Pressing heavy loads over your head is the best way to build big, strong, and round shoulders. In the realm of overhead pressing, the kneeling landmine press is one of the most underrated yet effective exercises you can perform to build strong, healthy shoulders. The exercise is also referred to as the landmine press or angled barbell press.
While it is not a primary shoulder movement, the kneeling landmine press can prove to be a great supplement to big lifts such as the overhead press, bench press, or military press. Having said that, it can also be used as a standalone exercise to really isolate the shoulder and promote hypertrophy within the front, back, and rear deltoid muscles.
In this post, we’ll go through everything you need to know about the kneeling landmine press and why you should consider incorporating it into your workout routines.
Set-up and Proper Form
To set up, you will need a barbell, weights, and optionally a landmine barbell holder. There exist two possible ways to set-up your equipment for this exercise. First, you can simply insert the barbell in the rotational landmine barbell holder and then load it with weight plates. Alternatively, if you do not have the luxury of a landmine attachment, you can lock the barbell in any available corner within the gym premises. The former method is recommended as it is more simple and stable.
Here is a video showing how to perform the kneeling landmine press with correct technique:
Step 1: Get into a half-kneeling position similar to how a man would when proposing to his partner. Don’t forget to place a pad under your knees unless you want to damage them!
Step 2: Hold on to the barbell with one hand and put your other hand on your waist to support your spinal balance.
Step 3: Lean slightly forward, flex your glutes and core, and then press the weight up and forward (in line with your shoulder) by extending your elbow until lock-out.
Step 4: Pause for a bit at the top, before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position to perform the remaining repetitions in the set.
Step 5: Swap and do the same with your other arm.
Since the the exercise is a variation of the overhead press, it mainly targets the shoulder muscle group. However, the beauty of this exercise lies in the secondary muscles being recruited.
The landmine press targets the front, back, and rear deltoids and promotes overall strength development, stability, and muscular hypertrophy in these muscles. Compared to the standing overhead press, the shoulder muscles are more isolated in this exercise.
Since the exercise is being done in a slightly inclined position, the upper chest muscles are secondarily engaged during the exercise. This is similar to the position of the incline bench press, where the upper chest does most of the work with help of the shoulders as support. In contrast, the pseudo-vertical stance in the kneeling landmine press means that the shoulder muscles become the primary movers while the upper chest muscles assume a secondary role.
Similar to just about any pressing exercise, the triceps are worked during the second half of the movement as you lock out your arm. If your triceps are disproportionately weak compared to your shoulders, you may be able to easily push the weight up, but struggle to complete the elbow extension towards lock-out.
Scapular Muscles (Stabilizing)
Because there is no fixed plane along which the barbell can move, the kneeling landmine press is highly reliant on the stabilizing muscles in the scapula to execute the natural movement of the arms. For lifters who have underdeveloped stabilization within the scapular region, this exercise can be corrective in nature. This can also positively impact your ability to lift heavier weights in the primary shoulder movements. The kneeling version also provides foundational shoulder strength which has carryover to any type of standing press variation.
Core and Obliques (Stabilizing)
The very position of this exercise demands the core to offer support to your body while performing this exercise. The stabilizing muscles in the core prevent you from swinging the bar horizontally while pushing the load upward. Moreover, your obliques on the opposite side (of the arm in action) help to support your spine from collapsing. For instance, the left obliques work harder when the right arm is pushing.
As much as possible, it is best to keep your exercise arsenal simple and hinged on the basics. It is smart to only add a few supplementary exercises to help support your main compound movements. For the number of benefits the Kneeling Landmine Press offers, it is definitely worth adding to your workout routine as a supplementary exercise. In fact, it would rank right up with the Z Press in this regard.
Corrects Muscle Imbalances
The unilateral focus of the exercise means that any muscle imbalances on either side of your upper body will be directly exposed and corrected. In most athletes, often the non-dominant shoulder is much weaker due to infrequent use. While other exercises might mask this, the kneeling landmine press isolates each arm and works the muscles individually.
Easy on the Wrists and Lower Back
A neutral grip places lesser stress on the wrists as compared to the pronated or supinated grip. This is the same reason why pull-ups with a neutral grip are much easier compared to normal pull-ups or chin-ups. Moreover, the kneeling landmine press is easier on the spine and lower back as there is less spinal compression relative to standing movements like the military press.
This movement significantly improves your body mechanics in many ways. First, the shoulder girdle experiences upward rotation which promotes healthy mobility and range of motion. Second, the glutes are activated since you are kneeling down on the floor. This helps to loosen up tight glutes and hip flexors. Third and lastly, heightened core activation leads to greater balance and mobility.
