Unseen threat in American Ninja Warrior
The unstable bridge doesn't get that much attention. Aside from being found in many replicas, it's an obstacle that is not typically trained for and is not inherently challenging when trying it out. Why is it then, that most competitors get past this obstacles easy, yet two of the greatest Ninja Warrior ompetitiors of all time, Youuji Urushihara (Grand Champion) and Drew Dreschel (3 time American Ninja Warrior finalist) failed on it (Drew failing it two times in a row) along with veterans Drew Dreschel, Brandon Douglass, Paul Darnell, newcomers Elet Hall and Sean Noble, as well as two time grand champion Yuuji Urushihara. Added as a replacement to the stick slider after Yuuji's total victory in Sasuke 24, the unstable bridge features a combination of upper body strength, grip strength, and lache skill (swinging across the gaps). What makes the unstable bridge so difficult is all the little things that can go wrong. If you just hop on the unstable bridge with fresh arms, you'll cruize right on through, but your arms burning from the salmon ladder as well as a few mistakes in technique is all you need to go plumeting into the water.
Did you know: There is a new version of the salmon ladder in Sasuke 28-30 called the Swap Salmon Ladder. Competitors have to do a series of double salmon ladder like gaps (in a zigzag) from one side of the salmon ladder to the other, instead of going up one side and then the other.
Learn to Beat the Unstable Bridge
Unlike the salmon ladder, the unstable bridge is one of the most underestimated obstacles in American Ninja Warrior. Though it is quite an easy obstacle, the greatest competitors in all of Ninja Warrior (including Yuuji Urushihara) have gone down on the unstable bridge because of silly mistakes. For that reason, it is real important to learn the proper technique so that you can avoid simple mistakes which end up costing you.
One thing that often get's left out in training for the unstable bridge is knowing where your momentum is. The unstable bridge takes down competitors not because they don't have the physical strength to complete it, but because their momentum is directed improperly. Master your momentum and you can master the unstable bridge.
To aid in your training for the unstable bridge, we have prepared guide to teach you the salmon ladder in just 4 steps.
To make the support beam, the best way would be to make a wooden ladder and either hang it horizontally from the ceiling or nail it horizontally between two trees. That way, you can place your globes on either side of the ladder like they are placed in the show (e.g. see image at the top of this page). If this method is too difficult for you, you could just hang all your globes in a row from one beam.
Like many obstacles, the Unstable Bridge requires upper body strength. If you can do at least eight to ten pullups, you should be able to get past it.
To train at this stage, simply do a lot of pullups. Pullups are the best exercise because they put your biceps against your own body weight much like any ninja warrior obstacle. Putting your biceps against a third party object like weights is not as useful because the only obstacle which uses third party weights is the wall lift. Pullups will also typically strengthen you without building as much muscle mass which can contribute to additional weight
You will hear this with any obstacle that requires upper body. You MUST have your arms bent at 90 degrees. I was just watching ANW5 venice and those competitiors who failed at the flying numchucks were the ones who did not have their arms bent at 90 degrees and/or missed one numchecks.
To get across the gap between the bridges requires you to generate enough forward momentum. You will want to use your abdominal muscles to lift your legs into the air, and bring them down so that you begin swinging. As you are swinging, you will feel the board rock with you. Make sure that when you let go of the bridge, your mometum is carrying you forward, your legs are out in front of your chest, and the bridge is moving forward. Trust in your hands to catch you
Lastly, you must repeat doing the Unstable Bridge. With an obstacle like this, where there isn't any level of progression, you should simply just do the unstable bridge over and over again. What I did, to most simulate the motion was design my salmon ladder right next to my unstable bridge so that I can transition from one to the other like in the show. Therefore, I am able to train the Unstable Bridge while fatigued. This is critical to training.
You must be able to get any obstacle not when you are well-rested, but when you are heavily fatigued. Train above and beyond your expectations.
Build the Unstable Bridge
Specifications: Bridge length - 4 feet | Bridge width - 1.5 feet | Bridge thickness - 1.25 inched | Gap between bridges - 1 foot | Overall support beam length - more than 9 feet
The unstable bridge is a fairly simple obstacle to build, given you have a little creativity. All you need to do is find two planks of wood and make some sort of support beam to hang your planks from. The wooden planks can be made of either a sheet of plywood a piece or even four 2 x 4 s nailed together to form a rectangle (since the unstable bridge is gripped only from the sides, nothing needs to be in the center). The rectangle should be close to the bridge specifications listed above.
For the support beam, you can either nail a long piece of wood across two trees, nail a tree across two tree, hang the bridges from a ceiling, or find beam longer than 9 feet that you can hang your bridges from. The first unstable bridge is secured at four points. To secure your bridge, simply drill four holes (one in each corner for your four points) and thread a rope or small chain through each hole. Knot the rope or secure the chain with a caribeaner so that the bridge hangs at one end. Afterward, wrap the other end of each rope or chain around the support and tie or secure it. See the video for an example of how to do this.
Do the same with the other bridge, except secure it only by two points, one in the front, and the other in the back.
CONGRATULATIONS, you now have an official American Ninja Warrior unstable bridge replica!
An Unstable Bridge tutorial found on my YouTube channel