The Best Landmine Exercises You’ve Never Done
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
The Landmine is one of the most versatile training tools in existence. Unfortunately, many lifters limit its application to basic rows, goblet squats, and presses. Fortunately, there are dozens of unique exercises that can be performed with it. Here are some of my favorites.
Iron Grip Landmine Deadlifts
Iron grip landmine deadlifts are without a doubt one of the most safe, natural, and effective methods I’ve ever used for performing heavy deadlifts. Yes traditional landmine deadlifts gripping the collar are great however grip is usually the limiting factor. This is quickly resolved by simply holding the iron grip plates as most folks can grip exponentially more weight in this fashion. Here I’m performing 10 unique iron grip landmine deadlift variations alongside my awesome figure and bodybuilding clients including Leslie Petch, Eric McIntyre, and Ben Lai.
Because the weight is located between the legs and directly under the center of mass rather than in front it essentially feels like a kettlebell or dumbbell deadlift as it represents a very biomechanically safe position to perform deadlifts from. However, rather than being limited to the weight of the kettlebell or dumbbell, these allow the lifter to overload the daylights out of the movement as you can easily use well over 500 total pounds on the bar by simply stacking on plates. The wide plates also help eliminate valgus knee collapse as the lifter will be required to keep their knees pushed out to accommodate the plates.
In reality the movement has many similar benefits and attributes as a trap bar deadlift due to the load being next to the center of mass as well as the more elevated starting position which makes these very low back friendly. Furthermore, the ability to use a wider stance ends up feeling even more natural for some folks especially those with limited mobility. It also transfers exceptionally well to squats as well as sumo deadlifts or squat stance deadlifts not to mention the wider stance is typically a bit more conducive for targeting the glutes as well as the inner thighs. With that said, alternating between these and trap bar deadlifts would be a great way to program them.
Another very unique feature of iron grip landmine deadlifts is the incredible versatility and ability to use a variety of modifications. Facing towards the landmine helps ensure the weight stays closer to you in the bottom of the lift (the position many folks have a tendency to injure their low backs on). Facing away from the landmine anchor points allows the lifter to work on their deadlift lockout as the movement naturally pulls up and slightly back at the top thereby reinforcing hip extension. The only downside with the rear facing variation is that the weight ends up being slightly more in front of the body in the more volatile bottom position of the deadlift.
The close grip using a single iron grip slot is probably the strongest, most natural and simple, however, for folks who have trouble with anterior shoulder drift (shoulder rounding) this may not be ideal. The dual overhand grip although slightly more challenging allows the shoulders to naturally spread thereby reinforcing shoulder retraction. For larger lifters this may be optimal. The underhand grip which represents the most challenging position is also incredibly effective for ingraining shoulder retraction and external rotation of the shoulders as the lifter has no choice but to pin the shoulders back. This also does wonders for eliminating spinal flexion as it’s nearly impossible to allow the back to round when using the dual underhand grip.
Eccentric isometric protocols can easily be applied by simply standing on plates and performing a slow and controlled eccentric motion, pausing at the 90 degree position, then powerfully exploding upwards. In fact this represents one of the most safe and natural methods for performing deadlifts with either a slow eccentric or eccentric isometric protocol.
Lastly accommodating resistance can easily be applied by simply anchoring bands or chains to the barbell or landmine.
On a side note, 35 pound plates end up being a bit easier for medium to shorter individuals to fit the weights between their legs. The 45 pound plates allow for a higher starting point however some athletes may find they have to take an excessively wide stance to fit the larger plates between their legs. Generally speaking for athletes under 6 feet the 35 plates will be optimal, whereas folks over 6 feet may opt for the 45’s.
It should also be noted that this setup is superior to using a v-grip t-bar handle attached to the bar for several reasons. First, the grip takes up substantial room on the collar (approximately 3-4 plates) limiting how much weight you can actually place on the bar and overload the deadlift. Second the close neutral grip tends to feel quite awkward on the wrists due to the angled nature of the landmine station. Thirdly, it can be difficult to find the exact position the handle needs to set in particularly with heavier loads especially since the handle can slide up or down. Lastly for numerous reasons the iron grip simply feels much more natural and comfortable not to mention it reinforces optimal knee spread. For lighter loads the v-grip bar will suffice but with heavier loads the iron grip plate method is far superior.
Additionally, single arm deadlift variations using the iron grip landmine protocol are even more versatile than the double arm versions as the lifter can face towards, away from, or laterally to the landmine anchor point. This provides many options including lateral/suitcase deadlifts, lunge or split stance deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, and more.
