An Interview With Arnold Classic Medical Director David Ryan.

This great interview will fill us in on David Ryan's life and how he has become a very important part of the Arnold Classic. Learn more about him right here...

The Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, arguably the largest, most progressive sporting event the world has ever seen, is set to again rock the Greater Columbus Convention Center. From March 3, the Arnold weekend will showcase the world's greatest athletes including bodybuilding at its best.

In addition to bodybuilding, the Arnold Classic will feature various martial arts, powerlifting, table tennis, volleyball, wrestling and archery, to name but a few of its events.

When such a diverse range of sports feature under the same banner, the potential for medical emergency, and on a lesser scale minor injury, is great. The combined medical services team the Arnold relies upon to ensure the smooth running of such a mammoth event, is therefore of major significance.

Medical services director, David Ryan, recently discussed with me the complex role he has in ensuring the Arnold Classic remain at the forefront of athletic excellence.

As a sports medicine doctor, expert in athletic performance, and athlete himself, David knows exactly how various athletes function, and enjoys nothing more than seeing the best sportspeople in the world performing at their best. This makes his seemingly arduous job all the more easier. What follows is an exclusive insight into David's world.

[ Q ] Hi David. Could you provide some background on yourself? How did you get started in bodybuilding?

    It originally started with athletics and a strong interest in reading too many Tarzan books. At the age of 14, my legs already had teardrops and I had a pronounced "V" in my back. My father was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, so my discipline was usually associated with physical labor.

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[ Q ] On your writers page you say you trained with Franco Columbo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Robbie Robinson. What was it like training with these guys? Do you have any interesting stories to share? What was it like training in this era?

    To this day, it was one of the greatest times of my life. Reading about those athletes and having their pictures hang on the wall was an inspiration and then one day, stepping into a gym and training alongside of them, was amazing. Most of the time, you just stayed out of their way. It is like being in a gym and having legends train next to you.

    The inspiration and motivation was overwhelming. Franco was always very silly and Frank always kept to himself. Robbie was always about work and Arnold is Arnold, you can't describe him any other way than that. Most of the time I spent with Mike Mentzer.

    Mike and Ray Mentzer were the most controversial bodybuilder's at the time. Their theories about exercise were always off the beaten path. Robinson's theories were always about hard work and consistency.

    Arnold's theories were always, well again they were Arnold's and if you were talking to him, somehow after a few minutes you would be agreeing with everything he said. In his defense, most of them were based upon common sense and hard work.

    Franco was very interesting; he was very silly and childlike, but very deep in his thinking. Frank Zane was surreal and at a level of thinking beyond what most of us would ever understand. His concentration for example was amazing and he could lift half of what you lifted and get twice the results.

[ Q ] What led to your career in medicine?

    Actually I started off to be an architect and played so many sports and did some stunt work, that eventually I got interested in how to fix myself and decided to make a profession of it. It was also to help many athletes who had to end their career early due to the limitations provided by medicine.

    I see so many athletes get injured due to improper training and poor advice. When I drive past a graveyard, I look at all of our mistakes. I used to sit up till two o'clock in the morning forcing myself to remember every little detail about science and medicine, because one mistake can cost the life of another human being.

    Some people might be obsessed with the way their body looks, but there are those of us who are obsessed with how the body works.

[ Q ] What is it about medicine that interests you most? Do you specialize in a particular branch?

    Helping people is my primary focus. I specialize in sports medicine, but obviously the spine is near and dear to my heart. I have been the medical director for the USA Fibromyalgia Association and I have received awards from the National Arthritis Foundation for my work associated with arthritis and exercise.

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    I love aerospace physiology and sleep medicine.

    I love to understand and figure out what nobody else can and I thank God that I have been blessed with the brain to do that. I love physiology and the study of hormones. It is a gift to be able to help people and it is an honor to be able to express that gift and make a living at it.

[ Q ] Tell me more about your interests in aerospace and sleep medicine.

    I love aerospace physiology. For example, in a zero G atmosphere, the kidneys make stones like ten times faster. The red blood cells shrink at an alarming rate. It is the Geek in me, covered under all the muscle and stuff.

