Written by Dave Thomas
I have many favorite presses. French press. The free press. Full court press. Jamie Pressly. And, the Landmine Press.
About six months ago we made the investment to stock both of our gyms with landmine attachments after years of ghetto rigging it, and it’s among the best accessory money we’ve ever spent when you measure return on investment for what we’ve been able to put our athletes through.
Scapular function. Rotational power. Joint economy. Confused looks in class walkthroughs.
Here’s why I love ’em.
1. A More Accessible “Overhead” Press
Landmines are great for accessibility when it comes to “overhead” pressing.
The human body is one large complex interaction and interdependence between various parts. This is very evident when looking at the shoulder complex and the thoracic spine. Healthy overhead positioning starts in the thoracic spine, particularly, whether or not the T-spine can properly extend will have great impact on rib cage position.
Rib cage position is very important to shoulder health, because if the rib cage position is faulty, then it is simply not possible for the scapulae, and the humerus (upper arm bone) to avoid a line of fault when moving under load.
The humerus and the scapula always move in cooperation with one another, known as “scapulo-humeral rhythm”.
We’ve all seen it. The athlete jerking the weight overhead, elbows flaring outward, just an absolute abortion of movement pattern.
You want your scapulae and humerus to dance the sweet, smooth tango like Arnold and Jamie Lee in True Lies, not like a hammered Alpha Phi after one slushy too many at Shore Club.
The normal scapular alignment is 30-45 degrees from the midline, which is creatively referred to as “the scapular plane”. In this position, we are much better able to avoid shoulder impingement because the shoulder muscle and rotator cuff are most optimally aligned for pressing/lifting/moving.
While landmine pressing is most certainly not in the scapular plane, it is a hell of a lot closer to the mark than traditional overhead pressing and results in a better aligned deltoid and supraspinatus, translating into a much more shoulder friendly pressing motion.
Landmine Split Stance Press:
The non-overhead position is also money for folks with poor thoracic mobility. Because the landmine is not directly overhead with it’s press, it makes an upward flaring rib cage nearly impossible, thus creating next to no stress on the lumbar spine.
2. Real Core Training
You know what word is tossed around more recklessly than Jameson shots at a P360 happy hour? Core.
Our “core” is a series of muscles in our 360 degree midsection that protect our spine and transfer force, mainly consisting of muscles from the anterior core, posterior core, lumbar, glutes, even the lats. The more centrally located parts are formally known as the Lumbopelvic Hip Complex and are responsible for connecting the upper and lower halves of the body in human movement.
It has the following main functions:
- Transfer of Force – The core is your interpreter between your lower body and your upper body communicating during movement. All force must pass through it, so if it is weak, force will be lost and communication between your upper body and lower body. It will be like your legs are speaking Chinese while your upper body is speaking Spanish, and your midsection is just sitting there on Instagram not paying attention.
- Foundation for Power – Without a strong and stable foundation, we cannot express power. Think of a strong core as a stable basketball court foundation from which your limbs create power against. And think of a weak core as an unstable foundation, like sand. If you were to perform a vertical jump off of sand, you would not get as high as you would off of a stable basketball court, right? This is because the solid, stable surface produces more force resistance back to the object launching off it. This is analogous for your core. Your legs and arms cannot fire to their maximum capacity against a core that is soft and “sandy”. Cleans, jerks, snatches, sprinting, jumping and anything explosive and athletic will be much stronger, faster and more explosive for you if you get your core to basketball court level, not sandbox.
Muscles cannot express their maximum torque in the presence of instability.
- Allows Full Mobility in Surrounding Joints – If we wish to have any true distal mobility whatsoever, we must first have proximal stability. Meaning, if we want our arms and our legs (distal) to work to their fullest range of motion, then we need to make sure our core (proximal) knows how to stabilize at the correct time and intensity.
If we look at Jackie above, we can see just how much that Lumbopelvic complex is working to transfer force and stabilize. She goes from a kneeling position to a single-arm press. If the core is weak and “sandy”, the landmine will either laterally rotate away from her, or she will have to jerk the weight overhead rather than smoothly press it.
Total body landmine movements > sit-ups.
3. It Owns the Half-Kneeling Position
The half-kneeling position is very good at:
- Training the Glute Medius – Because you are slightly off balance, the Glute Medius of both hips will be firing to keep you stabilized. The GM is a very important muscle for both pelvic and spinal stability. Anywhere we can get GM work, we take it.
