How To Train For Your American Ninja Warrior Debut

Brittany Wallrath
Brittany Wallrath is a 22 year old (soon to be) graduate of the University of Florida. She is a certified Personal Trainer and plans on becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Her hobbies include running, fishing, playing soccer, kayaking- basically anything outside and active.

Anyone who has seen the increasingly popular show American Ninja Warrior is well aware of the insane challenges the competitors must overcome. (If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend checking out some of the videos).

Every Monday night when the show airs, my dad and I sit down in our living room ready to be amazed. Men and women of all ages, races, and backgrounds take on the course and give it everything they have. The athletes tell the stories of the individual battles they have overcome and how those obstacles have prepared them, in a way, to take on those on the course.

It is truly amazing and inspiring to watch the finesse and agility the competitors bring to the course and it may even motivate you to push yourself in harder workouts. There have been a few nights that I have challenged my dad to a push up or planking competition during commercial breaks because we can’t sit still and just watch.

The skills needed to complete an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course are similar to the basic skills needed for rock climbing or bouldering, except way more dynamic. After watching this show, I’ve begun incorporating new techniques of training into my workout regimen in hopes of someday being able to compete for the title of AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR!

1. Grip strength

While watching this show I’ve come to realize that 90 percent of the obstacles on these courses require serious grip strength. Many of the competitors have backgrounds in rock climbing and gymnastics that proves to be a huge advantage. Heading to a local playground and practicing on the monkey bars is a great way to improve grip strength.

2. Balance

Through my experience in physical therapy clinics, I’ve noticed that many people — athletes and non-athletes — have a hard time balancing. The ability to coordinate your body in the way you want to while taking away points of contact is a skill that, if it’s not trained regularly, can be lost. By including balance training into your workout regimen, you will allow muscles to be able to adapt much faster to unknown stimuli. Working on balance now is not only a crucial piece to American Ninja Warrior, it is also essential in avoiding possible future injuries that come with age. Doing single leg exercises on foam pads or practicing walking on planks will allow you to increase your proprioception and help with balance.

3. Upper body strength

Let’s face it. Most females carry most of their strength in their lower body (and to those of you who are exceptions — props!). It’s time to start working on those dreaded pull-ups. I am dreaming of the day when 10 pull-ups is just part of my warm up, but until that day comes I will be working on negatives* every step of the way. Developing upper body strength now will be extremely beneficial as we age and still want to maintain independence.

*To perform a “negative,” jump up to the top of the pull-up and lower yourself down as slowly as possible.



4. Explosiveness

Learning how to react and act to outside forces is a key element in American Ninja Warrior. Many of the obstacles require quick movements from one thing to the next, whether it be jumping from platform to platform or swinging and catching yourself on a rope. Either way, being able to make quick decisions and put a lot of power behind those decisions is imperative. Becoming swifter in decision-making will allow your body the chance to handle unexpected circumstances, such as a crack in a sidewalk while running. Box jumps, burpees, and battle rope workouts are all excellent ways to enhance explosiveness.

So 20somes, if you do take on the American Ninja Warrior challenge, make sure you’re physically and mentally ready by locating where your local parkour gym is (a place where it’s training incorporates all of these skills) and sign up for a class. There may also be an American Ninja Warrior Training gym nearby, so look into those as well. Once you think you’ve mastered the physical and mental skills, make sure to record an awesome audition video, and take your chance at the course!