Landmine Leg Exercises to Shake Up Your Lower Body Training

Jan 31, 2023 | Exercise guides

landmine leg exercises for strength and conditioning athletes

The landmine can look like a weird, intimidating piece of equipment, but once you learn how it works, the possibilities are endless for so many movements — especially on leg day.

Sari Terranova is a total supermom, CPT, and nutrition coach who introduces women and youth athletes to the power of weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and functional strength training. In this blog, she runs through step-by-step guides for some of the gnarliest landmine leg exercises.

Sari Terranova
Sari Terranova

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The Coolest Training Tool You Don’t Use Often Enough

Leg Day. Two words that can pierce the heart and set the quads of the burliest strongwoman or man trembling.

When most think of heavy leg day lifting, they imagine barbell back squats and deadlifts. While those movements are undeniably fundamental leg day staples, there is another tool to incorporate leg day lifts in a joint-friendly way.

It encourages good form, takes pressure off the lower back and spine, and allows for rotational movements beyond the sagittal plane.

Enter: The Landmine.

The landmine attachment is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym. Once difficult to find, these handy tools have popped up everywhere from commercial to boutique and even home gym spaces.

It was first invented by Bert Sorin of Sorinex in 1999 out of necessity, when he needed a tool that offered better rotation while training for the hammer throw Olympic Trials (1). There are now several variations to choose from.

Aside from his original tubular mount affixed to squat racks, there are “floating” landmine attachments placed in bumper plates, or even fully portable versions like The Barbell Bomb by Abmat.

A lot of athletes associate the landmine with upper body movements such as core anti-rotation, shoulder presses, or the v-grip row. But the landmine is also an invaluable tool for leg development. The fundamental leg day movements: squat, hip thrust, hinge and lunge, can all be accomplished with a barbell and landmine.

The landmine provides proprioceptive challenges to your typical leg day movements as it allows for 360 degree rotation. This range of movement can help you identify and correct muscle imbalances as it provides a medium for heavy loads in unilateral movements.

The landmine also has the added benefit of contributing to grip strength as you hold onto the end collar of a barbell which is significantly wider than the typical dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell grip point.

Equipment Tip
If you want to move serious weight, you’ll need to use a fixed landmine set-up with a stand to load and deload the bar. Otherwise you’ll waste a lot of energy and risk injury just hoisting the bar to your starting position.

Landmine Squat Variations

Why use the landmine to squat? It’s easier on your joints and spine, you can load anteriorly or posteriorly, and it challenges your legs in a new way. The stronger you get, the more important it is to progressively challenge muscles in order to continue making gains.

 

Heel-Elevated Squat to Press

This compound movement targets your core, upper body, and posterior chain. Elevating the heels allows for greater depth and more quad activation. This is also a great alternative front-loaded squat if traditional front squats aren’t your jam.

Depending on how heavy you’re going, you may want to use a landmine stand for this one. You can use plates to elevate your heels, but I prefer a wedge or slant board to really get that increased range of motion.

How To
Grip the sleeve of the barbell at about chest height. I prefer to squeeze the bar between my hands rather than tightening my fingers around it. With your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly and heels elevated, brace your core and lower into a squat. Keep the bar at your chest.

At the bottom of the squat, push your feet into the floor to return to standing. When your knees straighten, extend your arms to press the weight up and out in front of you. Bring the bar back towards your chest as you lower into your squat and repeat for reps.

 

Squat to Lateral Step

We tend to program legs in the sagittal plane — forward, back, up, down, but it’s harder to do side-to-side movements regularly. Get the glute med (top of your butt) and adductors working by incorporating a lateral step into this squat variation.

How To
Start with a wide stance, gripping the sleeve of the bar at chest height. Squat down and take a wide step to your left. Try to keep the space between your feet consistent throughout the exercise. Press your feet into the floor to return to the starting position.

Squat down again and take a lateral step to your right. Press through that floor again and rise back to the starting position. Repeat and enjoy the burn!

 

Hack Squat

No hack squat machine? No problem. You’ll definitely want to use the landmine stand to load the bar and a fixed landmine attachment for this one.

How To
Stand facing away from the bar with the barbell sleeve resting atop your right shoulder (you can alternate sides between rounds) and your back against the plates. Grip the sleeve of the barbell with your left arm across your chest and your hands stacked on the sleeve. Lift the bar off the stand, stepping out to the side with enough room for the plates to clear the stand.

Adjust your foot width to your liking (I prefer a shoulder width stance). Lower your body into a deep squat, then press through your feet and into the plates on your back to return to an upright position. Play with different rep and tempo ranges to really crush those quads and ramp up the jelly-leg factor.

 

Underhand Grip Sumo Squat

The landmine sumo squat allows for heavy weight with lower impact on the knees and spine. Since there is little upper body involvement here, you can really isolate the quads and glutes and move some plates.

How To
With the barbell sleeve on the ground between your legs, adopt a wide stance with toes pointed outwards. Squat (don’t hinge) down and grip the sleeve underhand, keeping your chest proud, neck and spine neutral, and shoulders back.

For an added challenge and range of motion, stand on bumper plates or low boxes. Lift the weight by pushing your feet into the floor and extending your legs just shy of locking your hips, keeping the tension in your quads and glutes as you lower back into your squat. Rinse and repeat, or add some pulses in there to really set those legs on fire.

