How to Train for Ninja Warrior
Learn from the competitors and dedicated athletes
While the show only airs temporarily, American Ninja Warrior competitors train year round, with the same dedication and consistency of professional athletes in other sports. There is no simple "Ninja Workout" and being physically active or an athlete in one genre is only the first step toward being successful on the course. To truly compete on level with the top ANW and Sasuke competitors requires an insane amount of rigor, a diverse training, and the passion for the sport that makes it all worthwhile.
Because Ninja Warrior tests all facets of athleticism, we have broken down training into each of the Ninja Warrior obstacles. Below are a series of the toughest obstacles and how to train for each of them.
The Ultimate Cliffhanger demands killer grip strength, superior upper body strength, and of course, a little bit of technique. First, to build the grip strength, perform various exercises such as cliffhanger pullups, rock climbing, hanging on a rope or towel, and even just going across a mini cliffhanger. You should also be able to do at least ten pullups.
The key regarding technique is momentum. You need momentum to traverse the large gaps. For the first two gaps on the ultimate cliffhanger, you can also get away with the explosive technique if you have good plyometric ability. The trick to building enough momentum is to make sure your hands are spaced several feet apart. This way you have maximum body control and can rock back and forth to generate momentum. What you need to watch out for is getting into a circular swinging motion which could mean the end of your attempt. By spreading your hands out, you reduce this risk.
The other important aspect is that you do not need too much momentum. An excess of momentum can lead to slipping while rocking on the ledge and can be very taxing on your hands. Therefore, I recommend starting with a backswing, a forward swing, and then a second backswing as a sufficient amount of swinging. On the second backswing, you want to bring your left hand right next to your right hand so that both your hands are at the edge of the ledge. This will give you another boost of momentum (which is why a moderate amount of initial momentum is enough), and as you swing forward, reach for the next ledge. You should also make the decision whether you need to let go with your left hand depending on your arm span as well as the size of the gap. TRUST YOUR HANDS. I have learned that you have far more grip strength then you believe you do.
Before I begin explaining the basics, a much more detailed and interactive overview as well as a video can be found on the salmon ladder page. For the salmon ladder you want to be able to do ten to fifteen pullups. Once you are at this point, either build your salmon ladder and practice jumping the rungs, or perform upper body plyometric exercises like clap-pullups, high pullups, fast pullups, and muscle ups.
When you do attempt the salmon ladder, it can be helpful to kip into your pullups, which means to swing and use your body momentum to carry you upwards. However, the biggest tip there is for the salmon ladder, along with every single upper body obstacle (yes every single one) is to bend your arms at 90 degrees before your attempt. While attempting the salmon ladder, you want perform an explosive pullups (kipping if you choose to) and lift the bar to the next rung. This can be nerve-racking, so it may take several hours of consistent attempts. Also, make sure to hold onto the bar so that it doesn't hit you in the head.
Before I begin explaining the basics, a much more detailed and interactive overview as well as a video can be found on the unstable bridge page. The unstable bridge utilizers body momentum along with some upper body strength and a minor amount of grip strength. To do this obstacle, you must bend your arms at 90 degrees. On the gaps, TAKE YOUR TIME to generate momentum. Unlike the cliffhanger, no amount of momentum is too much, and you won't get worn out building the momentum either. Finally, when you do swing/lache, the bridge should be swinging forward with you. You want the bridge to aid in your lache, not fight against you.