SPECIAL REPORT: Olympia Still Dominates Prize Money In Bodybuilding

Olympia vs Arnold Classic prize money

A complete comparison of the total prize money between the Olympia and Arnold Classic

When Arnold Schwarzenegger walked to the podium two weeks ago in Columbus, he announced a plan to increase the amount of the winner’s check at next year’s Arnold Classic Men’s Bodybuilding division. The news had some fans and bloggers asking what impact this could have on how the Arnold might be viewed by athletes seeking a big payday when compared to the Olympia.

In typical Arnold fashion, his announcement got quite a bit of attention, but a closer look at actual prize money for both events shows that the Olympia still enjoys a sizable lead when it comes to prize money.

Generation Iron has received the official prize money report (as tracked by the IFBB Pro League) and we discovered that the most recent Olympia paid out nearly $1.7 million dollars in prize money, while the Arnold Classic’s total prize money in Columbus earlier this month was $815,500, less than half of the 2023 Olympia prize money.

While both events deserve credit for their commitments to prize money, the more we looked into the numbers, the more we learned that the Olympia’s prize money dominance is even bigger when you take a closer look at each division.

Five Time Chris Bumstead Classic Physique Olympia
5 x Olympia Classic Physique Champion Chris Bumstead

Breaking Down Arnold Classic & Olympia Prize Money By Division

Among the most extreme examples, we learned that the Olympia gave away $95,000 in the Wellness Division at the last Olympia, while the Arnold Classic gave away a total of only $18,000 this year to its Wellness Division.

Another example came in the Bikini Division where Olympia promoters paid out $95,000, while Arnold Classic awarded just $26,000 to its bikini athletes. We were even more surprised to learn that the champion of the Ms. Bikini Olympia earns 5 times what Arnold gives to his Bikini champ. The same is true in the Men’s Physique Division where Arnold gives away just $25,000 as compared to the $95,000 given out in the same division at the Olympia.

In total, the Olympia awarded $570,000 to female athletes while Arnold’s prize money to women came in at an even $100,000, which means the Olympia’s prize money commitment to women is more than 5 times what Arnold awards the ladies (Official IFBB Pro League Data).

The Men’s Open division is always what gets the most attention, so we took a look at those numbers as well. At the most recent Olympia, the athletes in the main Mr. Olympia division were awarded $816,000 in prize money. By comparison, the Arnold Classic Men’s Bodybuilding division prize money was $567,500, about 30% less than what the Olympia paid in the same division.

When you add it all up, the Olympia gave away more money in their Men’s Open division than the combined total amount of Arnold’s prize money in all of their IFBB Pro League divisions.

The one advantage Arnold Classic athletes enjoyed in prize money can be found in the Classic Physique Division where the Arnold paid its winner $10,000 more this year than the Olympia paid its Classic champion last year. This probably isn’t much of a concern for Chris Bumstead who has managed to turn the prestige of an Olympia title into a multi-million dollar fortune.

2022 Mr. Olympia Hadi Choopan vs Derek Lunsford
photo credit courtesy of @dotsenko_gi

Arnold Classic’s Reduced Divisions

In recent years the overall size of Arnold Classic’s contest has been significantly reduced due to the promoter’s decision to eliminate 4 divisions from their show, including the 212, Figure, Women’s Physique and the Ms. International bodybuilding division. Arnold organizers also started inviting fewer athletes to compete in the other divisions. Fewer competitors and fewer divisions mean less expenses for the Arnold, a major cost-cutting strategy that may have cleared the way for Arnold to announce the prize money bump that had everyone talking.

The good news in all of this is that Arnold’s comments have made prize money a hot topic which could motivate promoters of other events. IFBB Pro League Vice President Tyler Manion recently announced new sponsorships that will create prize money increases at many of the other Olympia qualifier events.

While the Olympia maintains a significant advantage in prize money, the history and prestige of an Olympia title is what puts the Vegas event in a category of its own, a big reason why Olympia week is always the biggest week of the year for traffic here at Generation Iron and for other media channels around the bodybuilding scene.

Detailed Report of Olympia/Arnold Prize Money

Open Men

Olympia:  $816,000

Arnold:  $567,500


Olympia: $95,000

Arnold: $18,000


Olympia: $95,000

Arnold: $26,000

Men’s 212

Olympia: $95,000

Arnold:  Division Cancelled

Men’s Physique

Olympia: $95,000

Arnold: $25,000

Open Women

Olympia: $95,000

Arnold:  Division Cancelled


Olympia: $95,000

Arnold:  $56,000


Olympia: $95,000

Arnold:  Division Cancelled

Classic Physique

Olympia: $95,000

Arnold:  $123,000

Women’s Physique

Olympia:  $95,000

Arnold: Division Cancelled

TOTAL PRIZE MONEY (All Divisions Combined)

Olympia: $1,671,000

Arnold:  $815,500

Greg Patuto
Greg has covered the four major sports for six years and has been featured on sites such as Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, SB Nation, NJ.com, and FanSided. Now, he is transitioning into the world of bodybuilding and strength sports.