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January 13, 2022 9 min read

Shoulder taps are one of those basic exercises that are grossly underrated. While it might look simple, do not be fooled by this low-impact activity.

Shoulder taps are a great way to effectively activate a wide range of muscles in your upper body and posterior chain.

It is a high-energy strength-training exercise guaranteed to provide you with a stronger core and better muscle endurance. Here are shoulder tap tips and tricks guaranteed to help you properly achieve a full-body shoulder tap workout.

What Are Shoulder Taps?

Shoulder taps might seem like a not-so-distant family to  the plank, but they include more movements of the muscles.

They are an incredibly demanding exercise that works a wide range of muscles in the arms, back, torso, and glutes. Many gym-goers consider the shoulder tap exercise a core workout, but more experienced bodybuilders fondly call it a near full-body workout. Shoulder taps imitate the starting position of the high plank but include more arm movement of using each palm to tap the opposite shoulder alternately.

While this might seem like an easy exercise, it requires an immense amount of arm strength and muscle endurance. 

Although arm movements are a significant part of the routine, they are not the only important part. Shoulder taps engage your back, arm, core muscles, and posterior chain to stabilise your upper body as you shift from one arm to the other. This requires keeping the rest of your body straight as a rod and extremely still to get the results you wish. 

Shoulder taps are a great addition to your training, regardless of your experience.

It is scalable and can be modified to suit your current fitness state and fitness goals. However, to accomplish this, you need to learn the tricks of the trade. Shoulder taps not only depend on muscle strength but also on the discipline of holding the proper form and avoiding cheat reps. Proper form would not only ensure your safety but also target the right muscle groups for an overall ripped and shredded look.

What Muscles Do Shoulder Taps Activate?

For an exercise with a limited range of motion, shoulder taps provide surprising results on the body. It is no surprise why it remains one of many bodybuilders’ favourite bodyweight exercises. Including this exercise in your routine means with minor movements, you work your upper and lower body. When done correctly, shoulder taps primarily work the core and upper body muscles while also chipping in on the glutes, thighs, lower back, wrists, and shoulders.  

Shoulder taps can be done as a standalone exercise or to warm up in the gym. 

Because your body is suspended in gravity and your body weight is supported mainly by your arms and feet, your abdominal muscles are fired up during shoulder taps.

Shoulder taps as a  core exercise engage your transverse abdominis and internal obliques

Thanks to your arms also taking the brunt of your body's resistance and gravity, shoulder taps engage your pecs, biceps, delts, and triceps.

The engagement of these muscles result in toned arms, stimulating muscle gain and better arm strength. Shoulder taps also require the activation of the hip flexors, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads, all of which are essential for functionality. It provides more mobility in the hips, a stronger back, and toned legs and butts. These muscles are just as essential to your life outside the gym as they are inside in the gym. Stronger core and arm muscles will result in your ability to lift more in the gym weight, 

Why Should You Tap In?

Other than the apparent reasons for better muscle strength, enhanced muscle endurance, and killer core strength, shoulder taps are great for your body in many ways. 

Shoulder taps target a wide range of muscles necessary to function inside and outside the gym.

These muscles are essential to you regardless of what activities you might engage in. It strengthens these muscles, tones them, and increases their endurance level.

