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A brief history of Ninja Warrior’s diminishing first obstacle

The Shrinking Steps are the latest in a trend of downsizing obstacle one.

Secrets from season 11 of American Ninja Warrior are still under wraps as the show tours around the country for the Qualifiers and City Finals. One new aspect revealed was a new first obstacle, the Shrinking Steps. It might have come as a shock to the LA contestants, but now that it’s out there, we’re sure the Ninjas will replicate and master it with lightning speed.

It did get us thinking about the history of the first obstacle. The obstacle sets the tone for the Qualifying and City Final courses. And it has gone through quite a few iterations over the show’s decade of production. One thing we noticed is that, of recent, the first obstacle has been on the path to downsizing.

Quintuple Steps, Season One

The show debuted with five slanted platforms that competitors could run across or leap to and from.

Quad Steps, Seasons Two - Four

The difference here was pretty straight forward, with four steps instead of five, removing one of the steps. This was the first attempt at shaving down the size of the first obstacle.

Quintuple Steps, Seasons Five - Seven

Apparently, they missed the original. The fifth step was put back into play after three seasons.

Floating Steps, Seasons Eight - Ten

The first obstacle got an overhaul for season eight. The Floating Steps were small, steep, and ascending. They also introduced a rope swing to transfer off the obstacle and a BIG loss in usable real estate for the Ninjas.

Brandon Hickman/NBC

Season 10, Archer Steps

While the Floating Steps were still the first obstacle of the Qualifying courses this season, the City Finals got their own distinct steps. The Archer Steps are two angled, triangular platforms that spin when disturbed.

Bill McCay/NBC

Shrinking Steps, Season 11

The “angled platforms” finally got a total shake up this season. We discussed the obstacle in this article. There are still five steps, and they still ascend, but it requires a whole new strategy. Ninjas can’t hesitate at all to survive this obstacle. But the most obvious change is that the platforms are much, MUCH smaller.

After this, it’s not possible to go any smaller. Right...? RIGHT?!?