ANW 8 just ended Monday with Drew Drechsel making it the furthest of any Ninja! Drew was one of only two athletes to make it to stage 3. This season no dedicated climber made it to stage 3. Ian Dory, arguably one of the strongest climbers in the world, fell on the second obstacle of stage 1. Brian Arnold and Josh Levin both ran out of luck on the double wedge. This leaves the question, Are climbers losing their advantage.
Let's look at some facts. Tendon strength takes longer to build than muscle strength or recover from injury than muscles. According to Dr. Shoemaker, "A pulled muscle, which is a tear in the belly of the muscle, not the tendon, should heal in 4-6 weeks. A tendon injury takes 3-6 months to repair itself." Climbers tend to have stronger tendons from their years of climbing. Tendons are crucial to success on hanging obstacles. This gave climbers a pretty heavy advantage on the other athletes that joined Ninja Warrior from different backgrounds.
It makes sense climbers have done so well on Ninja Warrior since they joined the competition. They had a significant advantage on grip obstacles vs Ninjas that came from backgrounds that don't build as much tendon strength. However, it is now 8 seasons later and non-climbers have had an opportunity to build that tendon strength and catch up.
Monday night made it pretty clear non-climbers now have the potential to complete stage 3. Drew, a parkour athlete, made it 62% of the way through arguably the toughest stage 3 course to date. Only a small miscalculation cost him his run. We also saw athletes like Brett Sim, James McGrath, and Travis Rosen finish long finals courses. Courses that we're arguably more physically demanding than a stage 3.
This rise in strength from non-climbers come as no surprise. Enough time has passed for most veteran ninjas to have developed their tendon strength to be comparable to some top climbers. In this same passage of time, we have also seen an increase in the technical difficulty of the course. This might be a reason for the early exit of climbers like Geoff Britten and Ian Dory. Ninjas coming from backgrounds like parkour or gymnastics tend to have better adaptability on these new obstacles.
As veteran ninjas close the grip strength gap it will be interesting to see how season 9 unfolds. Climbers like Ian Dory and the rest of the Wolf Pack are always threats to defeat a stage 3 but as tendons strengthen and more ninjas become capable of clearly stage 3 it will be interesting to see what ninja comes out on top next season!
Jon Alexis Jr. stands at 6 feet 6 inches tall. His weight a lean 198lbs. His body resembles that of an NBA guard or an NFL receiver. Traditionally in the past athletes of Jon "The Giant's" size do not fair well on Ninja obstacles.
Kamerion Wimbley(NFL) and Bull Bullard (Harlem Globetrotter) have both competed in the past and made it through the first round of obstacles. However, both athletes failed to progress deep into stages 2 and 3 because of a lack of upper body strength and obstacle technique.
The problem with professional or Olympic athletes is their discipline-specific training. Typically playing in the NFL or NBA require a very specific diet and training regiment. An athlete like Kamerion Wimbley spent most of his life training to be larger than life and dedicated a lot of time to developing pushing power. A different kind of upper body strength than what is required for Ninja Warrior.
In order to make it in the NFL or NBA, it helps to have these three things. Natural Ability, good work ethic, and proper size. In almost all sports there is an ideal size to compete. Gymnastics it pays to be small. NBA it pays to be tall. NFL the bigger you are the better typically. Now, obviously there are exceptions to these rules but for the most part, those are standards.
Typically for Ninja Warrior, the idea height and weight falls somewhere between 5'6 and 5'11 around 140lbs to 160lbs. However, what if Jon can break this mold and use his disadvantages as advantages? Here are five reasons we think Jon "The Giant" will be the future of the sport: Reason 1: Height Like pro athletes from the past Jon's size is a huge advantage. In Buffalo we watched him step over arguably one of the most difficult obstacles we will see this season. When asked about his size Jon had this to say "I consider myself a scaled up version of other athletes: I think I still have decent proportions and proportionate strength, so it's as if most obstacles are "dwarfed" and easier to move through quickly."
Reason 2: Reach When people talk about bigger athletes like Jon they always mention their weight as a disadvantage. Never is it brought up their reach actually gives them a huge advantage. At 6 foot 6 inches, Jon is able to easily reach obstacles other athletes would struggle through. It also means fewer movements and less time spent on each obstacle. This is key in a game of conserving upper body strength
Reason 3: Diet Weight can be a disadvantage for an athlete the size of Jon "The Giant" . However, Jon is lucky. He "finds it hard to gain weight." He finds that he is constantly moving around and playing on anything he can. He also is mostly pescetarian. Meaning he eats mostly fish. He also balances junk food with eating lots of salad! This helps him stay lean and keep up his strength to body weight ratio. This is key to his future success. Reason 4: Training Regiment Although Jon admits it will take longer to build up tendon and muscle strength due to his size, he is still doing the right training to get that strength. Unlike our supersized Professionals from past season Jon's work out revolve heavily around getting ready for Ninja Warrior.
"I'll play around on a slackline about 3 times a month but a typical training day would happen at either a rock gym or a ninja gym. I warm up with rowing or running, dynamic stretching, and a bit of weight lifting, touching different muscle groups on different days, then playing around on rock walls or ninja obstacles, guided by how my body feels. There's usually no specific plan for the meat of my workout. I cool down with some brief static stretching."
This type of Ninja Warrior specific training along with his size will help him become arguably one of the most dominant athletes in the history of the show.
Reason 5: Exhibit A & B Jon competing in Orlando! Utilizing his wingspan and size to his advantage! If that isn't enough for you check Jon dominating Buffalo's NNL qualifier in Video 2!
Aug 27th marked the start of season 2 for us. This was a big date because season 2 marks a step forward for the development of Ninja Warrior as a sport. For the first time in history, a league would feature different competitive divisions for youth!
Kor Komplex did not feature a youth division at this inaugural event. However, one youth decided to steal the show anyway. Thirteen-year-old Rachel Brown competed in the adult division. (She was allowed to compete with the adults because she qualified for Nationals last season before the league had age divisions) The petite teenager tackled every obstacle she came across with ease. Until she met the 14 foot warped wall.
Her first attempt brought her inches from the top. Her second attempt managed to get fingertips to the top of the wall before coming back down. She had one attempt left. With one attempt left, 13-year-old Rachel Brown did what no other female could complete that day! She made the warped wall!
Making the wall placed Rachel is 1st for the females division. She would actually progress through the course and make it to the spot where all but one of Saturday's competitors would fall, male or female.
Rachel's run makes one thing very clear. The youth is the future of this sport. There are other's out there ,like Rachel, that grow in talent every year. Now, with the addition of Youth Divisions to the National Ninja League, I expect to see more stories like Rachel's from across the Nation.