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The American Ninja Warrior glossary: Round three

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Help us build out this list. It could be never-ending...

American Ninja Warrior - Season 12 Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Recently, we asked you to share which American Ninja Warrior terms should be included in a glossary. Oh my, we’ve opened up a rabbit hole!

All the ins and outs of the show feel like second nature to those of us who’ve avidly watched for years. But as the show grows in popularity, more and more new viewers are joining us and trying to catch up on the lingo. To that end, we’ve started this glossary to help decode some of American Ninja Warrior’s language.

This thing has the potential to become a beast! We started by just including the terms the readers suggested, and added in a couple more that we felt were important right off the bat. But there are a LOT more that can be added, so keep those suggestions coming!

Remember: We want to try to include terms that are used on the show’s broadcast. (Not the top-secret words you Ninjas use amongst yourselves. Sorry, friends!) We’re also not including obstacle names and definitions here because... that is an entirely different can of worms.

Additionally, these terms can have varying meanings. We’ve started with how we’d define them. Don’t agree? Let us know in the comments!

Here’s round three of the American Ninja Warrior glossary! Add your suggestions for terms or definitions in the comment section to be included an upcoming round!

Additionally, here are some other articles that help break down the basics of the show.


  • Beta
    A rock-climbing term that has made its way into Ninja Warrior jargon. It means information about the various ways through an obstacle.
    Example: “Ask Jesse about her beta. She got through the Rolling Thunder.”
  • Buzzer
    The completion point of the obstacle course.
    Example: “He was so close, but timed out before he hit the buzzer.”
  • Cargo Net
    A net made from thick ropes that is featured as part of many courses and obstacles. Ninjas generally have to climb up, or across this net.
    Example: “That Ninja just missed grabbing the cargo net on the Flying Squirrel!”
Ninjas completed Stage One after climbing the cargo net to the buzzer.
David Becker/NBC
  • City Finals
    The round of competition that follows the Qualifiers. Each City Finals course features 10 obstacles. The top 13-15 Ninjas who either completed the course or went the farthest the fastest advance from the City Finals to the National Finals. (More on that process here.)
    Example: “He made it to the City Finals after completing the Qualifying course.”
  • Dead Hang
    When a competitor hangs from an obstacle with their arms straight. It generally puts more pressure than desired on the hands and fingers instead of the arm muscles, and can indicate fatigue on the course.
    Example: “He’s in a dead hang. He’s got to be exhausted!”
  • Digested
    A run that was not shown in its entirety, or was part of a montage of several runs. This is a tactic used by production to show how a competitor fared while saving time in the program. Also referred to as a “Fast-Forward.”
    Example: “Her run was digested, but we saw that she made it to the Salmon Ladder.”
  • Fast-Forward
    Interchangeable with “Digested.” A run that was not shown in its entirety, or was part of a montage of several runs.
  • Full Send
    Using every ounce of strength to commit to a very big movement or transition.
    Example: “He better go full send if he wants to make this move on the Ultimate Cliffhanger.”
  • Final Climb
    An alternative way to describe the fourth stage of the National Finals. This stage requires competitors to complete a 75-foot rope climb in under 30 seconds in order to become a “Grand Champion.”
    Example: “When Isaac Caldiero completed the Final Climb faster than Geoff Britten, he was declared the winner.”
Daniel Gil prepares to start the “Final Climb.”
David Becker/NBC
  • Grand Champion
    A Ninja who moved through both the Qualifying and City Finals courses, and then completed all four stages of the National Finals, claiming the $1 million prize.
    Example: “Isaac Caldiero is a Grand Champion.”
  • I See You
    A phrase most commonly used by Akbar Gbajabiamila on the show. It’s his way of acknowledging a competitor’s determination or accomplishment on the course.
    Example: “Look at that Ninja, refusing to let go. I see you!”
  • Kip
