How to do Planks with Shoulder Taps?

The standard plank is a staple in all core strengthening programs. Planking is an isometric exercise for your core, with the goal of holding a neutral, plank position for a set amount of time. Standard planks can definitely get boring after a while so try spicing up your workout by adding a plank with shoulder taps. This variation will bump up the intensity and increase the demand of your core.

A plank with shoulder taps is performed by starting in the standard plank position. Start with your hands flat on the ground beneath your shoulders, elbows extended, neutral spine, legs extended, and toes pushed into the floor. Make sure to engage your abs, glutes, and quads to keep your body in a neutral, aligned position. After getting into the plank position, begin the shoulder taps by lifting one hand off of the floor, bringing it up to tap the opposite shoulder. Repeat for the desired sets and reps. While the standard plank is an excellent core, shoulder and hip stability exercise, the plank with shoulder taps adds to the rotational stability of all of these major muscle groups. Plus, it fires up the shoulder even more as one shoulder takes on more body weight, while the other arm is unweighted. Your rotator cuff, deltoids, abdominal muscles, glutes, and quads are most active during this plank variation. Plus they are working even harder in this variation as there is an anti-rotation component. This anti-rotation component is one of the biggest benefits of this exercise. Anti-rotation means your core is working to resist a twisting movement. As you reach to tap the opposite shoulder, your  shoulders and hips could easily drop, causing your body to rotate, if you do not keep all of these muscle groups engaged. This turns your standard plank into a multiplanar, anti-rotation, isometric core exercise. An added bonus, performing anti-rotation exercises also allows you to easily identify asymmetries in the body.

It should be easy to incorporate planks with shoulder taps into your workout routine, just substitute your standard plank for this challenging, anti-rotation exercise. Instead of trying to hold a plank for as long as you can, aim for a certain number of sets and reps.

How do you count shoulder taps?

During the plank with shoulder taps, it is easiest to count one repetition after you have tapped both shoulders. One repetition equals the right hand tapping the left shoulder and the left hand tapping the right shoulder. So to keep track, count; one, one; two, two; three, three, up to whatever your desired amount of reps are.

It would be best to start with 2-3 sets of 12-15. Then decide if you need to go up or down for your next workout. Remember; one, one; two, two, all the way to fifteen, fifteen.

If you want to challenge yourself, try completing as many as you can in 30 seconds, make sure to count the reps the same way!

Variations of shoulder taps

Why just stop at planks with shoulder taps? Of course there are variations to this exercise as well! You can crank it up a notch by adding weight to your torso, elevating your legs, or adding in your feet. Or if you need to turn it down a notch, try elevating your upper body.

Here are some solid variations to the plank with shoulder taps:

Decline plank with shoulder taps. Elevate your feet on a box. Otherwise, perform the same way as the traditional variation.

Add weight to the traditional variation. Wear a weighted vest, lay a weighted plate across your back, hold dumbbells in your hands, or wear ankle weights on your wrists.

Try adding your feet. As you tap one shoulder, elevate the same foot. When tapping the left shoulder you will elevate the left foot. This will make you more unstable, adding to the work of your core.

While these next examples do not include shoulder taps, they are plank variations that include unweighting of the hands, and will definitely fire up your core, hips, and shoulders:

Walking planks. Place sliders under your toes and begin in the standard plank position. Now, walk forwards with your hands. Your hands “walk” while your feet slide. Continue to keep your body in the neutral, strong, plank position.

Plank up-downs. As with all of the other variations, begin in the standard plank position. Keeping your strong, neutral plank, then bend one arm and bring the forearm down to the ground, following with the other arm. You will end in the forearm plank position. Then reverse this movement. Straighten one arm, placing the hand flat on the floor, following with the other arm. Repeat!

Adding these to your workouts

Next time you have planks in your training program, substitute for planks with shoulder taps. As mentioned above, start with 2-3 sets of 12-15 and decide if you need to go up or down in repetitions.

Most importantly, with any plank variation, it is important to have the correct form before adding intensity. Performing any plank without a solid core and neutral position, with glutes and quads engaged can lead to compensations, injury, or pain down the road. Plus you just won’t get your desired results, which can be frustrating, and slows down your progress.

Give this a try during your next core workout:

15 shoulder taps

15 second side plank on the left

15 second side plank on the right

Repeat 3 times

Related questions

How can you strengthen your shoulders for planks? One way is to definitely continue with the plank, but start with an easier variation and then progress overtime. There are plenty of great shoulder stability exercises to also add into your current upper body workout routine. These include bent over rows, rotator cuff exercises, and push-ups

Can I do planks everyday? While doing planks everyday is not harmful, you will get better results when incorporating a variety of exercises. This will help you avoid getting bored with your routine, use your core muscles in a different way, and allows you to have a more balanced workout.


Why ‘Anti’ Movements Are an Athlete’s Key to Functional Core Strength