  • Low-impact movements: Shoulder taps require minimal movement and are easier on the body. They are a nice break from the usual strenuous weight routine and make for a great HIIT exercise routine when coupled with the right exercises. Shoulder taps might be a minimal exercise, but they pack quite the punch and can leave you feeling sore.
  • Improve balance: This classic isometric workout boosts balance and stability in your trunk. Studies show that  core exercises boost torso muscle strength which directly impacts balance
  • Can be done anywhere: Shoulder taps require no equipment and can be done anywhere. Regardless of where you are, shoulder taps can be quickly fit into your routine for a refreshing burst of energy.
  • Improve posture: With most people spending their time hunched over a desk or their devices, the back has a natural inclination to bend and slouch. This is unhealthy for the back and shoulder muscles and would cause a rounding of the body instead of the tapered-v shape pursued by many gym-goers. Shoulder taps engage the spine, erector spinae, back muscles, and shoulder muscles. It strengthens them, adjusting them and encouraging good posture.
  • They are versatile: Shoulder taps are scalable and can be modified to suit your fitness needs. Many find the primary shoulder tap high plank position too taxing for their muscles. Thankfully, different variations are designed to be easier or more complex than the basic shoulder tap version.
  • Burn calories: Speeding up your shoulder taps not only cranks the intensity up a notch but also increases your heart rate. Increasing your speed is a great way to increase your metabolism and burn unwanted calories. Going a tiny bit faster makes all the difference in achieving a trim, jacked physique. Shoulder taps, paired with other fat-burn exercises, are equally a good choice for gym-goers looking to cut up. Pairing a fool-proof fat-blasting exercise routine with the  SHREDDED STACK is bound to help you achieve impressive results. As an added advantage, it provides you with an extra muscle pump, energy, and post-workout recovery to hasten your cutting up.
  • Reduce back injuries: Back muscles are often overlooked in favour of mirror muscles that enable people to look buff. This often leads to weak back muscles that are drastically under deveioped. Weak back muscles are more prone to stress and strain from slight movements that include bending the hips or lifting heavy objects. Shoulder taps help target and strengthen the back muscles, improving it's endurance to high-intensity workouts and basic life activities.
  • Reduce back pain:  Core exercises have been shown to reduce back painThis is because the core muscles support the spine and the back muscles, which are directly attached to it. Stimulating these deep core muscles would directly activate the back muscles, thereby engaging and strengthening them. While this is subject to medical advice, shoulder taps stimulate the surrounding back muscles and are great for pre-existing pain.
  • Correct muscle imbalances: Shoulder taps are a unilateral exercise that requires an alternate working of the arms. Unilateral exercises make it possible to correct muscle imbalances equally in each arm.

How To Do Shoulder Taps (Form)


Shoulder taps are easy to learn but require an intentional dedication towards holding the proper form. Your form can make or break your routine. 

To do the shoulder tap:

  • Get on your palms and knees.
  • Position yourself in a high plank, keeping your arms directly under your shoulders, your legs straight behind you, and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your wrists stacked in line with your elbows and shoulders.
  • Adjust your weight, so you are stable enough on all fours.
  • Square your hip and shoulders.
  • Keep your neck straight, back neutral, and avoid arching your spine throughout your rep.
  • Inhale and engage your core by pulling in your belly button.
  • Squeeze your glutes to engage your posterior chain.
  • Bring your right hand up to tap your left shoulder while keeping the rest of your body still.
  • Exhale as you plant your right palm on the floor.
  • Inhale as you lift your left hand to tap your right shoulder.
  • Exhale as you return to the starting position. This is one rep.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you wish.

Tips To Hold Form

Like any other compound exercise, shoulder taps should be appropriately done to engage the right muscles. This might prove to be challenging as in the process of struggling to keep your balance, you might alter your form to take the pressure off your torso. 

To change this, here are some tips to keep you in check:

  1. Keep your hips steady: As you shift your weight from one arm to the order, your body has a natural inclination to try to adjust your center of gravity. This adjustment might lead you to twist your hips to one side. Twisting your back, however, places a lot of pressure on your lower back, leading to soreness or worse. Focus on keeping your glutes squeezed and your back flat. This will help you steady your hips while also keeping you from falling.
  2. Practice: Shoulder taps might be a low impact exercise, but they require adequate muscle strength, which many newbies might lack. Start small with easier variations like the kneeling shoulder tap and work your way up the table. This will acclimate your muscles to the exercise and make it easy to stay in position throughout your reps.
  3. Move slowly: while moving fast might include a little cardio into your shoulder tap routine, moving too fast can cause you to lose tension in your body, thereby wasting energy and not getting the most out of the movement.
  4. Balance objects on your back: Balancing something on your back will help you keep your back level throughout your sets. It will train your body to learn the shoulder tap without shifting too much from side to side.

