In nature, when salmon make their way into a commercial hatchery to breed, they swim upstream, and leap over a series of gates to get to their destination. Today, we’re going to be taking an up close look at one of the most common obstacle course training obstacles, and one that borrows its name from the fish that swim against the current, and leap over gates. Let’s break down the best way to master the Salmon Ladder.

For those that have not yet visited our Fenton, Michigan location and have not yet seen the Salmon Ladder in person, a Salmon Ladder is pull up bar that rests on a vertical series of rungs. Much like the salmon swimming upstream, the athlete must pull themselves up on the pull up bar, while simultaneously moving the pull up bar up to the next set of rungs. The result is an impressive feat of upper body strength and coordination.


The key to mastering the Salmon Ladder is to practice both explosive leaping pull-ups, or alternatively, using a swinging technique with your legs and hips. We’ll take a closer look at each method, and the most efficient way to practice for this common Ninja Warrior obstacle.

1. The method that season 7 Ninja Warrior competitor JJ Woods finds easiest, and what seems to be the most common method of defeating the Salmon Ladder is the explosive pull up. By exploding your body upwards with each pull up, extending your arms and carrying your body weight with your knees, you can reach a small moment of zero gravity at the apex of the pull-up. During this time, snap the bar upwards, aiming for the base of the pegs above the next pegs to give yourself room for error. When done properly, it may look like you are doing ‘The Worm’ vertically.

2. An alternative way to approach the Salmon Ladder is by holding onto the bar with your arms wider than shoulder level, and swinging your legs and hips upwards to create upward momentum throughout your body, using this momentum, you snap the bar up to next set of rungs just as you would during the zero gravity moment of the first method. The main difference between the two methods is how you achieve the moment of zero gravity. The first method relies on your upper body strength, while the second relies more on core strength and hip momentum.

To practice for the Salmon Ladder, we recommend mastering pull-ups, and then training to do explosive pull-ups to achieve the moment of zero gravity necessary to snap the bar up to the next set of rungs. It helps to bend your arms slightly, rather than extending them fully, this way you don’t have to pull yourself all the way up with each explosive pull-up.

Come back soon for more Tri County Ninja news and a closer look at some of our most difficult obstacles. For more information, look here on our website or reach us by phone!