Ninja Training for Kids: An At-Home Guide
Ninja training for adults exploded when American Ninja Warrior took to the airwaves in 2009. Now, with the junior version added, millions of kids dream of becoming a ninja warrior. Is your child one of them? How do you know you have a serious ninja wannabe?
It’s pretty easy to tell! You may notice your child has adopted some strange new behaviors, such as:
- repurposing furniture (stools, chairs, couches, tables etc.) into blocks they can practice jumping onto or over.
- begging you for a few climbing ropes to hang from the trees in your yard.
- running up the giant slides at the playground at full speed.
- trying to stay balanced while walking across the hammock.
- scaling every doorway and jumping down from the top.
- trying to beat the dog in races!
Wanting to be like the kids on American Ninja Warrior Junior is one thing. It’s quite another thing to actually be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to become one yourself. But if your kids have already taken the initiative to create their own challenges, it’s time to help them make their dreams to become a ninja come true!
If there’s a gym that offers ninja training classes for kids near you, sign them up. If not, or you simply can’t afford it right now, don’t despair! Your young dreamer can still achieve a great deal of success by following this at-home ninja training guide. This guide will provide more structure to your child’s attempts to grow their ninja skills. And you can do it without spending any money!
A Kid’s Guide to Ninja Training at Home
To begin, consider designating a specific room or area in your home as their official Ninja Warrior Gym. This lets them know you’re as serious about their ninja training as they are. It adds motivation and reminds them of who they want to become when they don’t feel like sticking with it. It’s also a great way to invite friends into their world. This can lead to more creative obstacle course ideas and someone to compete against – other than the dog!
Along with the ninja skills your son or daughter has invented, they’ll need to add strength and flexibility training. Balance exercises are also important. Obstacle course challenges cannot be performed well unless a ninja is strong, flexible and balanced. By adding these workouts two or three times a week, completing more difficult obstacle courses becomes possible.
Be sure to recognize and encourage their hard work along the way. Find creative ways to celebrate their achievements. This keeps them motivated and makes it more fun.
*This guide is best suited for 7-year-old kids and up. If you have questions about its use, contact a qualified fitness trainer in your area or your child’s healthcare provider.
Begin With a Warmup
Ninja training involves sprinting from one obstacle to the next. Warming up with an aerobic exercise to get the heart beating is ideal. It prepares you for the workout and helps to increase your endurance.
Aerobic activity is anything that increases the heart rate for a period of time. Warmups should be at least two minutes for beginners and increase as you progress in the sport.
Two minutes of sustained heart-pumping activity may be hard for beginners. It doesn’t need to be performed at top speed or to the point of exhaustion. Set a reasonable pace and maintain it for two minutes. Running, jumping, stair climbing and bouncing on a mini trampoline are all great warmup exercises. Increase the time and intensity as you move forward in your ninja training. A 10 minute warmup consisting of medium and high intensity exercises is a great goal.
Strength Training Exercises
These are conditioning exercises that use your own body weight. No expensive weight-lifting equipment is necessary. They include exercises for the upper body, core and legs along with a list that targets multiple areas.
Some of these are rather difficult and you may not be able to perform all of them at first. Set them as future goals. Ninja training takes hard work! Don’t get discouraged. Be patient. Set progressive goals and if you’re faithful to follow your workout plan, you’ll be happy with the results.
You’ll find detailed instructions, many with illustrations and videos, at Verywellfit. Type in the name of the exercise in their search bar and it will take you to the right place. Choose two or three exercises from each of these categories to perform two or three days each week. The first time you do each one, write down how many you can do. Each week or two, see if you can add one or two more.
- mountain climbers
- spider walks
- plank holds
- pull ups
- triceps dips
(A soup can or plastic water jug can be used in place of a weight for these four exercises.)
- bent-over row
- overhead press
- triceps extensions
- biceps curls
- abdominal crunch
- side plank
- V-sit pose
- bicycle crunch
- bridge (not a back bend-check Verywell Fit)
- skip with a twist
- wall sit
- jump squat
- squat thrust
- side jump
- walking lunge
- jump lunge
- one leg balance/squat/reach
Ninjas have superb balance and a keen sense of where every body part is at all times. Whether they are swinging, twisting in flight or running over and around obstacles, they stay balanced. Here are some balance exercises to try. Use either a stable 2×6 inch or 2×4 inch length of wood or two long pieces of masking tape placed 4” apart on the floor.
- walk, skip or run across
- walk backward and sideward
- practice straight jumps with two feet
- Stand up straight. Balance on one foot. Extend your leg forward as high as possible, keeping both legs straight and hold for 10 seconds. Then extend your leg behind you and hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
- straight jump with a half turn then a full turn (Try this on the ground first!)
