How to train for Ninja Warrior

in ninjawarrrior •  last year 



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How to train for Ninja Warrior

Training for Ninja Warrior is incredibly rewarding. You develop balance, strength, flexibility and endurance. You constantly challenge yourself to overcome obstacles in your path. Moreso than most gym workouts, you develop a useful, functional fitness that you can use to help yourself or your loved ones out of a dangerous situation. It's fun, it's useful, and you might get on television!

When I first started training for Ninja Warrior, there was hardly anything online. Even now, after 14 years, the Google search "How to train for Ninja Warrior" provides either way too narrowly-scoped magazine articles or blueprints to build obstacles... but nothing on how to actually train. I've been lucky enough to visit 19 Ninja Warrior specialized gyms, and have made a lot of friends who are experienced and very generous with their knowledge.

This article is intended to share those learnings and give you a direction to tackle this super fun but audaciously challenging goal.



What is Ninja Warrior?

Ninja Warrior is a reality television show where competitors try to get through different stages of obstacle courses. It’s incredibly tough and incredibly fun to watch.

There are variations of the show in twenty two different countries (Source) with the original Japanese title Sasuke up to it's 36th season since 1997 (they film a season every 6 months, literally up in the mountains).

Some of these shows have prize money, some don’t. American Ninja Warrior gave away 1 million dollars when they finally had a competitor finish the course in it's 7th season. That year two competitors finished the entire course, but only the fastest competitor won the prize money.



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Please note that while these television shows seem like a competition, they aren’t really. It’s not the strongest and best that compete, it’s the most intriguing, the most fun, the ordinary people and exception athletes that viewers want to support. Incredibly athletes are involved in the iterations of the show for sure, but it’s not like the Olympics or anything. That said, these shows make for incredible television. It’s truly a show that literally the entire family can enjoy. The background stories can be inspiring, uplifting and they’ve created a huge industry of ninja gyms and competitions. They’re huge, and you can get involved!

Given the massive success of the original Sasuke and American Ninja Warrior, there are a huge number of similar or spin-off television shows; Ninja vs Ninja, Spartan, Ultimate Beastmaster, Titan Games and many, many others (American Grit, Strong, etc etc).

The training techniques outlined in this article definitely carry across to these other reality television shows, but the focal point is definitely the Ninja Warrior franchise.


Common misconceptions about training for the show


Everyone always focuses on grip strength, because it’s the high, hanging obstacles that everyone remembers, and while grip strength is important, you’ve actually got to get through a few obstacles before you even get an opportunity to hang from anything.



Breaking it down into smaller skills


While all the Ninja Warrior television shows do not follow the same format, the majority have an easier course to start with… with the courses getting harder the further the competitor gets.

On most of the Ninja Warrior qualifying courses... 66% of the competitors never make it to the fourth obstacle… so if you start off by training for the first 3, you’ll be in the top 33% of the field.

First obstacle on Ninja Warrior


We can guesstimate that the first obstacle will be a steps variation, often the quadruple or quintuple steps.



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The Quintuple steps are harder than they look.

You need a good lateral leap… or a good leap overall. Training for this can be as easy as finding a line on the ground and leaping to and from it. You can increase your leap without too much effort… and a great leap is essential for the first few stages. Work on a standing leap in particular, feet together and go!

Second obstacle on Ninja Warrior

The second obstacle is usually a jolting obstacle… something that threatens to rip you into the water with some force. You'll be going fast, you'll have to hold tight and then let go at the exact right time. This is super hard to train for… so, ah, just be strong.

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Third obstacle on Ninja Warrior

The third obstacle is often a balance obstacle… and it’s often a balance that you have to take quickly. It can be possible to take them slowly, but it’s often way more dangerous and since you’re being timed, it’s not recommended.



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Balance is probably the most understated skill-set required for Ninja Warrior, and therefore is the area that literally trips people up the most. I’ve done a number of competitions now, and every single time I went out early was due to a balance obstacle.



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Balance is probably the easiest area to train as well… find some concrete curbing, a fence, some rocks… the outdoors has everything you need; whether you’re in the country, the city or the suburbs. Parks with children’s play equipment is amazing.

If you’d like something more official, then I’d suggest finding a Parkour class in your area… or if there are none available, maybe a gymnastics class.

You could also buy yourself a slackline, you can get them fairly cheap and then you just need two trees or sturdy poles.