Another unique bonus feature of the iron grip landmine protocol is it’s perhaps the only known method for performing single arm Reeves deadlifts. The Reeves deadlift (developed by famous bodybuilder and Hercules actor Steve Reeves) is an old school bodybuilding movement where the lifter grips the plates rather than the actually barbell. These are known for torching the upper back and postural muscles due the extremely wide grip.
Over the years I’ve tried to devise various ways to perform these in a single arm fashion knowing that such a move would provide great benefit not only for the upper back and lats but also the core musculature. Unfortunately I’ve always come up empty handed in terms of finding a suitable way to do this, that is until now, as the iron grip landmine deadlift protocol represents the perfect method for performing single arm Reeves Deadlifts. Simply move anywhere from 16-24 inches laterally away from the plate and perform deadlifts. Besides blasting the upper back and legs the core gets absolutely pulverized due to the high levels of anti-lateral flexion needed to maintain a neutral spine and avoid losing your base.
Converging Landmine Press
Looking for a shoulder press variation that’s not only very joint friendly but also crushes the deltoids and upper body through a biomechanically efficient and natural movement path? Try this converging overhead landmine press that I demonstrate from a kneeling position.
When you examine the overhead press one could make an argument that the most natural path is to have a wider hand position at the bottom and a closer hand position at the top. In other words, the hand would be more lateral to the body in the stretched position & more medial toward the midline of the body in the top contracted position (i.e. converging path). This is simply indicative of the natural scapulohumeral rhythm that occurs in the glenohumeral joint during most pressing motions.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit tricky to replicate this motion with free weights although dumbbells and kettlebells do provide a moderate amount of freedom to slightly simulate this motion. However, this kneeling landmine press truly mimics the natural motion of the shoulder joint during an overhead press as it diverges (spreads away from the body) during the eccentric bottom position while converging (moving towards the midline) during the concentric top phase.
Ironically, many variable resistance machine companies over the years have attempted to replicate these biomechanical properties in their equipment, however, they typically feel semi-unnatural and awkward. This landmine variation on the other hand feels incredibly natural. As a bonus there’s some serious anteroposterior instability due to the rotational nature of the landmine station. If you press too far in back or in front of the body you’ll find it difficult to maintain balance. Simply put, this forces you to lock your mechanics in from a mediolateral component as well as an anteroposterior component.
Landmine Thruster With Band Resistance
The barbell thruster exercise has become a CrossFit staple over the years. However, if we examine the movement more closely we can see there is a significant mismatch of force vectors. For example, during the bottom of a properly performed front squat the lifter should demonstrate a slightly forward torso lean of 10-20 degrees as this simply indicates optimal biomechanics with the hips set back as they should be. The resulting force vectors produced from this position on the subsequent concentric phase would indicate that the bar is ready to be launched up and slightly forward at that same 10-20 degree angle.
Unfortunately, due to gravitational forces and the nature of barbell movements, the lifter must immediately alter the natural path of the barbell and press it up and slightly behind them. While it’s obviously a movement that any lifter can adapt to over time and learn to make these adjustments, this arguably represents an unfavorable kinematic sequence. In fact, one of the main reasons why the push press exercise (arguably a more functional movement) is performed with such an abbreviated squat (which is actually more of a shortened dip and knee bend) is because it keeps the lifter’s torso in a more upright position thereby optimizing the force vectors for the overhead launch.
With that said, one could argue that the landmine represents the optimal tool for performing the overhead thruster as it allows the lifter to maintain the slight torso lean throughout (particularly during the bottom of the squat) while still maintaining a force vector that is perpendicular to the barbell. Here’s one of my awesome clients and national figure athletes Leslie Petch showing how it’s done while also using accommodating resistance in the form of band resistance. This further emphasizes the explosive power element of this exercise while also placing more constant tension on the targeted musculature since the strength curve of the exercise more closely matches that of the body (i.e. less tension in the weaker bottom position and greater tension in the stronger top position).
Perhaps the only drawback of this movement is the close grip the lifter is required to use which makes lockout a bit more difficult. Purmotion makes several incredible landmine attachments that resolve this. Read more here.
Lastly, you’ll notice a slight yet natural arch in the spine during this movement. This represents a natural position for the body during any overhead press as complete elimination of the natural arch will place undue stress on the shoulders and neck as well as the back. As long as the arch is not excessive (i.e. the hips coming forward or cervical spine extending) a slight natural curve is optimal provided the lifter maintains a tight and braced core throughout.