    In gymnastics, a kip is a move where the athlete pulls themselves up to bring the bar to waist height. On Ninja Warrior, it’s also a small, controlled hop forward on an obstacle.
    Example: “She’s kipping to get the bar in just the right spot before she dismounts.”
  • L’s
    A term made popular by host Akbar Gbajabiamila to describe a “Lock Off.” It’s the 90-degree angle a competitor keeps their elbow at to conserve strength while navigating an upper-body obstacle.
    Example: “Once he couldn’t keep his L’s on the pegboard, we knew his run was close to over.”
Dan Yager demonstrates “L’s” or lock-offs while traversing the Power Tower.
Matthew Hayward/NBC
  • Laché
    A gymnastics term that describes a move used to transfer between obstacles, or between parts of an obstacle. The competitor swings their body back and forth to gain momentum. They then release and grab to make forward progression.
    Example: “That obstacle requires a series of lachés to complete.”
  • Lactic Acid
    An organic acid that builds up in areas of the body during strenuous exercise. It can hasten muscle fatigue and create a burning sensation.
    Example: “She’s been on this obstacle for a long time. You know that lactic acid is starting to build up in her arms.”
  • Last Ninja Standing
    A term used to describe the competitor who goes the farthest in each season, generally in a season without a winner. Starting in season 10, this accolade earned the competitor a $100,000 prize.
    Example: “Joe Moravsky has been the Last Ninja Standing twice in his career.”
  • Lock Off
    When a competitor keeps their arms and elbows at a 90-degree angle to maintain strength on an upper-body obstacle. Also called “L’s.”
    Example: “She better lock off if she wants to make it across that obstacle.”
  • Mount Midoriyama
    A term that originated with American Ninja Warrior’s Japanese predecessor “Sasuke.” It describes the location of the final four stages of the competition. In American Ninja Warrior, it is more commonly referred to as the “National Finals.”
    Example: “He made it all the way to Mount Midoriyama, but he fell on Stage One.”
  • National Finals
    In American Ninja Warrior, it is the location of the final four stages of the competition, taking place after the City Finals. Generally, this is in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once at the National Finals, Ninjas can only advance by completing each stage in the time allotted.
    Example: “After finishing the City Finals course, she qualified for the National Finals in Las Vegas.”
  • Ninja Killer
    An obstacle that is considered difficult. Many competitors fail to complete it. (It does not mean that many competitors were injured on it.)
    Example: “No one got past the Angry Birds in Baltimore. It was a Ninja Killer.”
The Angry Birds obstacle was considered a “Ninja Killer.”
William Gray/NBC
  • Ninjury
    An injury that occurs while training for or competing in a Ninja Warrior competition.
    Example: “Sean Bryan dislocated his shoulder on Stage One. It was an awful Ninjury.”
  • OG
    Used to refer to the remaining “original” Ninjas, competitors who’ve taken part in every season of the show. As of season 11, there were four OG Ninjas: Ryan Stratis, Brian Kretsch, David Campbell, and Lorin Ball.
    Example: “In season 11, all the OGs made it to the National Finals!”
  • On the Bubble
    When a competitor’s placement on the leaderboard puts them in a precarious position in regards to advancing.
    Example: “Look at his face. He knows he’s on the bubble. If this next competitor reaches the eighth obstacle, he won’t advance to the National Finals.”
  • Power Tower
    A bonus obstacle available in the Qualifiers and City Finals. The two fastest finishers (or farthest the fastest) race head-to-head on the Power Tower for the Speed Pass in Qualifiers and the Safety Pass in the City Finals.
    Example: “After hitting the City Finals buzzer in record time, he moved on to the Power Tower.”
  • Pumped
    When a competitor has exhausted a muscle group and can no longer maintain the strength needed to complete the obstacle.
    Example: “Oh no! She’s completely pumped after the Salmon Ladder!”
  • Qualifiers
    The first round of American Ninja Warrior competition. Approximately 100 competitors in each region run the Qualifier course, which consists of six obstacles. The top 30-35 competitors who complete the course or make it the farthest the fastest, advance to the City Finals.
    Example: “He didn’t complete the Warped Wall, but his time was fast enough to get him to the City Finals.”
  • Reverse Grab
    When a Ninja needs to catch hold of an obstacle with both their palms facing towards their body, instead of away.
