills…

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UPDATE: The 2019 Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo will take place Friday and Saturday September 13th and 14th. Tickets are $30 per day or $50 for a weekend pass. Order by clicking HERE

Earlier this week I introduced you to the annual Mr. Olympia events in Las Vegas, and today I’ll be exploring the most fun a fit guy or gal can have in Sin City. By that I mean the Olympia Fitness Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center. So bring an empty gym bag and get ready to fill it with swag.

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Friday and Saturday from 10 am through 5 pm is where you’ll find the world’s biggest collection of fitness fans. The Olympia Fitness Expo draws thousands from around the globe. For a $30 admission price (or $50 for a two-day pass), visitors can completely envelop themselves in every aspect of physical fitness culture.

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Dozens of booths and exhibitors line two levels of the Convention Center floor and it’s anything but a static business presentation. Both sides of the space have areas for physical competitions such as power lifting, martial arts, Tae Kwan Do, kickboxing, wrestling, karate, Olympic weightlifting and wheelchair championships.

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On the stage are contests for Men’s and Bikini Modeling, judging and awards for Men’s and Women’s Physique and the very “Vegas-y” pole competition. But the masses gravitate towards the vendor exhibits, where true paydirt awaits.

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Upon entry, attendees are given an enormous shopping bag which quickly becomes filled with giveaways. We’re talking protein powders, energy drinks, pre-workout mixes and pills, skin products, snack bars, weight-loss stimulants, shakers, t-shirts and more.

Those who purchase VIP packages get to enter an hour before the general public and are able to snag the best goodies on both days (I even got a zippered hoodie and five workout shirts). Better freebies go to those who take on physical challenges like chin-ups, arm curl contests, high jumps…and giant bowling?

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The photo below is just a sampling of what I collected while making my rounds and meeting the vendors. Most merchants require an email or Facebook registration to collect a sample bag and those lines are usually the longest…because they give away the best stuff.

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For those who find it hard to stay on their fitness plan when visiting Vegas, consider planning a trip around the Olympia weekend this year. It takes place every September, is a lot more fun than you’d think, and you’ll come home a winner. Just remember to bring an extra suitcase for all those freebies.

 

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                                           Myself looking small next to the big boys…

Photos: Sammasseur

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From Mormon to Male Revue: One Man’s Evolution, Vegas-style


Chippendales performer Ryan Worley’s solitary road to redemption…

Sin City’s adult production shows have been around for decades. In other cities, sexy performers might be viewed with a certain disdain, but here they are regarded with a unique reverence.

The showgirls of Jubilee! and Folies Bergere will always be iconic. The men of Aussie Heat are genuine bonafide trained dancers of impressive skill. The ladies of SEXXY and FANTASY work hard for the money. And then there are the Chippendales…a macho, muscular troupe whose name is synonymous with classy male entertainment.

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       Ryan and fellow Chipp James Davis don purple to support LGBTQ youth…

In a recent article I called the men of ChippendalesShirtless Angels of Charity“. They do indeed spend plenty of time contributing wonderful work for the Las Vegas community. But first and foremost, they’re a hunky bunch of guys who grind out sets in the gym before bumping and grinding onstage.

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Twenty-seven year old Ryan Worley never imagined that one day he’d be taking off his clothes for a paying audience. Raised within the strict guidelines and culture of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Worley was as far from Chippendales stock as one could imagine.

Yet we don’t always know what’s around the corner or lies over the horizon. And Ryan’s life so far has been anything but predictable.

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                         Ryan (far left) in a family photo with his siblings…

I was born in California on August 6th, 1990 and am the second oldest of four kids. We were raised in the Mormon religion and devoted to the church. After high school I was dating a girl who was not a Mormon…and being with her made me not want to serve my two-year mission.

Not volunteering for missionary work is very frowned upon within the culture. People will go as far as to shunning you for it…and that was the case for me.

Instead, I went to college at Brigham Young University in Idaho. This is a Mormon school and they have three campuses (Provo, Utah is the largest and most popular). I completed three semesters there and eventually transferred to Utah Valley University.

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While attending Utah Valley University, Ryan lived with a friend whose father was a Mormon Bishop. It was clear that, despite avoiding missionary service and not being very active any longer, his exposure to the Latter Day Saints Movement was deeply entrenched in every aspect of his life.

At the age of twenty, Worley was attracted to a fellow employee at the pizza parlor where he moonlighted. This young lady was active in the Mormon church and got Ryan to attend again. After dating for two years the couple got married…but their romance was short-lived.

Someone once told me when we first married that the number one cause of divorce is unmet expectations…a sentence which resonated inside me. That’s when I got into fitness. The gym became my sanctuary and a place where I could let go.

