What are they?
Shoulder taps are a functional progression of the front plank. To perform this exercise, you’ll start in a high plank position (up on your hands, with a straight line from your head to your shoulders to your hips to your toes). From here, the focus is on keeping your trunk as still as possible as you touch one hand at a time to its opposite shoulder.
Why do them?
Unlike a traditional plank, shoulder taps are a dynamic exercise that improve endurance and engrain motor patterns in specific functional muscle groups that promote trunk and shoulder stability.
Firstly, by striving to maintain your hips and shoulders in parallel with the ground as you lift one hand up, an element of anti-rotational control is introduced. This means the muscles at the front, sides, and back of your trunk must work together to achieve proximal stability with dynamic mobility (ie; to keep your torso as still as possible as your hands move and your base of support shifts), thereby honing their ability to brace, support, and offload the spine during movement and loading.
Secondly, the cuff of muscles around the shoulder of the arm that remains in contact with the ground must work to provide the joint stability necessary to accommodate the relatively high level of upper limb weight bearing.
What muscles do they work?
This full-body exercise is a progression of the static plank. It challenges the entire abdominal wall and develops endurance in the deep trunk stabilisers: a group of muscles that attach to and surround the spine.
Additionally, a good amount of force is placed through the upper limb that remains in contact with the ground as it holds a large portion of your bodyweight up. This engages the rotator cuff- a group of muscles that surround and stabilise the shoulder joint.
When can they be applied in a rehabilitation setting?
Given the functionality of this exercise, which challenges and improves both trunk and shoulder stability, it can be used in shoulder and/or lower back rehabilitation with good effect. In the acute stages of treatment, this movement may be used as a standalone exercise, and is commonly prescribed as part of a daily home program. Later into the piece, shoulder taps may be used as a warm up to prime these deep stabilising muscle groups in preparation for bigger compound lifts or upper body exercises.
What’s my number one tip for performing the exercise?
One of the great things about this exercise is you can regress and progress it by simply altering the position of your hands and feet! By placing your hands closer together and your feet further apart, you’ll effectively broaden your base of support, making it easier to keep your body still. As you become more proficient with this exercise, you can then challenge yourself by doing the opposite (positioning your hands further apart and your feet closer together).
Georgia Smith – BeFit Training Physio Double Bay
Georgia Smith is an experienced musculoskeletal physiotherapist based in Double Bay, in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Georgia has successfully treated musculoskeletal and sports injuries on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Georgia specialises in paediatric and womens health rehab based physiotherapy. To book a consultation, click the link below.