Tips for the Ninja Warrior course
We get a huge amount of e-mails here at the Aussie Ninja Blog, and really end up writing the same sorts of things to aspiring Ninja Warriors, so we thought we’d chuck it all down in one place.
And let me be clear about something:
This isn’t a lame “4 exercises to dominate the ninja course… you won’t believe that number 1 is sit ups”.
Instead you’re going to see tips and techniques from experienced ninjas, offered to give you the best chance at success on the course.
Some tips will help you on the day, and others you might want to incorporate into your training now, either way, you’ll love this guide.
Let’s ninja leap right in.
Tip Number # 1 - Food
In doesn’t seem to matter which country you’re in… the number one complaint from audience members is that there’s no food.
The competitors do get access to catering, but you can’t control the timings or the type of food…. so bring enough food for 18 hours.
This is a huge deal… you never know when you’re going to go on, and so even when catering provides a meal, you have no idea if you’ll need to compete in 20 minutes or 2 hours. The food provided can often be carb-heavy.
You don’t want to be starving or crazy-full when you run, so preparation is key.
Tip Number # 2 - Late Run Time
It could be 1am when you run the course.
Most of the versions of Ninja Warrior film after dark, and most are filmed in Summer… which means filming doesn’t start until 8 or 9pm… which means most competitors won’t get to run the course until really, really late.
Think about your training… are you training at consistent times during the week? Are you more energetic in the morning or at night?
You need to train, and you need to train hard for Ninja Warrior, the course is always much harder than you’ll think it’ll be… but you should try and set yourself up so that you’ll be able to tackle the hardest thing ever at a time that you’re normally sleeping.
Don’t get me wrong, adrenaline is high… but it’s a long day and not adrenaline isn’t going to keep your energy up for 16 hours straight.
There is a few different ways to tackle this:
1.) Consider adjusting your sleep schedule the week before so that you’re wide awake during filming hours.
2.) Mix up your training so that you’re not only ever training early in the day… you don’t want to teach your body to only be energetic at 6am.
Tip Number # 3 - First Steps First
No doubt that grip strength is important… but something like 60% of competitors go out on the first 3 obstacles.
The first obstacle is always a quintuple step… requires balance and strong lateral movement. The later steps are way harder than you think.
The second obstacle is a jolting obstacle. This requires core strength and timing, it’s a tricky one to train for.
The third obstacle is a balance obstacle.
Only once you get through all of that, then you’ll need a heap of grip strength.
The point is… don’t just concentrate on your upper body training while neglecting or ignoring the skills and strength required for the first 3 obstacles.
Tip Number # 4 - Laches
If not, the fourth or fifth obstacles might.
Laches are really super important to have a grasp on for any sort of Ninja Warrior success.
If you’re not sure, a lache is where you’re hanging from an obstacle and have to swing jump away, either to another hanging obstacle or to dismount.
There is absolutely technique to this. Hanging from the bar at a dead hang, you’ve got to pull up a touch and shoot your feet and hips 45 degrees up and away from you… so that your feet end up way higher than your head.
Concentrate on the back swing, you want your feet to swing back loosely… a lot of the generation of power comes from the back swing.
When you swing back through again, fling your hands and shoulders away so that your whole body jets up and out.
You’ll want to practice the movement before you hit the Ninja Warrior course… even if it’s just to get used to letting go and re-gripping your hand holds to keep the backs wing smooth.
Here is a fairly epic example.
Tip Number # 5 - VIPs might get you on the telly...
It’s a little tricky to get audience tickets these days… but it’s definitely worth it to try and get a crew cheering for you… and you usually get a couple of people to run alongside you as you do the course… and you want them to be amazing.
I would guess that on both Australian Ninja Warrior and American Ninja Warrior, some competitors have made it onto the telly purely based on the entertainingness of their supporters. Get t-shirts, signs, attractive people, crazy people, pretty much anything that’s going to be great.
You should have access to all your stuff at points throughout the day, so you can easily coordinate your peeps if need be.
It’s never a guarantee… but the box is all about entertainment, so get to entertainin’ to get on the box.
Tip Number # 6 - Get on a mini tramp
It’s super easy to have your knees buckle when you hit it.
It’s also super easy to hit the actual tramp too far forward and collapse off the front of it.
It’s easy to go straight out instead of up.
