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It’s just finished it’s sixth season, but it seems that it really hasn’t been until the last few years that American Ninja Warrior has really gained a serious following. This season has been especially intriguing with the success of former female gymnast, Kacy Catanzaro and the oldest competitor in the history of the competition to make the finals, Jon Stewart (52). Plowing their way through challenging obstacles, Ninja Warrior contestants demonstrate some of the best feats of strength, balance and athleticism out there. It’s pretty awesome to watch and it has inspired many people to want to be able to perform all of these exciting acrobatic type skills. So, how do they do it?

If you haven’t noticed, a large number of contestants have a background in either gymnastics, rock climbing or stunt man type training. These athletes all have a very similar method of training. They spend the majority of their day lifting their body weight alone in every way imaginable, working the small stabilizer muscles. The fact is, the serious Ninja Warrior contestants will spend up to 30 hours a week doing this type of training. Inevitably, this creates an athlete with a huge strength to body weight ratio, great balance and body control – exactly what is needed to conquer most of the obstacles on the course.

Regardless of whether or not you want to become America’s next great ninja warrior, every athlete in every sport can benefit from training like one (and you don’t need 30 hours available a week). Strength training is important in becoming a good athlete, but to be a great athlete, you must also incorporate training in body control and balance.  Too many athletes, at every level, put so much emphasis on pure muscle building, they neglect some of these vital fundamentals. Obtaining these basic skills can even save your career. Let me give you an example.

Way back in high school, we were running 100yd wind sprints on the track one day in groups of 4. My group is whistled off the starting line, and at about 40 yards in, the guy next to me (also a good athlete) starts to drift closer to my lane. I figure he will see me in his periphery at some point and make a correction. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize his error. Before I can react, we clip legs and are both sent stumbling head first towards the ground. Since I had gymnastics training, my first instinct was pull my arms up and in, duck my head and push off with my legs, sending me in to a dive roll. It definitely didn’t feel good rolling on the track at that speed but I wound up on my feet and avoided major injury. My running mate didn’t fair so well. His only thought was to reach for the ground and go face first. He ended up with a badly sprained wrist and a mouthful of gravel.

I’ve also seen too many young athletes break a bone when it could have been avoided if they knew how to adjust during a fall.

The point of all of this is, if you aren’t a gymnast or ninja warrior and want to achieve a higher level of athleticism, start focusing on body weight training, body control and balance. Outside of going to a Ninja Warrior or gymnastics training facility, there are plenty of ways to train like these athletes.

Start kicking up to handstands against a wall and just holding it. Once you master that, start doing push-ups in the handstand against the wall. From there, move on to unassisted handstands.

Learn how to fall. Master a backward roll and forward roll without reaching for the ground.

How do they get up the warped wall or do the salmon ladder so easily? Do tons of pull ups and dips.

If you never have, start using a set of rings! Check out the video series containing beginner and advanced tutorials as well as a huge list of exercises you can perform on them.

 

Learn a muscle up. The video above includes a tutorial on the muscle up

Practice one leg deep squats with no weight for balance.

Practice and learn to do tuck-sits, L-sits, and tri-pods.

If you don’t have a gym membership, a few pieces of equipment at home can help you with some body weight training: a set of parallettes, a pull up bar and a set of easily adjustable rings.

We have a Parallette Training Guide available for download here.

Also be on the look out for our Ring Training Video Series, Ring Exercise Guide, and 60 Day Full Body Training Guide

If you’ve never done any of these gymnastics type exercises, you will see pretty quick results once you start incorporating them in to your daily routines. So, get out there and start training! It doesn’t matter if you want to conquer Mount Midoriyama, succeed as a two sport, high school athlete or just learn some fun new skills. Training like a Ninja Warrior will only do great things for your body, your confidence and your outlook on working out. Train Safely!