Healthy Byte: Train Like a Ninja

The American Ninja Warrior Workout

You might forget about boxing when you learn about a new fighting workout. (Photo: Marjorie Korn)

At a petite 4’ 11″, Kacy Catanzaro invokes the fearsomeness of a Peter Pan understudy. It’s a bit hard to imagine she’s the leading woman on American Ninja Warrior, a show that asks contestants to scale walls, run up vertical ramps and fling themselves between wobbly polls like a flying squirrel. She was also the first woman to complete their near-impossible finals course (you can see this in all its glory here). Catanzaro, who is now sponsored by Pom, and boyfriend, coach, and fellow ninja Brent Steffensen believe that even non-ninjas can mirror their daily strength workout — though we’ll understand if you’re skeptical after watching the video. They break it down in this six-move workout that will ready you to Spiderman up a 30-foot elevator shaft along with look and feel a whole lot fitter.

The Three Rules of Ninja Workouts

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

1. No weights.

Other athletes use weights to increase the difficultly of their workouts and gain strength. This agenda isn’t for ninjas, because their aim is to be as lean as possible. Ninjas are concerned with high, fast reps at bodyweight and transitioning quickly from movement to movement to work different muscle groups, and simulate the diverse challenges of the course.

2. No rest.
Ninjas focus on increasing the number of reps in a given work period and decreasing the rest time between intervals. This makes sense because each obstacle on the course takes one or a few “reps” of a given movement and there’s no down time between obstacles. That means that need to keep muscles and lungs primed, and practice getting in the headspace to keep going.

3. No show-off moves
You’d think ninjas would be looking constantly for things to jump onto. In fact, their movements are often equipment-free and low-risk. No box jumps, for instance, because they can lead to twisted ankles or nasty scrapes. No one-arm push-ups either, which have little pay-off in strength terms, and force shoulders to contort in awkward ways. Their rule of thumb: If you’re doing a movement just because it looks cool, skip it.

Handstand Push-Up

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

Beginner
Do a traditional push-up. Focus on good form: Keep back flat, abs engaged, and elbows tight to your body; chest should hit as close to the ground as possible without using belly to press off the ground to the top.

Intermediate
Pike push-up using a box or a bench. Keep your feet on the box or bench, and plant hands in front of you so your torso is vertical or near vertical. Perform a push-up, keeping hips piked high in the air. This helps build shoulder strength and mobility, and gets you used to being upside down.

Ninja-Level
Go for the full handstand push-up. Facing a wall, kick up into a handstand. Hold a hollow-body position, tightening your glutes, and keeping your shoulders down and abs engaged. Lower head down to the floor, then push through the floor back to start. When this becomes easy, practice deficit HSPUs, with your hands on weight plates, to increase the range of motion.

Related: 10 Ways to Do a Push-Up

Lunges

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

Beginner
Start with a traditional lunge. Keep your front knee over your ankle and tap back knee to the ground, practicing balance and control throughout the movement

Intermediate
Lunge with a kick. At the bottom of the lunge, push through the heel of your front leg to stand up and kick; return to start. Switch legs and repeat. This progression helps build explosive power one leg at a time.

Ninja-Level
Jumping lunges/Jumping kicking lunges. Explode out of the bottom of the lunge to switch legs. Progress to kicking out of the bottom of the lunge, and then switching legs.

Pull-Ups

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

Beginner
Static hangs from the bar and ring rows. With shoulders down and engaged, hang onto a pull-up bar, aiming to increase your time with each hang. Build shoulder strength with ring rows, increasing your angle to the ground over time by putting your feet on a chair or box until you are horizontal.

Intermediate
Pull-ups. Practice control throughout the whole movement. Start from a dead hang, and pull yourself fully over the bar, so it’s level with your clavicle.

Ninja-Level
Push ups + lateral movement. Use a neutral grip, and at the top of the pull-up, shift your weight so you move your upper body to be centered over your right hand, then shift it so it’s centered over your left hand, chest moving laterally across the bar. (This is an exception to the “don’t look cool” rule—it is both functional and a crowd-pleaser.)

Tuck Jumps

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

Beginner
Arms-free jumps. Squat to just above parallel, arms to your sides, jump up and point your toes, then land softly on the balls of your feet. These help you build leg strength and explosive power.

Intermediate
Tuck jump. Begin with knee bent at 90 degrees, then explode up, bringing knees as close to the chest as possible while recovering in enough time to land softly. This takes the place of box jumps and has two major advantages: It forces you to practice landing softly to avoid injury, and it’s a better cardio workout, because the box jump forces you to take a momentary rest at the top before you make your way down.

Ninja-Level
Perform one leg tuck jumps, trying to maintain your balance from the start of the movement through the landing. Like all single-legged movements, this will help identify strength differences and improve balance.

V-Ups

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

Beginner
Tuck up. Lie flat with your arms extended behind your head. Keeping your back straight and shoulders away from your ears, lift your torso and knees simultaneously, reaching your fingers toward your toes. Hold for a second at the top, then lower slowly.

Intermediate
V-up. Same as the tuck-up movement, but keep your legs and arms extended. Work on increasing the number of reps and slowing the time you take to lower to the ground while maintaining a hollow position.

Ninja-Level
Straight leg bicycle tuck. Lie on your back and kick your legs straight up. Put your hands behind your head. Lift your torso, and scissor your body to touch your left elbow to your right knee while maintaining straight legs. Repeat on the other side. This one is more about speed and keeping your core engaged, so work on increasing reps in short periods of time.

Finger Strength

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(Photo: Marjorie Korn)

This is an often-overlooked skill that’s essential to your workouts (think gripping a barbell or rower handle), as well as everyday life (like playing guitar). Unlike the other five moves, these exercises may feel more foreign. Progress slowly as you gain strength and familiarity to avoid injury.

Beginner
Counterbalanced static holds. Stand on a bench or box positioned under a pull-up bar. Grip the bar with only your fingers, and bend your knees to use some, but not all of your bodyweight, to pull you down. Hold on for as long as possible.

Intermediate
Static holds with full bodyweight. Practice increasing your time in the finger-hold position.

Ninja-Level
Shifting static holds. Shift your bodyweight between your hands, holding on with just your fingers.

Originally Posted HERE

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