Required Equipment: Barbell
Optional Equipment: Free weights, landmine press device
What is a Landmine Press?
Do you struggle with shoulder pain? Does your scapular stability and strength suck? Do you have massive muscle imbalances? If so, have I got the exercise for you! Yes, that’s right – the landmine press! 1 And, yes, I realize I sound like a used-car salesman right now. It’s one of the best exercises you’ve (probably) never heard of and I’m going to explain why and show you how to do it.
So what is a landmine press, you ask? Typically, that name refers to an (usually unilateral) overhead pressing movement using an angled barbell (hence the name); in other words, a specific exercise. However, landmine exercises are much more varied than that and can involve lifting, squatting or pressing one end of a barbell. The other barbell end is anchored in down in some fashion so that it is fixed.
You can buy a dedicated landmine attachment device that you insert one end of a barbell in, or you can also simply just push one end into a corner. Since one end of the barbell is “fixed” in place, that means the curving path of the barbell – along with neutral grip – makes landmine exercises easier on the joints than other movements.
Landmine can act as a “bridge” between complete freedom of movement (like free weights) and fixed path movements. This means basic landmines are great for “noobs” as they don’t require quite as much mobility or motor control. In other words, they are easy to learn. But, even if you’re more advanced, you can still get a lot of benefit from them by performing more advanced variations.
What muscles are worked?
The muscles worked depend upon the exercises you’re doing. While most think of just landmine presses 2which is a great shoulder workout, there are a ton of landmine variations for you to explore, some of which I’ll show below.
An overhead landmine press, for example, is a great exercise for almost all of your upper body, with the chest muscles, triceps and shoulders taking the brunt of the work. While it doesn’t replace the bench press, a landmine chest press works similar muscles to the press with more emphasis on the chest.
Other exercises, such as the landmine squat, build lower body strength and stability. Still other variations, such as the half kneeling landmine press and the single arm landmine press, add-in an additional core stability component.
In any case, you can develop muscle mass, develop strength, and work your core muscles with a landmine press.
Landmine Press Benefits
The benefits of the landmine are numerous. In addition to muscular and core strength, it shines in a couple places. Namely, you can work around injuries and restrictions more easily while still addressing any strength imbalances. Lack of shoulder mobility, poor positioning of the shoulder blades 3or scapula for you nerds, and other shoulder issues are mitigated by the curved path of the landmine. Have shoulder joint pain that prevents you from doing other moves? Try the landmine press.
Since landmines can be done unilaterally (one arm or side at a time), you can easily work on and fix any muscular imbalances. As I mentioned above, it’s also great for those new to building muscle. The restricted-path movement of the barbell allows for freedom but not too much freedom. This means you can focus on quality movement before progressing to more advanced moves.
You can also easily add in more rotational and dynamic movements using a landmine. Meaning, you can mimic movements like throws and punches quite safe and effectively. That has huge transference over to sports with rotational movements (think baseball, boxing, and tons more). Yeah, go ahead and try that on your Smith Machine.
And, lastly, you don’t really need any special equipment – just a barbell. While you can buy a landmine device cheaply, you can also simply put one end of a barbell in a corner (maybe wrap it in a towel to protect your walls), add a weight to the free end (if needed), and begin.
Step-by-Step: How do I do it?
While there’s no strictly defined standard, there are some basic steps to get in the right starting position for the standing landmine press. There are two main versions – the one hand and two hand. In both, you’ll need to positioned away from the bar instead of directly underneath it. That will make it so you have to lean forward a little bit and engage your core.
Remember, you can always adjust your position so the bar is at a different angle; find what’s comfortable for you while still maintaining a good position and stance.
1) While you can start with feet even and shoulder-width apart (like pictured), I prefer a split stance. So put your opposite leg forward (compared to the arm you are lifting). E.g. If using your right arm, put your left leg forward. You front foot should be fairly close to the bar end.
2) Lean forward slightly and grasp the end of the bar with a neutral grip. Bend your hips and knees slightly to get into a partial squat.