    I just love that unknown stuff, it is too cool. Dr. Griffin is the same way. We love that blood and gore and high tech medicine, and also the truth. That is what drives us.

[ Q ] Were/are you involved in any other sports? How did/do these compare to bodybuilding?

    I played professional soccer for the NASL, back when Pele was kicking a ball. I played rugby for Palmer College and the US Eagles. I love volleyball, but I'm too sure to play professionally. I enjoy all sports, but a hate to watch them - I would rather play.

    Bodybuilding is all about training to me. My favorite part of Rocky the movie is the training and a same goes for Remember the Titans. I love the training, it's in my heart and I do whatever I can to make that training more intense and more beneficial.

[ Q ] Tell me about your involvement in powerlifting.

    Jim Sitzer was a former Mr. USA and my trainer years ago. He suggested that I get involved with lifting heavy weight to make me thicker. I took to it like a warm knife to butter. I love lifting heavy, always have. I love being the last person on the platform on the day. The BS stops when a heavy deadlift starts.

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    I love powerlifting; it is a sport that has changed the phase of training with weights forever. When I competed, only the AAU existed. They used to stamp your shoes and your wraps and that was all you got to have. It has changed a little, but the sport of Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting still defined how other athletes train with weights today.

    Lou Simmons and Westside barbell, along with Dave Tate, have altered the way most strength coaches train athletes around the world. Lou does not have any background in strength coaching, but they come from the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and from so many Olympic sports just to listen to him.

    Louis is great and his success in powerlifting has made him one of the greatest authorities on training in the world. I am proud to know him.

[ Q ] What was Ryan Kennelly like to work with?

    Ryan was easy, he would bleed and I would clean it up. As Ryan was bench pressing, everyone thought that his blood was coming out of his eyes. Dr. Rick Fisher and myself were close enough to see that the blood was coming out of his nose, running over his zygomatic arch and filling up his optical fossa.

    Amazing how much pressure the body is under and it has to go somewhere, so it leaks out of your nose. Ryan was very humble and very gracious and he deserved to win that day.

    Writers Note:
    Ryan "Benchmonster" Kennelly is the current Arnold Classic/WPO bench press heavyweight champion. Ryan has the 3rd biggest bench in the world as of January of 2006 with 903lbs.

Ryan Kennelly.

Ryan Benching 800 lbs!
Real Player (1.59 MB)

[ Q ] Explain your role of Muscle and Fitness editorial advisor.

    Tom Deters, the former editor of Muscle And Fitness, asked me to write an article. I think I wrote it on partial movements and how they would increase your squat. They received so many positive letters for the article that Thomas asked me to write some additional articles.

    I wrote about training with arthritis and some of the work that I was doing and it was recognized and given an award by the National Arthritis Foundation.

[ Q ] What other media related roles do you have?

[ Q ] What do you like writing about most, and why?

    I like to write about things that people are really interested in. I love to be able to explain things that are very complicated in a very simple format. Einstein once said,

    "It doesn't matter how intelligent you are if you cannot explain your ideas to someone else."

    Like writing about injuries and how to prevent them and how to recover from them. That is my gift. I like writing about training, but people like Lou Simmons and Mike Davies are truly the experts for the powerlifting and bodybuilding/figure/fitness worlds respectfully.

    I will usually write about training with regards to the scientific nature of how to do it and what happens. When it comes to speed and explosiveness that is my niche. To train somebody to run faster is controversial but possible.

[ Q ] You are the medical director for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. How important is this role? What is expected of you?

    I'm expected to be perfect and a medical team must provide the safest environment for all the athletes to participate in. I should mention that I am helped by Dr. Griffin, who provides amazing leadership and organization during that weekend.

    My job requires me to start recruiting physicians, assembling groups, obtaining sponsorship, appointing other leadership, providing medical decision-making and putting out professional fires throughout the year.

    At the same point, you are under the microscope, not only from Arnold and Jim Lorimer, but the general medical community who is just waiting for you to make a mistake. Potshots are taken at me all the time. I just have to continue to do my best.

[ Q ] Could you elaborate on exactly what you do as medial director.

    My position with the Arnold is more like a working hospital administrator. Ordering all the medical supplies, meet with Jim and whomever to offer advice on what needs to be fixed or changed to make it better. Attend all three meetings every year that are designed to help organize the old and new information about the events.

    Get new docs to work with the Arnold, make the returning docs happy. Finding parking near the event is a major task. I also set protocol with all the docs about how we can best make the weekend safer. Set up the "On-Call-List" to have our specialist over the weekend.

    Kiss a lot of *ss to fix problems and kick a lot of tails to fix problems. During the weekend, I have various events that I work and several times, I have to make rounds to make sure things aren't being done at the weekend that might be negative. Work with every law enforcement group there is during the weekend to provide maximum safety.

    Explain our protocol about a thousand times to various athletes and their parents and coaches. Calm down some of the NAZI Parents. Fix various athletes who wouldn't usually be able to continue competing. Jump into some photos for the event. Make sure all the volunteers are being taken care of as well as all the exhibitors.

    Click To Enlarge.
    Here I Am With The Nicest Guy In Bodybuilding, I Swear!

    Set up, and staff, the largest VIP SPA facility for the volunteers that weekend. Visit every booth at the Arnold and every event at least twice. Try to see my kids are staying out of trouble. Say hello to thousands of old friends and tell another thousand that I don't know where Arnold is, but over there is Ed Corney and there is Lou.

    Find out how Arnold and Jim are going to make the whole event larger next year. Try to eat, sleep and think straight over the whole weekend. Try to host some additional folks to promote new ideas for the future years. Jump backstage to help the figure/fitness/bodybuilding/Strongman/Bench Press competitions.

[ Q ] What are some of the biggest challenges associated with this role?

    This is now the largest sporting event in the world. In the year 2006 we will have over 18,000 athletes. A vast amount of Olympic sports are performed in this three day event. Hundreds of injuries will occur and hopefully, due to the proper training and protocol, thousands of injuries will be prevented.

    Our most difficult task is finding good qualified physicians to volunteer their time for the weekend. It goes without saying that the organization of this event is the primary key factor in the success of this endeavor. Just like NASA, we have to think and re-think for every possible scenario and try to manage it the best we can.

    Trying to keep everyone on task and happy is extremely difficult. Take for example the feeding of the entire volunteer staff for the medical team. Joy Griffin, RN, has taken this to a whole new level.

    Imagine how difficult it is to obtain and stock the physicians/medical staff for the entire weekend. It takes three Boy Scout troops, who receive a patch for the weekend, weeks of training to prepare for their duty.

    Communication is key in this type of setting. We have three separate communication options available to us, if you consider hand signals. HAM radio operators are with us throughout the entire weekend. The power could go out and we will still have communication.

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[ Q ] What are some serious situations you have faced as medical director of the Arnold Classic?

    Dr. Griffin had his hand on a gymnastic girl's neck, keeping her down, while everyone else was trying to get her up after a fall. Turned out, he was right. She broke her neck and he saved her from being paralyzed. I can't talk about this accident too much, because I have to protect the doctor/patient relationship.

    In general, I have helped Strongmen win their events after they landed on the floor in the back, unable to move. One athletic story in particular was about an athlete who left their artificial limb back stage after performing an incredible power lift.

    I am walking around with this special limb and all the docs are like "COOL, let me see it." It was like I had the ultimate toy. I mean, how do you just walk off and leave part of your body lying there? We got it back to the rightful owner. Athletes get knocked out, punched and break arms all the time. It is kinda second place at this point.

[ Q ] How long have you been medical director for the Arnold and how long would you like to continue doing this?

    I honestly don't remember. I have been working with Jim and Arnold since 1977 - the event took on the Arnold name about 15 years ago. They had me doing everything from transportation to security and I think Jim asked me to begin taking the medical program over in 1992?

    That is pretty much what my life is like, and it goes to fast to keep track of things like that. Eventually, Bob Lorimer will take over the Arnold Classic. I have seen Bobby grow and mature to become much of what his father represents today. I will stand by him to make sure that this event goes on and remains one of the greatest sporting events for years to come.

[ Q ] How, in your view, does the Arnold Classic compare to other pro shows?