OFFSET LEVERAGE LANDMINE WITH BANA ECCENTRIC OVERLOAD
Over the last few years I’ve posted various articles and videos highlighting the offset leverage landmine method. Not only can it be applied to just about every foundational movement pattern but it also does wonders for teaching lifters how to deal with offset loading in a variety of ways.
What I’ve recently come to realize is that this method can easily combined with the BANA 2:1 (bilateral assisted negative accentuated) protocol to efficiently create eccentric overload. Read more about numerous other unique landmine eccentric overload exercises here.
In fact, I’m actually somewhat proud of this protocol as it’s quite remarkable how perfect and effective of an eccentric accentuated training protocol it is. Let me explain.
While the eccentric accentuated BANA 2:1 method is one of the most effective self-assisted eccentric overload methods, you essentially have a slight break mid rep as you use the other limb to assist the unilateral side. For instance during the concentric phase of any standard BANA exercise (i.e. machine chest press), both limbs will work equally, essentially providing a form of rest.
The offset leverage landmine protocol on the other hand allows the lifter to focus predominantly on one side and really crush it with maximal intensity as the assisting arm can only provide very light and partial assistance on the concentric phase of the exercise rather than complete assistance. As a result both the eccentric and concentric phases end up being close to maximal effort rather than the concentric simply being a “throw away” portion of the movement that provides minimal stimulus. In other words, both the eccentric and concentric phases provide an ample hypertrophy stimulus.
The other reason this is so effective is the eccentric co-contraction element of the protocol which happens to be a critical component of optimal neuromuscular efficiency during all movement. It just so happens this method reinforces it. For instance, during the chest press, the assisting/non working arm is forced to snap into an aggressive rowing position to pull the arm out of the way. This in turn creates enormous lat activation and co-contraction of the chest and back during the eccentric phase. As a result this produces incredibly strong concentric contractions due to enhanced reciprocal inhibition where the back muscles fully release on the concentric. Simply put, it creates a slingshot effect or spring loaded mechanism that sets the lifter up for maximal concentric torque and muscle activation. This is a bit of a complex topic but its something I cover in a lot more depth in my book Movement Redefined.
Read more about other eccentric landmine variations here.
Incline Landmine Press
Looking for a unique way to spice up your chest training? Try this incline landmine chest press (with head off protocol) as shown by my awesome client Todd Weiland. Similar to any landmine variation this can be performed as a single or double arm version.
Regardless of the variation you choose there is a specific reason I like the incline landmine chest press. Although performing a traditional landmine chest press on the floor requires less setup the incline version actually represents a position where the force vectors of the landmine are better suited to the incline position. That’s because for most variations on the landmine station we’re looking to create a force vector that’s as perpendicular to the landmine station/barbell as possible. When you’re laying at a 20-30 degree incline as shown here, the angle of the pressing arm is almost perfectly perpendicular to the barbell thereby creating force vectors that are more suitably matched to one another.
In reality, even though this looks like an incline press, the force vectors are such that this more closely mimics a flat position chest press whereas the floor versions more closely mimic a decline press position. Similarly, standing or tall kneeling presses on the landmine station are actually more similar to a combination incline press and overhead press. In other words the targeted musculature has less to do with the position our body is in and more to do with the relative angles between the pressing arm and the landmine/barbell. With all that said the incline position as shown here not only feels very comfortable and natural on the joints but the tension to the chest and pectorals is significant to say the least.
Landmine Squeeze Press with Bands
Looking for a horizontal pressing exercise that absolutely torches the chest yet also happens to be incredibly joint friendly? Try this landmine squeeze chest press with band resistance as I show here.
The combination of the close grip and accommodating resistance creates enormous levels of intramuscular tension, especially on the chest and triceps, making this a brutally effective functional hypertrophy exercise.
Just make sure to keep your shoulders pinned back and depressed throughout in order to avoid shoulder crowding. Additionally, allow the elbows to rotate around the body rather than simply having them move up and down. Performing a basic rowing movement before each set can help reinforce optimal upper back and lat activation thereby ensuring a more optimal glenohumeral joint position and natural scapulohumeral rhythm. Learn more about the squeeze press here.
Incline rowing variations are some of my favorite exercises for targeting the upper back and lats while also minimizing stress to the low back and spine. It’s also an excellent drill for teaching proper posture. Simply focus on maintaining a tall and elongated spine throughout without letting your chest and shoulders get plastered to the bench. In other words create ample t-spine extension and shoulder retraction while bracing the core and abs. This particular incline row using the landmine station as demonstrated by my awesome client Elizabeth Yates helps reinforce these cues. In addition, gripping the collar of the barbell essentially acts as a fat grip, thereby creating additional concurrent activation potentiation and full body tension through intense grip activation.
