8 Best Landmine Core Exercises (How-To & Pictures)

8 best landmine core exercises (how-to & pictures)

The landmine is great for training different muscle groups with common exercises like the T-bar row and landmine press. However, the landmine is an underrated tool for training your core in the gym.

So here are the 8 best landmine core exercises you can do:

  1. Landmine Wood Chop
  2. Tall Kneeling Landmine Wood Chop
  3. Half-Kneeling Landmine Wood Chop
  4. Landmine Side Bend
  5. Landmine Single-Leg Hip Thrust
  6. Landmine Russian Twist
  7. Landmine Single-Arm Overhead Sit-Up
  8. Landmine Hollow Hold

In this article, I will go through everything you need to know about training the core with a landmine, what the best landmine core exercises are, and how to execute them.

What Is the Core?

The core is a vague term; meaning different things to different people. Some people think about only the abdominals when they think about the core, some think about the abdominals and the obliques, and some people think about the lower back, abdominal muscles, and oblique muscles.

For this article, the core refers to all of the muscles between the pelvis and the rib cage: the lower back extensors, abdominal muscles, and oblique muscles.

Abdominal Muscles

The two primary abdominal muscles are the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis.

They are both attached to the pelvic bone from the lower sternum and lower ribs. They act to initiate intra-abdominal pressure as well as flex the spine forward.

Oblique Muscles

The oblique muscles are located by the side of the trunk and consist of the external obliques and internal obliques.

They are attached from the lower ribs to the pelvis. They act to rotate and flex sideways at the spine.

Lower Back Muscles

The lower back muscles largely consist of the multifidus, quadratus lumborum, and erector spinae.

They act to brace the spine but also extend the spine. In other words, they work either in a static way to keep the spine rigid or contract to extend the spine backward.

Strengthening these muscles is important if you want to squat and deadlift heavy. They all play a role in these two movements, as we discuss in Muscles Used in the Deadlift and Muscles Used in the Squat.

How To Target the Core When Using a Landmine Attachment

Landmine Press

You can directly or indirectly target the core when using a landmine attachment.

If you do target the core directly when using a landmine attachment, you will likely be performing core stability or core strength exercises.

Core stability exercises include the landmine hollow hold, where you aim to keep your posture as rigid as possible. Core strength exercises such as the landmine single arm overhead sit-up rely on using the core muscles to initiate the movement. I will address both of these exercises later in the article.

Indirectly targeting the core with a landmine attachment often refers to performing an exercise that targets a different area of the body but recruits the core muscles to maintain stability to assist the main muscles. An example would be the landmine single-leg hip thrust

Benefits of Using a Landmine To Train the Core

Landmine Squats

The main benefits of using a landmine to train the core are the following:

  • Unique freedom of movement. The movement of the landmine is different compared to other exercise tools, including free weights, cable machines, and other resistance machines. This can therefore offer a unique stimulus on a muscle that you can’t get from other exercises.
  • Can be performed anywhere. A landmine attachment can be a specifically designed station or it can be a makeshift landmine placement. Landmine exercises can be performed at home, outdoors, or in the gym.
  • Novel stimulus for the exerciser. As it is unique, it can offer you a new exercise that keeps you mentally interested and engaged if you get bored of using other pieces of equipment during training.

Before we get into the best landmine core exercises, learn why ab training is important for powerlifting and what the best ab exercises are for powerlifters in The 9 Best Ab Exercises For Powerlifters (Don’t Skip These).

8 Best Landmine Core Exercises

1. Landmine Wood Chop

The landmine wood chop exercise is a great way to develop core strength and stability. This motion works the muscles of the core, hip, shoulder, and upper back, making it a great all-around upper body and core exercise.

The landmine wood chop is great for developing explosive rotational strength for sports such as boxing. This is more of a core stability exercise. Other muscle groups that get activated are the quads, glutes, upper back, and shoulders.