Important areas to train overall


Once you feel confident you’d have a good run on the first 3 obstacles, then you can concentrate on training for the rest of the course.

Obstacle training


If it’s possible, it’s worthwhile hitting a ninja gym, or an obstacle course, just to get an idea of how to move your body through. There’s often awkward movements, and if you’re sore the next day, those might be the muscles you might need to work on.

Rock climbing / Bouldering


So far, the most successful competitors on American Ninja Warrior and Australian Ninja Warrior were rock climbers. The arm strength, grip strength and body awareness gained from these two pastimes cannot be understated. The most important aspect is to learn to move your body while you’re hanging… please do try to work bouldering or indoor rock climbing into your weekly training, or at the very least, consider installing a hang board somewhere nearby.



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Parkour


Balance, speed, leaping, laches and aerial body control are all things you’d learn in a Parkour class that are super useful on the Ninja Warrior course. You might be the strongest person in the world who destroys every obstacle but if you’re too slow, you’ll be eliminated at some point.

Parkour teaches you to move through your environment quickly and efficiently. Mastering laches alone, which are required on almost every single Ninja Warrior course at some point (because they look spectacular when it all goes terribly wrong), is worth the cost of entry for Parkour classes. If there are no classes within reach of you, there are so many video tutorials online. The beauty of Parkour is that you can practice it outdoors fairly easily.

Core strength

Bodyweight exercises are excellent for this… pretty much fitness classes at your local gym, programs like Insanity and P90X3, yoga, pilates. You want to train yourself to be strong and to be flexible. There are a ton of obstacles where you rely so much more on your flexibility and core strength than you do your grip strength. You might have super strong hands, you can rip phonebooks and bend frying pans, but if you can move yourself around while you’re hanging then those iron hands aren’t much use to you.

Endurance


Endurance is way more important than people realise. When you watch a local competition, the most common observation people make about their own run is that they ‘gassed out’ in the middle of an obstacle and had to drop. This usually means they are strong enough to complete that obstacle, but they were exhausted… and when you’re exhausted you can’t do anything.

Lots of people training for Ninja Warrior competitions focus so much on their grip strength and then run out of puff half way through the course. Doing a single obstacle is exhausting, stringing obstacles together is beyond hardcore, and doing an entire course can be the hardest thing ever.

You’ve got a lot to train, and a lot of strength to gain, but don’t forget your cardio.

Power

There are a number of obstacles that require explosive power... the most famous being the Warped Wall. You have to sprint within 3 or 4 steps to generate the power to propel yourself up that wall... and then... you have to leap as high as you can to reach the top.

The Warped Wall is often the sixth obstacle in the Ninja Warrior qualifying courses, and it honestly is harder than it looks. It's a scary obstacle, you feel like you might fall backwards, and so it's really worth finding (or building) a warped wall to practice try before you're in front of the cameras.

Helpful tips for training for Ninja Warrior

  • Try and film as much of your training as you can, you never know when you’ll do something amazing, and until you’re making your application video, you’ll never know what will be useful.

  • It is a reality TV show, so you really need to put some thought into what your story will be. What would be interesting for viewers? What has happened in your life that viewers will really root for you on the screen? These shows get a trillion Personal Trainers and Army dudes apply, but because it’s a television show and not a competition, they really want the Mum of 6 kids or the guy that had a bad accident.

  • Your training will be scattered over many disciplines … It's important to try and quantify/measure as much as possible so that months down the track you can see what’s working, what isn’t and what progress you're making. There is no right or wrong way to train for Ninja Warrior because you’ll never know what obstacles to expect.

  • Train your weaknesses as well as your strengths. So many amazing rock climbers go out on balance obstacles… which are often conveniently placed before the super tough hanging obstacle.

Competing on Ninja Warrior is an incredible goal and it really is incredible fun. Zipping over water with the crowd cheering for you was ridiculously exciting and I'm really excited to try out again. I've made lifelong friends out of the experience (truly) in Australia, America and Barbados (so far).


If the show is something you’d like to try to train for, please comment below so we can train together in spirit. Please use the tag #ninjawarrior on the Steem blockchain so we can all grow, share, test and support each other.


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steemaroo divider and ninja upgoats drawn by the incredible @ryivhnn

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Thanks for breaking down the training in such an easy way. I have always written off the thought of training for American Ninja Warrior because I'm not sure if I'd be able to climb the warped wall. But you made a great point that may make me reconsider and begin to train. If I don't finish all the obstacles at the beginning of the course, my warped wall climbing abilities won't matter. So maybe I'll start training from the beginning. Thanks again for sharing this with us.