As a result of aggressively firing the grip it helps centrate and pack the glenohumeral joint even further thereby minimizing over-rowing at the top and over-stretching at the bottom. In other words it promotes optimal range of motion and a stable shoulder joint. The single arm component also helps insure strong core activation due to a significant anti-rotation component that’s even stronger than the dumbbell variation due to the rotational nature of the landmine station. Try performing several sets of 6-10 reps per arm during your next back workout. These also pair very nicely with incline landmine chest presses.
Bottoms Up Iron Grip Landmine VariationS
If you’re looking for some very advanced variations that will truly expose any movement aberration or technique issue in your upper body mechanics you’ll want to try these iron grip landmine bottoms up movements. Let’s dive into each of the 6 variations I show here alongside my awesome client Leslie Petch.
The goblet squats and lunges are probably the most simple as the levels of instability are markedly less than the other variations. The main benefit from these is the degree of full body tension needed to lock the lower body movement mechanics which has a surprising impact on enhancing motor control and muscle activation. Think of these as a great squat and lunge method for eliminating energy leaks and reinforcing the idea of maintaining near maximal full body tension throughout. Besides blasting the entire lower body, the core and upper body get absolutely torched here. If you’re looking for a unique way to perform intense squats that deload the spine and legs but also require near maximal effort and intensity, these are tough to beat.
The double arm overhead presses and chest presses involve moderate levels of mediolateral instability. If you press too much with one arm the plate will rotate too much to that side causing the bar to slip. To keep these perfectly controlled the lifter will need to employ near perfect symmetrical pressing technique. If you have a tendency to favor one side when performing bilateral presses these will provide the perfect modality. As an added bonus, the levels of constant tension on the upper body are quite high due to the slow and controlled mechanics as well as the constant muscle squeeze from adducting the arms (similar to a squeeze press or isometric chest fly).
If you’re truly looking to up the intensity, few exercises in existence are more difficult than the single arm bottoms up presses I show here. These are without a doubt some of the most advanced and brutally challenging movements I’ve ever performed and should only be attempted once you’ve mastered more traditional bottoms up movements.
Although the mediolateral instability is quite minimal, the degree of anteroposterior instability is literally insane as even the slightest deviation forward or backward will result in the lifter dumping the load as the plate and bar will immediately roll. If you don’t use an eccentric isometric protocol these likely won’t be happening particularly if you try heavier loads such as 45 pound plates. And yes the levels of mechanical tension and metabolic stress produced from these are more than ample to produce significant levels of functional strength and hypertrophy.
As an added bonus, the arching rotational path of the landmine produces a converging bar path that is wider in the bottom stretched position and closer to the midline of the body in the top contracted position.
For instance, when examining the overhead press one could make an argument that the most natural path is to have a wider hand position at the bottom and a closer hand position at the top. In other words, the hand would be more lateral to the body in the stretched position and more medial toward the midline of the body in the top contracted position (i.e. converging path). This is simply indicative of the natural scapulohumeral rhythm that occurs in the glenohumeral joint during most pressing motions.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit tricky to replicate this motion with free weights although dumbbells and kettlebells do provide a moderate amount of freedom to slightly simulate this motion. However, these variations truly mimic the natural motion of the shoulder joint during a press as it diverges (spreads away from the body) during the eccentric bottom position while converging (moving towards the midline) during the concentric top phase.
Single Leg Goblet Squat
Perhaps the single most common issue advanced trainees run into when performing heavy landmine front squats is upper body fatigue associated with the awkward nature of holding the tip of a heavy barbell. Fortunately the single leg landmine squat as demonstrated by my awesome client Charlene Harrison helps resolve this as the legs end up being the limiting factor not the upper torso.
The single leg landmine skater squat not only helps limit upper body fatigue it also represents an incredibly effective variation for dialing in single leg squat mechanics. That’s because any lateral deviation will cause the lifter to lose balance and stability. In fact, the rotational nature of the landmine makes these even more sensitive to deviations in form and mechanics. Once you learn to dial your single leg squats on the landmine chances are you’ve truly mastered your lower body mechanics and foot and ankle strength to a level that few trainees ever achieve.
As an added bonus the landmine setup promotes a slightly more upright squat position as the lifter can lean slightly forward into the anchored barbell. This eliminates the all-too-common excessive forward torso lean frequently witnessed with single leg squats. If you have trouble keeping your chest up on single leg squats or feeling your quads get worked, these will remedy that issue almost immediately.