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Throwing himself into the lifestyle of intense fitness was very therapeutic. While building his body, Ryan acquired a new level of self-esteem which was critical in this period. The change to his physique was astounding. Still, it wasn’t enough to mend the difficulties with his bride.

I told her that I wanted a divorce and she didn’t put up much of a fight. We sold our house and she went back to southern California…I moved north to the Salt Lake City area.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

Ryan dove head-first into the fitness industry, serving as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist for a company called Complete Nutrition. While adjusting to a newly-single life in his small apartment, he was helping others get their own lives back on track. Knowing how to design customized meal plans for clients was invaluable when Worley planned to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

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Spending hours at home on his stationary bike, Ryan discovered the documentary The Perfect Physique on Netflix (readers may recall that I covered the red-carpet premiere of this film at Palms Casino during the 2015 Mr. Olympia).

Ever since I got into fitness I’d wanted to do modeling and end up on a cover of a magazine. TJ Hoban, who is a well-known fitness model, was talking in the film about the difficulties he’d faced, like when he had a serious onstage accident during a Chippendales performance back in the 90’s.

I’d heard about Chippendales before but didn’t know exactly what it was or what it entailed. What I did know was that if my idol TJ Hoban was part of it, then it must be something great.

I went online and immediately filled out an application, submitted a few pictures and told a little about myself…but I never actually expected to hear back from them.

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                                        Actor/model/fitness star TJ Hoban…

Even though his own performance experience was limited to a small Mormon singing/dancing group, Ryan was bursting with excitement…and hope. After applying, he joked with his Complete Nutrition employer that if Chippendales hired him he’d need to give notice.

Two weeks later, an email arrived from the show’s General Manager for an invitation-only audition:

I needed to rent a car for the drive from Utah to Vegas because my own was so crappy. Nobody knew about the audition. When I arrived early in the day, it was straight to the gym to pump up and look my best.

I was one of about fifteen guys there…and they all looked incredible. Kristen Makhathini (the show’s General Manager at the time) led the audition and had us take our shirts off for head shots.

We got on stage and began learning choreography. This was all very new to me. After about ten minutes, they split us into groups and mine was first. We ran through the routine a couple of times, then Kristen said “Alright guys, we are going to start cutting people so if you hear your name we don’t need you anymore and thank you for coming out”. The next sentence made my stomach drop: “Everyone in the first group except for Ryan can go home. Thank you”.

These other guys had flown in from all over the world and it was over for them in less than twenty minutes! My heart was beating out of my chest! They narrowed us down to four of us and said we’d know in a week. There were two spots, one for touring and another for the Vegas show. The tour manager came up to me and asked if I was able to get a passport. “I think I want to steal you for the tour” she said.

My mind went crazy…why did she just say “steal”? Did that mean I got the Vegas spot? That evening I watched the show for the first time, drove back to Utah overnight and never told anyone about it.

When the call came that he’d be a part of the Vegas production, it was time to shock his boss with the news of what he’d done…and to give that resignation notice they’d kidded about.

Along with this sudden change in his life’s course was the realization that he’d be stirring up controversy with his conservative friends and family.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

When I asked him what kind of reactions he received after telling people about Chippendales, Ryan sighed and took a moment to collect his thoughts. He was reluctant to slam the culture he’d been a part of for so long, but felt that he’d somehow broken free of someone else’s control and was ready to speak out about it.

My family has had a rough time with my new career but I knew they probably would. They don’t fully understand it or know what it is.

I’m no longer a member of the Mormon church but my friends and loved ones are and I want to respect that. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the truth is that they teach you to be close-minded. I remember how my siblings and I were treated after our parents divorced. We sat in the back of the church, alone, like outcasts among our own people.

Mormons have their own stance on issues and you have to accept them as yours. When I grew up, I found myself asking “Are these values mine because I’m naturally a good person or were they were taught to me by the church?. Even now I’m not sure, but my mom did bring me up to be a respectful man.

Worley went on to discuss things about the Mormon culture that still concern him. Matters like their unequal treatment of minorities and the LGBTQ community. He feels that’s why a lot of Americans are now leaving the church…and why it currently targets impressionable third-world countries.

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But now that he’s found a new “family” with his Chippendales brothers and their socially-positive work, Ryan Worley is ready to move forward and continue making things better for himself…and others.

I’ve been a Chippendale for almost a year now and love everything it has to offer. I get to do charity work in the community and appear on numerous TV shows. It feels like my years of struggle are over. This is my big break…I go to work and people cheer for me!

I reached out to TJ Hoban and Kandice King (directer of The Perfect Physique), told them my story and how much that documentary changed my life. They seemed very happy to have helped make my life a little better.

