8 Landmine Exercises For Athletic Performance

   

As high school strength and conditioning coaches, it’s essential for us to make great use of our time. But in a room that may have 8 to 10 young men or women at each work station (50-60 in total) and sessions ranging anywhere from 15 to 70 minutes long, sometimes that’s easier said than done.

To enhance session density and improve session quality in my programming, we use the many tools our room has to offer to keep our students moving. These tools include the more traditional barbells, racks, platforms, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, PVC pipe, and more.

One of the less "conventional” tools we place a great emphasis on has gotten some recent well-deserved exploration: the landmine.

The ability to manipulate and master movements in all planes of movement makes the landmine perhaps the most efficient tool we have.

Why Not Just Olympic lift?

In Coach Joe Kenn’s The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook, 74 of his 81 suggested total body classified lifts are “Olympic” movements, derivatives or technical progressions. By my count, 47 of those are with a barbell and 27 with a dumbbell. Of the 74 above-mentioned weightlifting movements, 58 include a catch or some form of extensive load absorption.

In Coach Kenn’s presentation at the 2002 Hammer Strength Clinic in Cincinnati, he lists Olympic lifting first in a list of principles and exercise techniques from which the Tier System was derived. Understandably, one might ask- why aren’t we Olympic lifting? Or why aren’t we catching? We’ll perform pulls at certain points in the year.

There is absolutely value in catching a clean and receiving a snatch; smarter men and women than I have been stating their case for and against the weightlifting movements in their totality for decades. To that point, our greatest consideration on the matter is in our students’ preparation for their impending collegiate experience, which is of course relative to each student.

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About 15% of our student-athletes go on to compete in college athletics, from division 3 to division 1. Of the other 85% of our student-athletes (our weight room will also include conventional students that do not participate in sports at all), I’ll likely be the only formal movement and/or fitness education they’ll have. Most won’t see an interscholastic weight room again.

With the end goal of college preparation in mind, it’s our responsibility to find the greatest common factor of need among our students. Upon graduating, some will spend Saturday mornings on ESPN. For others, I hope their Saturday mornings are spent at their college rec center using the tools and exercises we’ve equipped them with to stay fit and healthy.

Preparing both types of students in the same weight room at the same time is where the fun begins and where the landmine initially came in.

In choosing not to program complete weightlifting movements, we’re potentially missing three significant programming targets.

  1. Rapid absorption under heavy load: a hard concept to mimic any other way than a complete weightlifting movement.
  2. The “finality” of a catch: in some sense, the catch brings the lift together (credit to Coach Kiritsy for this discussion).
  3. A diversified college preparation: many (if not most) of our students that go on to train in a college environment will find a strength coach that programs snatches, cleans, and jerks. The last of these is the programming thought that keeps me up at night the most... am I doing our students a disservice in not following a complete learning progression of these movements?

Total Body Landmine Movements

(Total Body Tier 1 Category)

Landmine-based movements find a place in each of our exercise categories, in many ways it’s our program’s Swiss Army knife.

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Perhaps the most transferable of the movements are those that fit in our total-body tier one category. This is the movement that comes first in our daily program - both in sequence and in emphasis. Though very natural, these movements are highly technical. As a result, we prefer a fresh lifter to perform them.

1. Landmine Snatch 

 

The landmine snatch is where this journey ultimately began and where our progressions lead. To me, this is the movement that gives us the opportunity to check off a few boxes that have been voided by the absence of Olympic lifting.

As mentioned above, rapid absorption of heavy load is important to us, as is lifting overhead. The landmine snatch enables us to do both.

The landmine’s semi-fixed path will allow the athlete to move the load from just about right under his/her center of mass upward and outward away from his/her body. Great activity is required from the outside leg to snatch the weight across his/her body in challenge of the frontal plane.

The receiving position is more favorable for our athletes with postural and/or scapular stability concerns as it’s not directly over his/her head, and it gives the working arm some freedom to find and absorb the load in the most comfortable position, though not truly “overhead” per se. We use a one-arm overhead squat to train the qualities necessary to find comfort in a truer overhead position at the bottom of a squat.

