You’re probably familiar with “American Ninja Warrior,“
…..the heart-racing and action-packed obstacle course competition series that seems to be taking the world by storm. From schoolteachers to firemen to police officers to social workers, this competition gives everyday men and women the chance to transform into fearless acrobatic competitors, a shot at a $500,000 cash prize, and–perhaps most relevant to you–the ability to do special workouts and training that build a very impressive combination of a lean body, grip strength, speed, explosiveness, flexibility and balance.
So how can you train like an American Ninja Warrior?
To navigate through the short 50-100 yard “American Ninja Warrior” course with speed, move efficiently, and be able to project your body while flying through the air and hanging from bars, you need to be light on your feet.
Get a Grip
Grip strength is paramount in an obstacle-style event, especially for obstacles in “Amerian Ninja Warrior” like the Arm Rings, Salmon Ladder, Devil Steps, and the Pipe Slider.
Some of my favorite grip strengthening activities include doing pull-ups or assisted pull-ups with as many different grips as possible, wrapping a towel around a bar and hanging from the towel, walking while holding some kind of heavy rock or a bucket filled with water, and pinching two weight plates together with one hand. The greater the variety of ways you can train your grip, the better. And of course, don’t forget one of the funnest ways to build both grip strength and agility: rock climbing.
Get Fast Feet
Most “American Ninja Warrior” courses start with the quad step, in which you’re bounding side to side at various angles. You’ll also be running across logs or bounding across suspended giant balls–and all of this requires you to be very fast on your feet.
Some of the best ways to get your feet moving quickly include agility ladders that you can step in and out of (these ladders are popular among tennis players, football teams, etc.), sprinting down mildly steep grassy slopes like you’d find on a golf course, doing explosive alternating step-ups on a step bench at the gym, putting a treadmill on a very fast sprint speed and trying to stay on as long as possible, and doing lots of plyometrics, which you can learn about in this Get-Fit Guy episode on developing superhuman strength.
Leaping from a trampoline, grabbing a cargo net, jumping into the spider wall, bounding from obstacle to obstacle, navigating the dreaded warped wall–explosiveness is paramount in “American Ninja Warrior.”
While the plyometrics I mentioned a moment ago will certainly help increase this skill, specific exercises that I’d go out of your way to include would be box jumps with one foot, box jumps with both feet, skipping, bounding, leaping and hopping, squat jumps (with and without weights in your hands), lunge jumps (with and without weights in your hands).
For the ultimate development of flexibility, you must first address your muscle integrity with exercises like foam rolling and deep tissue massage, then move on to dynamic flexibility exercises like side-to-side and front-to-back leg swings and arms swings, and finally (preferably on a regular basis, and not just once a week or once every two weeks), include some challenging flexibility from gymnastics.
Finally, for everything from the log walk to wobbling water obstacles to all the other “American Ninja Warrior” obstacles I’ve already mentioned, the more you can refine your balance, the better prepared you will be to not take a spill into the water or fall off the course.
You can use single leg squats, single leg yoga poses, and simply balancing on fences or curbs to start, and then progress to balance beams or slack lines. You can also purchase or find at your gym special equipment such as wobble boards, bosu balls, and stability balls. Be sure you also include jumping from one unstable surface to another (such as curbs, rocks, etc.), so you can work on your balance transitions..
As you can see, even if you don’t plan on competing in “American Ninja Warrior,” by training like an one of these participants, you’re going to build a very functional and athletic body!