How to Get Powerful Without Olympic Lifts
Explosive strength doesn’t always require learning the Olympic lifts. Build power easily and quickly using these landmine exercises.
BUILD EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH WITH LANDMINE EXERCISES
There’s a new way to train for explosive strength: landmine exercises. Specifically, the ones suitable for ballistic performance. It doesn’t take much to build power. Just add a few of these moves to your weekly workouts and watch your strength explode.
Check out the exercises in the video, then get detailed instructions and programming tips in the tabs below. Don’t have a landmine device? Here are two to choose from:
Wait, Why The Landmine?
WAIT, WHY THE LANDMINE?
Because of its pivot point, the barbell moves through a predictable arc. The weights and your grip will always be the same distance from the pivot point.
The resistance encountered during landmine lifts occurs in multiple places – vertical and horizontal. This speeds the learning curve of technical exercises, allows for joint-friendly overhead lifts, and gives landmine exercises an advantage over similar, free-weight variations for building athleticism.
Neophobes – coaches and athletes who fear change – can rest easy, though. We’re not reinventing the wheel. When used correctly, Olympic lifts are safe and effective. Many of the best landmine power exercises are derivatives and accessory movements from Olympic weightlifting.
Sets, Reps, and Programming
SETS, REPS, AND PROGRAMMING
Do 4-6 of these lifts 2-3 times per week. Place these exercises toward the beginning of your workout and do them while you’re fresh. Keep the reps crisp and in the 6-8 range. Anything more and it turns into a quasi-cardio session (dancing with the landmine), and power output and subsequent adaptations will suffer.
Try cluster sets. Cluster sets intersperse short rest intervals throughout each set. For example, you might break up a set of 6 landmine rotational cleans as:
- Do 2 reps; rest 20 seconds
- Do 2 more reps; rest for 20 seconds
- Do 2 final reps
- Rest 2-3 minutes between clusters.
Finally, these exercises require grasping the sleeve of the barbell and are very taxing on the grip. Since grip training isn’t the primary objective, feel free to use lifting straps.
1. LANDMINE MID-THIGH PULL
This is a derivative of the strongest and least complex of the Olympic lifting derivatives – the traditional mid-thigh pull. (3) It’s a good place to start. As soon as you get the form down, you’ll want to load this one heavy.
- Begin with the sleeve of the bar at your mid-thigh. Stand with feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
- Get in the power position with knees and hips slightly flexed.
- Explosively drive through hips, knees, and ankles. Follow through to a shrug as you rise up on the balls of your feet.
- Control back to the starting position, reset and repeat.
2. LANDMINE CLEAN PULL
The clean pull takes the previous exercise and increases the range of motion to the floor. Think of the clean pull as having two pulls occurring seamlessly: first, moving the bar from the floor to the power position (mid-thigh). Second, extending the hips, knees, and ankles to pop the shrug like a mid-thigh pull.
- Begin with the sleeve in front of your inside shin and the weights on the floor just outside of your inside foot.
- With an overhand grip on the sleeve, powerfully push your knees back into extension.
- As the bar reaches mid-thigh, drive your hips.
- Use the momentum to pop a shrug, allowing your elbow to bend only as much as needed for the bar to progress. Don’t pull with your arm.
- Control the downward phase by guiding the bar back to your thigh, then back to the floor.
3. LANDMINE HANG HIGH PULL
The landmine version of a hang high pull is an explosive triple extension with an upward pulling pattern that trains the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, delts, and traps.
Think of this as “catch-less” – there’s no receiving the bar in the front rack position or overhead. This means you reduce the technique demands and boost the potential for heavy loading.
Unlike the traditional hang high pull, you do the landmine version unilaterally. This hammers the core in a manner untouched by traditional Olympic lifts. The landmine guides the pull in a shoulder-friendly arced path: up and out.
- Stand upright, holding the barbell’s sleeve with an overhand grip.
- Your hand should be just under your groin with the sleeve touching the inside leg just below the groin. For stability, place your outside foot just ahead of your inside foot.
- Brace and lower the bar down to a point just above the opposite kneecap by bending forward at the hips. Then, bend your knees until the bar reaches mid-thigh height. As you do this, your trunk becomes more upright.
- Keep the bar pulled in close to your body.
- With a straight elbow, initiate an explosive shrug (up and back) with power starting from the lower body. Continue to pull the elbow up and outward as the bar reaches its peak at approximately sternum height.
- Flex your knees to absorb weight as it returns in front of your thigh.
4. SPLIT JERK
The push jerk is a great Olympic lift that promotes overhead power, but those with poor mobility often fail to get it overhead safely. The landmine version fixes this, and it’ll build your chest, shoulders, triceps, and upper back while improving stability in your core and shoulders.
For this one, use maximal leg drive to hoist the weight overhead.
- Set up with the barbell in one hand: a neutral front rack. Get your elbows directly under your wrist and bent.
- Bend at the knee slightly to produce force through the ground, then extend ankles, knees, and hips as you begin your bar movement.
- Using the momentum created by your lower body, press the barbell up and slightly forward and land with both knees slightly bent. Your elbow should be fully extended, with your shoulder near your ear and your back flat.
- To make it more difficult, slowly control the lowering phase.
5. LANDMINE ROTATIONAL HANG CLEAN
This variation starts from the hang position and requires you to rotate as you clean the weight. It builds athleticism, power, and rotational strength. This is a bit more complex than landmine hang clean, but just plain fun.
- Use an overhand grip with the hand closest to the landmine.
