Do the Landmine Press for More Comfortable Shoulder Gains

Build core strength and stability while giving your shoulder joint a break with the landmine press

The landmine press is a unique unilateral overhead pressing movement that can increase movement asymmetries, build scapular strength and stability, and improve overall shoulder health and development. For guys and gals with shoulder pain, the landmine press is generally more comfortable movement since the diagonal pressing path of the landmine press places less pressure on the elbow and shoulder joints. 

The guide below will cover various topics and arm you with the knowledge to do the landmine press and program it into your routine. 

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.

How to Do the Landmine Press

Before you do the landmine press, you need to get the barbell set. Slide a barbell into either a landmine base or the corner of a wall (with a 25 or 45-pound plate on the end). Then, load a plate onto the end you’re going to grab. Use bumper plates if possible since the diameter stays consistent regardless of weight. The larger diameter of the bumper plates will reduce the distance you need to lift the barbell from the floor to shoulder level. This may seem like a minor detail, but it’ll help spare your shoulder potential aches over time. 

Step 1 — Find Your Base

Landmine Press Find Position
Courtesy of Jack Hanrahan’s YouTube channel

You can do this move either standing or kneeling. We’re going over the kneeling version in this guide. Decide which arm you’re going to press with first, and then step the leg opposite that arm forward so that the toes line up with the bumper plate. The sleeve of the barbell should be between that leg and your kneeling leg. Ensure your back is straight and that your hips are directly under your shoulders. Your ribs should be tucked down and in. 

Form Tip: Only place weight on the side you are holding. Do not place weight on both ends.

Step 2 —  Establish Your Grip

Landmine Press Find Grip
Courtesy of Jack Hanrahan’s YouTube channel

Clean that bar up to shoulder height and tuck your elbow into your side. Don’t let your hand hyperextend back toward your wrist. Keep your wrist in line with your forearm.

Form Tip: Keep your arms tense. Don’t let your elbow give in to the weight. If you can’t elevate your elbow a little, lower the weight on the bar. 

Step 3 — Brace Your Core and Lock Your Base

Lock Your Base
Courtesy of Jack Hanrahan’s YouTube channel

Now, brace your abs and lats. You should tension in all of your muscles — your arms, shoulders, back, core, and legs. Keep your head and back straight. Raise your non-pressing arm straight out to your side, make a fist, and squeeze your hand.

Form Tip: To create full-body tension, drive your front foot into the floor and flex the toes on your back foot. 

Step 4 — Press the Barbell

Landmine Press Pressing Phase
Courtesy of Jack Hanrahan’s YouTube channel

To push the weight, think about reaching your hand forwards. At the top of the movement, be sure to find stability while your elbow is locked out. You should be able to maintain a rigid torso and back tension. As you lower the load, focus on pulling the bar down to you slowly and feel how the shoulder blade wants to glide along the back of the ribcage.

Form Tip: Make sure you do not allow the ribs to flare upwards during the press, as this suggests excessive spinal extension, often a compensation patterning for weak pressers or poor overhead pressing mechanics.

Benefits of the Landmine Press

This unique pressing exercise is, admittedly, a bit more involved than other variations, but the benefits are well worth the effort. 

Better Core Stability

Aside from the benefits of overhead pressing, the landmine press can increase core stability and anti-rotational strength. Because you’re pressing the weight with one arm, and your body is inherently imbalanced from a kneeling position. Your ab muscles will have to stay braced throughout to prevent your torso from rotating too far to the loaded side. 

Scapular Control

Increasing scapular stability and control is key for athletes placing loads overhead. The landmine press reinforces proper scapular stabilization due to the pressing angle and loading of the barbell as it comes into and leaves the body.

More Pressing Strength

The landmine press can increase scapular stability and shoulder strength, which are both necessary for hoisting large objects overhead. In performing this moment, coaches and athletes can address movement asymmetries, imbalances, and instability in the shoulder/scapular region.

Muscles Worked by the Landmine Press

Below are the muscle groups worked during the landmine press.

Scapular Stabilizers

Your scapulas or shoulder blades are what retract your shoulders. Therefore, they are a primary player in keeping your shoulder joint stable.  The landmine press forces you to press weight from a shoulders-back position, which means the scapular stabilizers are engaged throughout the exercise. 

Triceps

Like most pressing movements, the triceps are involved during the final stages of elbow extension (towards the top of the press). While the triceps are not the primary muscle groups, they assist the shoulders in the lockout stage of the press.

Shoulders

The shoulders (or deltoids) are the main driver of the landmine press. 

Core Muscles

Your core, specifically your obliques, must stay engaged to prevent your body from rotating too far to the loaded side of the movement. 

