Make the Landmine Squat Better

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Make the Landmine Squat Better

Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.

A few years back expert strength coach Ben Bruno, presented the landmine squat to the fitness industry.  This unique front squat variation and goblet squat alternative has gained incredible popularity not only because of its natural and safe biomechanics but also because of its usefulness for crushing the targeted muscles while saving the joints. In fact, it’s one of many squat variations I consistently incorporate into the routines of my athletes and clients as demonstrated by one of my bodybuilders Ben Lai in the following video. 

With that said I’ve periodically encountered several issues on the landmine front squat particularly once the athlete becomes more advanced and starts handling significantly heavier loads.

Some of the problems I’ve noticed with the landmine squat include:

1. Upper body fatiguing faster than the legs

2. Upper back and shoulders rounding due to fatigue

3. The Core musculature fatiguing before the legs due to the unique angled loading vectors.

4. The close grip position causing the shoulders to round

5. The hands and grip giving out

6. One side of the body working harder and taking more of the load than the other

7. Collapsing at the bottom position rather than maintaining optimal 90 degree joint mechanics.

With that said, here are several of my favorite landmine front squat variations that not only produce their own unique benefits but also help overcome these common aforementioned issues witnessed on traditional landmine squats.

Single Leg Landmine Skater 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.

Also big shoutout to Charlene for placing top 4 in her recent national level track and field competition.  Congrats Charlene and keep it up girl. 

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.  

Anterior Loaded Landmine Jump Squat

Another way to minimize upper body fatigue while still crushing the legs with landmine front squats is by implementing eccentric isometric jumps as demonstrated by my awesome client Leslie Petch.  That’s because you’ll be forced to activate high threshold fast twitch muscle fibers of the legs that typically wouldn’t be recruited until heavier loads were used.  However you’ll actually be sparing your upper body as you’ll be handling lighter loads for the upper torso since you’ll be using approximately 50% or less of your typical landmine squat weight. In other words the legs fatigue more than the upper body.

In addition, if you have difficulty maintaining proper postural alignment during landmine squats, have a tendency to let your shoulder round, or tend to collapse at the bottom rather than nailing crisp 90 degree mechanics I suggest trying this eccentric isometric landmine squat jump. In order to keep the bar from slamming into your chest on the landing phase of the jump the lifter will be required to keep perfect posture, tighten up the core, and activate your upper back. 

In addition, dropping significantly below 90 degrees makes it feel almost impossible to produce substantial hang time during the explosive jump phase of the movement.  Employing an eccentric isometric protocol as well as attempting to optimize jumping power/height, inevitably helps the lifter find their optimal 90 degree squat position.

As an added bonus this is an incredible variation for improving vertical jump height due to the more upright and quad dominant nature of the movement that’s somewhat difficult to replicate with other loading modalities.  The catch phase also helps work on deceleration, force absorption, and landing mechanics that lifters commonly struggle with on jumps.

Double Landmine Front Squat

Unfortunately many individuals tend to favor one side of their body as a result of various asymmetries. Inevitably this transfers to a variety of movements including the goblet squat ad landmine front squat. By incorporating the double landmine goblet front squat as shown here by my awesome client Matt Jordan, you can resolve these asymmetry issues throughout the lower body, upper body, and core by loading each side independently/isolaterally.

Not only does this reinforce rock solid squatting technique with ample hip hinge mechanics throughout (due to the slight forward torso lean), you’ll also be forced to use strict, smooth and crisp motions. That’s because there will be significantly greater instability. When using a single landmine the bar stays fairly locked into position as the arm can anchor both sides of the bar. With a double landmine attachment each bar will have a tendency to deviate and shift in a three-dimensional fashion unless your core and shoulder stabilizers are intensely activated.

You’ll also be forced to slow the movement down as excessive momentum can make it difficult to control both bars at once. As an added bonus these crush the deltoids, triceps, biceps, upper back, traps, grip, and core more so than just about any squat variation I’ve ever performed as you’re essentially holding the bottom position of an overhead press throughout. So if you’re looking for a squat variation that taxes the full body and simultaneously reinforces proper mechanics and eliminates asymmetries, give this double landmine goblet front squat a try.

Single Arm Landmine Front Squat

If you want to emphasize the core and de-load the legs a bit try performing them in a single arm fashion as demonstrated by one of my soccer athletes Elizabeth Freeman.   Essentially you’ll feel like you’re holding a single arm plank or Pallof press while also performing an anterior-loaded front squat variation. In addition, you’ll notice more tension on one leg (the side that’s loaded) when performing these making them effective for eliminating asymmetries and imbalances not only in the core but also in the lower body.

On a side note this is also one of the most low-back friendly squat variations you’ll ever perform. In addition, the shoulder of the working side also gets taxed quite heavily as you stabilize the load isometrically in the single arm front racked position similar to the bottom of a landmine press. As a result this is an excellent variation for reinforcing proper postural alignment and scapular stability as the shoulders and upper back are forced to stay retracted and depressed throughout.

Finally I recommend performing them in an eccentric isometric fashion as shown in the video as that helps maximize proprioceptive feedback and kinesthetic awareness thereby enabling the lifter to fine-tune his or her body mechanics.

If you’re looking for a training program that teaches you how to employ movements such as these into your training routine, check out my Complete Templates