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5 Reasons why Landmine Variations Should be a Staple in Your Training

Updated: May 14, 2020

Let’s get this out of the way right off the jump in case you’re unfamiliar to what a “landmine” configuration is. A landmine rig is a training apparatus that has become increasingly more popular and commonplace in training facilities. The primary distinction of a landmine rig is that it provides a rotational axis, and can be utilized in a myriad of ways. Here is a quick video demonstrating one of the more conventional ways this apparatus is used:

If you’re a strength coach, or athlete for that matter, a landmine set-up should hardly be foreign for you. In this article I would like to cater to both ends of the spectrum here and discuss five primary reasons why you should be utilizing a landmine set-up in your training regularly. Regardless of your experience or familiarity with landmine variations, hopefully you can take something away from this.

1.) Maximize overhead pressing, minimize the risk

A landmine set-up is arguably one of the best options for overhead pressing. This becomes even more true for individuals with cranky or damaged shoulders. With the population I work with, shoulder injuries are just about inherent. From SLAP tears and rotator cuff tears, to bursitis and impingement and everything in-between, I am always trying to figure out ways to have my athletes be able to press in a safe and effective manner. For most, traditional overhead pressing with either a dumbbell or barbell simply isn’t an option. So aside from a bench press (which I’m not a huge fan of in general, but especially not for individuals with shoulder pathology), or modalities like a jammer press, pressing options are fairly limited. Insert, the landmine.

As depicted in the example above, the landmine press is without question one of the most common exercise that I program, irrespective of injury history or what the individual is training for. The reason why the landmine press offers a safer approach to pressing is two-fold. The first of which, is the angle that the press is performed. When you consider a traditional overhead press, the bar, or dumbbells, start at about shoulder height, and finish with the arms fully extended overhead. This presents a significant demand for the glenohumeral joint to perform, even with healthy shoulders. Conversely, with the landmine press the hands are starting in the same position but finishing out in front of the body at an angle, sparring anywhere from 15-30° of range of motion. This also changes the force vector associated with pressing, where the load is not bearing down directly on the shoulder joint, which is the case with conventional overhead pressing.

The second advantage landmine pressing offers, is that by nature the landmine press is more of a total body approach. You will utilize more muscles, namely from the lower-half and anterior core to initiate the pressing movement, and then stabilizing the bar at the end-range. This is a pretty simple concept to grasp- recruiting, or utilizing, more muscles results in less responsibility on the shoulder itself. In almost any case, this is a good thing.

I’ll throw in a quick bonus on this one by adding that the fluidity of the landmine configuration also presents a favorable solution for the shoulders by allowing the joints to move a little more freely in a non-sagittal fashion. Consider a barbell overhead press as the counter to this, where the barbell is a fixed structure, and really confining the shoulders to a “one-way” path of motion. Because of its unfixed base, the landmine moves freely in 180° of motion, the shoulders appreciate this greatly, especially banged up shoulders.

2.) Learning the concept of force transfer

Force transfer: Initiating a closed-chained movement by forcefully driving the feet into the ground, and utilizing the force transmitted back up the kinetic chain into the upper extremities effectively. Simple translation- using your legs to help your arms.

In any land-based sport, force transfer is the heart of movement. Running, sprinting, jumping, throwing, punching, and so forth are all examples of kinetic force transfer. Think of Newton’s 3rd Law, which states that if two bodies exert force on one another, the forces are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction. As it applies here, the most foundational element of sport or human movement for that matter, is ground reaction forces. We put force into the ground, the ground sends force back up to us, we redistribute said force up the kinetic chain and throughout the body. Here's a good example of training the concept of force transfer using the landmine. Pay particular attention to how the legs drive the barbell on this; if done correctly we should hardly even feel the upper-half working:

Maybe it’s just me, or the way I coach, but I have found it exceptionally difficult to teach this premise to most people I work with. This is especially true in young athletes (<14 y/o) and older adults. In essence, when most people see an upper-body exercise, they only think to recruit upper-body muscles, because, well why wouldn’t they? The thing about it is, unless you’re a bodybuilder I suppose, every exercise should be perceived as a “total body” exercise. The reason for this is simple- sport, combat, life are all “total body” movements.

To that end, where I have found success, it has been with the landmine. Although I don’t know I have an explicit reason as to why this seems easier to teach using a landmine, my thought is that because of the set-up and the angle of the landmine, people are able to drive their body into the landmine handle more effectively. This provides the athlete with some external biofeedback to push against and feel the merging of lower-half and upper-half. When using a barbell, this isn’t such an easy task to achieve, just go ahead and ask your local up-and-coming Olympic weightlifter. But this becomes especially true in the early phases of training and teaching fundamental patterns, because there won’t ever be enough load on the barbell to actually “push against” the barbell. Thus, with the landmine, this task becomes easier to not only instruct for the coach, but more importantly, easier to feel for the athlete.

