Don’t let the name of this exercise fool you. Penguins are cute; this exercise is not. The penguin taps exercise focuses on your midriff. The irony here is penguins are far from the most shredded animals. With that said, if you do their namesake exercise for long enough, you’ll have a magazine-cover-worthy midsection.
The penguin taps are one of those exercises that looks super easy but will have you begging for mercy by the time you are done with it — or it is done with you, depending on how you look at it.
The obliques are some of the most overlooked muscle groups. Although they are right next to the rectus abdominis, they don’t get the same love as the six-pack muscles.
Obliques are fish gill-like muscles that run along the sides of your core and play a crucial role in rotational movements, bending from side to side and protecting your spine. You must train them every week for your overall health.
Nonetheless, it is common to see people with diced abs and no obliques. Not only does a lack of obliques hurt your physique aesthetics, but it also makes you more prone to injuries during rotations movements like the landmine twist.
Although we have talked a lot about obliques until now, the penguin taps are also an incredibly effective exercise for your six-pack. This exercise involves keeping your shoulders and upper back off the floor, which will set your core on fire and leave you with a sick ab pump.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about penguin taps to make the most of it, including how to perform this exercise with a picture-perfect form, its benefits, the most common mistakes, and its best variations and alternatives.
What are Penguin Taps?
But why is it called the penguin taps?
This exercise involves lying on the floor with your feet placed flat next to your butt; then, with your arms straight, you must tap your left foot with your left hand and then turn to your right side. Moving from side to side to touch your feet makes you look like a penguin waddling, albeit while lying on your back.
It is said that if you bray while doing the penguin taps, it multiplies the results by a factor of 10. Forget the last part; I just made it up. But hey, trying a new thing never hurts; just make sure the penguins near you don’t confuse it for a mating call.
The penguin taps are also known as penguin crunches and heel touches. Many people leave gains on the table while performing this exercise by overlooking their breathing. Exhale sharply during the concentric motion for optimal abdominal contraction. Breathe in slowly as you return to the starting position.
As you get better at this exercise, you could turn up the intensity by using a resistance band or dumbbells. Keep your core and glutes braced throughout the exercise to get the best bang for your buck.
Muscles Worked During Penguin Taps
The penguin taps engages the following muscles:
The obliques are the primary target muscle group of the penguin taps. This exercise works your internal and external obliques. The internal obliques are located on the sides of the rectus abdominis and above the transverse abdominis. The external obliques are larger than the internal obliques and are located above them. These muscles help twist your torso.
Since the penguin taps involve holding your shoulders and upper back off the floor, you’ll feel significant abdominal stimulation during the exercise. This exercise works the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis is often called the six-pack, whereas the transverse abdominis muscles are located under the rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis help with the frontal flexion of your abs towards the pelvis, whereas the transverse abdominis support and hold organs in place and stabilize the spine.
Hip flexors are a group of muscles along the front of your upper thigh. They help with hip flexing, meaning they help bring the knee closer to the chest. These muscles are engaged during this exercise when you bring your feet closer to your butt and during the concentric part of the movement.
Benefits of Penguin Taps
Adding the penguin taps to your exercise arsenal entails the following advantages:
Improves Core Conditioning and Strength
Most people who start a fitness routine would love to sport a shredded six-pack; the penguin taps take you closer to that goal. Furthermore, the core strength you build by performing this exercise will carry over to compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench press and improve your overall functionality.
The penguin taps’ short and sweet learning graph makes it a beginner-friendly exercise. Since this bodyweight exercise involves bending from side to side, the risk of injury during training is very low.
The penguin taps are a versatile exercise that can be performed in every type of training program. Also, as you don’t require any additional equipment to do this exercise, you could do it anywhere.
How To Do Penguin Taps
This is how to perform the incline hex press with the correct form:
- Lie supine (facing the ceiling) on the floor.
- Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor. Pull in your feet as close to your butt as possible.
- Extend your arms at your sides.
- Lift your head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor while pushing your belly button into the floor. This will help engage your core better and keep you stable throughout the exercise.
- As you exhale, bend to your left side and touch the side of your left foot.
- Contract your abs and obliques as hard as possible.
- Return to the starting position while breathing in.
- Repeat on the right side.
- Alternate between sides for recommended reps.
Penguin Taps Tips:
- Use a constant rep tempo while performing this exercise to look like a penguin waddling on the floor.
- If touching the side of your feet feels easy, aim for your toes. Readjust your feet to make the exercise more challenging.
- Move your head along with your torso. Keeping your head steady will put unnecessary strain on your neck.
- Ensure that you warm up your sides before doing this exercise to minimize the risk of muscle cramps.
- Experiment with your rep tempo to make the exercise more challenging. Some people find slowing down their rep tempo increases the tension on their core.
