Before auditioning, you must be physically and mentally prepared to complete the course. The best form of training for Ninja Warrior is to essentially practice on the course itself. Let’s take a look at what it involves to get that little edge on your component, both physically and mentally.
So, to break it down, the task is to tackle an obstacle course that involves running, jumping/landing, hanging, swinging, and pulling, as well as an insane amount of grip strength and mobility. You are racing against the clock with the crowd cheering you on, shaky legs, sweaty palms and an adrenalin rush.
So what do you do? You squat!! Joking, but seriously, you will be squatting.
Firstly, you get the basics right by mastering how to run, squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, jump/land, accelerate and decelerate. Put all of this together and you have a recipe for success at Ninja Warrior, but most importantly, you have a decreased chance of injury, allowing yourself to complete multiple obstacle courses. Ultimately, you will want to learn Olympic lifting. This form of training will have the greatest transfer effect as it increases power, improves jumping, increases speed, and improves body composition and flexibility. However, don’t forget the most important part of your training… Do the course! Or a course that is similar in nature.
Due to the nature of the course, it is important to improve your anaerobic fitness. Anaerobic fitness encompasses anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic power refers to the “maximal rate of work that can be accomplished”. Anaerobic power is influenced by muscle mass, neuromuscular recruitment and the ratio of power to body mass on acceleration. Anaerobic capacity is the “maximal amount of high-intensity work that can be performed”. In our muscles, we have high-energy phosphates. Essentially, it is the body’s ability to resist the metabolic waste products that are produced during high intensity exercise that enhances our performance.
Squats are one of the most important exercises in any program. They are a compound lift that provides many benefits, but only when done correctly. They help to build overall strength, and enhance lower back and abdominal stability. Further, you can use squats to develop muscular power and endurance; both essential for Ninja Warrior. Most importantly, squats help your joints develop the ability to handle high loads.
The deadlift is a compound and fundamental exercise when it comes to hip hinging, allowing us to strengthen the posterior chain. The posterior chain refers to the group of muscles on the posterior side of our body, to name a few, these include rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Strengthening these muscles helps to reduce the chance of injury and enhance athletic performance.
Lunging is a unilateral exercise (single leg), and requires pelvic stability & strength to be performed correctly. Lunges are a great functional exercise to develop lower body strength, stability, coordination and balance, think about it, do you ever run on both feet? No. There is always one foot off the ground when running, otherwise you are race walking!
Pushing exercises, such as the bench press and overhead press, are great exercises to develop upper body strength and stability. The bench press works the chest, shoulders and triceps and is the one upper body pushing exercise where you can lift the highest weight. Hence, it is a great exercise to develop upper body strength. You can also develop upper body power with the bench press, allowing you to be explosive when pushing off obstacles.
Ah Ha! Pulling, a fundamental movement for Ninja Warrior just like the deadlift, also a pulling movement. Ever wonder why rock climbers do so well on the show? It is because they have exceptional power to weight ratio, with an insane amount of pulling and grip strength & endurance. Probably one of the most effective exercises you can do when training for the show is a pull-up. Pull ups target your back, biceps, forearm and trunk muscles. The majority of obstacles on the show require a form of this movement pattern; whether it be pulling up, climbing up or hanging off bars. To further develop your forearm and grip strength, you can train with thick bars or fat gripz. A thick bar is just a thick Barbell and fat gripz are used if you do not have a thick bar. This training allows for greater recruitment and work for the forearms, allowing you to hold on for longer and most importantly, increase your strength in the big compound lifts such as the deadlift.
Jumping & Landing:
In athletic performance, jumping and landing is a necessity. The obstacle course requires a large amount of jumping and landing, so it is important to understand how to jump and land safely. To jump high, we need power and this can be described as the “ability to apply high force and achieve high velocity”. This can be achieved through various training methods such as heavy strength training, power training, Olympic lifting techniques, loaded jumping and plyometric work to activate the stretch-shortening cycle. You must understand how to land, in order to absorb force safely before incorporating jumping methods. Working on strength, stability and range of movement will develop strong and stable hips, reducing the chance of biomechanical weaknesses, such as knee valgus (knees collapsing inwards).
Accelerate & Decelerate:
Acceleration is essential for Ninja Warrior, as the course requires you to run up the “warped wall”, which many competitors have trouble with. To give yourself the best possible chance of reaching the top, you must work on your acceleration. This can be done through teaching correct running mechanics and incorporating different strength and speed training methods, which can be designed for your specific needs by a skilled coach. It is also essential to know how to slow down (decelerate). This is illustrated in Ninja Warrior as the contestants are constantly having toimmediately stop after each obstacle to prepare for the next. Due to the amount of force placed on the body when stopping, it is important to have suitable technique. Having appropriate technique will assist in reducing injury, enhancing balance and transferring elastic energy into the aforementioned movements.
The Psychology of Ninja Warrior:
The physical ability is just one component of success as a Ninja Warrior, the power of the mind is incredible so you must ensure the psychology of performance is addressed too. The crowd cheers as you walk onto the platform to start your run, then all of sudden the crowd goes silent and it’s just you and the obstacle in front of you. You have never completed this course before your run. You begin and the crowd is cheering, then you are faced with an obstacle and are unsure if you can complete it or not. At this point, you may be afraid to commit to the obstacle in case of falling, plus you are considering the clock and trying to get the best time possible. To many, this can be intimidating and can affect aspects of sport psychology such as arousal, concentration and confidence. There are techniques you can implement to reduce the chance of being affected by these factors. For example, being prepared, accepting that you may not get the task done, practicing imagery tasks and finding your own routine. These can all contribute to a powerful mind.
To this end, incorporating these physical and mental methods will give you the best chance of taking on the Ninja Warrior course. As your training develops, you will build more & more confidence and will be ready to undertake the challenge and destroy the obstacles that face you. When undertaking these training methods, it is recommended that you seek medical clearance and professional coaching/guidance from a qualified and experienced coach.
Ready to become a Ninja? Come and see the team at Absolute to get you there!
Written By Performance Coach Michael Velianis
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