3.) Unilateral Work

Speaking more to a slightly more advanced population on this one here, but I absolutely love the unilateral effects the landmine set-up offers. Whether we’re looking at a single-arm press, row, or hinge/RDL, the landmine presents a fantastic option for unilateral training because of its unhinged base. Because the landmine base rotates in 360°, it presents an additional challenge to unilateral exercises by significantly driving the demand for anterior core control and lateral stability. Let’s use an RDL for a quick example here, one using a dumbbell (below) and one using the landmine (above).

When performing a unilateral RDL with a dumbbell, which is a fantastic exercise in its own right, we are specifically challenging contralateral stability (or “bracing”) while executing the RDL. With the landmine, however, not only are we challenging the same contralateral stability/bracing we experience with the dumbbell RDL, but now, we are additionally challenging ipsilateral (or same side) stability by working to not allow the landmine to swing out and away from the side we’re working. I know that’s a mouthful to read, hopefully the above video examples can clear the air on any confusion there.

Think of external force and human movement in a full 3-D fashion. In other words, we have front-to-back forces, side-to-side forces, up-and-down forces. But we also have the angles that dissect each of those three, effectively creating 6 directions of force application. The landmine exacerbates these force vectors, because we are challenging the body to manage multiple degrees (or planes) of movement concurrently.

4.) Rotational power

My points on rotational power go hand-in-hand with the aforementioned benefits found with unilateral work. In essence, rotational work is something that can be done with any piece of equipment- bands, med balls, dumbbells, etc. But again, I have found that training rotational power, or rotational movements in general are much easier to instruct and execute using the landmine set-up. From my observations, I feel as if the landmine allows for a more fluent movement pattern, also allowing the athlete to move more naturally and truly optimize the exercise at hand. It’s important that we keep the “fixed” exercises to a minimum, and I feel this is true whether we’re looking at a college baseball player, a young athlete or general population client. It seems that with each passing month or so, I have these little “ah-ha!” moments that remind me to “let athletes be athletes”. And much of this has to do with creating more variability to movement execution and allowing the athlete “figure out” how to complete the exercise in the most efficient and effective manner possible for them.

So as this pertains to rotational work, I feel the multi-directional nature of the landmine reinforces this by allowing for a much smoother rotational pattern. Because the body isn’t confined really in any form or fashion, which is often the case when trying to execute rotational exercises using other equipment, the athlete can devise an individually unique way of completing the exercise. When we consider the art of transferability or sport specificity, it really can’t get any more specific than allowing the athlete to do what they do best- be an athlete. Moreover, the athlete isn’t relegated to simply one plane of movement, or one path of motion. This allows them to recruit more, different, muscle fibers to contribute to the exercise; which again, is what we want for our athletes.

5.) Versatility

I’ll summarize this post with a very simple final point- the landmine is extremely versatile. The practical advantages are obvious, this is a cost-efficient addition to any gym, easily stored, does not take up a lot of space, and can be implemented with any population for any training outcome desirable. Now of course I’m not suggesting this is an end all be all, but you get my point. As for exercise versatility, here a just a few ways I’ve incorporated the landmine with various populations:

-Teaching a hinge with beginners/young athletes

-Introducing frontal plane (lateral work) … with any population or training history

-Pressing for injured athletes, as well as those who aren’t functional overhead

-Dynamic work… for just about anyone who needs dynamic work

-Alternative for floor pressing, RDL’s/hinges, squatting, Turkish get-ups & soft tissue work

-Mobility work… think like windmills/bending

- “Core” work… anti-rotation, anti-extension, rotations

-Squat/lunge/split squat variation for individuals who can’t vertically load joints or spine

-Dips with two landmine bars and bands attached overhead for athletes coming off SLAP tear

-Adding a band resistance to traditional landmine exercises for more advanced athletes

-And as already discussed, a shit ton of unilateral and rotational work

My intent was not to come off as a used-car salesman giving some promotional pitch, so I hope it wasn’t perceived as such. That being said, not only do I feel the landmine is something that should be frequented in just about any training program, but I continually find more and different ways to utilize a landmine set-up. Don’t be trapped by the shortcomings of conventional movement and exercise, allow yourself to think more freely and fluently. The landmine is a tremendous way to express creativity and innovation, and to continue to challenge status quo.

One last note before I let you go. In a few of the above videos you’ll notice I have an attachment on the end of the barbell. This attachment, manufactured by Sorinex, is called a “Griff Handle”. And believe it or not, was actually developed by my man Vernon (Director of Performance at Virginia High Performance). The purpose of the Griff Handle is to limit the amount of glenohumeral (shoulder) internal rotation while performing pressing actions. This is a phenomenal little addition and has a multitude of applications.

That handle can be found here: Griff Handle

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