Skateboarding, balance boards and pilates balls are all great for improving balance if you have any of these.
Ninja Training Exercises for Obstacle Courses
If your goal is to become a super ninja athlete, you’ll also need to add these two exercises to your ninja skills training routine. The junior ninja competitors you watch on TV have spent years training for their big events. They move through obstacle courses with ease, making difficult courses look easy! Plyometrics and agility are a big part of that.
Plyometric exercises develop power, strength and endurance. They cause a muscle to stretch and then immediately shorten it. Squat jumps, burpees and pushups can be plyometric if done quickly with many repetitions.
One of the best and safest exercises for beginners is rebounding on a mini trampoline. Practice straight jumps, jumping from both feet. Do jumping jacks. When you feel confident about your balance ability, add tuck jumps. Bring your knees forward and upward toward your chest. Keep your head and chest upright instead of bending over. Also try jumping on one foot.
More difficult plyometric exercises include jump roping, hopping on one foot and vertical jumping.
Vertical jumping (also called box jumping) is one of the best exercises you’ll want to include is your training routine. The object or ‘box’ you choose can be any stable elevated object. A carpeted step from one room up into another works fine. For those who have done very little jumping, a 2×10 inch piece of wood is a good starting point. Make sure it’s heavy enough or secure it so it stays in place.
Do not practice box jumping on hard surfaces! Avoid concrete, gravel and asphalt.
Whatever you choose as your box, make sure it’s stable. Stand in front of it, squat down a little and jump up onto the top. From there, either step down or jump back down. You’ll eventually want to jump both up and down. Continue to increase the number of jumps you can do in a row or increase the height.
*Cautionary note to parents*
Plyometric training is hard. Beginners who have weak ankles or other lower body weaknesses should strengthen those areas before beginning serious plyometric training. Seek the advice of a qualified trainer. This type of exercise will quickly elevate the heart rate. Begin this training slowly. Have your child take a few seconds between each repetition and do not do them every day. Twice a week is plenty for a beginner with three days in between. Please read this PDF from The American Council On Exercise.
Ninja athletes are agile, which means they can change direction and body positions quickly. Think of soccer players. They’re running down the field, then slow down, shift to the right or left or turn around and continue running. Agility lessens injuries and increases stability. These exercises target specific joints and muscles rarely used in normal daily activities. You’ll find these exercises at Verywell’s website too.
- speed ladder agility drills (substitute ladder with tape, flat rulers or other flat objects)
- dot drills
- lateral jumps
- tuck jumps
A flexible ninja is one who can move from a flexed position to an extended position with ease. Flexibility means having a full range of motion. Stretching exercises, held for at least 30 seconds, lead to a greater range of motion in your joints and muscles.
Do these exercises at the end of your workout when your muscles are warmed up. This lowers the chance of injuring muscles.
Enter each stretch slowly until you feel a tiny bit of burning in the targeted muscle. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Over time, this causes that muscle to lengthen. Be sure to enter and end each stretch gradually to avoid injury. Never over-stretch to the point of pain.
Flexibility must be maintained. The old saying, “use it or lose” applies here! Always take time to finish each workout with stretching exercises.
- quad stretch
- standing hamstring stretch
- chest and shoulder stretch
- upper back stretch
- biceps stretch
- shoulder stretch
- side stretch
- triceps stretch
This video will show exactly how to perform each stretch. Also check out the Best Stretching Exercises for Soccer Players on the Verywell Fit website. Many of these stretches are also good for aspiring ninjas.
Building Ninja Obstacle Courses at Home
This is the fun part! All that conditioning and flexibility you’re doing will be tested on the obstacle courses you build. This is where the hard work you’re putting into your ninja training workouts will show. Your courses will get harder and harder as you get stronger and stronger. When one course or a part of the course becomes easy, you can increase the difficulty.
The courses you can build will depend on what items you have at home. You may need help from your parents or friends. Here are some things you may already have around your home and ideas for their use:
Rope at least 1/2” thick. Rope has lots of creative uses. The more ropes, the better!
- Hang a rope from a sturdy tree branch to climb.
- Tie both ends of the rope to the tree branch about two or three feet apart so it droops down. Adjust the height so you have to jump up to catch it. Swing until you can jump forward far enough to land inside a hula hoop on the ground in front of you.
- Hang three or more ropes straight down from the branch two or three feet apart. Transfer from one rope to the another – like monkeys!
- Tie a long piece of rope from one tree to another high. Make it as tight as possible and high enough that you have to jump to grab it. Walk your hands across.
