I’m a big fan of efficiency when it comes to exercise selection for a workout or training program. Basically, I gravitate to exercises that give you the most “bang for your buck”. I want to choose exercises that develop as many facets of athleticism in the shortest amount of time at the gym. This has typically led me to mostly focus on “compound lifts” which are lifts where you use two or more joints (think squats and deadlifts). I also have a preference for performing these types of movements with free weights and standing up or in an athletic position whenever possible, that’s not to say other variations don’t work, this has just been a personal bias. I’ve written in the past about how the landmine thruster is an excellent tool for athletes to develop strength and power. In addition to this population, I think most people could benefit by incorporating this movement as a staple strength lift for this reason.
Total Body Lift: while the big three power lifts (squat, deadlift, bench) will incorporate upper and lower body muscles to varying degrees, a thruster is a hybrid of a squat and press so it directly trains the upper and lower body in one rep. Compound lifts are efficient because they recruit greater amounts of muscle groups because multiple joint angles are recruited. By recruiting more muscle groups you’re better able to develop strength, hypertrophy, and athleticism. Simply put, it’s 2 exercises in one movement.
Easy Learning Curve: an easy learning curve for an exercise is another key component in an exercise being efficient. Executing a movement with proper technique will take you a long way in terms of being able to get stronger and stay healthy. While thrusters can be highly technical, the landmine variation troubleshoots most the issues of a thruster and its components are actually easier versions of the squat and over head press/bench. The landmine squat emphasizes an ideal squatting pattern, which is why it’s sometimes even used as a primer exercise before someone learns front or back squats. Similarly, the press portion of the landmine thruster is a more natural movement than that of the bench or overhead press.
Safety: In addition to landmine thrusters being simpler variations of other compound lifts they’re also generally safer versions of those lifts. Because the weight is anteriorly loaded, there’s not the same amount of shear stress placed on the spine like with a back squat. Similarly, the scapula, elbows, and shoulders aren’t dealing with the same amount of pressure as they would with a bench or overhead press. An underrated aspect of consistent progression in the gym is staying healthy.
That’s not to say that this exercise doesn’t come with its limitations, two that stick out right away are that 1) our lower bodies are generally stronger than our upper bodies making the press portion of this lift a limiting factor for maximal strength development 2) having a plyo box or some other base set up will make the initiation of this lift more effective rather than awkwardly cleaning it up to your chest. With that being said, more people should consider using this lift in their program because of its versatility.