The path of the landmine as an athlete squats sends the weight down and over his/her center of mass until it’s directly over his/her working shoulder.

Points of Performance:

  • Can be performed from either a split stance or single leg; we prefer the inside leg to be back so the bar will have a clear path
  • The bar should be close to, but not in contact with, the inside of the outside (distal from the bar) knee at set-up
  • Can be performed from the floor or the hang, most of our young students will perform them from the hang; the most important point is that the athlete hinges to and from a loaded hip rather than a rounded back
  • Keep the bar close, poke the ceiling, step under the weight
  • The sound of your foot making contact with the ground and the sound of the “click” of the landmine should be synchronous

2. Step Through Press  

 

This movement is great to train and challenge total body extension and power development. Additionally, as the head track and field coach on campus working specifically with the sprints, I like to use these cooperatively with our block work.

If I weren’t responsible for the organization and flow of the sprinters’ practice time, I wouldn’t implement these in-season (if at all) with our sprinters because it toes the line between training and practice. For our other sports, it’s a tremendous movement and lends a surprise opportunity to teach shin angles and force vectors.

Points of Performance:

  • Start by standing upright, facing the landmine with both hands on the bar
  • Walk your feet backward until you establish a lean, push your hips back and your knees down to lower your shins toward the floor
  • Take another step backward with one foot to stagger your stance (not necessary, but our preferred variation)
  • With both hands still on the bar, forcibly extend through your lead hip and press the bar toward that side’s arm
  • Your elbow and hip should reach full extension at the same time as your opposite leg steps forward, directly under the weight that’s on the bar; I should be able to draw a line from your loaded-side hand down to you toes

3. Lateral Step-Through Press  

 

I’ve found it hard to load the hip and train the frontal plane in a manner like the lateral step-through press.

Points of Performance:

  • Face with your shoulders parallel to the landmine; grab the bar with your inside hand
  • Lean away from the bar with the majority of your weight on your outside (distal) foot
  • Step back and around with your inside leg, loading your outside hip in the direction of the opposite foot (down and back, away from the load)
  • Forcibly extend through your outside, loaded hip stepping directly under the weight with your inside foot; your foot should finish directly under your hand
  • Ideally your inside arm should finish straight up and down, as should the same-side shin

Lower Body Landmine Movements

(Lower Body Tier 2 Category)

There are limitations to the landmine versus traditional loading strategies. One of these is the inability to load the apparatus as extensively as a conventional barbell. As a result, unless being used as a teaching progression toward a more extensively loaded tool, a lower body landmine movement will rarely fit the bill for a tier-one classification.

Tier One Lower Body exercises for our experienced athletes are usually bilaterally loaded under a barbell. However, we’ve found this method to be a terrific strategy of teaching, loading, and challenging unilateral movements such as seen in the videos below:

4. Overhead Squat  

 

This movement has become a staple in our weekly program for a variety of reasons. For athletes who lack range in the thorax, this creates an opportunity to safely and comfortably load an overhead squat pattern.

I prefer the athlete to at least try to get his/her free hand overhead to mimic a bilateral overhead squat; the single side loading often frees up that side’s scapula to upwardly rotate. I believe the source of this hindrance in most of our students is a postural issue starting at the thoracic spine and bearing its head in the scap.

With that said, this exercise should not serve as a Band-Aid to those limitations... simply masking poor adaptations with a movement that falls in a young athlete’s maladaptive safe space. We don’t program heavy barbell loaded overhead squats, but we do use unloaded overhead squats as a measure of movement quality. This movement helps us with the latter, but does not take the place of the former.

