Wednesday Workout: Pletcher’s ‘Ninja’ Pull-Ups (with Video)

Gabby NaranjaMay 11, 2016
Reid Pletcher training in the Salt Lake City American Ninja Warrior gym this month. (Courtesy photo)
Reid Pletcher training in the Salt Lake City American Ninja Warrior gym this month. (Courtesy photo)

Ever wonder what it takes to be an American Ninja Warrior? A recent conversation with former professional nordic racer Reid Pletcher revealed the answer to be a little balance, a lot of grip strength, and plenty of patience. With the eighth season of ANW qualification rounds taking place this Friday, FasterSkier presents a workout sure to bring out your springtime cross-country warrior.  


Ninety-eight. Ninety-nine. One-hundred. Though this may not represent the average cross country skier’s final pull-up count, American Ninja Warrior (ANW) qualifier Reid Pletcher sees pull-ups in centenary sets as a sure-fire way to prepare for competition day.

Pletcher, a 2011 NCAA skiing champion, four-year Mackay Wilderness River Trips river guide, 2014 Winter Paralympics nordic guide and pro-nordic-skier-gone-speed-skater (read more about his story here) is most recently a qualifier for Season 8 of ANW. Pletcher divulged that so far, his fool-proof training plan really only involves one component: pull-ups.

“I applied in November, and then I started my training plan, which was pretty straightforward because most of Ninja Warrior is like grip strength and hanging strength and ladders and pull-up bars,” Pletcher said on the phone. “Most people fail when their grip gives out, so my training plan was do a 100 pull-ups a day.”

Along with pull-ups, Pletcher also stresses the importance of previewing course obstacles. Though he hadn’t heard of ANW gyms until a week before his qualifier trial date — Friday, May 13 — Pletcher insisted that spending time on obstacles, such as the Salmon Ladder, cannot be understated. Overcoming obstacles such as these not only provide alternative methods of core strength, but also assure the successful ‘Salmon Ladder ascend-er’, infinite bragging rights.

“You see the the obstacles on Ninja Warrior and a lot of them look insanely hard, but a lot of them look pretty easy,” Pletcher said. “But then when you’re at that gym in real life, it’s pretty eye opening. You’re like sh*t, this is actually pretty hard, even the simple looking ones. I mean there’s probably 300 different obstacles they could throw at us, but I got to jump on 20-30 of them. Which is better than zero. I definitely have a better understanding of what I’m getting myself into now.”

Pletcher’s American Ninja Workout:

– Find a neighborhood playground.

-Spend some time doing pull-ups on the monkey bars.

– Transition to the swing sets for more pull ups.

– Return to the monkey bars for, you guessed it, more pull-ups.

Goal: 100 pull-ups a day (Pletcher says they don’t need to be all at once and can be spread out throughout the day)

Total Allotted Time: 24 hours

*Alternatively, check out to see if there’s a ANW gym near you and try your luck on the various gym obstacles.

Pletcher’s Top Three Pull-Up Suggestions

  1. Jump Back On the Jungle Gym. Go back to your elementary school days, or better yet, your elementary school playground. “Before I found the obstacle gyms, I was literally creeping on children’s playgrounds. Go hang out with little children, but try not to look too creepy and try not to get arrested while they’re swinging on the swings,” Pletcher said.
  2. Don’t Sweat the Small Set. Break up your pull ups into smaller segments. “Do like 10 here, 15 here, 20 there, 10 there throughout the day,” he suggested. “Not all at once, even I’m not that hardcore.”
  3. Failure Forces Refinement. Don’t be afraid to go until your grip goes out. If anything, it’ll make you stronger for next time. “I know at some point my grip is going to give, which I’m fine with because I’ll try as hard as I can until I can’t,” Pletcher said. “The most important thing is I tried.”

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Gabby Naranja

Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.

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