Builds Core Strength and Stability
Whenever there are rotational shearing forces exerted on the lumbar spine, there is a tendency to develop back pain due to excessive spinal stress. The kneeling landmine press promotes the stabilization of the core and trunk by developing rotation-countering core strength. In order to perform this movement, your core has no choice but to be strong enough to provide support, balancing your body from the neck down to the glutes.
Builds Primal and Functional Strength
The primal punching motion of this movement directly helps in building primal and functional strength. If you are a fighter in need of punching power, this exercise is a must. At its core, the kneeling landmine press provides you the functional strength to lift even awkward objects over your head, as you might frequently need to in the real world.
This is in large part due to the exercise’s ability to remedy muscle imbalances and asymmetries in the shoulder and scapular regions. Perhaps this explains why strongman competitors use this as a staple assistance move to the overhead press.
High Loading Potential
The fact that the barbell is hinged to a corner or landmine attachment enables you to load heavier weights onto the barbell. It is not uncommon to stack up multiple 20kg weights similar to how you would on the T-bar row. However, you won’t match your weight on the T-bar row because the shoulder is a much smaller muscle group compared to the back muscles.
It’s Uncommon, Fun, Badass, and Alpha!
Ok, this one might seem anecdotal, but it is a widely accepted notion among people who have tried the exercise. You may not realize it, but performing this exercise automatically makes you look cool and alpha. Undoubtedly, there is a feel-strong primal vibe attached to this movement. Also, performing a new, uncommon exercise is a great way to shock your body. While this point is important since it can motivate you to perform the exercise, the fitness results delivered by the exercise are foremost crucial.
Coaching Tips and Cues
- Stretch your shoulders before doing this exercise by performing some shoulder dislocates.
- Keep your head in line with your body and chin tucked. Do not bend forward or you may place undue stress on the neck.
- Grip the bar as tight as you can so as to limit the likelihood of your grip strength becoming the weak link in the chain.
- Place your arm close to your body as you lift to avoid flaring out your elbows.
- As a mental cue, imagine bringing your bicep closer to your ear as you extend your arm.
- Go fast on the concentric (pushing) part of the lift and slower on the eccentric (lowering down) phase.
- To tighten your body, you can clench the fist of your non-lifting hand.
In addition to the kneeling landmine press, there are a number of variations to this movement, which is what makes it so versatile depending on your fitness needs.
Standing Landmine Press
Instead of leaning on one knee, you can perform this variation by standing on both feet, shoulder-width apart. While the kneeling landmine press focuses more on muscle gain, this variation focuses on strength building. To further mix it up, you can opt to use either one arm (unilateral) or two arms at a time.
Sideways Landmine Press
The exact same movement, but this time you face 90 degrees away from the plane of the bar instead of facing it head-on. This activates the side deltoids and hip muscles more in comparison with the kneeling landmine press.
One-arm Landmine Thruster
When you combine the aforementioned kneeling landmine press with a landmine squat, you get this variation. Essentially, this variation calls for you to squat further down after lowering the weight and then explosively pushing the weight (thrusting) back up. This builds strength and explosiveness in the shoulders.
Seated (floor) Landmine Press
This one is similar to the Z press. Basically, you sit on the floor with your legs outstretched in a V-shape and then press the load using one arm at a time. Among the different variations, this one is most potent in its ability to put your core on fire.
Shoulder-2-Shoulder Landmine Press
In this variation, you ought to hold the barbell with both hands, pressing it from one shoulder to the other on each rep. Instead of bringing it back on one side, you lower it down on the opposite shoulder – hence the name. The benefit of this variation is the added anti-rotational core activation.
Feel free to play around and combine the key variables: one arm or two arms, half-kneeling or standing, straight or sideways, etc. The best variation is the one that will best address the weak areas in your muscular development and strength.
Depending on you goals, follow one of the three sample workouts below:
Strength: 4 x 6; 90 seconds rest
Muscle Building: 4 x 10; 60 seconds rest
Endurance and Mobility: 3 x 20; 30 second rest
So there you have it – a highly underrated movement known as the kneeling landmine press. For best results, we encourage you to use this movement as an assistance exercise to the overhead press.
There will always be some exercises that you will love doing and some that you simply cannot resonate with. Rest assured that with the kneeling landmine press, you are most likely going to love it as a movement for it offers a burning sensation (in the shoulders and abs) that is unmatched by most of the other overhead pressing motions.