October 5, 2021

Shoulder Taps: What They Are and How to Do Them

While shoulder taps might look like a plank, in reality they are a different exercise. This low-impact, high-energy movement targets your shoulders. The core activates to stabilize your entire body and engages the lower back region.

This exercise, which involves shifting weight from one arm to the other, will increase your heart rate and provide a cardio boost. It also has strengthening benefits. As an added bonus, your wrists will become stronger and your arms will feel more flexible, making it easier for you to lift heavier weights and support your body without feeling strain.

Learn more Learn all about the tricks and tips of the pros below.


  • Studio SWEAT OnDemand’s CEO Cat Kom is also the founder.
  • Brittany Bowman is a personal trainer at DOGPOUND Los Angeles.

What Are Shoulder Taps?

Shoulder taps are an active movement that requires you to touch your hands to the shoulder of the opposite side. Cat Kom, founder and CEO of Studio SWEAT onDemand, says, “As your hand touches the shoulder, you must hold your body in a plank position.” They are a functional exercise for the whole body that targets many muscles, including deep core muscles. For posture, they also help you maintain a squared position in your hips, shoulders, and hips.

To reap the full benefits, be mindful of how you position your spine, stabilize your core and avoid rotation of the hips.

Before you attempt shoulder taps, it is important to get down to the basics. Brittany Bowman is a personal trainer at DOGPOUND Los Angeles. She says that shoulder taps can spice up core exercises but should be done only after mastering a high-plank hold. Core strength is essential to prevent the body from moving and hips from dropping.

Benefits of Shoulder Taps

Shoulder taps can be used to strengthen your core, arms, shoulders and core.

  • Low Impact: Shoulder taps are gentler than plank jacks and require no jumping or “jolting”. They are a great strength-building exercise for people who avoid high-impact sports.
  • You don’t need any equipment: Shoulder taps are great for quick workouts. To provide comfort for your hands, you can place a mat under you.
  • Shoulder tapping can improve posture: Because of the lengthening of the spine, and the careful positioning of your body, shoulder tappings naturally encourage good posture. This can help you stand taller.
  • They are versatile: You can add them to a strength-training, core or HIIT workout. They can be made easier by being executed on your knees or in an inclined position.

Proper Form of Shoulder Taps

To learn shoulder taps correctly, follow our step-by guide.

  1. Your body should be lowered onto the mat. Now, you need to move into a plank position with your hands below your shoulders. For more stability, you can drop to your knees or step your feet apart hip-width apart if a full plank seems too difficult.
  2. Press your core while keeping your hips and shoulders flat to the ground. Next, press your right hand into your right palm and tap your left shoulder with your left palm.
  3. Switch the tap to your left side with your right hand.
  4. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed during the movement. Also, be aware of any hip swaying.
  6. For beginners, alternate between the sides for about 10-20 seconds. As you gain strength and confidence, increase the reps and/or time.

Bowman says, “The goal is not to rock side to side or make any twisting motions. So keep your hips parallel to the ground.”

How to Modify Shoulder Taps

There are many options to increase or decrease the intensity of an exercise depending on your core strength and fitness goals. Bowman explains that you can modify the exercise by starting with your hands on an elevated surface such as a block, high box or step, and then moving to your knees on the ground. As you become stronger, you will be able to reach the ground on your knees. Then you will be able to move onto your hands and do a full plank.

You can then challenge your muscles even further. Kom suggests that you try holding your opposite hand for 3-5 seconds to activate your core. You can also lift your alternate leg while you tap your shoulder.

To be able to do shoulder taps, you must maintain stability. Before you begin, make sure to practice holding your body in place while tapping your shoulders. You can move on to the next level once you have mastered the hip control.

Safety Considerations

Kom states, “As with all exercises, ensure you perform shoulder taps correctly to avoid injury.” Avoid hip sagging. This can add unwanted pressure to your lower back. Also, avoid moving too fast while performing the movement. This causes the body to lose focus and cause jolts. Kom advises that you start slowly, especially if your wrists or shoulders are weak. This exercise can put strain on those areas.

Start by making a simple modification to improve your form. Bowman suggests that you can lower your wrists by elevating your hands and lowering your knees. You can also drop to your knees with control after each alternate tap to reset and rest for a second.

The Final Takeaway

Shoulder taps, which target the arms, shoulders and core, don’t require any equipment. They are done by tapping one palm on the shoulder of the other side while maintaining a steady plank position. You can modify them by dropping to your knees, using an elevated surface such as a block or elevating your feet. If you have a chronic wrist, shoulder or lower-back injury, this exercise should be avoided. Ensure your hips are parallel with the ground and your spine is aligned while performing the movement. Shoulder taps should be performed with control and stability.