If you were watching NBC on the evening of July 1, 2019, you may have seen Angela Gargano on American Ninja Warrior. She strode stiffly onto the starting platform with her right leg in a brace and waved to the crowd. Suddenly, she ripped off the bulky contraption and flung it into the crowd just as the starting buzzer sounded and her run began — a run that was eleven months in the making.
“My run in 2018 was amazing — I was crushing the obstacles and felt stronger than ever,” says Gargano of a previous ANW appearance. “I knew that if I made it past the Wingnuts [obstacle], I would make it to the finals. And I did complete the Wingnuts! But then when I landed on the dismount mat, I collapsed in pain. I tore my ACL. I was devastated. I went from the strongest I’ve ever been to nothing in seconds.”
Shortly afterward, Gargano underwent surgery to repair her ACL, but she realized she had unfinished business with the Warrior world. “I knew the second I got out [of surgery] that I wanted to go back on the show,” she says. “And having that date — that deadline to submit my video — helped to push me and make me mentally strong during a really tough time.”
Not one to sit around and make an ass dent in the couch, Gargano was determined to stay fit during her recovery. She ate as clean as she could to fuel her body and accelerate her healing time, and she crafted innumerable workouts she could do without the use of her leg. A brief foray to her Instagram page reveals Gargano pulling off legless rope climbs, sundry handstand walks (even some that traveled up and down stairs), one-legged burpees, upper-body supersets, an endless variety of impossible pull-ups, core work, crunches — and the list goes on.
Once her doctor cleared her to use her leg/knee, Gargano trained cautiously and meticulously, making sure her knee was completely strong and healthy before trying to jump, leap or bound. In a few months, she was ready to return to Ninja training at the obstacle-specialized gyms in the New York area. “I also trained that very same obstacle on which I was injured to make sure I was strong mentally, as well,” she says. “I really had to learn to trust my body again and put my faith in its strength.”
The result: a comeback story like no other and a third-place finish in Baltimore that landed Gargano in the ANW city finals. Though she missed making the national competition in Vegas by only a few seconds, her goal in 2020 is to hit that buzzer. “This year, I won just by coming back to the show,” she says. “But next year, I will conquer the course.”
"You really have to love and appreciate your body in the here and now. You honestly never know when an injury could happen. So savor every moment, be present and go for the things you want today."
It can be well-argued that having a strong core translates into improved performance, better lifting form and a bump in strength. “But adding a stability ball to the workout creates an imbalance and really forces you to engage every single core muscle as well as the surrounding assisting and stabilizing muscles,” Gargano says. And size does matter: “I recommend a medium-size ball. If it is too small, you will have a hard time balancing on it for things like planks,” she says. Repeat the below workout two times through. If you’re still feeling badass, tack on the Killer Core Addendum to really fry your midsection.
Stability-Ball Stir the Pot
30 seconds (each direction)
Stability-Ball Plank Hold
10 (each leg)
Rock the Cradle
10 (each side)
Lie faceup and hold a stability ball with both hands on the ground overhead. Simultaneously lift your legs and arms/ball to meet in the middle over your hips and transfer the ball from your hands to your feet. Lower your arms and legs/ball to the floor, touch the ball down briefly and reverse direction.
TIP: Bring your upper and lower body up at the same time so you can pass the ball in the center without rolling backward or forward.
Stability-Ball Stir the Pot
Place your elbows on top of a stability ball and extend your legs behind you in plank — head, hips and heels aligned. Brace your core and keep your hips as stable as possible as you roll the ball clockwise and counterclockwise underneath you.
TIP: Start with your feet spaced a little wider apart for more stability, and as you improve, move them closer together.
Stability-Ball Plank Hold
Place your elbows on a stability ball underneath your shoulders and extend your legs behind you so your head, hips and heels align. Hold here for time.
TIP: Make sure your elbows are underneath your shoulders so they are driving down vertically. If you are too far forward or back, the ball will roll around.
Lie faceup with your arms and legs extended. Simultaneously sit up and open your arms to the sides as you lift one leg in front of you. Rotate your entire torso toward that leg and touch your foot with your opposite hand. Slowly lower to the start.
TIP: Don’t just reach with your arm across your body to touch your foot. “Wring” out your waist and twist from your core to get that arm to that point.
Rock the Cradle
Sit with your knees bent and hug them to your chest. Extend your left leg straight out and place both hands lightly behind your ears. Lean back slightly onto your tailbone, keeping your right knee bent and lifted toward your chest and twist toward your right knee. Hold here and rock back and forth. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
TIP: This is a pretty small movement, so focus on staying strong and solid in your position rather than your rocking range of motion.
Lie faceup with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms along your sides and reach your fingers toward your heels. Curl your head, neck and upper back off the floor and hold here as you alternately reach your hands toward your heels, crunching side to side while keeping your upper back and head lifted.