Landmine Hang Clean
The landmine clean is a surprisingly simple yet brutally effective power exercise that truly targets hip extension and leg drive. Here are 3 of my NFL football players and GSP athletes Taylor Heinicke, Marquell Beckwith, and Julian Williams and also soccer player Hannah on the right demonstrating it. Simply grip the end of a landmine station (i.e. barbell collar), perform an eccentric isometric hinge, launch the barbell up, then catch it at the chest.
Think of this as similar to an underhand med ball hip toss only the lifter can overload the movement to work on maximizing power and strength simultaneously. It also feels quite similar to a kettlebell swing as the weight fits between the legs and directly under the center of mass rather than in front of it unlike traditional barbell versions. As a result the force vectors of the movement match the hips better than most axial loaded movements as there is a slight anteroposterior force vector involved (back and forward motion).
Additionally, having the load directly under the center of mass rather than in front makes it much more low back friendly than traditional barbell Olympic lifts. Furthermore, the catch requires significant full body activation as a means of decelerating the load and absorbing impact. Although it may look a bit unusual, the learning curve is surprisingly quick allowing athletes to focus more on hip drive and power than on technical efficiency which is something that can be more difficult to accomplish with traditional Olympic lifts. In fact, this was the first time I had these athletes perform this movement and this was only their third set. Although their first set required a bit of an adjustment period, all 3 of them found the movement quite user friendly and natural feeling after just a few minutes.
If you’re still not sold on the movement or think it’s too awkward you may want to check out some of the offerings from PurMotion as they offer some very unique pieces of equipment that optimize force vector training and allow athletes to perform Olympic lifts with various landmine devices.
Single Arm Single Leg Hang Cleans
Here I have 2 NFL athletes & GSP sponsored pros Taylor Heinicke and Julian Williams performing a single leg landmine RDL & hang clean. A majority of explosive power movements I do with my athletes are relatively simple bilateral movements such as jumps, Olympic lifts, plyometrics, & med ball drills. However I periodically like to incorporate explosive movements that also address unilateral power, stability, mobility, motor control, & contralateral activation between upper & lower body limbs. This drill does just that.
Remember, it’s one thing to produce high levels of power, it’s another thing to control it. High levels of power & explosiveness without the ability to control it are useless as it’s simply setting the individual up for injury. Additionally just because someone can produce high power doesn’t mean that have good stability, symmetry between legs, balance, motor control, stability & coordinated movement. It’s drills like these that when periodically incorporated help to both expose & address these weaknesses.
Lastly you’ll notice I often incorporate eccentric isometrics on power moves as shown here with the RDL. That’s because it helps the athlete fine-tune their positioning & improve control. They may not necessarily have as high of power output during the actual drill but once they return to traditional explosive movements they’ll be able to produce greater power with better control due to improved body mechanics & activation patterns.
On a side note, dumbbells and kettlebells can also be used for this movement however the landmine variation requires bit more coordination involved with the catch which can be good for athletes working on eye-hand-coordination. Additionally, the rotational nature of the landmine produced from the swiveling base creates greater rotational instability than normal. Any deviation or tilt to one side will be immediately be exposed as the bar will swivel causing the athlete to lose balance. Dumbbells are great too but they’re not quite as sensitive to form aberrations as the landmine variations.
Landmine Purmotion Zercher Variations
Here I’m performing 8 unique landmine variations using the Clean & Jerk attachment from Purmotion with several of my awesome clients including Leslie Petch, Ben Lai, and Mitch Ellis. Although this training tool is typically used for more traditional variations, I’ve found that using the middle railing provides many unique options including Zercher squats variations as well as fat grip options that crush the grip and forearms including rows, presses, and more. The Zercher squats, lunges, Bulgarian squats, and good mornings are very conducive for performing with this Purmotion attachment since the fat grip doesn’t dig into the elbow crease as much as a traditional barbell. The angular force vectors also feel quite comfortable and natural making these very user friendly and easy on the joints.
The overhead presses, bent over rows, & chest presses also provide the only option I’ve seen for performing pronated barbell-like movements with the landmine station as most landmine variations involve a neutral grip. While the neutral grip does tend to feel quite comfortable for most folks, the pronated grip tends to transfer better to actual barbell movements (i.e. barbell bench press) due to the same grip position and hand placement.
