Landmine training has become increasingly popular among strength athletes and general gymgoers. It offers a unique range of motion, is touted as more joint-friendly, and is often done one side at a time, which bolsters your unilateral strength.
And if the barbell shoulder press is the rugged granddaddy of pressing movements, the landmine press is the polished kid, complete with a Roth 401(k) and a palate for fine wine. Compared to more traditional pressing movements, the landmine press allows for scapular movement, requires (and therefore develops) more stability, and doesn’t require a whole lot of weight to get the job done.
- How to Do the Landmine Press
- Landmine Press Sets and Reps
- Common Landmine Press Mistakes
- Landmine Press Variations
- Landmine Press Alternatives
- Muscles Worked by the Landmine Press
- Benefits of the Landmine Press
- Who Should Do the Landmine Press
- Frequently Asked Questions
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- Insert one end of a barbell into a landmine base or the corner of a wall, placing a 25- or 45-pound plate on top of the sleeve. (Place a towel between the bar and the wall to avoid scuffing the wall.) Load the other end of the barbell with weight plates.
- Place the same-side knee as your pressing arm on the floor and then plant your other foot on the floor. The sleeve of the barbell should sit about six to eight inches in front of your knee.
- Grab the end of the sleeve with your hand and clean it to shoulder-height. Brace your core and ensure that your back is straight.
- Lean forward slightly. Press the bar overhead until your elbow locks out; you should be pressing on a slight diagonal angle, not directly up and down.
- Lower the weight back down under control. Re-brace your abs and then initiate the next rep.
While you don’t necessarily want to max out on the landmine press, you can go fairly heavy. The unique positioning also allows you to lift for endurance while going easier on your joints than regular barbell overhead presses.
- For Muscle: Do three to five sets of six to 10 repetitions OR two to four sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. Rest for 45 to 90 seconds between sets.
- For Strength: Perform three to five sets of three to five repetitions with heavy loading. Rest as needed between sets.
- For Endurance: Aim to do two to four sets of 12 to 20 repetitions with light to moderate load. Keep rest periods under 30 to 45 seconds.
The landmine press is great in theory and in practice. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough to pull off properly. No matter your experience level, you’ll need to avoid a few rookies mistakes.
Improper Hand Position
If you grip the bar with your palm facing the ceiling, the weight is likely to force your wrist all the way back. This can be very compromising to lifters, risking wrist pain or potential strains. Instead, maintain a straight wrist throughout the move by cupping the bar a bit in your lower palm.
When you flare your ribs during this move, you may risk excessively extending your spine. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down. This will help engage your lats and upper back in the move. You’ll likely be less tempted to flare your rib cage and curl your spine when your upper back is actively involved in the movement. Focus on keeping your hips tucked, too.
Incorrect Bar Path
It’s tempting to either press the bar straight up or to press it exclusively out and away from you. The landmine press is a combination of a vertical and horizontal press. The thrust is mainly upward — the emphasis is on your shoulders — but you’ll be pushing slightly outward, as well.
Solve this problem before it starts by experimenting with your positioning with an unloaded barbell. You want to be able to extend your arm up and out at around 45 degrees without shrugging your shoulder upward or flaring your rib cage.
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 your lower body to a greater extent (for stability) than with the kneeling progressions.
In doing so, a lifter can often press heavier loads. This is extra useful when you’re looking to pack extra pounds onto your press.
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.
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.
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.
The overhead press, also known as the military press, is a pressing exercise that is highly beneficial to strength, power, and functional fitness athletes.
You can do the overhead press with a barbell, dumbbell, or axle bar to increase strength and movement patterning (for moves like jerks and push presses).
Below are the muscle groups worked during the landmine press.
Your scapulae 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.
Like most pressing movements, your 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 your shoulders in the lockout stage of the press.
Your shoulders (or deltoids) are the main driver of the landmine press.
Your core, specifically your obliques, must stay engaged to prevent your body from rotating too far to the loaded side of the movement.
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.
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
In performing this moment, coaches and athletes can address movement asymmetries, imbalances, and instability in the shoulder/scapular region.
The below section breaks down the benefits of the landmine press based on a lifter’s or athlete’s goals and abilities.
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 imbalances or instabilities. 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.
Functional 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.
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.
Press it Out
Want to load up a barbell and still get in all the benefits of training one arm at a time? The landmine press lets you go heavier than you might be able to with dumbbells. At the same time, you’ll take it easier on your shoulder joints. Unilateral pressing with a barbell may not be the first thing that occurs to you, but landmine presses are sure to beef up your program — and your shoulders.
If you’re new to the landmine press, you might have a question or two about the exercise. The good thing is, we have answers.
Should you landmine press if you have bad shoulders?
If your shoulders tend to ache, 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 their shoulders 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 you to turn your hips. This mimicks a more dynamic rotational movement like punching, pressing, and throwing.
Featured image: Jack Hanrahan / YouTube