TIP: Initiate this movement with your side body and obliques. The more you engage these muscles, the closer your hand will get to your foot.
Killer Core Addendum
Set the clock for three minutes and see how many times you can get though this couplet — rounds plus reps.
5 (each side)
Place your right elbow underneath your right shoulder and stack your hips, legs and feet. Press your hips up so your head, hips and heels align, and place your left hand lightly behind your head, elbow bent. Slowly rotate to bring your left elbow down and underneath your body to try to reach your right arm, then open back to the start. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
TIP: Rotation should only occur through your upper body. Keep your hips and feet stacked to prevent falling forward and out of side plank as you do the move.
Lie faceup with your arms and legs lifted straight up over your shoulders and hips. Curl your head, neck and shoulders off the floor and reach your fingers toward your toes. Then lower to the floor, extend your arms on the floor alongside your body and lift your hips off the ground, driving your heels toward the ceiling. Lower to the floor to complete one rep.
TIP: Do this move a few times slowly to learn the pattern, then once you have the form, you can speed it up.
Q&A with Angela Gargano
Tell me about the new gym you're working at?
It’s being opened by Tony Robbins and Pitbull and it’s called Grit Bxng. It’s basically a 50-minute workout that combines boxing, weight training and treadmills, with lights, music and top trainers. There’s also a full bar in the lobby so you can join your trainers for a drink after class — not to get wasted, though, but more as a social thing, a sense of comfort and community.
Did you get to meet them?
I met Tony Robbins, and it was incredible. He is extremely well-spoken and genuine, and his energy is contagious. I did not get to meet Pitbull, though.
What is your athletic background?
I started gymnastics when I was 4 years old and competed competitively through college in NCAA Division III, but my junior year, I tore my ACL and had to redshirt until I recovered. When I graduated, there weren’t any adult leagues to join so I could continue the sport, so I transitioned to fitness competitions and eventually ANW.
Why fitness competitions?
After college, I felt like I still needed to flip! So I searched around and found the kind of competitions that had a three-minute athletic routine and knew I could do well at those. I did my first show with only a few months of prep and literally had no idea what I had gotten myself into, but I quickly fell in love with the sport. I competed for three years and earned two pro cards, one in Bikini and one in Fitness.
How did that translate into personal training?
I was coaching gymnastics and all the parents kept asking me how I stayed fit myself. I saw an opportunity to help them to be just as strong as their kids, and I started a personal training business that evolved into opening my own gym.
Did you ever imagine all this would land you on ANW?
Not really! I was actually helping a friend make a video to audition for the show, and the videographer said to me, “Why aren’t you trying out?” So I figured why not, and I made a video, too. A few months later, I got the call! I literally had two weeks to figure out how to Ninja.
What is your biggest fear?
That I won’t live up to my full potential. Also, a zombie apocalypse.
If you could have a cocktail named after you, what would it be?
I love me a good hot toddy — I know, weird — so maybe a warrior toddy with whiskey, lemon juice, hot water and a cinnamon stick.
What is one thing people don’t know about you?
I am super scared of the dark and sleep with a night light!
Tell us your favorite clean joke.
What did Pikachu say when he sat on a cactus?
“That pokey, man!”
What was the last show you binge-watched?
"Stranger Things." I literally watched all of it in two days and canceled my regular life — like a responsible adult.
Do you have a mantra or favorite quote?
“I will persist until I succeed.” This quote lit me up and helped me start on the path to great things.
"I am a weirdo who plays one or two songs on repeat for an entire workout, but here are some of my favorites."
- "Nottamun Town" by Listenbee
- "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida
- "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns 'N' Roses
Birth date: June 1, 1990
Birth place: Byram, New Jersey
Residence: New York, New York
Former gig: Group fitness instructor at Grit Bxing NYC, trainer at Performix House NYC, Soho Strength Lab Field-House coach
Social media: angela_gargano
Badass brags: Three-time American Ninja Warrior contestant, founder of the Warrior Strong Method, Spartan Race Sprint winner, NCAA collegiate gymnast, professional Fitness and Bikini athlete.
Angela Gargano believes that strength trumps all when it comes to physique goals. “Personally, once I stopped worrying about what I weighed and how I looked and just focused on strength, I got shredded and literally looked better than I ever had,” she says.
Inspired by her own transformation, Gargano designed an eight-week program exclusively for Oxygen that will enable you to crush any and all athletic goals while getting lean and shredded in the process. Each week has a specific focus, and biweekly check-ins, photographs, measurements and strength tests keep you accountable and encouraged while you work your way to warrior-dom.
“People are so tired of cookie-cutter programs with no actual physical goals that they get bored after two weeks,” Gargano says. “This program constantly has you doing something new and exciting and allows you to see your progress with tangible evidence.”
Join Gargano and other fellow warriors starting September 30, 2019, and get into the best shape of your life in just eight weeks! Register now.