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Ben Wales designs courses to challenge American Ninja Warriors like Jake Murray and Grant McCartney

Ben designs the obstacles and courses at Conquer Ninja Gym in Minneapolis.

Conquer Ninja Warrior is a Minnesota based gym with two locations, Eden Prairie and Woodbury. They specialize in only Ninja Warrior style training, hosting competitions, classes and open gyms for those looking to hone their Ninja skills.

They even built a 21 foot tall Warped Wall. Jennifer Tavernier, an Instagram fitness star and American Ninja Warrior, works at the gym as a trainer. By hosting Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association qualifying competitions, Conquer Ninja Warrior has had some of the top names in the sport run their courses, such as Jake Murray and Grant McCartney.

In the past year and a half, Conquer has hosted five Ninja Warrior competitions. All of the courses have been designed by Ben Wales. Ben, an aspiring American Ninja Warrior, has taken his background in 3D animation, video game design, and physical fitness to focus on the new niche skill of designing real life courses.

We chatted with Ben to learn more about what goes into designing obstacles and courses that can attract the top Ninjas, but also be used as teaching tools in a gym that caters to everyone from kids to elite athletes.

How did you get involved with Conquer?

I found ads for Conquer Ninja Warrior about a year and a half ago, and it turned out I knew the owner, which was completely coincidental. He hired me the same day that I contacted him. I’ve been working here ever since.

I took over running all the competitions and that led to building the obstacles and working with the owner on how we wanted to design the layout for our new gym that we opened a couple of months ago.

Now we’ve done 4 or 5 competitions and hosted UNAA local and regional qualifiers.

Are you responsible for the 21 foot Warped Wall?

I was there when we were talking about what we wanted to do with Warped Walls at our new gym. We were settled on that we wanted a couple different heights. We wanted a size for little kids, a medium one, and one that is the size of what’s on the TV show currently.

We also decided “Oh we need one that’s way taller than that.” We were like “Why don’t we just cut it all the way to the ceiling of the building, which is 21 feet?”

Then we were looking at every gym we could find in the world and realized that’s the tallest anyway so we should really try and get this done.

I’m a foot or two away [from beating it] even though I’ve tried a few times.

[Currently one two people have defeated the 21 foot Warped Wall at Conquer.]

What are some other unique obstacles that you’ve helped design?

We compiled a list of what we thought were the top 20 iconic obstacles from the show. So all the big major stuff is the stuff you’d see on the show. Every day I come up with new little things that we throw in there. Different holds, different set ups.

What goes into designing a course for a competition?

Essentially, if we’re having multiple stages for a competition, then I would design the first stage to be completable by almost any adult who is in good physical condition and understands the basic techniques of how to get through obstacles.

As the stages go on, there’ll be more obstacles that are physically demanding. For the last stage I want it to be something dramatic. Something that the people watching can get into. Something that has big, dynamic moves to it.

I think the way it’s turned out is about 50% of the competitors move on from each stage. So if we have 40 adults on stage one, about 20 move on. Then from stage 2 about 10 move on, and then depending on if we have 3 or 4 stages of the competition then there’s always the last couple on the last stage. I’ve never had it where everyone went out right away, or everyone made it to the last stage.

What do you enjoy most about designing the courses?

It’s kind of interesting actually. It will be a something I use in my submission video for this coming season too. It’s that I went to school for 3D animation and video game design. But the other side of things is that I’ve been into physical fitness my whole life.

I’m a personal trainer. I teach group fitness. So this is kind of the medium of the two. I get to build real life Ninja courses for people to compete on. I really love that. I lay in bed at night getting more and more excited thinking about new courses. I really enjoy it.

I really like designing the obstacles for the adults [Conquer also hosts kids’ competitions] because you can really push the envelope on things and really let your imagination run wild. With kids you have to be very careful about how difficult you make things. You don’t want all the kids falling on the second obstacle.

If I had to do just one, I would do adults just because you can do some much with different obstacles.

What’s the number one important aspect of designing a good obstacle?

On the TV show, I always like to see an obstacle that has some technical aspect to it. I think they did this on the last season. Almost every obstacle had some little twist to it that you couldn’t just power your way through it. What they put out last season was awesome. I loved the redesign of the Vegas course. I thought those were really well done.

I’m making a Circuit Board and we’re talking where we want to put it in the gym. I was thinking about it and it would be perfect if we put it right above our Spider Climb so that the stronger athletes can do it as another obstacle, but then anyone could just put their legs in the Spider Climb for support at they work their way through.

Have you applied previously for American Ninja Warrior?

I applied last season [season eight] for the first time. I didn’t make it on but I tested the obstacles in Indianapolis. It was awesome. I don’t necessarily feel like I need to do it again. But I went out there and did it and learned about the whole process. I had some friends competing as well.

What’s your favorite part of working specifically with Conquer?

It’s funny. It’s that the owner is super hands off. He wants us to take the reins on things. He gives us a lot of creative freedom.

I haven’t worked for another Ninja Warrior gym but based on my experience working in the fitness industry, it’s a really unique situation where we have so much control over the process and just being creative and designing our own classes and then for myself personally, building obstacles.

The creative freedom has been awesome working with Conquer.

You can follow Conquer Ninja Warrior on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.