As a coach, one of the biggest mistakes I see trainers and lifters making in the gym is that of “force feeding” certain lifts.
The idea that a lift is important and good for you makes everybody, regardless of their injury history, height, weight, anthropometry or conditioning, try to implement them into their program and use them.
The problem is, due to the variety in specifications above, many of those lifters may have no business trying to do the lift variation they’re attempting.
Think about really tall, long legged guys trying conventional deadlifts from the floor. Even with good mobility and flexibility, the lift just may not be suited for their skeletons.
Perhaps you fall into one of these categories and think the chronic pain or discomfort beyond normal is something you just have to deal with as a lifter, for the sake of the movement.
It would be wise for you to think outside the box and use variations that are more applicable, and one of the most forgotten of them is the use of the barbell landmine setup.
What is the Landmine Setup?
The landmine setup is actually something that you can purchase, and in some cases can find already installed at some gyms.
Basically, one end of a single barbell fits into a sleeve at ground level, held sturdy by way of a wider support base like a plate (or even possibly fastened and bolted right into the floor itself).
The sleeve is on a ball-and-socket attachment that allows for multi-directional pivoting. This allows the open end of the barbell to be loaded and used for various exercises, and the results are usually worth their weight in gold.
The makeshift variation of the landmine setup is to simply load one side of a barbell, and bank the unladed side into any corner to perform the exercise.
Landmine Training: Boyce’s Top 6 Moves
My favorite landmine exercises generally mimic a large compound movement but create a more user-friendly environment for someone with limitations due to prior injury or skeletal build, but these all can cater beautifully to a healthy lifter as a conditioning tool with a slight modification from the norm.
1. Half-Kneeling Landmine Press
Setting up in a half kneeling position creates contralateral loading when you place the landmine bar in the hand opposite the front leg. Making sure not to hold on to anything for balance, it’s important to slightly lean the knee forward over the leading foot, to keep the hip region open, and encourage core recruitment.
The best part about this exercise is, in addition to its trunk stability benefits, it’s also a much safer alternative to dumbbell or barbell overhead pressing, due to the angled pattern and neutral grip.
2. Landmine Deadlift
Doing deadlifts with a landmine bar instead of a straight bar is a great way to load the posterior chain with fewer distractions where form cues are concerned. Because of the slightly arcing force angle a landmine bar will create, it’s much easier to find your center of gravity, hinge efficiently, and even use a wider foot position to make up for longer levers.
Not only is it a great teaching tool for novice lifters, but also for special populations, and to prove it, here’s a video of Kate Upton doing them. She isn’t my client, but as you can see, at 5’10” with very long legs, her proportions are definitely likely to frustrate her ability to perfect conventional deadlift form when compared to other variations.
The landmine deadlifts allow for perfect technique.
3. Landmine Squat
When you have mobility restrictions and can’t achieve a good depth, or you have issues in pitching forward with a front or back squat, it would be smart to use a landmine variation. The anchored bar creates a fantastic counterbalance that allows a lifter to really “sit back” against the weight at the bottom.
In addition, because the lift is clearly a front-loaded exercise, it means a vertical torso at the bottom of the lift, producing a deeper squat. Start with the bar in contact with the chest (if the bar is too heavy to “clean” up to the chest from the floor, mount it on a box like the video shows).
Find the foot position that works for you, and remember to drive up with the weight, meaning you’ll be on a slight forward lean at the top of the lift.
4. Landmine Rows
The single arm dumbbell row is already a great exercise, but many struggle to isolate the upper back effectively, and part of the reason is due to the fact that the elbow remains tucked by the side when asking for good technique.
Setting up perpendicular to a landmine bar and using a wide elbow can move the attention and target muscles from the lat to the scapular muscles like the rhomboids, rear deltoids, teres and lower traps, making it a more concentrated upper back movement.
The added benefit is the fact that you’re now using a fatter grip compared to a dumbbell, so this can double as a way to improve forearm strength and thickness in the process.
5. Landmine Rainbow
Also known as landmine twists, this exercise creates the most bang for your buck when it comes to anti-rotational abdominal exercises. A common mistake people make is that in gunning for too much range of motion, which actually creates a torso rotation that isn’t recommended.
The goal should be to keep the head and torso facing straight ahead while the arms twist the barbell and the abs and obliques resist those external forces. The movement should be short and tight, while remaining engaged the entire time.
Applying these tips will have your lumbar spine thanking you in the long run.
6. Landmine Single Leg Deadlift
Single leg deadlifts with a dumbbell or kettlebell can be difficult to master, not because of the movement pattern, but because of the balancing act that comes from being on one leg with an independent load in your hand.
Holding a barbell that’s anchored to the floor creates a slightly more stable variation and allows a lifter to focus more of his energy on the target muscles. 6’9” NBA player Taj Gibson is seen performing them here, under the direction of my friend Ben Bruno.
Get the Picture?
Primal movement patterns are primal movement patterns – even if they don’t involve a barbell or dumbbells to perform them.
We all still need to press, pull, squat and hinge.
Doing a variation that works better for your body and still honors those laws will keep everyone happy, and keep you seeing results in a safe way.