3) The elbows should be bent and the bar held at shoulder height.
4) Extend the elbows and push the bar up and forward, keeping it in line with your shoulders.
5) Pause at the top, don’t lock out the elbows, then slowly lower back to the start
Note, you can make it more dynamic by exploding thru steps 4 and 5. To activate more of your core, go into a split kneeling position with one knee on the ground and the other knee up.
1) Stand holding the weighted end of the barbell with both hands in front of your chest. Your feet should be level and shoulder-width apart.
2) Lean forward slightly and grasp the end of the bar with both hands in a neutral grip. Bend your hips and knees slightly to get into a partial squat.
3) The elbows should be bent and the bar held at shoulder height.
4) Extend the elbows and push the bar up and forward.
5) Pause at the top, don’t lock out the elbows, then return slowly under control.
Similar to the one arm press, you can make it dynamic by exploding thru steps 4 and 5. You can also work the two-hand press from full kneeling position.
Banded landmine press
Using resistance bands will add more resistance as you press the weight, keeping your muscle under tension and building more strength. Place the resistance band underneath both of your feet and wrap the other end of the band around the top of the barbell.
Landmine Romanian Deadlift
This is a really cool exercise that’s not done very often and it’s fantastic move for those who lack some mobility or motor control. Even if you don’t lack that, it still allows to quickly and easily overload your glutes and hamstrings for some serious posterior chain development. The setup and mechanics are going to be same as normal deadlift (see here if you’re not sure what that means) and you can see an example of the movement here.
Kneeling landmine press
This exercise is also known as the landmine chest press. Kneeling eliminates the involvement of the legs and shifts even more strain onto the chest and the triceps. For that reason, this exercise is brilliant for upper body isolation. I tend to prefer the half kneeling landmine press version
Landmine shoulder-to-shoulder press
This is a press you perform while shifting the weighted bar from one side of your body to the other. Think of moving the bar in an “arc” up and over your head. It requires additional core stability to perform correctly. The rotation and movement also aids in complete shoulder development.
Single-arm landmine press with rotation
This variation should be used after you have shown strength and stability in a regular press. The setup is similar to the two hand landmine press, this time with your feet square and your body perpendicular to the bar. Once you begin the press, you’ll rotate though the feet, hips, and core and press the bar across your body. See this short demonstration page and video.
Landmine squat to press
The squat to press is done the same way as regular landmine press except this time you’ll sink into a squat before driving up out of the hole. As you reach the top part of your squat, continue to press the bar overhead. Pro tip: If you’re using both hands, be sure to get your head back so you don’t hit yourself in the chin when pressing. Not that, umm, I’ve ever done that or anything.
As explained above, the landmine is very versatile and can be used for many different exercises and muscle groups. But here are 3 alternatives to the overhead landmine press:
- Kettlebell Overhead Press – A unilateral or bilateral overhead press variation that develops strength while addressing asymmetries. This is more difficult than a landmine press due to the freedom provided by the kettlebell along with offset center of gravity.
- Military Press – A “standard” shoulder press that you’ll typically see in gyms. It can be performed seated or standing and with different implements, such as dumbbell or barbell. Check this link if you want an idea on some different dumbbell shoulder exercises. Anyways, if you have good shoulder flexion and extension it’s a great option. Personally, I don’t so I prefer other exercises
- Push Press – Essentially it’s a press with some additional leg drive. Great for lifting heavier weights, more intensity, and higher level of overall body involvement.
Is the landmine press a good exercise?
Absolutely; you can work large muscle groups at the same time while improving mobility, strength, and stability. Best of all, it’s easy to get started and there are enough variations for everyone.
What muscles does the landmine work?
An overhead landmine press works your upper body, with the chest, triceps and shoulder muscles taking the brunt of the work. Other landmine press variations work anything from your core to your quads and glutes.
Are landmine presses effective?
Absolutely; great for beginners to more advanced lifters, they can help add on muscle mass, fix muscle imbalances, work around joint problems, and help avoid injury.