Simply put if you’re looking for substitutes for traditional barbell movements to periodically implement into your routine that not only simulate the same positions as barbell exercises but also provide joint-friendly lifting variations, these are sure to do the trick. As an added bonus, many lifters find a fat grip to be easier on their elbows, wrists, and shoulders due to improved shoulder centration, and more equally dispersed pressure into the hands and wrists.
Landmine Zercher Squats with V Grip
Landmine squats and Zercher squats represent 2 of the most user friendly and comfortable squatting variations in existence. Even if you don’t have access to the Purmotion landmine attachment, we can easily combine these variations. Simply anchor a basic multi-purpose V-grip cable attachment to the collar of the landmine station and voila you have yourself the perfect landmine Zercher squat station. These are just as versatile as barbell Zercher variations as I demonstrate 5 movements alongside 2 of my awesome clients Leslie Petch and Ben Lai as we highlight Zercher squats, lunges, hinges, and single leg variations.
Besides being very comfortable and user friendly, they feel incredibly safe and natural for the low back, knees, and hips. That’s because the angular force vectors associated with the landmine station provide a fantastic blend of horizontal and vertical force vectors that allow us to easily load the hips without putting undue strain on the spine. Because we can lean into the movement and drive with our hips (due to the slight anteroposterior loading) these are also incredibly sports specific as most athletic activities involve a combination of both vertical and horizontal forces rather than just one or the other as in the case of barbell variations.
Landmine Zercher Squats with Ab Straps
Another very effective option for performing landmine Zercher squat variations is simply slipping hanging ab straps onto the collars of the barbell as I demonstrate here alongside my awesome physique athletes Leslie Petch and Eric McIntyre. These provide even more versatile options than the other methods as you can perform squats, hinges, single arm variations, deadstop variations, deficit movements, and lateral loading options such as single leg squats, lunges, and more. In fact, when it comes to single arm Zercher squats, these are tough to beat as they provide an incredibly intense stimulus to the core while also allowing heavy loading to the hips and legs.
Be prepared for your upper back and arms to take a pounding as well as you can go unusually heavy on these while still feeling safe and controlled. For folks who have trouble with the barbell digging into their elbow crease or biceps tendon, these also provide nice relief although they do pull slightly against the skin if you don’t get them in the appropriate position.
Landmine Single Arm Zercher Squats
Looking for a method that allows the application of single arm Zercher Squats? Try this landmine variation. Although these can be performed with the landmine anchored on the floor, I’ve found that elevating the landmine several feet above the ground creates a more fluid and natural motion. If you don’t have an adjustable landmine station that anchors into a squat cage you can simply set the barbell in a squat rack by anchoring one side of the bar on the safety pins and using the opposite end just like a landmine.
Another unique benefit of the Landmine Zercher squat is that the lifter can anchor the thicker portion of the barbell (i.e. the collar) into their elbow which feels much more comfortable on the elbow crease than holding the thinner portion of the bar. Similar to the hanging kettlebell variation, the landmine station can also be used to perform a number of Zercher variations including, squats, good mornings, lunges, lateral squats, single leg squats, single leg hinges, and Bulgarian squats.
Landmine Z Press
The Z Press is one of my favorite overhead presses. Unfortunately the very rigid and upright alignment oftentimes makes the overhead lockout position and mobility requirements even more difficult than traditional overhead presses. For many individuals including those with shoulder issues and mobility restrictions, this can be quite frustrating and uncomfortable. Performing the Z press using a landmine station as demonstrated by MLB pro baseball player Austin Meadows, helps resolve this issue. That’s because the landmine station produces a slight angular and horizontal movement allowing the lifter to press out slightly in front of them rather than directly overhead.
While it’s only a 10-20 degree difference in comparison to a true overhead press, this tends to provide just enough clearance for the glenohumeral joint to function freely while still providing the benefits associated with an overhead press. In other words, it’s much easier to move into a more natural overhead position with optimal scapulohumeral rhythm rather than feeling crowded as can oftentimes happen with perfectly vertical pressing movements, particulary Z presses.
It also tends to be much easier on the low back as the horizontal component reduces vertical compressive forces on the spine. The core must also work overtime to resist rotary instability from the landmine station. Additionally, for individuals with lower body mobility restrictions and tight hamstrings that keep them from moving into a traditional Z press position, the landmine Z press tends to feel more natural. That’s because the angular pressing position allows the lifter to lean into the landmine station for support.
Single Arm Rotational Landmine T-Bar Row
Here’s one of my awesome clients and national level NPC figure competitor performing a single arm landmine rotational T-bar row.