- Starting in the hang position, place your outside foot slightly ahead of your inside foot.
- Brace and lower the bar down your inside leg, keeping your torso upright and the bar tight to your body.
- With a straight elbow, explosively shrug, moving up and back.
- Explode upward with the hips, knees, and ankles.
- Allow your elbow to bend following this powerful movement.
- As your elbow moves out, pivot on the outside forefoot and rotate the inside leg as you receive the bar with your opposite hand.
6. LANDMINE ROTATIONAL CLEAN
This is a full clean with a rotation.
- Get an overhand grip on the sleeve with the plates sitting beside your inside foot.
- Stagger your stance with the outside foot slightly ahead of your inside foot.
- Initiate the first pull by driving your knees back.
- As the bar moves past your knees, extend your hips and pop the shrug as you simultaneously pivot toward the landmine.
- Release the bar and receive it with your opposite hand.
- This position sets you up nicely to perform a press or jerk.
7. LANDMINE ROTATIONAL CLEAN & SINGLE-ARM PRESS
Rotational movement is a must for any athlete wanting to be strong through the hips and core. This exercise helps you to coordinate power through the hips and express strength through your shoulders.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart in an athletic position.
- Hold the bar in your hand closest to the base.
- Explode up through the hips as you turn toward the bar.
- Transition your hands as you near full hip extension. Once you’re there, press the bar in front of you.
8. LANDMINE ROTATIONAL CLEAN & JERK
This exercise combines the previous exercises. It’s an expression of lower and upper body power.
- Do a landmine rotational clean.
- At the top, drop down and slightly back into a shallow countermovement by flexing hips, knees, and ankles slightly.
- Immediately explode up and forward as your jam the bar diagonally forward and up, but don’t let go. Your leg drive should be enough to lift you off the ground.
- Switch your stance mid-air. Finish the rep with the leg that started as the outside leg of the rotational clean underneath the bar.
9. LANDMINE FRONT-FACING HANG CLEAN
Using both arms, you can take out the rotation and use the landmine for heavier cleans. Landmine cleans have a unique advantage over other tools for their ability to promote proper hip extension. You’re generating power from the hips, but with the landmine, you have the loading potential to optimize power and strength.
This exercise feels a little like a kettlebell swing because the barbell begins between the legs and requires forceful hip extension with slight horizontal force production.
- Set up facing the landmine. Cup the sleeve of the barbell with both hands.
- Execute the lift with powerful hip extension and leg drive. Move up and slightly forward.
- Catch the bar just above the chest.
- You must decelerate and absorb the impact to avoid taking the end of the bar to the sternum. There is little margin for error.
10. LANDMINE HANG MUSCLE SNATCH
For the muscle snatch, you don’t dip under the bar to catch it the way you would during a traditional snatch. This variation works well with the landmine since you can just focus on getting tall and putting the bar up and out.
The landmine hang muscle snatch builds robust shoulders, but start light since this one will challenge your shoulder stability.
- From the hang position, generate power through your hips and knees as if you were jumping.
- Keep the bar as close to the body as possible and externally rotate your shoulder and extend your elbow as you reach sternum height. Think: zip, then flick.
11. LANDMINE SINGLE-ARM CLEAN AND PRESS
The landmine clean is great for learning hip extension and leg drive. The catch is also beneficial for learning to absorb the weight with full-body activation of decelerating.
- Setup starts with the bar at your side and with a slight forward hinge and bent knees.
- Explosively drive the bar up with one arm, absorb the catch, and go right into a press overhead.
- Reset and repeat.
12. LANDMINE JUMP SQUAT
This loaded jump variation will get you to generate vertical and horizontal forces, which will carry over into most sports.
- Hold the barbell sleeve between your legs with fingers interlaced. Stance should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Start by sitting back into the hips and knees. Then explode forward and up.
- Allow the landmine to guide you down and back to the starting position.
- Reset between reps or use the landing of the previous rep to propel you into the next one.
13. LANDMINE EXPLOSIVE WINDMILL
Most people neglect rotary core stability and strength. Many simply lack the ability to generate force through the midsection. The explosive windmill solves this problem.
- Rotate through the hips by imagining that you’re swinging a baseball bat. Only for this, you go from swinging right-handed to left-handed.
- Keeping the hips still would add torque to your low back, so create unison by rotating. The deeper the windmill, the harder your core has to work to generate anterior sling strength and power.
14. LANDMINE PUSH PRESS
For full-body explosive power, you can’t beat the push press. The landmine push press may be performed with both hands, which allows for more load, or unilaterally, which increases demand on the midsection due to asymmetrical loading.
- Face the landmine with a symmetrical and shoulder-width stance.
- Dip your torso down and slightly back, creating the lower-body countermovement.
- Brace your midsection as if performing a plank.
- Immediately drive up and forward with the momentum coming from your lower body.
- Continue to press the weight forward and up until your elbows, hips, knees, and ankles are extended.
- Lower the weight with your arms, allowing slight re-bending of the hips, knees, and ankles. Reset momentarily or roll right into the next rep.
- Hedrick A et al. Weightlifiting movements: Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Strength Cond J. 2008 Dec;30(6):26-35.
- Zweifel M. **Importance of Horizontally Loaded Movements to Sports Performance.**Strength Cond J. 2017 Feb;39(1):21-26.
- Suchomel TJ et al. Weightlifting pulling derivatives: Rationale for
implementation and application. Sports Med. 2015 Jun;45(6):823-39. PubMed.
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