HEALTHY LIVING: 5 things to know about ‘ninja warrior’ fitness

HEALTHY LIVING: 5 things to know about ‘ninja warrior’ fitness

reporter photo

Drew Drechsel, longtime competitor on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” guided over a dozen junior ninjas in a recent training session at the New Era Gym in Hamden.

With the gym gearing up for a new junior ninja show, here are five things to know about this fitness trend from gym owner Thomas Alberti, Drechsel and others.

Health benefits

Ninja training is not a normal hour routine at the gym, according to Drechsel. Participants spend hours practicing on the obstacles and learning new skills. It is a full-body workout involving running, jumping, swinging and climbing.

Alberti said some adults participate as an alternative to standard gyms and to gain skills to try out for the TV show. Children also benefit from the program due to its individualized style and sense of accomplishment for every obstacle tackled, he added. 


Drechsel was contacted to be on the third season of “American Ninja Warrior” in 2011 after he was in a similar show. Since then, the former Florida resident has been on every subsequent season, competing in four countries. He joined the New Era Gym and created the ninja program with Alberti in 2015.

New Era Ninjas instructor Julius Ferguson also competes on the show and recently started teaching younger participants.

The ninja students will be featured on a new competition show this fall on the Universal Kids Network.


According to Drechsel, mental skills are just as important as physical skills. Confidence helps participants overcome obstacles.

For the younger warriors, Drechsel said, the ninja program helps strengthen their confidence and physical ability.

Beginner tips

Drechsel said anyone can start the program and develop skills needed for different obstacles.

Obstacles are always different. Equipment can also be altered to be easier or harder depending on the person using it.

Julia Lawrence-Riddell, 13, of Hamden, started her ninja training at the gym four years ago after watching the TV show. Her peers Sean Arms, 10, of Clinton, and Tom Alberti, 12, of Hamden, also started when they were 8 and 9 years old.

Lawrence-Riddell said the training has made her much stronger and able to better at activities like rock climbing and ballet.

Warming up with a quick cardio workout and upper body exercises is essential before using the equipment, according to Drechsel. He suggests starting light and working up to a more difficult obstacle.

The gym

Alberti, a longtime gymnast and coach, opened the ninja gym across from his gymnastics gym in 2015 with the help of Drechsel. 

The gym has expanded to twice its size with an additional location in Windsor. Alberti said they are franchising the ninja program around the country. 

The obstacles at the Hamden gym include climbing walls, bars, ladders, hanging obstacles and other equipment that is transformed into different courses daily.

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