As many of you know I’m a huge fan of rotational rows. That’s because the pronated grip allows a larger stretch and eccentric elongation in the bottom position while the neutral/supinated grip allows a greater squeeze and muscle mind connection in the contracted position. This combination is incredibly potent for improving postural mechanics, spinal alignment, and functional hypertrophy and strength in the upper back. However, this is something that’s typically either done with kettlebells or cable rope rows as most loading modalities don’t allow this rotational movement to easily occur.
Fortunately, this can be easily remedied on the landmine station with single arm T-bar rows. Simply loop a unilateral nylon grip attachment around the landmine station and voila you have a rotational T-bar row. Besides crushing the upper back and lats the rotational movement allows more natural scapulohumeral rhythm making it therapeutic on the glenohumeral join. If you’re an overhead or throwing athlete or simply have frequent shoulder issues, this is incredibly effective and therapeutic. As an added bonus there’s significant stimulation to the core musculature. That’s because the single arm offset loading combined with the rotational nature of the landmine station requires significant rotary stability, anti-lateral flexion, and anti-rotation.
Underhand T-Bar Rows
Here I have NFL quarterback and GSP sponsored pro Taylor Heinicke performing underhand grip T-bar rows by using a simple wide grip tricep v-bar cable attachment. Many athletes will find these to feel a bit more natural than the traditional close grip v-bar as the hands and arms can more naturally move to the side of the body while allowing greater retraction rather than shoulder crowding (a common issue with the closer grip).
On a side note, notice how I also Taylor using an RDL reset protocol every 2 reps rather than just having him go straight through the set without resetting. This is something I use on a majority of bent over rows & T-bar rows with my athletes. Here’s why.
On bent over rows and T-bar rows it’s quite for the low back & spinal stabilizers to greatly fatigue, causing these areas to fail before the upper back. As a result you’ll often see form & posture gradually deteriorate throughout the set. Rather than holding a bent over position & completing all repetitions of the rowing movement, a better solution is to reset after several reps by performing an additional RDL & repeating this several times per set.
Each time you stand up and perform an RDL you’re able to re-set the spine and allow the low back musculature to have momentary rest before repeating the sequence several times for the set. Not only will your form be significantly more dialed in but your low back will be less likely to fatigue and give out before your upper back & lats. This allows for greater strength and hypertrophy stimulus to the upper back and lats.
It also acts as a great 2 in 1 exercises as you’re now performing your rowing movement as well as hip hinge exercise. As an added bonus the modified rest pause or cluster set protocol allows the lifter to handle heavier loads ultimately leading to greater strength & mass gains.
Offset Leverage Landmine Drills
Lets face it, how often in real life scenarios do we ever get to push or pull a symmetrical load or object in symmetrical fashion, with a perfectly symmetrical range of motion? To be honest, pretty rarely. With this in mind, periodically incorporating offset training protocols into your routine is a great way to mimic and simulate real-life practical scenarios while still training functional movement patterns. Here are 8 variations of offset landmine drills I perform alongside several of my athletes and clients including NFL running back Marquel Beckwith, Ben Lai, Leslie Petch, and Matt Jordan.
I’m a huge fan of offset training as it provides a very unique stimulus not only to the primary movers but to the stabilizers and core musculature. Read more about Offset Training Here.
It’s also incredibly effective for improving motor control, stability, symmetry, and overall muscle function not to mention functional strength and hypertrophy. Although most forms of offset training involve only one offset component (typically weight), the landmine offset leverage protocol involves 4 as there is a quadruple offset effect. Read more here.
Trap Bar Landmine Exercises
The landmine can also be combined with the trap bar to produce some incredibly effective and unique variations. Here are 5 of my favorite trap bar landmine rowing variations as demonstrated by NFL cornerback Prince Iworah, NFL quarterback Taylor Heinicke, NPC figure competitor Leslie Petch, and beastly Viking Todd Weiland.
The trap bar landmine setup can also be applied to a number of variations to target the entire body from head to toe as I highlight here.
Landmine Kayak Squat
Although a majority of the squats and deadlifts I have my clients and athletes perform tend to be more basic variations using eccentric isometric protocols, I periodically like to throw in unique versions to help wake up the CNS and recruit additional motor units that may have been semi-dormant. One such variation is the Landmine Kayak Squat as demonstrated here by my awesome client Todd Weiland. Besides crushing the daylights out of the core and spinal stabilizers due to the offset loading, the lifter will have to use just about every muscle from head to toe as the level of full body tension needed to dial these in is through the roof.
