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Josh Levin discusses the combination of skills that make up a Ninja

As the rock climber knows well, it takes much more than just strength.

David Becker/NBC

Josh Levin is quickly building up the kind of consistency that is rare to see on American Ninja Warrior. Out of the thousands of athletes who take part every season, only a handful will become familiar and expected faces at the National Finals. We think it’s safe to say Josh is one of them now.

His Ninja career started back in season 8. Where, as a rookie, he was only competitor to complete the Los Angeles City Finals course. He advanced to Stage Two and earned a spot on Team USA during USA vs The World, where he completed Stage Three. Season nine saw Josh once more complete the Qualifying, City Finals, and Stage One courses. The trio of buzzers was again repeated during season 10.

Josh has nine buzzers under his belt after his three seasons on the show. (10 if you include that USA vs The World Stage Three finish.) And that’s not the only thing he’s accomplished lately. Josh also graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. As a long-time, very accomplished rock climber, he has his sights set on joining in on the 2020 Olympics as part of the first rock climbing competition there.

So yes, Josh is familiar with competition and focus. Before he took on the Los Angeles courses for season 10, Josh spoke with us regarding how all his discipline and work has led to this Ninja Warrior career.

What obstacle makes you the most nervous?

JL: An obstacle that makes me a little more nervous is anything that has to do with trampolines. Trampolines are definitely an obstacle that’s super finicky, and as a climber we don’t deal with them on a day-to-day basis. For me, my approach to trampolines is literally to go and practice as much as I can in a Ninja gym or a trampoline park so I can understand how to get right in the sweet spot to get the maximum bounce out of the trampoline.

How has becoming a Ninja Warrior changed non-athletic parts of your life?

JL: Training for American Ninja Warrior, I found that what really affects my life outside of athletic endeavors is being able to share my passion for American Ninja Warrior with others. Having my friends and family coming out to support or even taking a friend who’s never tried Ninja to a local Ninja gym and having them try it for the first time.

It’s been an incredible journey to see how much the sport has grown. I’ve only been in the sport for three years and just to see its growth over that time and see it, not only as a TV show, but as a legitimate sport that could hopefully one day be in the Olympics as well.

Have you changed your training since last season?

JL: A pretty basic change that I made with my training was getting more cardio in. As a rock climber, I used to never do that much cardio. For something specifically like American Ninja Warrior, having that cardio really helps you recover quickly between obstacles on the course. So incorporating a lot of different running types, sprinting, stretching, different amounts of cardio, into my overall workout routine has helped a lot with the course.

In your opinion, what percentage of preparing for Ninja Warrior is mental, and what percentage is physical?

JL: I’d argue there are three different components for Ninja Warrior training. This kind of goes with every sport, but I think with Ninja Warrior and rock climbing, the three aspects are mental, physical and technique. Surprisingly, the biggest gains I’ve had in Ninja Warrior have been specifically with technique. I’ll try an obstacle for the first time and completely fail at it or something like that, and not really understand the subtle body mechanics and physics behind it.

What’s been really cool is that, because of the support of the Ninja Warrior community as a whole, I’ll have someone like Drew Drechsel or Brian Kretsch come in and help me understand. Like, ‘Okay, if you use your leg this way, or swing your hips a little bit differently, it makes a huge difference.’ It helps you get through the obstacles much more efficiently, much quicker, and with much less energy.

Combining the three, you have the physical approach. You have to make sure you’re strong, you’re fit, you’re in shape. The mental approach, how you compete as a competitor and understanding how to really step up to the line when all the lights and cameras are on you. And then, of course, the technique. Combining those three, I think it’s pretty equal in Ninja Warrior specifically to make sure you go through the obstacles efficiently, quickly and make sure you hit that buzzer at the end.

As a long time competitor in rock climbing, I feel that my mental strength is something I rely on probably the most out of the three components. It definitely helps having a background in competition. Having the lights and cameras on you at the starting line, knowing that this is your moment to shine, you really have to dial in every single thing that you know you can control, and put everything else aside that you know you cannot control. Understanding the balance between those two is really important to making sure that when you step up to the line, you’re confident in your own abilities. You know what you’re going to do. You have a game plan. You’ve done everything you possibly could to prepare just for that moment. Then when you step up, let it all go, get through all those obstacle, hit that buzzer.

Any one else think Stage Two will finally fall to Josh during season 11?