Exercise Spotlight: Half-Kneeling Landmine Press
I’m a no frills kind of person. Not only am I (usually!) low maintenance, but pretty much anything fancy actually makes me uncomfortable and I have trouble seeing the point of it all. Multi-purpose, bang-for-your-buck is my jam and it is for this reason why the half-kneeling landmine press is one of my all-time favourite pressing variations. There’s a wide range of benefits for such a simple looking drill and it’s great for almost anyone.
My sessions are engaging and “fun” (my clients don’t always agree with my definition of the word fun), but the exercise selection is borderline boring – a huge majority of our workouts are based around the squat, hinge, upper body pressing, upper body pulling, single leg work, and core drills. It doesn’t get fancy with drills that attempt to combine 5 things into one, effectively making all of them close to useless (apparently I have strong opinions about this).
I see 2 major populations: adults relatively new to strength training, and athletes (who, while playing at a pretty high level, may also be new to strength training). Separating drills allows both these populations to learn them more effectively, and allows loading of each individual drill appropriately – not just for the limiting factor. I want my clients to feel confident and comfortable in any other gym they happen to visit, so our sessions are for learning as much as they are for workouts.
The strength portion of my workouts for beginners generally looks like this: goblet squats; dowel-based hinge drills/deadlifts and glute bridges; push ups and dumbbell bench press; inverted and dumbbell rows; split squats; and a crap ton of carries, pallof presses, and dead bugs. All of these have enough variations and fit with enough rep ranges that can work for a lot of people and can be progressed for months at a time, BUT I’m not looking for clients to become disengaged because things are just too stale. A learning environment requires a balance between the challenge of the skill and the skill of the performer – I want clients/athletes engaged, not apathetic.
I am also one with a history of shoulder injury – I separated one, tore the supraspinatus of the other (and then dealt with impingement after), and then back to the first one for more impingement (I wasn’t able to touch my opposite shoulder for 3 months without pain).
Enter the half-kneeling landmine press. Check out the video below:
I’m going to first go through the how-to, and then dive a bit into where the benefits come from and why I love it.
1. If your gym has a landmine attachment, put a barbell in there and get yourself a knee pad. If you don’t have a landmine attachment, jamming the barbell into the corner of bench legs or a wall will keep it in place enough (if using a wall though, maybe also use something that protects it from getting scratched up)
2. Start with no weight. These look pretty basic but the half-kneeling position means you can’t use your legs (much) so you may be surprised with how heavy a weight feels
3. Set up in your half kneeling stance – the leg/knee of the pressing arm is down on the ground, with the knee directly under the hip. The forward leg is straight in front (not flared out to the side) and the foot is directly under the knee (not tucked in too close to the body or way out in front). Place yourself with the barbell just a few inches from the thigh of your down leg – it’s a pretty good indicator of the bar being in a good place to press from when you’re all set
1. Get the barbell into your starting position – if the right knee is down, then the barbell should be in your right hand. That hand is slightly in front of your shoulder, elbow at your side. Wrist is over the elbow, which means you aren’t flaring your elbow out away from the body
2. Squeeze the butt cheek of your down leg so that your hip is extended – you should be kneeling as tall as you can be, not be sitting down and back in your hip or leaning back and “sitting into” your low back. Feel a quad/hip stretch and maybe a hammy that’s close to cramping? Good
3. Brace your abs like someone is about to punch you and/or push you over (what a lousy friend!) – you should be rigid before you press the bar
4. Drive the bar up and allow your shoulder blade to go up with it – at the top, I like to instruct for the athlete to reach through their armpit. What this means is that you’re reaching but not shrugging, and shifting your bodyweight slightly forward under the bar
5. Your torso/core position should not be changing much as you press – no twisting, dipping, rotating, leaning
6. Lower the bar over a 2-4 second count so that you know it’s under control. Here, I like to instruct pulling the bar down instead of just resisting gravity
7. Repeat for prescribed reps, then change to the other side
8. Helpful tip: when the weight really starts to feel heavy, stay with it. The tendency is to lean away from the bar to try and finish the tougher reps. Instead, stay under it so you have less energy leaks and can use a sturdy position to push through the floor and drive that bar up
1. Shoulder health: the vertical but not entirely overhead motion of the bar allows you to work overhead pressing without compensation (specifically lumbar extension) to get all the way overhead – something a significant amount of desk workers and athletes deal with. The way the bar is anchored creates some instability, so you’re forced to grip hard and create good tension
2. Shoulder strength and size: the half-kneeling position takes almost all of the lower body help out of the equation, so you’re forcing the upper body to do the work
3. Core stability: with unilateral (one-sided) pressing, you are forced to work on all of anti-extension, anti-rotation, and anti-lateral flexion. Resisting these motions has huge carryover to both sport and life demands
4. Hip stability/glute strength: if your half kneeling position is done correctly, you will be strengthening the muscles that prevent movement of the pelvis. This has massive carryover and can help with pain, athletic performance, and general day to day life
For pretty much anyone, I would put these towards the middle of a workout. The beginning of your session is generally for the more technical and full body lifts where you need to be a little fresher. After that, getting out of bilateral squatting/deadlifting/bench pressing by incorporating single leg or single arm drills will have large benefits for overall strength and performance. Anywhere from 3-5 sets of 5-12 reps per arm will work well, and through that wide range of sets/reps (which is not all-encompassing, by the way, just covers a lot of bases), you can see how these can be incorporated into several types of workouts for a wide variety of goals.
Want to spice up the sets and reps a little bit? I’ve used a 3-4×5/3/2 set up with a lot of success for females with weaker upper bodies and for athletes (like rugby players) where we are looking for both size and strength. You use a weight that you’d normally use for 6-8 reps but you perform 5/side, then 3/side, and finally 2/side all in the same set so in total you’ll be hitting 10 reps/arm with a weight you’d normally use for 6-8.
Try adding this into your programming for 4-8 weeks, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Hit that contact button to get in touch or to talk coaching!