Whether you’re an MMA fighter, wrestler, football player, baseball player, powerlifter, rock climber, martial arts expert, or weekend warrior looking for a change of pace the landmine kayak squat is highly functional as it teaches the lifter how to deal with awkward, asymmetrical offset loading patterns which tend to mimic real life conditions more so than perfectly symmetrical offset drills.
These landmine kayak squats also tend to feel more like a single leg squat as the outer hip and thigh take much more of the brunt than the inner leg. Additionally, you’ll feel like you’re performing a Palloff press, side plank, and suitcase carry while simultaneously performing a front loaded squat, all of which makes for one devastatingly brutal combination. Due to the semi-awkward nature of the lift, these will also want to pull the lifter significantly out of alignment which he or she must resist throughout as much as possible. Once you go back to normal squats and deadlifts, they’ll feel like a stroll through the park.
Landmine Windmill Side Planks
Here I have my awesome client & national level NPC figure competitor Leslie Petch performing a deceptively difficult windmill side plank with the landmine station.
The ability to transmit force & coordinate neuromuscular recruitment between the hips, core, & upper torso is vital for athletic performance as well as heavy strength training. The side windmill plank is one of the few exercises that requires the hips, upper torso, glutes, core, & feet to work together synergistically in one controlled high-tension isometric. Read more about windmill side planks here.
Essentially what you’re doing during the windmill plank is resisting rotation, lateral flexion of the spine, & lateral hip collapse as gravity is attempting to drive your hips towards the floor. To fight these forces you’ll be required to fire the glute medius, internal & obliques transverse abs, & quadratus lumborum muscles.
In fact the windmill plank targets the same muscle groups you’ll commonly see individuals in the gym attempting to stimulate with side bends and core rotational exercises only this time the exercise actually works. In addition to improving functional movement patterns, posture, and spinal positioning, you’ll be strengthening numerous stabilizers from head to toe rather than just isolating one small muscle.
Performing these on the landmine station exponentially increases rotational forces the lifter must resist due to the swiveling nature of the landmine station that wants to rotate with even the slightest form deviation. If you notice from the top view Leslie’s body is perfectly stacked & forms a straight line. Otherwise it’s nearly impossible to complete these.
Iron Grip Landmine Rows
Besides being highly conducive for a variety of deadlifts, the iron grip landmine setup is also very effective when applied to rows and horizontal pulls. Similar to the deadlifts there are numerous variations that can be performed including these 7 variations I showcase alongside my awesome NPC figure athlete Leslie Petch, and NFL athletes Dee Virgin and Vantrel McMillan.
The rear facing version (variation #1) really crushes the lower lats and reinforces shoulder packing and depression of the scapula since the weight is moving in a slight arch posteriorly as you move into the contracted position. If you have trouble elevating your shoulders during rows, these are the perfect solution. In contrast front facing variations (variation #3) shown by the NFL athletes targets more of the upper back, middle lower traps, and rhomboids as the weight is moving in a slight arching path anteriorly as you move into the contracted position. If you’re looking to build that desired upper back yoke these fit the bill perfectly.
The lateral rows shown by Leslie and I represent some of the most natural and easy methods I’ve ever used for overloading the back on single arm bent over rows. That’s because the plate fits so easily to the side of the body. It’s for this reason I’ve been a long time fan of plate rows. The only downside in the past has been the inability to go heavier than 45 lbs. With that iron grip landmine setup this issue is quickly remedied. And yes barbell suitcase deadlifts provide a similar stimulus however the instability and grip strength due to the balance requirements often limit how much the lifter can truly overload their upper back and lats. With this variation there’s very little instability thereby allowing the lifter to truly focus on overload with smooth mechanics.
The lateral rows can also be modified to target different regions of the upper back and focus on different rowing cues. For instance using the outside arm helps insure the lifter tucks their elbow and minimizes elbow flare which really blasts the entire lats particularly the lower region. In contrast using the inside arm helps reinforce the “wrapping the arm around the body effect” with natural elbow separation. This is very suitable for folks who have a tendency to over crowd the shoulders when rowing (i.e. keeping the elbow too close to their body) and forget to fully retract at the top. These emphasize the rear deltoids and middle upper back region near the rhomboids a bit more.
The bird dog variation also represents one of the simple ways to overload this combination core and back exercise due to the plate fitting so naturally to the sides of the bench. For instance many folks run into the common issue of the larger dumbbell or heavier kettlebell hitting the bench or their leg when rowing due to the bulky nature of the implement. This is no longer an issue with the iron grip landmine variations due to the thin nature of the plate.