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.
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.
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
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.
Landmine Zercher Squat
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.
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.