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How Should One Train For The TV Show Ninja Warrior?


This year saw the arrival onto our screens of Ninja Warrior UK, the British version of the Japanese assault course game show Sasuke. Here we get the opinions of a group of expert fitness and personal training bloggers about how a regular person should train to be a contestant on that TV show...

With the introduction of competitions like Total Wipeout, runs such as the Colour Run, Rough Runner and Tough Mudder, there has become a need for a combination of training and approaches to compete against a range of obstacles and the need for speed and stamina. With the recent series of Ninja Warrior having just finished and the new series having been commissioned, it got us at Discovery Learning talking about applying. Of course, there are a number of ways to approach a competition such as this so we thought we’d ask a range of bloggers to their opinion on how they’d become a ninja warrior.

Jamie Hellier - Starkfit.com

“If you’re not blessed with the poise of a Parkour athlete or the balance of a rock climber, then a competition like Ninja Warrior becomes immediately more difficult. There are ways to improve your chances, but it’ll take a big change in approach for the general meat head in the gym. Here’s what I’d suggest…

You often see people falling at the first hurdles. They hit the first platform too hard and fly straight into the water (that’s what happened to one of our friends anyway!). The key to that section and many of the others is balance, agility and light-footedness. This will help you overcome the many dynamic obstacles faced in NW, so get yourself on a Swiss Ball or Bosu Ball and perform your standard squat, push and pull movements on there. This will help recruit your mobiliser muscles which are often forgotten and thus give yourself greater control of your body as a whole. Getting hold of an agility ladder and taking some advice from fleet footed footballers training would be good advice for this also.

Some serious full-body strength is required too, but I would concentrate on callisthenics as it’s all about holding your own body weight after all. Increase the number of loaded pull-ups and press-ups you can do in the run up to the event and maybe even learn how to do a kip pull-up (cross-fit style) as this could come in handy on the monkey bars! Then pile up your boxes to dizzying heights and really smash out your box jumps putting some real power and spring into those legs.

When it comes to the final hurdle, many contestants fail to make it up the wall! This would be the least of my worries as sprinting and springing is my thing. However, to really take it on get yourself down to the local park, use the half pipes as a practice and concentrate on doing some serious sprint drills to improve that initial 10 yard acceleration – you’ll notice you don’t have a lot of room to get up to speed on NW.”

How Should One Train For The TV Show Ninja Warrior?

Natalie Goodchild - The Blond Ethos

Whenever I watch shows like Ninja Warrior, I’m always amazed not just at how they conquer the obstacles and how much strength it requires, but how they sustain that intense level of output over several minutes - and without their grip strength failing.

So, to train for a competition like this, I would focus primarily on building upper body strength and improving my grip. Almost every obstacle requires the same sort of strength required to do a pull up, so I would first focus my efforts on mastering the pull-up (I’m currently working hard on this!), and progress to practice pull-up variations using different objects and a variety of hand positioning.

Firstly, for grip strength, I wouldn’t use spring-loaded grip trainers. Instead, I’d take a more practical, fun, full-body approach. I’d practice hanging for periods of time from bars, rings, poles and ropes. I’d also love to learn to rope climb. Spending time bouldering on indoor climbing walls would be great for grip strength and agility too.

I’d also spend some time at a gymnastics centre. As well as using equipment like their bars and rings, gymnastics training would increase upper body and core strength, balance, flexibility and coordination. American Ninja Warrior qualifier Kacy Catanzaro (check her out on YouTube if you don’t know who I’m talking about!) is an ex-gymnast and her training definitely served her well during the competition. I’d take my inspiration from her.

Finally, I’d try to practice the obstacles themselves. The facilities at places like parkour centres, CrossFit gyms, gymnastics clubs and adventure experiences like Go Ape would all be useful in preparation. Going to these places would also make the training a lot more sociable.

Training for something like this would require lots of variety in training and would push you out of your comfort zone. Training with a set competition goal in mind would be really beneficial too. I think with focus and determination (which are undeniably traits needed for a competition like Ninja Warrior!), the progress that I could make with this sort of training would be really noticeable too, which is a great motivator in itself.

How Should One Train For The TV Show Ninja Warrior?

