3 Effective Landmine Rows Alternatives (With Pictures!)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
July 30, 2022

A variation of the standard barbell row that makes use of a landmine implement so as to alter the mechanics, grip type and angle of resistance of the exercise itself; landmine rows take a prominent place in many back training workout sessions as the main source of training stimulus to the entirety of the back muscles

Despite this, several issues related to the landmine row and its form mechanics can lead exercisers to seek out potential alternative exercises that share the benefits of the landmine row with less of its negative characteristics.

Depending on what sort of circumstance the exerciser finds themselves in, several possible alternative exercise candidates may be used - all of which are perfectly capable of fulfilling whatever requirements the exerciser and their training goals may have.

Why Should an Alternative to the Landmine Row be Used?

The most common reason why the landmine row is alternated out is simply due to a lack of the required landmine barbell attachment, being somewhat uncommon in most commercial gyms due to the rather niche use it pertains to.

Though it is entirely possible for an exerciser to simply perform a landmine row without the use of a landmine attachment, some may find this unsecure and as such desire to simply use an alternative exercise of similar training stimulus instead.

landmine row

Apart from equipment requirements, the landmine row may also be alternated out by exercisers seeking a more specific muscular activation spread, or those that wish to further intensify the stimulation of certain muscle groups instead.

In direct relation to this factor, exercisers wishing to exclude certain areas of the body from training due to a history of injuries in those areas can easily find an alternative that does not cause such injuries to occur.

Characteristics of a Good Landmine Row Alternative

The primary characteristic one must search for when choosing a suitable landmine row exercise alternative is in its muscular activation pattern, wherein the alternative exercise must be capable of inducing training stimulus in much the same muscle groups as the landmine row itself.

These muscle groups are the rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, erector spinae, biceps brachii, and to some extent the posterior head of the deltoids.

This, of course, does not apply if the exerciser is specifically substituting out the landmine row so as to avoid activating one or the majority of the muscle groups normally trained by it.

Apart from muscular activation group set, other characteristics one should search for is a similarity in the level of injury risk, relative complexity of the exercise and its subsequent form mechanics - as well as what particular circumstances lead to the exerciser searching for a substitute in the first place.

How to Program for Substituting the Landmine Row

The landmine row generally takes the place as the primary compound movement responsible for back muscle group training stimulus during a workout session, though it may also take the place of a secondary compound exercise of equal intensity to a primary compound exercise.

In athletic training programs, the landmine row may be used in order to aid in a barbell row form sticking point issue, or as a method of maximizing closed kinetic chain pulling mechanics of the athlete.

landmine row muscles used

As such, any alternative to the landmine row must also be capable of recreating these particular roles in a training program, as the usage of an exercise that is insufficient in stimulus may result in reduced muscular hypertrophy, strength conditioning, and a host of other training gains induced in a lesser manner.

Best Landmine Row Alternative for Entire Posterior Chain

For individuals either searching for a direct substitute of the landmine row or those seeking an exercise that is capable of surpassing said landmine row as a posterior training compound movement - the pendlay row can fulfill both goals, and even more.

1. The Pendlay Row

The pendlay row takes a large number of its mechanics and form cues from the traditional barbell row exercise, though with the large distinction that the exerciser begins each repetition from the floor, or nearly at floor level - forcing absolute muscle contraction and a complete scapula stretch reflex.

pendlay row

This difference in lift mechanics results in the pendlay row being considered a significantly more intense and effective training stimulus tool than the majority of barbell based row exercises, allowing it to act as an excellent alternative to the landmine row and similar movements.

Why the Pendlay Row Makes a Good Landmine Row Alternative

The pendlay row makes an excellent alternative to the landmine row due to the fact that it not only activates all muscle groups normally stimulated by the landmine row itself, but also includes other smaller muscle groups that aid in the general pulling motion of all rowing exercises.

This, alongside the fact that it is capable of significantly more intense muscular activation, makes it not simply an alternative to the landmine row but even an upgrade for powerlifters and athletes that find the landmine row to not be of sufficient training intensity.

How to Program for the Pendlay Row as a Landmine Row Alternative

Considering the fact that the pendlay row is more often seen as a powerlifter’s alternative to the barbell row or landmine row due to its higher intensity and greater spread of muscle group activation - subsequent reprogramming of the training routine as it substitutes the landmine row will often be required.

This is best done by a small subtraction of posterior chain (especially upper back muscle group) volume throughout the workout, either by reducing the total volume of repetitions performed for the pendlay row sets, or by subtracting additional isolation type exercises that target such muscle groups.

Disadvantages of the Pendlay Row as a Landmine Row Alternative

One key disadvantage of using the pendlay row as a landmine row alternative is in the fact that it may present a higher risk of injury due to the angle at which the exerciser’s spinal column is placed during the beginning of the repetition as well as the wider range of motion involved in the movement.

This, subsequently, also makes the pendlay row significantly more complex and difficult to perform than the landmine row, leaving it as an alternative that is rather unsuitable for novice level exercisers or individuals with poor bodily coordination - both of which may end up injured if attempting to perform the pendlay row incorrectly.

Lats Focused Alternative to the Landmine Row

Among one of the most utilized muscle groups during a repetition of the landmine row is that of the latissimus dorsi, a pair of flat muscles spanning the majority of the middle and lower back, though it is most often visible at its distal attachment point beneath the shoulders.

The latissimus dorsi is activated primarily by pulling type exercise mechanics, making the aptly named pull up an excellent alternative to the landmine row for individuals wishing to induce a more significant level of activation in said latissimus dorsi.