Who Should Do the Landmine Press?

The below section breaks down the benefits of the landmine press based on a lifter’s or athlete’s goals and abilities.

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Strength and Power Athletes

The landmine press can be used as an accessory movement to increase overhead performance and strength, and address any shoulder movement imbalance/instability. Lifters who feel pain in traditional overhead presses may find this angle less painful. Lifters who are experiencing pain while pressing should consult a trained physical therapist or professional.

Fitness Athletes

While this movement will rarely (if ever) find its way into a formal fitness competition, it can be a good variation to increase unilateral strength, scapular control and address any movement asymmetries and muscle imbalances for most overhead athletes.

General Population

The landmine press is a good move to increase shoulder stabilization, strength, and core stability. It also reinforces proper overhead pressing mechanics with beginner lifters and/or those who may have limitations when pressing a weight overhead.

Landmine Press Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations

Below are four sets, reps, and weight (intensity) recommendations for coaches and athletes to program the landmine press with. The below guidelines are simply recommendations and can be altered to fit your specific goals.

To Gain Muscle

If you’re looking to pack meat onto your delts, aim to perform more volume with a  moderate amount of weight. To find the optimal load for more muscle mass, pick a weight that you can perform for two reps more than the end of your target rep range. Do three to five sets of six to 10 repetitions OR two to four sets of 12-15 repetitions. Rest for 45-90 seconds between sets.

To Gain Strength

While you don’t want to load this exercise up with your one-rep max, many lifters will find this more comfortable than traditional overhead presses. As a result, you can and may want to use this as your primary pressing movement. Perform three to five sets of three to five repetitions with heavy loading. Rest as needed between sets.

To Improve Muscle Endurance

The landmine press can be used to increase muscle endurance for athletes who have a high dependency on shoulder, triceps, and upper body pressing in their sport (competitive athletes, climbers, boxers, etc.). Aim to do two to four sets of 12-20 repetitions with light to moderate load. Keep rest periods under 30-45 seconds.

Landmine Press Variations

Below are three landmine press variations that coaches and athletes can use to increase muscle mass, and functional fitness.

Banded Landmine Press

The banded landmine press has a lifter place a looped resistance band under their foot with the other end looped around the shaft of a barbell. The band will create tension throughout the entirety of the movement. You can do this movement without any weight or, after you acclimate to the band, some weight plates.  

Standing Landmine Press

The standing landmine press will demand greater body control and allow a lifter to utilize the lower body to a greater extend (for stability) than with the kneeling progressions. In doing so, a lifter can often press heavier loads.

Single-Arm Landmine Thruster

The single-arm landmine thruster is a hybrid between a landmine squat and a landmine single-arm press. This can be a good move to help individuals add strength and stability to the thruster and vary the pressing movement if the shoulder range of motion is limited.

Landmine Press Alternatives

Below are three landmine press alternatives that, like the landmine press, recruit the core, shoulder muscles, and improve scapular stability. 

Single-Arm Kettlebell Press

The single-arm kettlebell press is a unilateral pressing movement that helps address muscular asymmetries and develop strength. The kettlebell is, by nature, an unstable tool due to the offset center of gravity. As a result, your scapular stabilizer will need to work harder to set your arm in the overhead position. 

Z Press

The Z Press is an overhead pressing movement that can increase overhead strength, shoulder and triceps mass, and promote proper overhead positioning. You won’t be able to lift as heavy since your legs aren’t involved in this movement. 

Overhead Press

The overhead press, also known as the military press, is a pressing exercise that is highly beneficial to strength, power, and fitness athletes. You can do the overhead press with a barbell, dumbbell, or axle bar to increase strength, movement patterning (for jerks, push presses, etc.). It has a high application to fitness competitions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you landmine press if you have bad shoulders?

If you have bad shoulders, it is first important to determine what is the cause or issue. And always consult a doctor if you have an injury. That said, the landmine press is often a go-to exercise to help people rehab a bad shoulder as it changes the angle from directly overhead to more of a diagonal press. Additionally, the movement really forces proper scapular stability and pressing mechanics, often two main causes of shoulder issues (lack of stability and proper mechanics leads to issues).

Are landmine presses good for athletes?

Yes, these are great for overhead athletes, throwers, and any athlete who needs to generate force with their upper body. The landmine press builds shoulder strength and size but also scapular control.

Can you do explosive movements with landmine presses?

Yes! Like most movements, you can drop the loading and focus on being explosive and powerful with the presses. You can also turn a landmine press into a more rotational pressing movement by allowing the lifter/athlete to turn the hips and the press, mimicking a more dynamic rotational movement like punching, pressing, and throwing.

Featured image: Jack Hanrahan’s YouTube channel