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You're very welcome Mr Volcano.. sorry my reply has been so late.
I actually made it to the semi-finals without ever touching the warped wall... but now that I've spent time on it, and had to complete it to finish competitions, I'm a lot more confident with it... it's all about time spent I think... but yes, I'd strongly encourage you to apply, and spend time training for the first few obstacles.. and then go from there. Don't forget that most of the people you see on TV have been training for a decade..

Great article - I've always been interested in this but I've only found specialized gyms that are too far away.

Thanks and good look in your next competition!

upvoted/followed/resteemed

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Hey! Thanks so much for the resteem!
I don't think many people have access to a specialized gym to get there regularly, but there really is lots you can do without one.

Thanks! I've got 15 days to go... eeep.

Ooh wow I love the detail and intensity with which you wrote this post!! It ALMOST made me want to get out of bed at 11.40pm and work on my core strength but all jokes aside this is a really good post and incredibly detailed but enjoyable to read.

Think it really puts into perspective how much effort you’ve put into the ninja training and you’re not just randomly slinging yourself at inanimate objects for 5 seconds of fame :)

Great work!

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Hahahaha... that's all I ever wanted out of this article... was to get you doing planks at midnight.

Thank you so much! I do know people that do just fling themselves at things and they're totally fine about it... but us normal people have to do so much work just to not instantly fall of said inanimates.

Great article dude, just the kind of resource the sport needs! It's amazing how many people talk about Ninja becoming a recognised sport yet how little there is in the way of real usable resources!

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Thanks dude! Thanks for the resteem too! That was super awesome!

If going for parkour make sure it's actually parkour not free running, the two are often confused ;D Not that free running will hurt in any way, shape or form, it's just very flashy and unnecessarily energy expendient XD

the guy that had a bad accident

I know why but owch x_x

Train your weaknesses as well as your strengths

Good life skill in general, not just for Ninja Warriors ;D

Writing the tips down was a good idea. Hope you get on again :D

goatsig

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Meeeee toooooooo!

Yes... although, you could argue that free running has it's place as well... out of say 120 ninjas that might tackle a course, only 15-20 actually get shown on TV... but if you thrown in something unnecessarily flashly.....

Nice [email protected] It's really a lot of training to be a ninja warrior. I hope you will follow, comment and upvote me on my posts. Thanks

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Thank you

So, now I know why you have the moniker AussieNinja. :)

How long have you been training and competing? How long before that did you want to compete? What abilities did you already have that made you think you could have a chance on the course?

Most importantly: what's your backstory? :)

My youngest son really enjoys watching Ninja Warrior and so does my wife. I've sat down to watch it a few times with them, and I have to say, it gets pretty real at times. Folks who aren't supposed to have a chance reach down deep and beat all odds. It's pretty cool. I'm sure you must have a lot of fun, despite all the hard work and potentiality of getting hurt.

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Hahahaha... exactly!

Exactly the right questions!
My backstory is I've been a massive fan of the show for well over a decade... and after waiting for years, I threw in the towel and moved to America to compete... only for Australia to announce their own show months later. Now I'm trying to be the first person in the world to compete on both shows.

I've personally found far fewer injuries training for this than playing Indoor Soccer a few nights a week, so that's good for me and this agin' bod.

I've always been good at obstacle courses... I was never really one for structured sport, I just loved movement and twisting and turning and going under and over and through things.

Man... amazing questions, now I can see why you're the Engagement King!

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I don't know about the engagement king, but I owned two small weekly newspapers for rural towns in Oregon, which meant I wore many hats in the beginning, including that of a reporter. You have to learn how to ask the right questions. Maybe I did finally figure that out after 15 years. Add to that a natural curiosity about how things work and a general thirst for knowledge and viola.

I wish you well. It sounds like you're perfectly suited for the ninja warrior obstacle courses, here or in Australia. Aging bod notwithstanding. :)

Wow, this is a great post Ninja. So much detail in here. That said, my favourite line is " It's fun, it's useful, and you might get on television!". Lol!

Love the effort you put into informing us couch potatoes. Lol. I admire your discipline!

How long did it take to to write this?

Sometimes it takes me a while to write 2 paragraphs.

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Hahaha, it took ages....
I tend to have a couple of word documents of bigger posts I'm working on, and I'll add to them when the mood takes me.