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After interviewing Ryan for this piece, I attended a performance of Chippendales at the Rio. Sitting in front of me, right up against the stage, was a group of his buddies. They’d come to Vegas to see for themselves what their longtime friend was now a part of. And they cheered just as wildly as everyone else in the audience.

Watching Ryan’s friends gather around him in the lounge after the show was a thrill to witness and experience. This young man had finally gained confidence and acceptance from his peers. And he’d done it on his own terms.

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“I’ve always felt like I was meant for big things and want to influence people in a positive way. Maybe my story can do the same for others”.

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You can read more about Ryan and his current projects in my column “Hot Guys of Vegas – Eye of the Beholder“.

Chippendales performs nightly at Rio Las Vegas. Click here for showtimes and tickets via our friend at VegasFool.com.

Photos: Sammasseur, Ryan Worley, The Perfect Physique, Chippendales via Facebook

 

 

 

Mr. Olympia: When Muscle Comes To Vegas, Fit Happens


A look back at my coverage of the 2015 Mr. Olympia competition and red carpet premiere of The Perfect Physique…

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As an admitted fitness buff, I always look forward to yearly Mr Olympia competitions…and especially the related events. They’re a massive convergence of like-minded individuals with a culture all their own. And for a few days a year, Las Vegas is one big fitness retreat.

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The extended weekend is packed like an overstuffed gym bag, with thousands of physique, bodybuilding, fitness and modeling enthusiasts competing, teaching, inspiring….and selling lots of products. Each year is bigger and better, and in 2015 I was right smack dab in the heart of it, representing the press for the first time.

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It should be mentioned how tough it is to get official media credentials for Mr. Olympia access and coverage. It’s an arduous and time-consuming procedure (three years of applying until finally getting my first approval).

Being a fledgling site made getting credentials even more difficult, so it was an honor to attend alongside the “big-boy” media outlets of the world. It also didn’t hurt that one of my photos was used in a two-page spread for the December 2013 Mr. Olympia issue of FLEX Magazine (toot toot!).

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But, I digress. After picking up my official press kit and badge at Orleans Casino (the host hotel), it was off to Brendan Theaters inside The Palms. This was for the world premiere of the docu-drama The Perfect Physique.

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                     Matt Christianer, David Morin and director Kandice King…

Once again, I was lucky to be one of only five media outlets to photograph the official red carpet proceedings and the only member of the press to party with the cast and director afterward. It’s doubtful that Ghostbar at The Palms ever hosted such an eye-catching crowd before (present company excluded).

The Perfect Physique is this generation’s answer to Pumping Iron. It explores the lives of fitness/physique competitors, misconceptions of being “shallow” and what drives these athletes to dedicate every moment of their existence to their bodies.

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                                         Actor and fitness model TJ Hoban…

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                     Fitness stars Matthew Christianer and Heather Schneider…

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                                      Fitness star Toth Atilla (left) and a friend…

It’s also dedicated to fitness superstar Greg Plitt, who was tragically killed in an unrelated photo shoot after filming was completed.

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                                                  Greg Plitt 1977-2014

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The movie is emotional, raw, revealing, unexpectedly uplifting and often quite funny. It’s directed by prodigy Kandice King, who produced her first film at 18 years of age. The Perfect Physique was screened in major metro areas with the cast and director via a modified roadshow theatrical release. It is now available for streaming on Netflix., and I was honored to have a quote from this article posted on the DVD/blu-ray boxes.

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The following morning was the launch of official Mr. Olympia proceedings, with a press conference featuring all qualifying competitors for the main event on Saturday night. Much like the theatrical match-ups before boxing and pro wrestling matches, the Olympia press conference is a lot of bravado, self-praise and rah-rah to get the audience pumped up. It’s always free to the public, and the Orleans Theater was packed to the max.

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My favorite part of the weekend is always the Fitness Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center. Held Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm, it’s an all-out festival of fitness stars, products, demonstrations and competitions. It really has to be seen to be believed.

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For those who don’t follow Mr. Olympia, Seattle native Phillip Heath was going for his fifth consecutive win. His nemesis Kai Greene did not enter, and depending on the source you believe, was either banned from competing or refused to sign his contract to compete.

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                             Myself with seven-time champion Phil Heath in 2013

At the end of the night, Heath won his fifth trophy and a $400,00.00 prize. As usual, he and his entourage would party the night away at Wynn/Encore’s XS Nightclub. And Heath would return again in 2016 for crown number six.

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I, like always, will be back this year to give you all the details when Phil Heath goes for trophy number eight. Don’t miss out…order your tickets now.