- Target Muscle Group: Abs and Obliques
- Type: Strength
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: NA
- Difficulty: Beginner
- Best Rep Range:
- Hypertrophy: 8-12
- Strength: 1-5
Common Mistakes While Performing Penguin Taps
Steer clear of the following heel touch errors to maximize results and limit your risk of injury:
Not Lifting Your Upper Back Off The Floor
You must keep your head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor while performing the penguin taps. Doing this helps keep your abs engaged. Although keeping your shoulder on the floor will still help train your obliques, it will do little to nothing for your abs.
Ensure your shoulders are not scrapping the floor as you move from side to side. Keeping your feet closer to your hips will help you lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Alternatively, you could lower the number of reps or shorter the set’s time duration if you are having trouble maintaining the position.
Bending Your Neck
Although you must keep your head off the floor throughout the exercise, avoid tucking your chin into your upper chest, as it can put unnecessary strain on your neck. Look toward the ceiling while performing the penguin taps to avoid spraining your neck.
Folks with weak necks might feel tension in their necks while holding their neck in a neutral position. This is normal and can help you build a stronger and thicker neck.
Doing the Bare Minimum
Most exercisers just go through the motions for the sake of it while performing the penguin taps. They rush through the exercise to complete their rep count or go as slow as possible to minimize the work while working toward a time goal.
You must focus on contracting your obliques and abs with each rep. Think of the penguin taps as side crunches. Furthermore, you must adjust your foot placement according to your mobility. If touching the sides of your feet feels too easy while they are right next to your butt, move your feet away from your tush.
Variations and Alternatives of Penguin Taps
Use the following penguin crunch variations and alternatives to add variety to your training regimen:
Dumbbell Side Bends
The dumbbell side bend is one of the most popular oblique exercises. Besides working your midsection, it also improves your mobility.
- Stand upright with a hip-width stance and your arms extended at your sides.
- Grab a dumbbell in your left hand.
- Place your right hand on your right hip or behind your head.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell to your left knee.
- Return to the start position.
- Repeat for recommended reps before switching sides.
Pro Tip: You don’t need to go too heavy on this exercise. Instead, focus on contracting your abs and obliques with every repetition.
Check out our complete dumbbell side bend guide here!
This plank variation combines isometric and dynamic exercises. You can perform this exercise using a high-plank or low-plank setup. Beginners should prefer the high-plank position as it gives them more room to move their legs.
- Get on all four. Your hands should be under your shoulders.
- Extend your legs so your body, from head to heels, is in a straight line.
- Keep your head neutral throughout the exercise.
- Lift your right foot off the floor and bring your right knee toward your right elbow.
- Pause and contract your core at the top.
- Slowly return to the start position.
- Repeat on your left side.
- Alternate between sides for the recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Bring your knees out to your sides as you gain more experience. Your upper leg should be perpendicular to your torso at the top.
Check out our complete Spiderman plank guide here!
Elbow-to-Knee Bicycle Crunch
The elbow-to-knee bicycle crunch will smoke your midsection in no time. You must focus on touching your elbow to your knee with every rep.
- Lie on your back on the floor. Your arms should be extended at your sides, and your body should be in a straight line from head to toe.
- Interlace your fingers behind your head.
- Lift your legs off the floor.
- Bring your right knee toward your torso while bringing your left elbow toward the knee. Both joints should touch at the top.
- Return to the starting position while repeating with the opposite limbs.
- Repeat for recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Exhale during the concentric part of the movement for optimal muscle contraction.
Check out our complete bicycle crunch guide here!
Cross-Body Mountain Climber
This is a mountain climber variation that focuses on your obliques. Keep your training intensity high while performing this exercise for a nasty ab pump.
- Get into a high plank position.
- Lift your right foot off the floor and bring your right knee toward your left elbow. The joints should be a few centimeters apart at the top.
- Return to the starting position and immediately bring your left knee toward your right elbow.
- Alternate between sides for the desired reps.
Pro Tip: As you get better at this exercise, increase your speed so that both your feet are off the floor during leg transitions.
The Russian twist is a staple in most core training routines. This rotational exercise will help build a strong core and explosive strength.
- Sit on the floor with your feet planted flat on the floor and your hands placed next to your hips.
- Lift your feet off the floor while maintaining a bend in your knees.
- Recline your torso so that it is at a 45-degree angle with the floor.
- Extend your arms straight so your palms are over your knees.
- Turn your torso to the right leading with your hands while breathing out.
- Contract your abs at the top.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
- Alternate between sides for the recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Use extra resistance in this exercise by holding a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight plate in your hands.
Check out our complete Russian twist guide here!
The penguin taps are a beginner-friendly exercise that can be done by exercises of all shapes and sizes — it has ‘penguin’ in its name for a reason. You must follow a constant rep tempo during this exercise for optimal results.
Perform the penguin taps once weekly to bring up your midriff and do 3-5 sets of 10-25 reps or perform the exercise for 30-60 seconds. Incorporate extra resistance into your workout by utilizing either a resistance band or dumbbells. Best of luck!
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