How To

  • Load the barbell in the landmine with the desired load.
  • Stand facing the end of the barbell holding the barbell in front and above your head.
  • Keep a soft bend in your hips and knees, your back flat, and pressure on the forefoot.
  • Allow the barbell to rotate to one side and stop when it is at about lower torso level.
  • Rotate your whole body, including your feet, to face the end of the barbell, but keep the distance between the feet the same.
  • Push and rotate the barbell back up to the middle position.
  • Repeat the same process towards the other side and then push the barbell back up to the middle position again. This counts as one repetition.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Easy to progress load. The landmine wood chop can start with an empty barbell, so the resistance you train with will be whatever the barbell weight is. You can increase the weight used with whatever your smallest increment plate is.
  • Increase rotational strength and power. As much as it is effective at improving core stability, the rotational aspect of the movement is great at improving full-body rotational strength and explosiveness. This has good transfer to sports such as boxing or baseball.  

Cons

  • Requires good coordination. This exercise requires you to already have a baseline level of core stability. You need to be able to manage your posture and the positioning of your spine, rib cage, and pelvis.
  • Does not isolate core muscles. This is a full-body exercise, so it does not isolate the core muscles. This also means that you may not be able to train the core muscles hard if other muscles fatigue first.

Pro Tip

A common problem is that people keep their hips too stationary when executing this exercise and rotate too much at the lumbar spine. This can increase the risk of straining your lower back.

A good mental cue to help you avoid this is to lead the rotation and movement with the hips first. 

How To Program

When training for strength and explosiveness, avoid training close to failure and focus on lower repetitions.

For this training goal, aim for:

If you want to just focus on core stability and muscular endurance in the core muscles, aim for:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 8 to 15 repetitions
  • 3 to 5 repetitions in reserve

2. Tall Kneeling Landmine Wood Chop

The kneeling landmine wood chop exercise is great for working your core muscles. It is more of a core stability exercise.

When compared to the regular landmine wood chop, it is better at isolating the core muscles since you work your hip and leg muscles less. Other muscle groups that get activated are the glutes, upper back, and shoulders.

How To

  • Load the barbell in the landmine with the desired weight on the free end of the barbell.
  • Kneel on the ground or on a soft mat and face the end of the barbell, holding it in front and above your head.
  • Keep your hips extended by squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your back flat and your knees below your hips.
  • Allow the barbell to rotate to one side and stop when it is at about lower torso level.
  • Push and rotate the barbell back up to the middle position.
  • Repeat the same process towards the other side and then push the barbell back up to the middle position again. This counts as one repetition.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Suitable for beginners. The tall kneeling wood chop does not require as much coordination as the regular landmine wood chop. From a skill perspective, it is more suitable for beginners.
  • Improve strength imbalances. This is also a great exercise to work on strength asymmetries in your core muscles, as you cannot allow your stronger side to take over. 

Cons

  • Upper body may fatigue first. Depending on your weaknesses, you may find that your shoulder or back muscles fatigue before your core muscles, limiting how much you can push this exercise.

Pro Tip

In order to perform this exercise with a good posture, you need to be able to keep your posture more neutral or somewhat flat. Tight quads and hip flexors can cause you to over-extend your lower back and increase your risk of straining your lower back.

You can try stretching out your quads and hip flexors for 30 seconds on both sides before starting this exercise.

We provide some good stretches for the hips and quads in Should Powerlifters Do Yoga? (Yes, Here’s 6 Poses).

How To Program

The tall kneeling landmine wood chop is great for training core stability and muscular endurance in the core muscles. Here is a good place to start:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 8 to 15 repetitions
  • 3 to 5 repetitions in reserve

3. Half-Kneeling Landmine Wood Chop

The half-kneeling landmine wood chop is a core stability exercise similar to the tall kneeling wood chop. But since you have one leg in front and one knee kneeling down, it is easier to balance.

It is also easier to keep a neutral posture with the half-kneeling landmine wood chop, as the leg in front will help lock the pelvis in place more.

How To

  • Set up the barbell in the landmine station with the desired load on the free end.
  • Kneel on the ground or on a soft mat on one knee with the other foot forward.
  • Face the end of the barbell and hold it in front but above your head with straight arms.
  • Keep your hips extended by squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your back flat and your rear knee below your hips.
  • Allow the barbell to rotate to the side of your forward leg and stop when it is about mid-chest level.
  • Push and rotate the barbell back up to the middle position. This counts as one repetition.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before changing leg positioning to repeat the same process for the other side.

