A CONTESTANT on the hit TV show American Ninja Warrior has revealed a filming secret about how some prepare for the challenges of the obstacle courses.
American Ninja Warrior 13 and 14 contestant Zack Eichenstein spoke exclusively with The U.S. Sun about his time on the show.
Known for its intensely difficult obstacle courses and high-caliber competition, the show has inspired athletes around the world – as well as the facilities in which they train.
Eichenstein revealed that American Ninja Warrior is different than many believe.
"A lot of people think it's almost like a game show where you can kind of just randomly go on and actually win a million dollars," he shared.
"But it actually requires a lot of training and a lot of work.
"That's why places like this [Ferox Athletics] exist."
Eichenstein built the 40,000-square-foot facility, which opened its doors in Brooklyn, New York in 2022.
Ferox, which is the East Coast's largest professional ninja park, features many obstacles and elements similar to those seen on the TV show.
While most viewers would expect the ninjas to be stretching and performing pushups in the warm-up tent, Eichenstein revealed what actually goes on.
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"If you were to go to the warm-up tent about halfway through one of the filming nights, half the people are on blow-up mattresses, just sleeping," he revealed.
The ninjas are "trying to just get any sleep because it's 2am," he said.
Eichenstein said that he brought his own blow-up mattress and slept before it was his turn to run the course.
"While I did want to stay up and watch all my friends, at the same time I knew that I would be super tight and stressful the whole time.
"You just kind of force yourself to just relax," he said.
Sleeping is not a bad thing, but a rather smart tactic on the show, according to Eichenstein.
"A lot of times, you'll see people who are just nervous for like six hours straight, and then they get up there and you could see them shake," Eichenstein warned.
'LUNCH IS AT ABOUT 1AM'
While most viewers are focusing on the obstacles when watching a ninja race through the course, they might not pay attention to the background – which is pitch black.
The show's production doesn't start until it gets dark outside.
Eichenstein revealed that the ninjas are on site from about 5pm to 5am.
"Lunch is at about 1am," he said.
The first year Eichenstein was on the show, he was the third person to run the course.
But in his second year, during the semifinals, he "ran it about 5am in the morning, almost as the sun was coming up."
"It was freezing and we'd just been there for like 12 hours," he said.
Eichenstein admitted that the most difficult part of running the course is the margin of error.
He revealed that the ninjas don't get to practice the course beforehand and shared more details about the unknown obstacles.
"If we think that a bar is going to spin or we think it's not going to spin or it's going to be slippery and we're not ready for it."
He added: "You have to trust your muscle memory, not get nervous, and still be able to focus enough."
Eichenstein shared that he was inspired to apply for the show because it "looks like so much fun."
He tried the workout and, admittedly, "wasn't super good" at first – but that didn't stop him.
"I just got the bug. I had to keep doing it," he said.
So Eichenstein pursued competing and training full-time, opening Ferox Athletics in the process.
As far as the application and audition process, he said it wasn't as complex as some might think.
He had to make a three-minute video explaining a bit about himself and his training and send that, along with a written application, to the show's producers.
'ENTER THE ZONE'
When it comes to preparing to run the show's course, Eichenstein said, "everybody has a different routine and different things work for everyone."
He shared that some will focus in on the obstacles and think about the techniques they need to employ to succeed.
"For me, personally, what I do for about 45 minutes beforethe show, I'll put a certain song in my ears just over and over and over again," he said.
"I literally enter the zone and I turn into a robot.
"If you watch my runs, you'll see through the first two obstacles I'm still mouthing the words to myself of the song.
"Otherwise the nerves overtake me.
"You just have to zone out," Eichenstein said.
A BALANCING ACT
Eichenstein revealed more about his time on the show and the particular element he's been hung up on.
He shared that every year on the show, the third obstacle is usually a balance or agility element.
During his first season on the show, he fell on the balance obstacle, calling it "a little slip-up."
"So then the next year, coming on, all I could think about was that balance obstacle," Eichenstein said.
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"When I got through that in the first round, that was just such a weight lifted off my shoulders and then I ended up making it to finals."
Eichenstein is continuing his work as director of Ferox Athletics while he waits to see if he's been accepted to compete in the upcoming season of American Ninja Warrior.
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