The coveted V-taper is every bodybuilder’s goal. It’s the visual illusion of a V structure, achieved through wide shoulders and back narrowing into a small waist. It demonstrates a strong, fit and symmetrical physique.

The latissimus dorsi (lats) is the primary component of the V-taper. It functions in performing shoulder extension and adduction (movement toward the midline of the body). Understanding these movements assists in choosing which exercises and grip effectively target this large muscle.

The Pull-Up

One of the most effective exercises to target the lats. A wide grip results in arm adduction while a narrower shoulder-width grip incorporates extension. A reverse grip recruits the biceps through elbow flexion, and thus is easier to perform than a wide or narrow-grip pull-up, yet still effective.

Dual Pulley Lat Pulldown

The pulldown applies the same principles as the pull-up, with grip also playing a role in the targeted muscle action. Varying the hand grips ensures that you’re incorporating all of the lats’ primary functions.

T-Bar Row

Depending on grip and arm positioning, rows are highly effective in building a V-taper. Maintaining elbows close to your side activates the lats through shoulder extension.

Bent Row Romanian Deadlift Combo

Deadlifts strengthen more muscles than any other lift. This combo effectively targets the upper- and lower-back muscles, including the erector spine and lats. To perform, stand holding a bar with overhand grip, elbows straight. Feet hip-width apart, lower the bar down the thighs and shin by bending at the hips and keeping a slight bend in the knees. Lower the bar until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, then row the bar up, keeping elbows close. Lower the bar and return to standing.

Full, rounded deltoids improve symmetry and the V-taper. They are composed by an anterior, lateral and posterior head, and function in shoulder abduction. To effectively train the deltoids, target each head and incorporate mind-muscle connection to prevent trapezius recruitment.

Standing Dumbbell Overhead press

Stability is increasingly challenged through standing and using dumbbells, thus encouraging increased neuromuscular activity in the deltoid, as well as the core and lower body.

Lateral Deltoid Raises

Keep your elbows slightly bent and raise arms until elbows are parallel to the floor.

Bent Posterior Deltoid Fly

Using a pulley or dumbbells, bend your torso until close to horizontal to ensure posterior deltoid involvement, and raise arms until elbows are parallel to the floor. Keep the core engaged to protect your back.

Front Plate Raise

For the anterior deltoid, hold a plate with both hands, and raise until slightly higher than shoulder level. Take caution to keep the core engaged and control the weight throughout the range.

A small waist is the final aspect of the V-taper. The transverse abdominis (TVA), an often overlooked and undertrained muscle, can help to achieve a flat, non-protruding abdomen. It runs deep below the obliques and rectus abdominis. Acting as the body’s natural weight belt, it stabilizes the spine and pelvis to protect against injury. The most common way to train the TVA is through vacuum exercises. To perform, draw the navel in towards the spine and hold for 15 seconds, working to increase the duration. Do not hold your breath during the contraction.

Incorporating a healthy diet and focused training, a V-taper is surely an achievable goal for all.

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