    Example: “That Ninja was SO close, but she missed the tricky reverse grab!”
Chris DiGangi showcasing a reverse grab.
  • Rookie
    A Ninja taking part in their first season of competition.
    Example: “Jesse Labreck was the first female rookie to qualify for the National Finals.”
  • Safety Pass
    The prize awarded by winning the Power Tower race after the City Finals. It allows the competitor to call a do-over on Stage One or Stage Two of the National Finals if they fall or time out on the course.
    Example: “Flip fell on Stage One, but advanced to Stage Two after using his Safety Pass and running again.”
  • Sell Out
    This refers to when a Ninja opts for time on the course and goes as fast as they can, increasing the odds that a small mistake could end their run.
    Example: “Look at him go! That Ninja is selling out! He definitely wants a shot at the Power Tower.”
  • Shaking Out
    Shaking a limb to help the lactic acid build up to dissipate from that area. It can provide the Ninja with the feeling that they have more strength to carry on.
    Example: He’s taking time to shake out those arms before he starts the next obstacle, but he better keep an eye on the clock!
  • Speed Pass
    The prize awarded by winning the Power Tower race after the Qualifiers. It allows the competitor to advance directly to the National Finals, without needing to run the City Finals course. Alternatively, it allows the competitor to run the City Finals course with no fear of not making the top 12.
    Example: “She fell early on the City Finals course, but we’ll still see her in Vegas since she has the Speed Pass.”
Jackson Twait and Ethan Swanson compete for the Speed Pass in Cincinnati.
Dennis Mong/NBC
  • Splash
    Falling from an obstacle and hitting the water. This ends a competitor’s run.
    Example: His run ended with a splash.
  • Stage One, Two, Three, Four
    These are the final four stages of competition. They take place at the National Finals in Las Vegas. To achieve Total Victory, a Ninja must complete all four stages.
    Example: After a strong showing on Stage One and Two, his season ended on Stage Three.
  • Striations
    Generally used to describe grooves and marks within rocks. On Ninja Warrior, it’s used to emphasize the look of a Ninja’s muscles when flexed.
    Example: “Do you see the ripples on his back? Check out those striations!”
  • Switch Grip
    A position in which a Ninja grasps a bar with one hand facing forward and one hand facing towards them. It can help the competitor maintain a level, stable grip when precise movements are needed. By changing the hand positions, reversing the switch grip, they can also tap into an additional pool of strength.
    Example: Drew used a switch grip on the Flying Bar on Stage Three.
Lorin Ball demonstrating a switch grip.
  • Total Victory
    This refers to the act of completing all four stages of the National Finals.
    Example: “She did it! She finished the Final Climb and achieved Total Victory!”
  • Time Limit
    The amount of time in which a competitor must complete a course in order to advance. Generally, only Stage One and Two of the National Finals have a strict time limit.
    Example: “He got through all the obstacles of Stage One, but he hit the buzzer just one second after the time limit expired.”
  • Veteran
    A Ninja who has participated in multiple seasons of the show.
    Example: “After five seasons, she’s now an experienced veteran on the course.”
  • Walk-On
    A competitor who ran the course after being selected from the walk-on lottery, as opposed to being selected by the producers and casting department. Historically, Ninjas needed to wait in line for weeks before filming for a chance to walk-on.
    Example: “No one predicted this guy would be a break-out star! But he’s made it farther than any other walk-on this season.”
  • Winner
    Alternatively called a “Grand Champion.” A Ninja who has completed all four stages of the National Finals, thus “winning” American Ninja Warrior.
    Example: “Season 11 of American Ninja Warrior had a winner!”
  • Women’s Rule
    A rule that advances women through the competition with their own leaderboard. In the Qualifiers, the top five women advance to the City Finals, regardless of their position in or out of the top 30. In the City Finals, the top two women advance to the National Finals, regardless of their position in or out of the top 12. (More on that rule here.)
    Example: “She came in 13th overall in the City Finals, but the Women’s Rule put her into the City Finals.”