Pros

  • Half-kneeling position isolates core posture. By having one leg forward and one leg backward, your pelvis remains in a more rigid position, which will structurally assist with keeping your posture more rigid and neutral. A neutral posture means there’s only a mild curvature in your back, and it looks almost flat.
  • Isolates one side at a time. It is also a great exercise to isolate your core muscles that activate when rotating your torso one side at a time. This is great if you have strength imbalances or if your hips shift in lower body exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

Cons

  • Hard to balance. The half-kneeling position can make it difficult to remain balanced without falling over. This variation might be challenging for beginner exercisers. 

Pro Tip

If you want to improve your hip mobility and hip external rotation, rotate the barbell towards the side where the knee is kneeling. This can be useful for people who struggle to get deep in exercises like squats.

How To Program

The half-kneeling landmine wood chop is effective for training core stability and muscular endurance. Here is a good place to start:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 8 to 15 repetitions
  • 3 to 5 repetitions in reserve

4. Landmine Side Bend

The landmine side bend is an effective exercise for isolating the obliques and improving strength and muscle mass in those muscle groups. This is more of a core strength exercise.

The default way to do this exercise is to perform it standing. However, you can also do this exercise while seated or kneeling.

How To

  • Set up the barbell in the landmine station with the desired load on the free end.
  • Stand next to the barbell facing the same direction that the end of the barbell is pointing.
  • Hold the end of the barbell by your side and place your free hand by the side of your forehead.
  • Without twisting your torso, bend your waist towards the side where you are holding onto the barbell.
  • Then bend towards the other side as you slide the barbell up your body. Think about bringing the elbow of your free arm towards the side of your pelvis
  • Allow the barbell to slide back down your leg as you crunch back to the other side again.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides and repeat.

Pros

  • Easy for beginners to perform. This is a very easy variation that beginners can perform. It is an effective way to start isolating your oblique muscles with a landmine exercise.
  • Easy to overload weight and repetitions. This is also an exercise that is very easy to progressively overload. You can increase repetitions or the load on the barbell.

Cons

  • Easy to cheat and use momentum. With this exercise, it’s easy to rush the repetitions and use momentum as you swing to the left and right. This means your body will rely on your muscle fibers’ natural stretch reflex rather than the conscious contraction of the muscles.

The stretch reflex is a feature of muscle fibers that respond to a passive stretch by contracting the muscle. You can strain your back if you use too much momentum and do not control the repetitions enough.

Pro Tip

It is very easy to shift your pelvis side to side rather than focus on crunching at the obliques. You can inadvertently turn this into a hip exercise rather than a core exercise if you do this. Try to keep your pelvis stationary throughout the movement to keep the focus on the core muscles.

How To Program

The landmine side bend is a great exercise for building strength and muscle mass around the core muscles.

For strength, a good place to start would be:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 6 to 8 repetitions
  • 3 to 5 repetitions in reserve

For hypertrophy, a good place to start would be:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 8 to 15 repetitions
  • 3 to 5 repetitions in reserve

5. Landmine Single-Leg Hip Thrust

The landmine single-leg hip thrust primarily targets the glutes. But due to the asymmetrical nature of this exercise, the whole core is activated to ensure it stays rigid to maintain a neutral posture. This exercise indirectly but effectively activates the core muscles.

How To

  • Set up a bench or exercise box by the end of the landmine so you can put the end of the barbell on your hip crease when you place your upper back on the bench with your feet on the ground.
  • Place your upper back on the edge of the free-weight bench or exercise box.
  • Place the desired load on the barbell and set the end of the barbell on your hip crease on one side of the body.
  • Straighten the leg on the side of the body that the barbell is not on.
  • Make sure your lower back is flat, and the knee on your working side is roughly 90 degrees.
  • Place your hands by your hips, take a deep breath in, and brace your core.
  • Exhale as you thrust your glutes up against the barbell and toward the sky.
  • Slowly return your hips back down to the floor and inhale.
  • Ensure your back is flat throughout the whole execution.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Effective at isolating glutes. The landmine single-leg hip thrust is a great exercise to isolate the glutes one side at a time. This exercise will work well if you want to increase muscular strength or muscle mass in the glutes.
  • Good at improving hip shifting. If you hip shift during lower body exercises like deadlifts, it means one side of your hip musculature is weaker than the other side. The landmine single-leg hip thrust is useful for targeting your weaker side to improve your hip shifts.

