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What It's Really Like To Compete On 'American Ninja Warrior'

Updated October 15, 2018 32.4k views13 items

In a world where reality TV contestants often gain fame through backstabbing and flipping tables, behind-the-scenes stories about American Ninja Warrior arrive like a breath of fresh air. Premiering in 2009, ANW gives hopeful athletes with proven skill sets a platform to show off untraditional and staggeringly difficult feats of strength - and viewers at home get fantastic entertainment along the way. When it comes to fun facts about American Ninja Warrior, both contestants and producers play a vital role in the show's heartwarming content.

Whether you consider yourself a serious fan who already knows how to get on American Ninja Warrior, or are simply a reality TV enthusiast hungry for secrets, these stories are for you. You don't need to scramble up Mount Midoriyama - or even climb the Warped Wall - for interesting trivia about American Ninja Warrior. For those who never got a chance to compete on Nickelodeon's GUTS, now might be the perfect time to consider ANW as your ticket to fitness fame.

  • The 'American Ninja Warrior' Team Wants To Accurately Represent Contestants

    Photo: NBC

    Rabbi-in-training Akiva Neuman, who competed on Season 8 of American Ninja Warrior, spoke to Insider about his experience on the show. His account paints a picture of a production team committed to ensuring contestants get represented accurately in the often intimate video packages introducing their run on the course. Neuman's finished video introduction came in under two minutes, but producers spent more than nine hours filming it so the footage would be as comprehensive as possible.

    Given his unique lifestyle - hours of daily prayer each day, studies at Yeshiva University, and work as the youth director of a synagogue, all on top of training at the gym - Neuman's intro package could have easily become a misrepresentation of his daily life or community. He ended up pleased with the results of the show's meticulous production process, though. "There was a lot of good, kosher Jewish humor that I think everyone appreciated," he told Insider

  • Competitors Push The Production Team To Create More Challenging Obstacles

    Photo: NBC

    In the past, the American Ninja Warrior production and design teams likely pushed contestants to go harder - but those days are long gone. Producer Brian Richardson told Mental Floss it's often the contestants who challenge the show to step up its game:

    Our best athletes train year-round for ANW now. There are gyms devoted to Ninja training that are popping up all over the country, so people have a lot more access to obstacles like the Warped Wall. We want to test them every year, so we have to keep creating obstacles that are fun, and challenging, and entertaining to watch at home.

    Viewers can remain confident the obstacles will only get tougher and more remarkable as producers work to outsmart the increasingly savvy participants. 

  • Contestants Don't Practice On The Actual Course

    Video: YouTube

    American Ninja Warrior veteran competitor Ryan Stratis confirmed via Reddit that contestants do not test out the actual course until their official run:

    No practice of obstacles is allowed during tryouts. [The] only way we can practice obstacles is if we build replicas and train on them through the year. On game day, we are read the rules for completing each obstacle, and [the] tester shows us how to do it, and then it's up to us after that!

    To get around this, many serious competitors train on lookalikes at local gyms or build obstacle prototypes at home. Competitor Nick Hanson, for instance, made obstacles with friends in his Western Alaska coastal village of Unalakleet

  • Competitors Pay Their Own Way

    Photo: NBC

    You might assume reality show competitors get flights or hotel rooms comped. Not so much, as American Ninja Warrior contestants remain responsible for all competition-related expenses. Production handles no travel logistics or lodging for participants, and since the qualifying and city final portions of the competition take place in only a handful of major cities, these arrangements get complicated and pricey for people who live in more remote locations. 

    Most ANW competitors bring some gimmick to the obstacle course, usually in the form of branded shirts bearing their Ninja nickname (The Island Ninja! The Real Life Ninja! Flex Labreck!), but many show up with flashier costumes. Powerhouses Jessie Graff and Jamie Rahn (AKA Captain NBC), for example, are known for their superhero outfits. The show doesn't pay for any of this swag either.