    We are number one, we know it, we are humble about it, we remain interested in helping others, but no one has any idea of how hard Arnold, Jim Lorimer and Lucy Penny work year round to make this event what it is.

    Truthfully, you cannot even compare the Arnold Classic to other bodybuilding shows, you have to start to look at the World Series or the Super Bowl and then numbers start to match. I still remain in the same mode that Jim's office is in, we are more than willing to offer help to the Olympia, should they ever ask me for it.

Which Is The Better Event?

The Arnold Classic.
The Olympia.

    This year, we take over the Nationwide Arena, for the addition of several other sporting activities. Friday night will feature, FIGHT NIGHT. This will feature some of the top boxers and mixed martial artist in the world.

    The television coverage has taken a while to catch up, but this year for the first time in history there will be two consecutive nights of pay-per-view events from the same venue.

    I remember for how many years, Joe Weider and Ben Weider tried their very best to get bodybuilding incorporated into the Olympic Games. Jim Lorimer and Arnold had a different idea, make the greatest sporting event in the world and the Olympic Games will come to you. Like I said, Arnold is Arnold and Jim Lorimer is Jim Lorimer.

[ Q ] What makes the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic arguably the most successful bodybuilding show on the planet?

    The people that put the event on. Ton's of volunteers and the amount of organization that goes into the event. The people that come to the event and the interest that they bring. The real love that we all put into the event. I know it sounds silly, but it is true. This isn't just the Arnold, it is our family reunion. Come join our family.

[ Q ] What additional events/surprises are in store for the Arnold Classic?

    This year, Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, Cage Fights, Speed skating, volleyball, etc. Don't get lost; there is a whole new additional building - Nationwide Arena.

[ Q ] Who are you picking to win it this year?

    One of the key elements of the weekend is propagated by a statement that I heard from Ginger Redeker, who is an NPC National Figure Competitor. She said, "I just want everyone to compete at their best." That is my mission for the weekend: I just want every bodybuilder/figure/fitness athlete to perform their very best. The rest is up to the judges and their job gets more difficult every year.

    Ginger Ginger
    Ginger Redeker.
    enlarge Click To Enlarge.

    2006 Arnold Classic Men's Bodybuilding Competitors:

Click Image To Enlarge.
Dr. Ryan & Dexter Jackson.

[ Q ] Which pro bodybuilders do you feel positively represent the sport, and why?

    I cannot point my finger at any bodybuilder who does not positively represent the sport. Maybe one (hint, current news). Those bodybuilder's and other figure/fitness athletes have sacrificed so much and have to work so hard to get where they are. They deserve the best chance to win and I will do everything within my power to make sure that they can.

    I am inspired by athletes like Dexter, who keeps his spiritual side ahead of his training. By other athletes who have families and balance their training on the difficult shoulders of being a parent and maintaining a marital relationship. Other athletes like Jenny Hendershott, and Julie Palmer who trained so hard; they leave most men in the dust.

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    We follow these athletes and respect them because of the hard work that they have shown to all of us. They inspire us to become better. I admire them, because they lead on a pathway that most people can't even see, nor would they want to.

[ Q ] How old are you now, and what else would like to achieve?

    I am 45 years old and would like to settle down, but that isn't likely. My life is changing socially for the better right now and I want to be there for my kids. I would like to do more with writing and editing for training, medicine and fitness.

    This year I hope to write one of the top lower back rehabilitation articles. My past article on shoulder rehabilitation has been translated into 12 different languages. It is amazing and an honor to help so many people all over the world.

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    I have one particular person that I want to help become a pro and develop into the best person that she can be. She is helping me through some very tough times and I owe her that time and help. I hope to show her the love and support that she has shown to me.

[ Q ] Thank you for your time David. Is there anything you would like to add?

    You never make it to the level of success in life that I have without the help of the friends I have. Although I have known her for years, Jan Tana has been so helpful with the many changes in my life. Arnold and Jim Lorimer, gave me a chance and a responsibility and somehow knew that I would rise to the challenge.

    I have seen bodybuilding at its worst and I am proud to be a part of what is making bodybuilding its best.

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