The Ultimate Ninja Warrior Workout

Ready to reach new heights? Then obstacle courses are calling your name.

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If you’re looking to up your game at the gym, you can attend a new fitness class or hire a new trainer — but if you really want to challenge yourself, then ninja warrior training (NWT) is sure to deliver those next-level results.

“Ninja warrior training offers women an incredible workout that is both fun and effective, but that is not the real reason it has grown in popularity in recent years,” says Julie Lohre, IFBB fitness pro, a season six contestant on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior and a former Oxygen cover model. 

“The real reason is that NWT taps into that badass superhero we all have living deep inside of us,” Lohre says. “It tests our strength, flexibility, endurance, balance and nerves. By comparison, it makes the usual three sets of eight reps look tedious and bland.”

Benefits of Ninja Warrior Training

Between the popularity of the show itself and the rise of obstacle-course races like Spartan Race and mud runs — which allow everyday Janes to test their skills — a whole new breed of female athletes are rising to the challenge.

“NWT is so effective because it incorporates multi-planar movements that build power, muscle and stability while burning body fat,” says Lohre, who is also a certified personal trainer and owner of “The movements use your whole body, rather than single muscle groups, so the number of calories you burn during a session is significantly higher than with straight strength training or cardio. In fact, with a typical NWT workout, you can burn upward of 400-plus calories in 30 minutes.”

Just like with the high-intensity interval training exercises you’re probably already doing, the key to this type of workout is alternating exercises that build strength with ones that elevate your heart rate. Lohre says that when done correctly, NWT can help women get stronger, improve their balance and run faster.

“In short, the better you are on the obstacle course, the better you will be at life,” she says.

How to Get Started

While you might be on fire to get on the course, Lohre suggests keeping the following in mind:

1. Baby steps. Some of the movements are high-impact and you might need to tailor those if you have any physical limitations. Start small, working your way up beginning with the easiest obstacles first.

2. Learn by example. A good NWT class will include an instructor who demonstrates all the movements and coaches you through the use of apparatus — such as trampolines and salmon ladders (a pull-up-style ladder you ascend by moving its only rung upward).

3. Practice makes perfect. It is also important to note that the kind of strength and agility needed to complete some of the most challenging NWT obstacles takes years to develop. Break down complex movements as you get started.

4. Get equipped. Rips are par for the course. If you want to get serious about this kind of training without tearing up your hands, invest in a good set of grips. You’ll also want to buy lightweight gym shoes that have excellent grip and enough support for modest-height drops.

5. Keep moving. With NWT and obstacle courses, you are trying to beat the clock. Keep rest times to a minimum.

6. Focus on form. Don’t compromise form to make it over an obstacle. The surest way to get injured is to ignore good form and throw your body into a movement with bad body mechanics.

Try It Yourself

Leaping Lateral Squat

Rick Lohre Photography

Stability-Ball Curl-In

Rick Lohre Photography

Hanging Leg Lift or Knee Raise

Rick Lohre Photography

Burpee Over Barbell

Rick Lohre Photography

Alternating Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

Rick Lohre Photography

Elevated Push-Up

Rick Lohre Photography

Bear Crawl

Rick Lohre Photography

If you don’t have an NWT class nearby, Lohre created the following workout, which can be completed in any gym or at the park. After completing a good warm-up and dynamic stretch, use a stopwatch to complete the following exercises at a brisk (but safe) pace for 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds. The workout should take about 35 minutes to accomplish.

  • Leaping Lateral Squat
  • Bear Crawl
  • Hanging Leg Lift or Knee Raise
  • Alternating Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch
  • Wide-Grip Pull-Up
  • Stability-Ball Curl-In
  • Burpee Over Barbell
  • Box or Ring Dip
  • Elevated Push-Up

Rest for two full minutes before beginning the circuit again. Repeat the full circuit three times.