- Reinforcing Core Stability – The same effect as the previous point, only in the lateral core.
Here is an article from Quinn Henoch that goes into greater detail on the half-kneeling position and its benefits.
4. Shoulder Stability
While I love dumbbell loaded unilateral training to build shoulder stability, I love it even more on the landmine. It’s like shoulder stability on 20 mg of adderral. The landmine is connected to a single pivot point that is about seven feet away from where the athlete is actually holding it. Mechanically speaking, this makes the entire barbell want to rotate like hell because the lever is so long. So, the entire time you are performing movement, your shoulder (and your core) are working to stabilize against rotation.
Landmine Turkish Get-Up:
There simply is no other piece of equipment that produces this same benefit, from this loading position.
5. Rotational Training
Nearly every program out there could benefit from more rotational work in the transverse plane. For anyone who plays sports, the ability to transfer power from a plantar-flexed ankle all the way up the chain is very beneficial.
Split Stance Forward to Rotational Press:
Even if you don’t play team sports which let’s be serious, you’re an adult, you most likely stopped that years ago unless you call rec softball a sport in which case, respect, but it still has the same function for whatever active life we might be pursuing now.
Transferring force through a stable core is important to keep spinal health and ensure our power output is as efficient as possible. If you are just doing this in the saggital plane then you are just training the prime movers of flexion and extension. I don’t know how to break this to you, but we have more muscles than that.
Landmine Lateral Lunge w/ Rotation:
Not only is rotational training important, but anti-rotation, as well. When we train our anterior core (rectus abdominus, transvere abdominus, internal and external obliques) to fight against a line of force that wants to rotate it, we effectively train these muscles to protect our spine against rotational forces that may wish to harm it one day.
Landmine Unilateral Roll-Out:
Sometimes, the slightest thing can do wrong when you’re under a near-maximal load, and if you have trained spinal stability, it can go a long ways towards protecting you.
6. Hello, Lats
Because of the aforementioned unique degree angle of pressing, it targets the muscles of our scapulae and our lats more than traditional overhead pressing, push-ups, and bench press. There is a heavy eccentric component where the lats are acting as the primary form of support on the lowering of the movement.
Half Kneeling Unilateral Press:
Many people who perform landmine pressing for the first time often complain about soreness in the upper back and lats the next day. This is your dormant pressing stabilizing muscles being woke the fuck up.
The landmines also train the lats in one of their most true functions, and that’s stability of the shoulders. Most of us love movements that treat the lats as prime movers (pull-ups, rows, etc), but to be able to also give them some love in their role of stability is very beneficial to our shoulder function.
7. Multi-Plane Combinations
The landmine is a great tool to put athlete’s through combination multi-planar activity. Where I really, really like to get my hands dirty as a programmer is to ask athletes to change planes mid-movement and perform complete human motion.
Multi-Plane Landmine Combo:
Yeah, I know. Looks gimmicky, right? Trust me, I hate gimmicky shit as much as you do, but where the landmines make their money in a movement scenario like this is the fact I just hit saggital, frontal, and transverse muscles in thirty seconds, of my upper body, lower body, and trunk.
If you can name me another movement or implement that can do this, I am all ears.
8. Joint Economy
Because we don’t have to load up much weight at all to get benefit from movement, it is very friendly on the joints, and aside from perhaps some very muscle soreness in areas that are new to you, it doesn’t leave your joints battered in the same manner that a heavy barbell might.
Landmine Squat to Deadlift Combo:
Now, the trade off is that we obviously don’t build absolute strength in near the same manner as those lifts, but it’s always nice to get stronger without getting beaten up.
9. Grip Work
The diameter of a dummbell is 25-35 mm, and the diamater of the barbell sleeve that we grip for every single Landmine movement is 50 mm.
That’s double the pleasure, and if we learned anything from Doublemint gum, it’s double the fun, too. The extra 15-25 mm can be quite effective for training our grip to be stronger, and we know that with a stronger grip comes greater neural activation, and greater overall strength with things we hold, carry, pull, and press.
Here is a library of Landmine movements you can begin to include in your training to receive all of the benefits I just reviewed.
No one is saying you need to dump what you’re doing and start training exclusively on the landmine. That would be dumb. What I recommend is that one day a week, you manage to get the benefits of what these great movements have to offer and you’ll probably start to feel and move a whole lot better.
Agree? Disgaree? Helpful? Have questions? Let me know what you think with comment below, and if you liked it, please hit the SHARE button.