Sarah Harradine - That Squat Bot

I do CrossFit a couple of times a week, and in this sport we practice the ten spheres of fitness: that’s speed, agility, power, balance, co-ordination, accuracy, stamina, flexibility, strength and endurance. This makes sure I’m a well-rounded athlete – which is perfect for a competition like Ninja Warrior, where pretty much anything can be thrown at you!

In the run-up to Ninja Warrior, I’d be working a lot on agility. This would fire-up my fast-twitch muscle fibres, work my stabiliser muscles, and also strengthen the connection between my brain and my body. The faster I can think and make transitions, the easier it would be in Ninja Warrior to make big leaps with confidence, and strong stabiliser muscles will ensure I stay steady when landing in small spaces, potentially on just one leg. Even something as simple as hopping in a circle for 15 reps, then swapping onto the other leg; or using a small wall to jump up onto like a box jump would be of benefit.

The Ninja Warrior course looks incredibly tiring, both physically and mentally, so endurance is incredibly important, too. The easiest way to get in endurance training is running, though there’s plenty of interesting ways to mix this up – swimming or cycling are great for working the cardiovascular system, though it’s also possible to do endurance training with weights. That would be the route I would take to train for Ninja Warrior, as it would have the added benefit of strengthening my muscles as well as my aerobic system. Low weight and high reps with little rest is the key.

CrossFit also helps develop mental toughness – when you first see a WOD (workout of the day), you think that there’s no way you can complete five rounds of that! I imagine it’s the same at the start line of Ninja Warrior, looking at the line of seemingly-impossible obstacles. Remembering the feeling of achievement at the end of a WOD and knowing that you completed something you thought you couldn’t do would give great confidence for completing the Ninja Warrior course.

Finally, in the lead-up to the event I’d ensure my nutrition was on point. Plenty of protein and good carbs along with supplementation as I needed it would make sure I was ready to face the Ninja Warrior course.

How Should One Train For The TV Show Ninja Warrior?

Adam Matheson - My Gym

So you want to be a Ninja warrior, perhaps maybe sitting behind a desk all day has made you yearn for a more exciting & dangerous lifestyle? If that’s the case then here are a few tips that will have you running, climbing and stalking your neighbourhood in no time (don’t stalk, you’ll get into trouble).

The key to become a kick-ass Ninja

Ninja’s need to be fast & light on their feet, agile with super human body strength, they need endurance and stamina too as well as mental agility. Think you got what it takes? Try some of these moves then think again!

Grip Strength -

You’ll need to be able to climb up buildings, rock faces and trees. You name it you should be able to climb it and to do that you’ll need a grip like Iron Man, try some of these tips.

1. Perform as many pull-ups or assisted pull-ups as possible, using a range of different width grips. Not only will this improve your upper body strength but the different grips strength your hands, wrists and forearms.

2. Close your hands as tightly as you can and hold for a few seconds, then repeat. After a short while you’ll start feeling the burn in your forearms and the strength of your grip will start to get stronger.

3. Hang from a tree branch for as long as possible, rest and repeat – the different sized branches provide different grips and the texture of the bark will toughen your hands up. No trees about then use ledges, ropes, pipes etc…

Fast, Light & Agile -

You need to be a lean mean nun chuck wielding machine and to get that you need to be fit, and not just jog round the park fit, I mean super fit!

That means lots of cardio, sprinting, jumping, flat-out high intensity & fat burning cardio.

1. Use agility ladders that you can step in and out of building up confidence & precision to go faster.

2. Try running on a beach or if you don’t have access to that try running in a field or park off the path, the uneven running surface will force your body to work more muscles to keep you stable, upright & balanced.

3. You need explosive power too – standing box jumps or burpee box jumps are killers and excellent for this.

All in the Mind -

Last but not least, have you ever met a dumb ninja, no me neither, Ninja’s are quick with their minds not just their feet, so doing a few mental agility exercises probably wouldn’t go amiss either as well mind centring techniques such as Meditation or Yoga

Now go be a Ninja!

So what does it take to be a ninja warrior?

According to our four bloggers, it is key to work on agility, balance and upper body strength. Whether it’s from crossfit, a circuit course, working on your core stability or going on runs, there are several different approaches you can take to get your body Ninja Warrior ready.


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