Brent SteffensenBrent Steffensen is what you’d consider a seasoned vet on ANW, with a couple of years of experience under his belt (including two trips to Japan for Sasuke). A former gymnast, stuntman and snowboarder, Steffensen acknowledged another physical discipline that prepared him for the rigors of being a modern day Ninja Warrior.

“For about seven years or so, I’ve been doing a lot of free reign parkour,” says Steffensen, referring to the YouTube sensation of running, rolling, jumping and vaulting your body through urban obstacle courses. “ANW really attracts the parkour crowd, and has given me and others the opportunity to put all that stuff to use in a new way. It’s definitely an advantage, as far as training and learning all the disciplines.”

When it comes to preparing for ANW, Steffensen focuses on functional circuit training to get his body into the type of shape required for the grueling, multifaceted obstacle courses on the show. “Lots of chin-ups, variations of chin-ups, core exercises, lunges, push-ups," Steffensen elaborates. “Circuit training comes in handy, because when you’re doing the course, it’s basically like you’re doing circuits. You’re expending all your energy on one obstacle, and then you get a little bit of rest before the next one. Functional body weight exercising really comes into play; you need to be familiar with how to balance your body weight.”

Another huge part of the preparation is diet, and Steffensen makes sure to keep healthy eating habits. “To get the best performance out of your body, you have to put some good fuel in it,” said Steffensen. “I try to eat as healthy as I can, lots of salads, stay away from processed foods and sugars. If it comes from the ground, I’ll eat it.”

Steffensen will be one of many eager competitors this season with hopes of becoming the first “true” American Ninja Warrior, now that the show will conclude on U.S. soil for the first time. At stake is $500,000 when the show’s finale airs this summer in Las Vegas. Iseman noted that while there are a lot of reality-based competition shows out there (i.e., Survivor, The Amazing Race), nothing quite compares to ANW.

“It’s in the reality genre, but there’s more of a sporting element to it,” he says. “Survivor and those shows are all about devious personalities and the gamesmanship of that. This show isn’t as much about people competing against each other as it is competing against the course and competing against themselves. We do a good job of not only presenting the athletic angle, but also telling the stories behind these competitors. You get attached to them, and attached to their journey, from the qualifying rounds all the way to Mount Midoriyama.”