The caveat to this is that simple bodyweight pull ups are unlikely to induce as intense a resistance as the landmine row, and as such must be modified with the addition of more weight, either through the use of a weighted vest, holding a dumbbell between the exerciser’s feet, or through specialized plate loaded equipment made for this very purpose.

2. Weighted Pull Ups

Weighted pull ups are simply the standard calisthenic pull up exercise but with the addition of further resistance in the form of extra weight being moved throughout the exercise.

pull up

This allows the pull up to match the landmine row in terms of intensity and muscular activation, though with a significantly different number of form mechanics and thus a different angle of resistance as well, making the weighted pull up not only an excellent alternative for better latissimus dorsi training but also one that does not induce lower back strain in any significant capacity.

Advantages of Weighted Pull Ups as a Landmine Row Alternative

The weighted pull up makes an excellent alternative to the landmine row for exercisers seeking to take the majority of strain away from their lower back, such as in the case with individuals possessing injuries of the lumbar or thoracic spinal column.

Apart from this reduced loading of the spine, the weighted pull up also induces significantly more latissimus dorsi muscle group activation due to the particular angle of resistance throughout the repetition, with the eccentric or negative portion of the repetition in particular placing a great deal of stimulus on the lats themselves.

As such, bodybuilders seeking to widen the appearance of their upper body, athletes seeking to increase their total pull strength output, and exercisers with a history of back, hip, or other lower body injuries may all utilize the weighted pull up in a direct substitute to the landmine row, with the total resistance depending on their particular strength capacity.

Disadvantages of Weighted Pull Ups as a Landmine Row Alternative

The primary disadvantage to using the weighted pull up as a potential landmine row alternative is in their widely differing muscular activation pattern, with the weighted pull up inducing significantly less training stimulus in the posterior deltoids and trapezius muscle groups - making it an unsuitable exercise for individuals wishing to focus on these particular muscles.

By extension of this difference in muscular activation pattern, the weighted pull up almost entirely removes the erector spinae and other stabilizer muscles of the lower back from receiving any sort of dynamic muscle contraction, requiring that subsequent isolation exercises be added to the program in order to make up for this loss.

Trapezius Focused Alternative to the Landmine Row

For exercisers and bodybuilders seeking a more aesthetically appealing upper body or athletes wishing to improve their scapular force output, exercises specifically targeting the trapezius muscle group are a must - with the landmine row just barely making such a list as it activates the traps in only a secondary fashion, with the lats, rhomboids, deltoids and biceps all taking significant training stimulus away instead.

As such, the barbell shrug may fulfill such a need, as it is widely considered among one of the best trapezius targeting compound exercises that can still involve other muscle groups normally trained by the landmine row.

3. The Barbell Shrug

The barbell shrug is a rather simplistic and novice level exercise that nonetheless acts perfectly as a trapezius, deltoid and rhomboid activating movement suitable for athletes, bodybuilders, and general fitness enthusiasts seeking a suitable landmine row alternative that primarily trains the traps.

The barbell shrug can also be performed with dumbbells.

dumbbell shrug

This, of course, will come with its own set of sacrificed muscle activation, as the barbell shrug does not directly activate the biceps brachii or latissimus dorsi in any significant capacity - especially in comparison to the landmine row itself.

Advantages of the Barbell Shrug as a Landmine Row Alternative

A key advantage that using the barbell shrug as a landmine row alternative offers is in the ease and simplicity of its form, with even beginner level exercisers being capable of performing it with little to no risk of injury, so long as an appropriate amount of total weight is used.

This far higher margin of safety in combination with its trapezius muscle focused activation pattern places the barbell shrug as the most suitable alternative for the landmine row - except in the case of the exerciser seeking a latissimus dorsi or biceps brachii focused substitute.

Disadvantages of the Barbell Shrug as a Landmine Row Alternative

Apart from the fact that the barbell shrug does not dynamically contract the latissimus dorsi or biceps brachii muscle groups, there is also the disadvantage of the barbell shrug being limited by the exerciser’s own grip strength, wherein the total resistance of the exercise is only as much as the exerciser can hold for the duration of the set.

This may be remedied through the use of additional fitness equipment such as straps or gloves, but is nonetheless a major obstacle to any high level athlete wishing to alternate out the landmine row with the barbell shrug.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that the landmine row has a variety of possible alternative exercises fit for every requirement or training goal, it is important for the exerciser to identify the particular reasons behind such a substitution so it does not interfere with the entire training program itself.

Regardless of what alternative exercise takes the place of the landmine row in their workout routine, it is important for exercisers of novice training experience or individuals with injuries or health conditions to first seek professional advice prior to attempting a new exercise - especially if it is of a more intense nature.

References

1. Fenwick CM, Brown SH, McGill SM. Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Mar;23(2):350-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181942019. PMID: 19197209.

2. Lorenzetti, Silvio, Romain Dayer, Michael Plüss, and Renate List. 2017. "Pulling Exercises for Strength Training and Rehabilitation: Movements and Loading Conditions" Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology 2, no. 3: 33. https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk2030033

3. Liao, Chien-Nan, Chun-Hao Fan, Wei-Hsiu Hsu, Chia-Fang Chang, Pei-An Yu, Liang-Tseng Kuo, Bo-Ling Lu, and Robert W.-W. Hsu. 2022. "Twelve-Week Lower Trapezius-Centred Muscular Training Regimen in University Archers" Healthcare 10, no. 1: 171. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare10010171

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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