 

Landmine Thrust Variations

If you want to increase the strength and size of your glutes, squatting alone won’t get you there — thrust you must. The landmine offers opportunities for bilateral and unilateral thrusting that spare your lower back without sacrificing the weight on the bar.

 

Kneeling Hip Thrust

If you’re looking for a heavy thrust that is a little easier on the lower back than the barbell hip thrust this variation may fill that void in your training calendar.

How To
Start in a kneeling position with the loaded bar at chest height, gripping it as you would for the landmine squat. Keeping your torso engaged and locked up, push your hips back until your butt almost touches your heels, then snap your hips forward to return to starting position. Make sure your hips are the only muscles doing the moving and squeeze that booty at the top.

Coach’s Favorite
The kneeling hip thrust works well alternated with a kneeling chest press and half-kneeling single arm shoulder press to create an efficient full body superset.

 

Single Leg Hip Thrust

The unilateral hip thrust is challenging to load heavy, but the fixed end of the barbell in a landmine attachment does some of the stability work with you. Load it up!

How To
Set up this movement as you would for a standard barbell hip thrust with your shoulders on a bench, feet positioned so that when you extend your hips up, your shins are at a 90 degree angle to the floor. The barbell should bisect your body at the hip, but instead of the whole bar crossing your hips, just the sleeve rests on one hip with the end of the bar stopping at your midsection.

You will want a thick pad underneath the sleeve to protect your hip bones from bruising. As you lower your hips, lift your non-working leg in the air, knee bent at a 90 degree angle. Pause at the bottom for a count and squeeze your glutes as you thrust upwards, locking your hips up in a tabletop position. Repeat for desired reps and then switch sides.

Hinge Movements With a Landmine

Kickstand Romanian Deadlift

While the landmine single leg Romanian deadlift is popular, it requires extremely good balance if you’re going to pull any significant weight. This kickstand version offers you a tripod base, so you can hinge and heft without tweaking anything if you start to waver à la sobriety test failure.

How To
Begin in a staggered stance with your right foot slightly behind you and the barbell straight out to your right side. With your right arm hanging by your side, push your hips back and hinge forward until your hand grasps the barbell. Keeping your neck and spine neutral, pull your hips forward until you are completely upright — this is your starting position.

To complete each rep, keep your shoulders back, core engaged, and push your hips back as far as possible before snapping them forward again to raise the weight. Do not round your shoulders or use your arm to lower the weight. It’s all in the hips, baby.

 

Straight Leg Deadlift

We all know, the deadlift is king for strengthening hamstrings, glutes, and hips (really, the whole posterior chain). The landmine is a killer tool for teaching proper form of this essential hinge movement, as the bar path is fixed and relieves stress on the lower back and spine.

How To
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and the landmine directly in front of you, bisecting your feet. Hinge forward and grasp the sleeve with both hands in an underhand grip. Extend your hips to return to standing; this is your starting position.

Keeping your chest and shoulders proud but spine neutral, push your hips back as far as you can to lower the weight to the floor. Slowly bring your hips forward and squeeze those glutes as you bring the weight back up to the top of the movement.

Coach’s Tip
The diameter of the plates you use is as important as the weight, since it affects your range of motion. If you have more flexibility in your hips, smaller plates will allow you to hinge with more depth.

 

Landmine Lunge Variations

Why are lunges essential to include in your leg day programming? Well, I already told you here, but if you need a refresher: they’re important and you need to do them. The landmine can be used in all kinds of crazy lunge scenarios but these are two of my go-tos.

 

Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge looks easy. It’s not. Adding a landmine load with rotational properties makes this a core and leg crusher in one.

How To
Stand perpendicular to the barbell with the sleeve in front of your right ankle. Hinge forward and grasp the end of the barbell with your right hand (fingers over the top and your thumb capping the end) and extend your hips to rise up.

Brace your core, put your left arm out to the side for balance and lunge back with your right leg. Push through your left foot as you bring your right foot back to starting position. Repeat desired reps on one side, then do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around and repeat.

 

Lateral Lunge

Stepping into the frontal plane from time to time is important to strengthen our abductors, adductors and groin. Hitting those inner and outer thighs effectively outside of bodyweight and mobility exercises can be a challenge, but the landmine lateral lunge smashes that challenge.

How To
Stand with your feet wide (sumo stance or wider) and the end of the barbell directly in front of you. Hinge forward and grasp the sleeve with an underhand grip, extending your hips to return to an upright position.

Lunge to the right side by pushing your hips back as in a squat. Keep your chest and shoulders up. Your right knee should be bent at a 90 degree angle with your left leg locked out straight to the side. Extend your hips and push through your right foot to return to starting position. You can complete all of the reps on one side first, or, if you are more advanced, shift and alternate side to side.

Landmine Legs… & Arms & Back & Shoulders & Core

You could easily build an entire program out of landmine-only lifts, so once you get comfortable with this handy device, start experimenting with other ways to incorporate it into your programming.

If you are an over-45 athlete like me, your muscles and joints will thank you, and you can keep making those gains safely on leg day and beyond.

 

Works Cited
1. Heffernan, Conor. (2021, May 28). “Who invented the landmine?” Physical Culture Study. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://physicalculturestudy.com/2021/06/04/who-invented-the-landmine/

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