Hand and Shoulder Taps

How To Do This Challenging Core Exercise
By Alli McKeeFebruary 19, 2016

Hand And Shoulder Taps

The hand and shoulder tap exercise is great for strengthening the musculature of the anterior core, and it is both anti-extension and anti-rotational in nature. This exercise is also good for improving shoulder stability. The hand and shoulder tap is essentially a more advanced variation of a front plank. Like the front plank variation, most people do not perform this exercise correctly and simply hold. This is not a proper form. In order to get the most benefit out of this exercise, and to engage the right muscles, once your body is in the proper position, you want to contract all of your core muscles and glutes. If you are doing this correctly, you should not be able to hold yourself in position for very long.

Equipment needed:

You do not need any equipment to do this bodyweight exercise.

Ability level:


The hand and shoulder tap is a great option for beginners who are looking to improve their core stability.  However, the regular variation of each might be too challenging for beginners. If this is the case, beginners can elevate their hands on a box or bench, and perform the modified variation. Beginners might perform 3 sets of 4-8 shoulder taps per arm of the modified variation. Once beginners develop the requisite levels of strength and stability, they can progress to more advanced variations.


Intermediate lifters who have mastered the hand and shoulder tap can progress to the regular variation of the exercise where they are on their hands and feet. Intermediate lifters who are comfortable with this can progress to placing their hands so they are farther apart, and or bringing their feet so they are closer together as both of these options make the exercise more challenging. Intermediate lifters can also make the exercise more challenging by holding their hand on the opposite shoulder for more time than rather than just touching the shoulder.

Women of an intermediate fitness level can do the hand and shoulder tap exercise as part of their warm-up, can perform it between sets of upper body exercises (I do not like to perform this or any other core stability exercise with heavy compound lower body exercises as I want the core to be fresh for these exercises). The hand and shoulder tap can also be used in a conditioning circuit as a way to increase overall core stability work. This exercise can also be used in workouts that are done in de-load weeks, or during recovery workouts.


Advanced lifters can use the hand and shoulder tap the same ways as intermediate lifters. They can also perform the same hand and shoulder tap variations that I described for intermediate lifters, but with resistance. This resistance can include chains, a weight plate (place on mid/lower back). Advanced lifters can also perform the Renegade row, or banded rows while in a plank position.

Benefits of Hand And Shoulder Taps:

The hand and shoulder tap offers many benefits. How a woman chooses to use a hand and shoulder tap is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, her reason for using the exercise, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general hand and shoulder taps can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing core strength, particularly the anterior core
  • evening out asymmetries and imbalances between the left and right sides (with the side plank)
  • increasing shoulder stability
  • preventing injuries, particularly any that result from a weak anterior core and the subsequent pelvic and spinal stability
  • warming the body up before performing more advanced exercise variations, or as part of a general warm-up
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • convenient as it requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere, any time

How to perform a Hand And Shoulder Tap:

  • Set yourself up so your hands and feet are on the floor. Your elbows, wrists and hands should be directly below your shoulders.
  • Your body should be in a straight line from your head to heels, and your spine should be in neutral alignment.
  • The closer together your feet are, and the farther apart your hands are, the more challenging the exercise will be.
  • Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), contract all of the muscles around your trunk (including lats) and glutes, now touch your hand to your opposite shoulder, bring it down to the floor with control, and repeat with the opposite side.
  • If you are doing this correctly, your weight should remain equally distributed on both feet, your body should remain in proper alignment the entire time, and there should be no rotation occurring in your hips or torso.
  • Do not allow your head to drop, hips to sag, or lower back to hyperextend.
  • Keep your chin tucked.
  • Reset before each rep.

Video Transcription: 

The hand taps and shoulder taps are fantastic anti-extension and anti-rotation core exercises. That means that when you are doing the exercise you are resisting your body's tendency to go into hyperextension and you are resisting your body's tendency to rotate. So the way you perform these is that you start in a push up position, once you are in a nice solid position with a neutral spine, you just pick your hand up and gently tap your other hand.  As your hand is lifted up off the ground, you are going to have to be stabilizing your core so you don't fall to the side and you are also going to have to be resisting against your body’s inclination to hyperextend the spine. I am going to show you what this looks like.  

The pushup position, you are here, tap, tap and if you want to make it more challenging you can widen your hands up a little bit. If you want to make it easier you can bring your hands in a little bit closer, because obviously your other hand will not have to be lifted off the ground as long. It's the exact opposite with your feet: if you want to make it easier you are going to widen your feet a little bit. If you want to make it harder you are going to keep your feet closer together.

Another variation that's going to be more challenging is the shoulder tap. The reason it's going to be more challenging is because your hand is off the ground for longer because you are moving it farther.  This is what a shoulder tap looks like. And I’ll show you what these two look like from the side.  The hand tap I am just going to be tapping my hands and the shoulder tap I am going to be tapping each shoulder. You will notice my spine is nice and neutral and straight, glutes are tight and head is neutral as well. That's hand taps and shoulder taps.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at www.allimckee.com.

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