Cons

  • Easy to overcompensate with the lower back. As it is hard to see what your back is doing during this exercise, it can also be very easy to compensate by over-extending your lower back when your glutes or abdominal muscles become fatigued.
  • Requires competent postural control. This exercise requires you to have a good awareness of your body’s posture and positioning in space. This is referred to as proprioception. If you have a hard time feeling what your posture may look like, this exercise might not be suitable for you.

Pro Tip

If you have a problem with keeping your back flat and tend to over-extend your lower back, try to reach and stretch your arms vertically towards the ceiling. This should help stop your ribcage from flaring upward, which is what causes the over-extension.

How To Program

The landmine single-leg hip thrust is a great exercise for developing muscle hypertrophy or maximum strength in the glutes while training your core muscles. It takes more concentration on technique to make sure you maintain good posture and positioning. For this reason, I would avoid training towards failure.

Here is a good place to start for programming parameters:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 6 to 15 repetitions
  • 5 repetitions in reserve

If you have trouble feeling your glutes when you do hip thrusts, check out Don’t Feel Your Glutes Hip Thrusting? Try These 9 Tips.

6. Landmine Russian Twist

The landmine Russian twist activates the abdominals and obliques quite well. This exercise is more suitable for intermediate exercisers and beyond because there is a minimum starting weight of the barbell.

How To

  • Sit in a sit-up position and hold the end of the barbell held with straight arms above your hips.
  • Keep your torso at about 45 degrees.
  • Keep your heels on the floor and a bend in your knees.
  • Rotate the barbell towards one side while facing forward, and stop when the barbell reaches lower chest level.
  • Rotate the barbell towards the other side with straight arms and stop when it reaches lower chest level. This process counts as one repetition.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Good for improving core stability. If performed correctly, the exercise is effective at improving core stability and your ability to keep your torso rigid for exercises like squats and split squats.

Cons

  • Starting load may be too hard. If the lightest barbell you have weighs 45 lbs, you may not be able to perform many reps if you are a beginner. The starting difficulty of this exercise may be quite high and suitable only for intermediates and beyond. You can try starting with a women’s weightlifting barbell instead, which weighs ~33 lbs, but not all gyms have them.
  • Hard to progress load. Loading plates up on the end of the barbell may physically block your ability to perform this exercise as the plates may impact your ability to rotate the barbell over your body.

Pro Tip

A common problem is that people round their lower back and may feel back pain when doing Russian twists. A good cue is to think about keeping your chest or sternum up. This may help keep your posture more neutral or flat.

How To Program

The landmine Russian twist is effective at increasing muscle hypertrophy or maximum strength in the core muscles. 

Here is a good place to start for programming parameters:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 8 to 15 repetitions
  • 2-4 repetitions in reserve

7. Landmine Single-Arm Overhead Sit-Up

The landmine single-arm overhead sit-up, or single-arm landmine Turkish sit-up, is a great exercise to activate the abdominals and obliques with more focus on one side at a time. This is an advanced exercise that challenges core strength and stability.

How To

  • Load the barbell with the desired amount of weight and lie down parallel to the barbell with your legs closer to the landmine anchor.
  • Make sure the end of the barbell is roughly by the side of your obliques.
  • Grab onto the end of the barbell and hold it above the ground with your arm straight.
  • Sit up until your torso is upright, push the barbell in front of you with your arm straight, and return back to the ground.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and repeat the same process for the other side.

Pros

  • Can fix strength asymmetries. The landmine single-arm overhead sit-up is great for activating one side of your abdominals and obliques. This is useful if you find that you have asymmetries in your core muscles.
  • Can increase muscle mass and muscular strength. This is an effective exercise to isolate your abdominals and obliques and train them close to failure. 

Cons

  • Inconsistent range of motion. When you fatigue in this exercise, you may find that you cheat the range of motion in the repetitions by not coming up as high as you previously did. This can make monitoring your progress more difficult.
  • Hip flexors can compensate. If your abdominals fatigue, you may find that your hip flexors compensate to complete the repetitions and your posture changes, which can cause lower back discomfort.

Pro Tip

If you do not have mobile hips or hamstrings, you may find that your lower back stays rounded throughout. Start with your knees bent to about 100 to 120 degrees with your heels on the ground to ensure your lower back doesn’t round.

How To Program

The landmine single-arm overhead sit-up is ideal for increasing muscle mass and muscular strength in the abdominals and obliques. 

Here is a good place to start for programming parameters:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 8 to 12 repetitions
  • 3 to 5 repetitions in reserve

8. Landmine Hollow Hold

The landmine hollow hold focuses more on the abdominals and develops core stability. This is considered an isometric exercise, which means you perform this exercise in time durations as opposed to repetitions.

To progress this exercise, you simply either add weight to the barbell or increase time per set.

How To

  • Load the barbell with the desired amount of weight and lie down parallel to the barbell with your legs closer to the landmine anchor.
  • Make sure the end of the barbell is roughly by the side of your obliques.
  • Hold the barbell directly above your torso with straight arms.
  • To start the exercise, lift your head, upper back, and legs off the floor while keeping your legs straight.
  • Hold this position for the desired amount of time.
  • Your goal is to keep your lower back flat on the floor throughout the whole set.
  • Once you finish, bring your legs down and place the barbell to the side of you.

Pros

  • Effective for core stability. The landmine hollow hold is very effective at improving core stability and training for muscular endurance in your abdominal muscles. This makes it useful for improving your bracing for exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
  • Improves posture. This exercise is great for those who often have an exaggerated curvature in their lumbar spine as it strengthens the abdominals to balance out the lower back extensors.

Cons

  • Suitable for advanced exercisers. The hollow hold is normally considered an intermediate to advanced exercise. A landmine hollow hold, being a weighted variation, will make it harder. A prerequisite to this exercise is performing a hollow hold and successfully keeping your lower back flat on the floor.

Pro Tip

The further away you keep your legs from your torso, the harder it is on your abdominals. You can regress the difficulty of this exercise by bending and bringing your knees back towards your torso. This reduces the demand on the lower abdominal muscle fibers.

How To Program

Here is a good place to start for programming parameters:

  • 3 to 4 sets
  • 20 to 30 seconds
  • 5 seconds of time under tension in reserve before failure

How To Do Landmine Core Exercises Without a Landmine Attachment

Landmine core exercises traditionally use a landmine attachment that may be connected to a rig or squat rack. The landmine station may also be free-standing or bolted down to the floor.

Here are some alternative ways to do a landmine core exercise without a landmine attachment.

Wedging the Barbell Into a Corner

The simplest way to set up a landmine exercise without a landmine attachment is to wedge the barbell into the corner of a room.

Be careful not to damage the room by placing some sort of insulation, like a scrunched-up towel against the corner.

Stick One End of the Barbell into a Cut-Up Tennis Ball

You can cut up half of a tennis ball and stick it on one end of the barbell. The tennis ball creates friction between the barbell and the floor, so the barbell does not slide across the floor.

Stick One End of the Barbell Into a Kettlebell Handle

You can place a kettlebell on its side and stick the barbell into the loop of the kettlebell. The kettlebell forms the base for the landmine.

You must also use a heavy enough kettlebell, so it does not slide or rotate around.

Stick One End of the Barbell into a Hexagonal Dumbbell

You can also place a hexagonal dumbbell on its side and position the barbell underneath the handle.

To make this a sturdier setup, you may want to place a weight plate underneath the dumbbell, so the hole forms a place for the barbell to pivot around.

If you don’t like doing direct ab work, you may wonder if you can just do squats and deadlifts to train the core. Learn why I don’t recommend this in Do Deadlifts Work The Core? and Do Squats Work The Core?

Additional Core Training Guides


About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com