How to Get Stronger: Average Joe to Ninja Warrior

“I’m not strong enough to do ninja warrior”.

“I have no the upper body strength for that”

“Are you crazy? I can’t lift that, it’s too heavy!”

Have you ever said that or heard someone say that?

I hear it all the time. People seem to have this thing about themselves not being able to lift heavier weights, perform exercises like pull-ups or compete in an obstacle course race eg Spartan Race or Ninja Warrior.

In my experience in fitness and now more a Ninja Warrior coach, I find that a lot of women seem to have these beliefs.

You don’t have to be a Ninja or a serious athlete to benefit from this information. I’m writing this down to break down any barriers or disbeliefs about how to get stronger and be able to break through training plateaus!

Table of Contents

  1. Barriers to Getting Stronger
  2. The Science of Strength
  3. How to Measure Strength
  4. Training Protocols: Isometrics

1. Barriers to Getting Stronger

I’ll keep this quick:

  • Poor Nutrition/sleep

This is massive and totally another topic! If you’re not fueling your body with adequate levels of protein to repair muscles (all the other foods you need too) and sleeping well enough, you will not recover properly!

  • Lack of Education

You don’t know what you don’t know! Everyone scientifically has the ability to become stronger, you just need to know what to do! You will not hurt yourself by lifting heavy things!

  • No belief that it’s possible

This is a big one. If you don’t think it’s possible, you won’t take the first step! It’s all possible 🙂

2. The Science of Strength

So you have a lot of muscles in the human body, over 600! Muscles attach to bone and are used as a way of moving & protecting our skeleton, vital organs & joints.

In order to walk, for example, you have to think about the movement.

The Nervous System

Your Brain sends a message through the nervous system to the correct muscles to begin walking.

The correct muscles in sequence begin contracting & relaxing to start walking. I won’t go too deep into the science but this next bit is important: There are 3 types of contractions: Concentric, Eccentric & Isometric.

3 Types of Muscle Contractions


Concentric is when the muscle shortens eg doing a bicep curl or lifting a weight against gravity.


Eccentric is when the muscles lengthen eg lowering the weight in a bicep curl. Note that the muscle is still working when lowering weight due to controlling the weight.


When the muscle contracts without movement eg pausing halfway through a bicep curl. This is what we’ll be focusing on.

Isometrics is the key.

The secret to getting stronger when you hit plateaus is isometric or eccentric training.

3. How to Measure Strength

If you ever want to know just how strong you are, the easiest way is to test it. It’s easy to test lifting, the most accurate testing is a 1RM Test. RM = Repetition Maximum. You can also do a 3 RM test which is quite accurate.

But what if you want to test your pull-up but you can’t do one? 1 and 3 RM tests only really work with lifting and you need to have a solid base of strength training before ever attempting these tests since the stress on the body is so high.

The best way to Test strength safely is isometric strength testing.

Click Here to Download Testing Guide

4. Training Protocols: Isometrics

I’m about going to give you practical ways to implement isometrics into your training.

It’s all about maximal intensity. You can use isometrics in your warm or you can use it as part of the session.

Let’s say your goal is to do pull-ups for example. A common goal for most people and pretty important for being a Ninja warrior or obstacle course athlete.

Let’s say you’re have no strength to start with. I would perform the following exercises:

Isometric Pull from the bottom

3-5 Sets at 3 secs. Try this 3-4 times a week and every week add 1 sec.

  • Week 2: 4 secs
  • Week 3: 5 secs
  • Week 4: 6 secs

You can also add this strategy at different ranges of motion.

Jump to Half way Iso Hold

3-5 Sets at 3 secs

  • Week 2: 4 secs
  • Week 3: 5 secs
  • Week 4: 6 secs

Isometrics is very useful for trying to break through plateaus and can be applied to any exercise.

As you get stronger, you can play with eccentrics.

Jump Up – Lower to Half way

3-5 SetsTake 3 secs to get to half way from top

  • Week 2: 4 secs – lowering to the bottom
  • Week 3: 5 secs – lowering to the bottom
  • Week 4: 6 secs – lowering to the bottom

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