It’s hard to figure out how hard to jump on the tramp as well… so many people miss their target by centimetres…
I would highly, highly recommend getting some practice on a mini-tramp before you hit the Ninja Warrior course. Even just a few minutes could save you a world of wet-DQ pain.
If you can, set up a way to jump off a mini-tramp and catch onto something. There is a whole heap of body positioning at play in that movement that you’ll need to get right.
On the night… give the tramp a bit of a test bounce to get a feel for it. They’re all set to different tensions… some will rocket you to the moon while others feel like a wet blanket.
Tip Number # 7 - Get good pullups
Pull ups are a pretty essential exercise to develop the right kind of strength for the Ninja Warrior course.
Obviously you’ll need that skill for the Salmon Ladder, but more subtly you’ll use that strength on any obstacle you’re hanging from. If you’re ever watched the American Ninja Warrior show, the commentators will mention “Keeping those Ls” every episode…
If you did a pull up and stopped halfway up, your arms would be in an L shape. This is super handy for all of the upper body exercises, that L shape gives you the most control and it engages the triceps, biceps, pecs and shoulders.
Conversely, a dead hang (where you’re hanging dead straight down) makes it very hard to manuever, especially if you basically have to pull up to move through each step of the obstacle.
So… the first step is to work on your pull ups.
If you can’t do a pull up, do negative pull ups (jump up and slowly lower down) or use a band or weighted pull up machine.
Once you can do a few pull ups… work on stopping half way (90 degrees) and holding that… and then do the same for 30 degrees and 120 degrees.
Also work on moving around on bars in different directions… find some monkey bars or anything to hang from and try going through normally, sideways, swing around, etc.
You never know what you’re going to come up against on the Ninja Warrior course so ideally you should be able to move yourself in any direction… and for upper body obstacles – pull ups help with that so so much.
American Ninja Warrior suggests you should be able to do 16 pull ups to tackle their course… and their average ninja can do 27.
Tip Number # 8 - First Obstacle
It’s an obstacle that looks easy, but is actually more difficult than it seems.
The nerves, stress of potentially going out on the first obstacle, the weird way the water plays with your peripheral vision and depth perception and it truly is an obstacle that gets harder the further you go through it.
There are quick ways to go through, and there are safe ways. I’d absolutely recommend taking the safer approach until you’ve conquered it a few times…
Here is a lil tutorial on 3 approaches to the quad/quintuple steps:
Tip Number # 9 - Warped Wall
Put all your effort into that one moment. You’ve really got to commit and go for it.
If you’re not tall, you will have to jump to grab the top. Pick the leg you’re going to hop from… you can’t do it with both feet, you’ll have to push off on one.
You’ll see on TV that the top has a lip on it, so even just getting a few fingers to the top should give you enough purchase to pull yourself up.
Also, for more details, check this guy out:
Tip Number # 10 - Performing
There will be lights, there will be cameras, there will be action.
The crowd will be chanting your name and cheering your successes… it’s amazing and amazingly nerve-racking.
You’ve put in a heap of training to develop strength and techniques for the obstacles, but you also need to practice performing.
Everything feels different when you’re the centre of attention and so any kind of public performance is good for you, but Ninja Competitions are the best for this.
Look at this video of Drew’s run at the NCL Finals this year.
He uses the quintuple steps to generate the power to propel himself into the spider walk.
Here's my stage 1 run of the NCL Finals at the @ninja.academy in Perth, Australia. • • • • • This run got me the fastest time of the stage and set me up to run stage 2 last. 👌 • • • • • The course was really fun and somewhat technical. So my focus had to be on point. • • • • • 🎶🎧MUSIC CHOICE @avengedsevenfold – Bat Country🎧🎶 • • • • • @anwnation #RealLifeNinja #trueninjatraining #ocr #perth #Australia #ninjaacademy #ninjaacademyperth
Competitions help you start to piece together an obstacle run in the way that gym-training never can. They help you perform under pressure and with an audience, they help you link obstacles and they help develop that endurance required. It’s pretty much always more exhausting than you think it can be.
They’ll also absolutely highlight your weaknesses, which is beyond invaluable.
Get into as many local comps as you can.
Now it's your turn
These are my tips for a Ninja Warrior course.
Now I want to turn it over to you:
If you’ve attempted a course before, what are your tips?
If you are hoping to take one on, what are your questions?
Is there anything specific you’ve been training on, or any particular obstacle you might be dreading?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment on the forum for this article: