What's An Angled Barbell Press?
You've probably seen angled barbell presses done with a Landmine-style training device, so most people know them generically as "landmine presses."
But don't worry, if you don't have one simply insert one end of a barbell inside of an old shoe or in a folded-up towel that you place in the corner. This will save both your wall and your bar.
Note: Some people try to use a T-bar apparatus for the basic angled press. However, not all T-bar machines will allow you to lift the bar that high, plus it can be awkward. You're better off just placing a bar in a corner.
The angled barbell press deserves the same type of focus on details that's given to the squat, bench, and deadlift. It has several things going for it:
- It's easy to learn.
- It has direct transfer to standing push strength.
- It's a cross-body exercise that also integrates the hips and torso muscles.
- It's a shoulder-friendly pressing option.
- It has several effective variations for changing the training stimulus based on your goals.
As the guy who coined the term "angled barbell training" and produced the first-ever DVD on it in 2011, you can bet your butt that I'm more than qualified to give you the black-belt course on the exercise. Let's get to it.
Standard Form: Angled Barbell Press (Landmine)
Apply these general technique guidelines to help you get the most out of each rep:
- At the bottom of each rep, keep your arm fairly close to your torso and your elbow directly behind the center of the bar. Your forearm should form a 90-degree angle with the barbell.
- Don't press the bar toward the midline of your body; keep it in line with your same-side shoulder as you press it up and out. The closer you get to the midline of your body when pressing with a single arm, the closer you get to losing control of the bar.
- Keep your wrist straight throughout this exercise, with the center of the barbell in-line with the center of the arch between your thumb and forefinger.
- Keep your torso position strong and stable throughout. Avoid leaning forward more than a few degrees. Leaning too far forward into the bar turns this exercise into an overhead press instead of creating the unique angled pressing action we're after.
The Three Stances
- Split-stance with the opposite side leg of the pressing arm forward.
- Split-stance with the same side leg of the pressing arm forward.
- Parallel stance, similar to your position at the top of a squat.
Each stance has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The parallel stance gives you a wider base of support (laterally, in the frontal plane) than either of the split stances.
However, the split stance gives you a longer base of support (front to back, in the sagittal plane) than the parallel stance. Additionally, the split-stance with the opposite side leg forward is more like a boxer's cross punch, which involves lots of contribution from the opposite side hip. Contrast that with the split-stance with the same side leg forward, which is like a boxer's jab that relies more on the contribution from the opposite-side hip.
The split-stance with the opposite side leg forward allows you to move the heaviest loads. This is the default starting position when you first try it. Also, as you'll see in the following variations, certain stances are better for certain variations.
1 – Superband Landmine Press
As you press the barbell, the weight load actually gets lighter. Since you're getting stronger as you extend your arm (due to creating a shorter lever arm), it makes sense to add a band for accommodating resistance: the band creates a continually greater resistance challenge as you continually gain a mechanical advantage. If you're in a split-stance, then you'd anchor the band underneath your front leg.
If you're in a parallel stance, you'd anchor the band underneath the same-side foot as the arm you're pressing with. Sure, in a parallel stance you can anchor the band underneath both feet, but doing this pulls the bar more towards the midline of the body, which can make it harder to control.
- If you need more tension from the band and don't have access to a thicker band, wrap the band once around your anchor foot to shorten it.
- Aside from the addition of the superband resistance, the technique cues are the same as the standard angled barbell press (discussed above).
General set and rep recommendations: 3-5 sets x 5-15 reps per side.
2 – Landmine Turn-Away Press
Instead of facing the bar, you turn away from it. If you're holding the barbell in your right hand, you'll turn your body roughly 45-degrees to the left to perform the press. This variation not only changes the angle or press, but also creates a more lateral challenge to your hips and torso in order to maintain a strong and stable position.
Set and rep recommendations: 2-3 sets x 8-15 reps per side.
3 – Landmine Push Press
This is a more power-oriented version of the exercise, which complements the overhead push-press or acts as a substitute for those unable to push overhead due to injury or limitations.
- Perform the concentric (pressing portion) as fast as you can.
- Use both your arm and legs together in a smooth and coordinated fashion to press.
- Lower the bar back down with deliberate control to set up for the next rep.
Set and rep recommendations: 4-6 sets x 3-5 reps per side.
4 – Landmine Rotational Press
The previous two versions demand you resist torso rotation as you perform the press. In this variation, you create rotation at your hips and torso and drive the bar across your body instead of in front of it.
- If the barbell is anchored closer to your left shoulder, hold the bar by placing your right hand over your left hand.
- If you're pressing the bar towards your left side, your right arm will be your primary pushing arm. In this case, at the bottom of each rep, keep your right elbow close to your body; don't allow it to flare out. As you press, pivot your hips and shoulders together at the same rate.
- Finish each rep with your rear heel off the ground and rotated toward the bar.
Set and rep recommendations: 3-4 sets x 6-10 reps per side.
5 – Landmine Rotational Single-Arm Push Press
This is a more power-oriented version of the rotational press above because it involves a more explosive concentric portion that also integrates the legs. Note that both the angled barbell rotational press and the rotational push-press can be done using one or two arms. That said, using a single-arm allows you to create a bit more rotation when you load up to start each rep.
- Begin each rep with your weight shifted slightly to your rear leg, the one on the same side as the hand underneath the barbell. As you perform each rep, your weight should shift to the front leg and you should finish each rep with your rear heel off the ground and rotated toward the bar.
- At the bottom of each repetition, keep the barbell close to your body with your elbow directly underneath your wrist.
- It's okay to use your free hand to help lower the barbell and to help keep it in place at the beginning of each rep.
Set and rep recommendations: 4-6 sets x 3-5 reps per side.
6 – Landmine Shoulder-to-Shoulder Press
Due to the wider base of support and the fact that you're shifting the barbell from side to side as you press, this version creates more anti-lateral trunk flexion demand than the standard single-arm version. It's also much easier to learn than the rotational variations.
- You can do this exercise with a stiff and stable torso, or by allowing your shoulders or hips to rotate a few degrees.
- You can also do it like a push press where you bend your knees slightly at the bottom of each rep and use your legs to help press the bar up and away from you.
Set and rep recommendations: 2-3 sets x 14-20 reps total.
7 – Landmine Press and Catch
This version combines the standard angled barbell press and the shoulder-to-shoulder press into a more power-oriented exercise. Get good at those two variations first before trying this one.
- Each time you catch the bar, pretend you're catching an egg. Use your entire body. Simultaneously bend your knees (slightly) and arms to absorb the fall and keep the "egg" from breaking.
- It's okay to allow your torso to rotate a bit each time you catch and throw the bar.
Set and rep recommendations: 4-5 sets x 4-6 reps each side.