Points of Performance:

  • Face the side, shoulders should be parallel to the landmine
  • The bar should be in your inside hand above your head at about 45 degrees (in between directly above and directly to the side of your shoulder)
  • As you squat, allow the landmine to take its path; this will send the load directly overhead

5. Curtsy Lunge 

 

Points of Performance:

  • Face the side, shoulders should be parallel to the landmine
  • Inside arm should take a “Zercher” type hold with the bar resting in the crevice of the athlete’s elbow
  • I like our students to move their outside foot away from the bar to establish a lean into it; though the position may not be very comfortable to the athlete at the top, this foot and leg position will allow the landmine to track its natural path, which will load directly over the loaded hip at the bottom position
  • Step back and around with the inside leg just as you would in a curtsy lunge
  • Our advanced athletes will perform these without making contact with the free leg, similar to a single leg squat
  • I prefer the working leg’s shin to stay vertical through this movement, which is made possible by the weight shift caused by the landmine

6. Lateral Squat 

 

The landmine lateral squat is an important movement for us both as a loaded Tier 2 Lower Body movement and as a lateral lunge learning progression.

We see a few common technical hindrances from our students when teaching a lateral squat and/or lunge, many times they stem from what we call “Little League Lunges.” This is when a student pushes her knee forward and rolls onto her toes, probably rotating her chest away from the working side leg attempting to feel some sort of stretch in the opposite leg. (I call them little league lunges because that’s what my coaches taught me to do when I was younger).

Progressing with the landmine has helped immensely and enforced technique in a way that I have been unable to this point.

The “down and back” path of a loaded landmine is the intended path of the athlete’s working side hip in our lateral squats and lunges. Many people coach and teach movements in different ways, but this is our preferred method.

When the athlete processes and assumes the landmine as part of his/her kinaesthetic “system,” both the load and the athlete should move in an efficient pattern hard to otherwise coach.

Upper Body Landmine Movements

(Upper Body Tier 3 Category)

The unique, semi-fixed path of a landmine attachment creates the opportunity to load various movements that would otherwise not be possible, at least not as safely as this device allows. There are various rotational pressing concepts, such as the ones seen below, that we use to take advantage of the opportunity to develop strength in the transverse plane while improving movement efficiency in the thoracic spine.

7. Closed Rotational Press

 

This is a movement I graciously stole from a former assistant, John Morales, who happens to be my demo guy throughout this article.

Points of Performance:

  • Face the side, shoulders should be parallel to the landmine
  • Outside knee down; inside knee up in a tall half-kneeling position
  • Grab the bar with your outside hand, inside hand should be free
  • Keep your inside knee directly over your foot; it’s very important to maintain that position and ensure the rotation occurs from his/her thoracic spine
  • This won’t be a movement that we load extensively; we typically pair them with a bodyweight pull movement like an inverted row or pull-up

8. Open Rotational Press

 

Similar to above, Coach Morales and I discussed and implemented this with our students this summer.

Points of Performance:

  • Face the side, shoulders should be parallel to the landmine
  • Outside foot backward, inside foot forward
  • Grab the bar with your inside hand, outside hand should be free
  • Very similar concept to above except pressing with the opposite arm

Your Landmine Routine

The intent of this article is not to suggest that these exercises should instantly take the place of barbell loaded movements performed on the platform. Instead, it’s to explain how we at North Broward Prep use them to fulfill our various movement categorizations.

No matter the programming methodology, the landmine is a terrific tool to efficiently teach, challenge, and load movement patterns. Whether it’s as a tier-one total body power movement or a paired movement-efficiency exercise complementing an upper body lift in the rack, the landmine is a serviceable tool to help the coach meet his/her programming necessities.

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About The Author

John Garrish is the Director of Athletic Development & Performance at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida, and the school’s Head Track and Field Coach. A graduate of Wagner College and the University of North Texas, he is certified through the NSCA as a CSCS and through USAW as a Level-1 Sports Performance Coach. In addition to his role at North Broward, John serves as the Director of Athletic Performance with the Florida Rugby Union’s High-Performance Program 7’s team and as a volunteer coach with Delray Beach Sports’ Exhibitors. Coach Garrish has spoken at state and national events and serves as the National High School Strength Coaches Association Regional Board Member for the Southeast.

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