Old tires. Tires come in all sizes and have many uses for your course. They’re great for vertical jumping. You will think of other ideas once you get started!
- Jump into the center and out.
- Jump up onto one side then over the middle to the other side.
- Line up several tires so they touch each other. Jump from one center across the two tires into the next center.
- Stack tires for higher vertical jumps.
- Jump into and out of the tire backward.
- If you have a lot of tires, make a pyramid that you have to climb up and down.
2×4 inch lengths of wood. These can be cut to various lengths.
- Perform any of the balance exercises listed above.
- Do lateral jumps.
- Place foam blocks or plastic cups on the 2×4 and jump over them.
Wooden ladder. Use a ladder with round rungs.
- Place the ladder on the ground and jump over each rung with one or two feet.
- Walk or run down the sides with one foot on each side or down just one side.
- Face sideways and step or jump through each rung as fast as possible.
- Stand inside the ladder between the first and second rung, facing forward. Jump sideways over the left side of the ladder. Then jump back in into the second space. Now jump out sideways to your right and then back in to land in the third space. Face forward during all your jumps until you reach the end.
- Raise one end of the ladder, a little at first, and secure it to a stack of tires or other object. Climb up the rungs or sides.
Rope hammocks. Make sure your hammock is made from sturdy rope.
- Tie both ends of the hammock under a sturdy tree branch. Make it high enough so have to jump up to grab hold of the bottom of it. Swing underneath it until you can land on a target. You can also tie it between two trees.
- Attach one end of the hammock to a tire on the ground. Attach the other end to a stack of tires. Set the tires far enough apart so the hammock is taut like a rope ladder. Secure both tires with sand bags or another weight so they won’t move. Crawl up the hammock without flipping it. When that becomes easy, try walking up!
Hula hoops. These are great to use for landing targets or use them as part of the course.
- Place hoops in a line or staggered to jump into. They can be touching or separated as your jumping skills improve. You can leap from one foot or jump from two feet for a harder challenge.
Cones or gallon jugs filled with water. These are good for testing your agility skills.
Place 5-10 cones or jugs in a line about two feet apart. Zig zag through them as fast as you can.
Mini trampolines. Place one or more between obstacles to land on and then bounce up to another obstacle.
Swing set. If you have a swing set, build your course so you can add some of its features into it. Ladders, swings, a trapeze, slides and monkey bars make great additions.
These are only a few ideas for building a course. You probably have other items around your home you can use. With some creative thinking and help from parents and friends, you will always be building new courses!
For Parents: Ninja Training Safety, Pros and Cons
As with any new activity your kids want to try, you must monitor the safety of that activity. This guide is for kids, but will need your oversight. Go through the workout lists in the beginning and make sure your child is doing the exercises correctly. Help them achieve their goals by checking their progress every week or two.
When it comes to obstacle course building, help them build the course. At the very least, check to make sure everything is secure as they explain what they will be doing on each part.
With your involvement, the ninja training your child does at home could be one of the most significant activities they engage in. The lifelong benefits they’ll receive are well worth your effort. Some of them include:
- building confidence
- preparing for all high school sports
- reducing likelihood of suffering injuries due to lack of strength, flexibility or balance
- developing mental toughness
- participating in physical activity rather than electronic entertainment
- developing problem solving skills
- encouraging creative thinking
- learning to set goals
- developing perseverance
- avoiding the dangers of overweight and obesity
Even with all these pros that home ninja training provides, there are some cons.
- no live coaching
- no one to spot them
- no details of correct technique, so they must search for answers
- no special ninja training equipment
- no fellow ninja enthusiasts to train with
Do the pros outweigh the cons? We can’t answer that for you. Every family’s situation is unique. Your circumstances may not allow for anything but a home ninja training option. If that’s the case, this guide is for you. If your kids are serious about ninja training, there’s plenty here to get them started in achieving their dream.
EmethGym offers ninja classes for ages 4 through adult.
At EmethGym, you’ll find professional caring coaches who are trained to give your child the instruction they need to succeed. Individual progress is the focus. You can register your child for a free trial class and tour our facility.
EmethGym also hosts open ninja competitions for anyone who wants to test their training skills or just to try it out for fun! Our Events page lists the dates of all upcoming events for the current month and into the following month.
Once your child gets hooked on his or her training at home, enrolling them into a ninja class near you is the next step. But even if that isn’t possible, your kids can still enjoy many of the benefits this kids ninja training guide provides. You are the key to their success! Take time to get them started. The benefits they’ll receive will follow them throughout their lives.