Shoulder Tap Variations You Should Try

One problem with many isometric exercises like the planks is that when they are mastered, it is difficult to ramp up the difficulty of the exercises. Thankfully, there are various ways to increase or tone down the intensity of shoulder taps.

1. Kneeling Shoulder Taps

    If the basic shoulder tap is too much for you, the knee shoulder tap is an easier version with equally good results. In this variation, instead of a high plank, you will begin on your hands and knees. This will reduce the intensity of your core engagement, thereby taking stress off your back and hip. The kneeling shoulder tap variation is an excellent choice for beginners and gym-goers suffering from injuries to the back, shoulders, or hip.

    To do this variation: 

    • Get on all fours.
    • Keep your arms underneath your shoulders and knees hip-width apart.
    • Ensure your back is flat and your neck is neutral.
    • Inhale and engage your core.
    • Take your left arm to your right shoulder without hunching your back.
    • Bring it to the starting position and repeat with your right arm. 
    • This is one rep. Alternate on both hands until you complete your set. 

    In the case of an injury, remember to rest in between sets. Adequate time for muscle recovery would reduce the level of strain on your muscles.

    2. Elevated Shoulder Taps

      Elevated shoulder taps are an equally good shoulder tap variation that is easy to carry out. The incline of your body reduces the angling of your body and thus reduces the stress on your shoulders and wrists. It is a good choice for people suffering from pain or injuries in these joints. 

      To do the elevated shoulder taps: 

      • Pick an elevated surface. It could be a bench or a step.
      • Placing your arms shoulder-width apart, stretch your legs behind you until you get into a high plank position.
      • Keep your back neutral, so your body forms a straight line.
      • As soon as you are stable, tap your left shoulder with your right hand. Repeat this with your left hand.
      • This is one repetition.

      3. Shoulder Tap With Hold

        This shoulder tap variation is the basic shoulder tap with the addition of a pause at the peak of your movements.

        To do the shoulder tap with hold:

        • Get into a high plank position.
        • Keep your arms and wrists stacked underneath your shoulder, and make sure your body is in a straight line.
        • Engage your core and squeeze your glutes.
        • Keep your back straight and neck neutral.
        • Supporting your body weight in your right arm, tap your right shoulder with your left arm.
        • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
        • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other arm. 

        The pause increases the intensity of the core activation and is an excellent addition to a routine if you have begun to plateau with the basic shoulder tap

        4. Shoulder Taps With Leg Lifts


          The shoulder tap with leg lifts is a more intense variation that puts your balance to the test. As its name implies, it is a basic shoulder tap mixed with a leg lift. This means you move one leg and one arm simultaneously. The shoulder tap with leg lift stimulates the core muscles more. It places more stress on the bicep of the balancing arm and also helps to work the glutes and thigh muscles.

          To do the shoulder tap with leg lift variation:

          • Get into the usual shoulder tap position.
          • Keep your spine straight and neck neutral.
          • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
          • Distribute your body weight for balance.
          • Inhale and tap your right shoulder with your left hand as you kick your right leg straight out behind you.
          • Hold this position and return to the starting position.
          • Repeat on your other side. That is one repetition. 

          There are different variations designed to suit your fitness needs. The variation you should choose depends on your fitness goals and athleticism. Regardless of the variation you choose to include in your routine, it is important to hold proper form to provide you with the results you need.

          Bottom Line

          Shoulder taps make a great addition to any workout routine. It doesn’t matter if it’s as a warm-up exercise to gear you up to other strenuous exercise, a core exercise, or a post-workout exercise for muscle recovery, shoulder-taps serve their purpose. Shoulder taps may look simple but they require a massive amount of dedication, muscle control, and focus.

          Regardless of how demanding they are, shoulder taps are guaranteed to get you shredded. To assist you in your bulking journey, here are other  bodyweight core exercises that are supplementary to shoulder taps.