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This year’s Mr. Olympia Competition and Fitness Expo weekend runs September 13th through the 16th. Tickets, schedules and information are available by clicking here

Photos: Sammasseur, publicity still via The Perfect Physique

Mr. Olympia Fitness Fans Flood Sin City


Annual event makes Vegas the world capital of hot bodies once more…

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The 53rd Mr. Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend has come and gone, as have the enthusiasts who swarm Las Vegas each year. Physique, fitness and bodybuilding fans from around the world made the journey to Sin City, which is essentially the unofficial Mecca of Muscle.

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The four-day event, taking place at Orleans Hotel Casino and Las Vegas Convention Center, was a hotbed of hot bodies, products and photo ops. Celebs, sponsors, news crews and supplement manufactures swarmed both venues, out-muscling one another for the chance to promote the latest in products, clothing and workout tips.

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The big news was Phil Heath‘s seventh Mr. Olympia win, tying the record of Arnold Schwarzenegger. For those who couldn’t attend (or afford the pricey tickets), sponsor Amazon.com live-streamed the competition. Last year, surprise guest Dwayne Johnson had announced that CBS Sports would air the 2017 event in cooperation with his Seven Bucks Productions, but that seemed to be an unfulfilled promise.

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Instead, Johnson returned to present this year’s trophy. Heath, a seven-time champion, will most likely return with hopes of an eighth win. That would tie him with Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman for the most Sandow statuettes.

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If all that “competition talk” bores you, fear not. The daytime events at the Convention Center were much more freewheeling…with music, dancing, posing and twerking in the aisles. See for yourself in the video below:

                 Video highlights from the Olympia Fitness Expo…

Ageless physique pro Tobias Young showed me around Optimum Nutrition‘s mobile Gold Standard Zone, an interactive outdoor exhibit. Guests were invited to use computer technology to analyze their diets and map their macros. A “magic mirror” utilized artificial-intelligence cameras to study workout form and correct movements.

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Tobias Young (left) at the Lift Yourself – Lift Others chin-up station…

Best yet, a pull-up station allowed attendees to challenge themselves for charity. Sponsored by the wonderful Amazon Smile, “Lift Yourself – Lift Others” arranges for donations to your charity of choice (this writer directs Amazon Smile donations towards Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary).

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Inside, Optimum Nutrition was one of dozens of vendors unveiling new products, services and experiences. Recording star Flo Rida made his first appearance as CELSIUS HEAT Elite, Chief AmbassadorCelsius Heat is a new healthy alternative to conventional pre-workout drinks. Flo greeted fans with photo ops, autographs and full-size product giveaways.

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In every direction, people were jumping, pumping, hopping and climbing. Experts were there to analyze technique, assess conditioning and offer advice. Several vendor booths awarded prizes for push-ups, power punches and other physical challenges.

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On both sides of the massive South Hall, informative lectures vied with group classes and various sports for attendees’ attention. The large rear stage was home to scheduled competitions such as Flex Magazine‘s Bikini and Male Model Search, Classic Physique judging and Men’s/Women’s Physique Olympia.

Tt was the cameras that got the most intense workouts. Vendor reps were eager to show what their products could do. Of course that required a lot of shirt-lifting and flexing, right?

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Scott Mathison (center) and the athletes of Performix…                  

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Tim McComsey (center) and the BANG Energy crew…                

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Big Brother star Mr. PEC-Tacular Jessie Godderz for Vitargo…                

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IFBB Pro David Paterik strikes a double-bicep….          

One of my personal favorites, IFBB Pro Matt Christianer, hammed it up with me for a pic and autograph. Matt can be seen on Netflix in the moving documentary The Perfect Physique. In it, Matt details his emotional journey of recovery from a traumatic auto accident. The newly-engaged Christianer underwent a hip replacement last year but is back in amazing form.

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Matt and fiance Heather Schneider at last year’s Expo…                  

On a side note, while the Olympia press conference was taking place in its new larger home at the Orleans Arena, director Kandice King was across town at City Athletic Club on West Sahara, shooting footage for The Perfect Physique 2: The Road to Pro. Like I said at the lead-in…Vegas is the Mecca of Muscle.

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      Vegas resident and former Chippendale Kris Davis at the MET-Rx booth…   

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Doing his best “Robert Irvine” at the FIT Crunch booth…                       

Mr. Olympia and the Fitness Expo both return to Las Vegas in 2018. Hotels fill up early, especially The Orleans and Westgate Las Vegas, so check out this planner to get up-to-date recommendations and rates.

Plenty of hopefuls will be eyeing the stage, yearning to take the title from Phil Heath and enter into the history books. If you don’t want to miss the showdown, mark your calendar now for the 54th Annual Mr. Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend Sept. 13th through the 16th. I’ll see you there.

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Photos by Sammasseur