A landmine exercise is where one end of a barbell is anchored to the ground, unloaded, and the other side moves as part of the exercise. Landmine presses and landmine rows are some of the most popular, but I love using the landmine for all kinds of squat variations. While every variation isn’t for everybody, landmine squats can improve just about anybody’s program.
The first step is to make sure you set up the landmine properly. If you don’t have a secure and well-guarded corner, then you should make sure you pick up a solid landmine attachment.
Then, if you’re starting with the barbell on the floor, squat down so that when you bring it up in a power clean motion, you’re moving through your hips. For more on proper clean technique, check out this article on the power clean.
(Side note: landmine cleans with a pentagon bar attachment, are a great exercise deserving of their own article.)
Once you clean the bar up, don’t worry about wrapping your whole hand around it. Keep your wrists relatively straight.
From here, you squat like always. Keep your toes either forward or slightly pointed out. Make sure your whole foot remains firmly on the ground, and make sure your hips sink back.
The nature of any landmine setup gives landmine squats a few benefits over other squat variations.
One of the reasons why a goblet squat is a much better option for beginners than a barbell squat is because the weight rests in front of your center of gravity, which, without getting into the physics, makes it easier to stay upright while you squat. Landmine squats are also front-loaded, allowing for these same benefits.
Also like the goblet squat, landmine squats don’t require advanced technique mobility. In the case of a front squat, you need to practice the front-rack position and build up wrist mobility. In a back squat, you need a lot of shoulder mobility to keep your spine safe. The classic landmine squat can be a great progression from a goblet squat because you can add more load, but the technique is still completely intuitive.
If you’ve ever done a front squat, you’ll know what your abs feel like while doing a landmine squat as well. Because the weight rests in front of your center of gravity, your abdominals have to engage in order to keep you from falling forward. If you have exercises like this in your program, isolated ab training becomes much less important, because every exercise is truly a core exercise.
Any landmine exercise has a different strength curve, which means the weight feels heavier or lighter at different points in the movement. In a landmine squat, the weight “feels” heavier at the bottom of the squat and easier at the top because the angle of the bar changes. This has its drawbacks (which we discuss below). However, if you’re working on training the bottom of a squat, this can be a better option than a traditional free weight. It
The landmine setup also makes the bar move in an arc. As you sink to the bottom, the bar gets physically closer to you, which I’ve found makes sinking back natural and smooth, even more so than a goblet squat. This combined with the strength curve aspect makes the landmine squat great for those looking to challenge the bottom of a squat position.
At the top of a landmine, the barbell is more vertical than at the bottom, and gravity only exists force straight down to the ground. So even if there’s the same amount of weight on the bar, the higher the bar, the lighter it will feel.
In some exercises, like landmine rows, this is advantageous, as rows are naturally harder at the top already, but squats are the opposite. Squats are already harder at the bottom than at the top. We can lift more in the top half of a squat than we could in just the last half. But, a landmine squat gets progressively heavier on the way down.
This makes the landmine squat not ideal for challenging the weight of the full range of motion of the squat pattern. Rather, it will target the bottom half. Now, this is totally fine, but if you’re trying to improve the top portion of your squat, you’ll need to include other exercises in your program as well. For athletes, you’d often want the opposite. You want it to get harder as you go up, and that’s where tools like bands and chains can come in.
For advanced lifters, the weight of landmine squats won’t challenge your leg strength the way heavy single-leg training or trap bar deadlifts will. It’s NOT a max strength exercise.
A testament to the utility of the landmine is how many options you have with it. While they all carry the unique strength curve and angle of the landmine, they all have their differences.
(Note, to me a “squat” is a broad term for any knee-dominant leg movement. A split squat is a type of squat. A lunge is a type of squat. These are just different terms for the same movement).
This is the variation main variation. It’s great as a progression from the goblet squat and when you’re not ready for a front squat, trap bar DL, or heavy single-leg training. Or you can substitute it into your program for a phase or two just to mix it up and add some variation.
The landmine split squat is the unilateral version of the landmine squat. You get all of the benefits of the landmine squat along with all of the benefits of unilateral leg training.
You can even do a Bulgarian split squat with the landmine.
One of the problems with a classic sumo deadlift is the weight has to rest slightly in front of you because the barbell can’t go through your body. This is fine for a deadlift pattern, but if you want to get a squat pattern (more knee bend, as I’ve explained in this article on the kettlebell deadlift), having the weight in front of you can place unnecessary strain on your lower back. The landmine sumo squat solves this.
Any side-loaded Bulgarian split squat where you hold the weight on the inside of the working leg helps you shift into a better posture. This is in particular important if you struggle with low back pain or struggle to activate your glutes. The problem with this variation is one kettlebell often isn’t enough to challenge you, just like the goblet squat conundrum. The landmine solves this.
In this video, I’ve even added a 60lb vest to challenge myself even more. Alternatively, I could’ve added more weight to the landmine but I like this mix.
In life, we don’t just move up and down and forward. We move in all directions. Athletes during their sport constantly have to crossover, shuffle, pivot, and more. Yet, very little of our training reflects that.
Originally for hockey players, who have to crossover in the frontal plane, I experimented with this for everybody. It will hit your leg muscles at new angles, challenging your muscles in new ways while improving your athleticism and attacking movement weaknesses.
The landmine lateral lunge also centers around the frontal plane (side to side) movement.
Dumbbell or kettlebell lateral lunges are hard to load up to a challenging weight. One heavy dumbbell simply won’t cut it for advanced lifters. This one challenges even some of the strongest athletes I know.
View this post on Instagram
(Shout out to my boy Bryce for the demo.)
A Cossack squat looks a lot like a lateral lunge, but the intent of the exercise is very different. The main goal is to improve your mobility on the side you squat to. The goal is to sink as deep as you can while maintaining proper alignment (heel down, back flat, etc). The difference between flexibility and mobility, as they’re traditionally defined, is mobility means you can control that range of motion. The landmine takes that to the next level, as you not only need to be mobile in that position, but also really strong.
Uses: this one is not for beginners. If mobility is a sticking point for you, try cossack squats with a kettlebell first, and once you get the hang of it (4 weeks minimum), you can give the landmine version a shot.
This exercise combines two major movements into one, which John called “Dynamic Training” in Final Phase Fat Loss. In addition to the obvious density benefit (more work and more muscles in less time), this style of training increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) which increases insulin sensitivity. When you increase insulin sensitivity, your body uses energy more effectively so it’s easier to burn fat. Hormones for the win.
This is a great exercise if you’re short on time and want to get a sweat in. There’s also a unilateral component to this that will challenge your stability. When you squat, the weight will stay in one hand, so you’ll have to use your core muscles to resist shifting to one side.
Also, this one looks cool and makes you feel cool, and that’s worth something in my book.
The various options for landmine squats, and each of their unique benefits, speaks to the power of the landmine. They allow for new exercises like the side landmine reverse lunge, while also making staples like a traditional squat a safer and easier option with load. The landmine isn’t going anywhere, and I think in the future gyms and racks with better landmine setups will be commonplace.
I’d go as far to say, you can get a badass body with only landmine exercises. And I think that might be a fun experiment.