American Ninja Warrior held its first Couples Championship on Monday, 9/18/2023, in which veteran Ninja couple Jesse Labreck and Chris DiGangi competed to win $25,000.
Labreck and DiGangi are accomplished Ninjas, each holding 10 buzzers a piece in their American Ninja Warrior careers.
Hampton Fitness Elite Athlete Jesse Labreck made her first appearance on American Ninja Warrior in 2016. Since then, she has gone on to become one of the most consistent and accomplished female Ninjas in the show’s history.
She holds the most buzzers (10 total) of any other female competitor and won the women’s competition during season 13.
Jesse and Chris first met on the set of American Ninja Warrior, and as their relationship has grown alongside their ANW careers, competing in the first Couples Championship brings things full circle.
Setting the Stage for the Couples Championship
The Couples Championship consisted of two rounds of relay-style obstacles, with the top two overall teams advancing to the finals, where they had to execute their skills on the Power Tower to win it all.
In round 1, Labreck and DiGangi went a perfect 6-for-6, quickly advancing as the favorite in round 2. The skill of both Jesse and Chris made round 1 look like a walk in the park to the average viewer.
In round 2, the stakes increased as each team had to battle through 10 obstacles. In the first half of round 2, team Labreck and DiGangi again went a perfect 6-for-6, then tackled the following two obstacles, upping the ante to 8-for-8.
On the 9th obstacle, named “Flipped Around,” Jesse cruised through it until the very end, when her foot slipped, and she fell into the water. Chris then stepped in to complete the 10th obstacle, picking up the half-point needed to take the team to the finals.
The Finals: The Power Tower
In the finals, Jesse and Chris faced off against American Ninja Warrior couple Kyle Soderman & Megan Johnson.
Soderman was explosive out of the gate and took an early lead on DiGangi. Chris laid it all on the line and started making up ground to give Jesse a fighting chance at crossing the finish line and winning the $25,000 prize.
It was down to the wire, but team Labreck and DiGangi came up just short of winning it all.
Watching Jesse and Chris work together as a team is inspiring on a fitness level. Still, their unconditional love and support of each other as they conquer life together is even more inspiring.
When asked what’s the most nerve-wracking part of competing in American Ninja Warrior, they’ll tell you it’s watching each other compete!
What does it take to compete on American Ninja Warrior?
Competing on ANW takes an array of not only athletic skills but mental endurance and confidence as well.
If you’re thinking about trying to become a Ninja, you’ll definitely need to work on speed, balance, and upper body strength.
Here’s a quick go-to compound exercise that works your upper back, lower back, hips, and arms.
The barbell row is a staple for building back muscle mass. Here is how to execute the exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Place a loaded barbell on the ground in front of you.
- Bend at your hips and knees to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor.
- Keep your back straight chest up, and maintain a neutral spine.
- Bend over and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing down) slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Your hands should be just outside your knees.
3. Starting Position
- Keep your core engaged and your back flat.
- Your arms should be fully extended, and the barbell should hang directly below your shoulders.
- Pull the barbell toward your lower rib cage by retracting your shoulder blades and driving your elbows back.
- Keep the barbell close to your body throughout the movement.
- Exhale as you pull the barbell up.
5. Squeeze and Hold
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Hold this position for a brief pause to maximize muscle engagement.
6. Lower the Barbell
- Lower the barbell back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.
- Inhale as you lower the weight.
- Perform the desired number of repetitions for muscle mass building, typically 8-12.
8. Safety Tips
- Maintain proper form throughout the exercise to prevent injury.
- Use a weight that allows you to complete your desired number of reps with good form.
- Don’t jerk or use momentum to lift the barbell; focus on the back muscles.
- Different variations of the Barbell Row, including the Pendlay Row and Yates Row, may target slightly different areas of the back.