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Developing A V-Taper: A Full Upper Body Plan!

One of the main things that make a bodybuilder stand out in a crowd is the V-shape taper. Below is a 3-pronged attack on building a great upper body!

I remember the first time I saw a bodybuilder when I was a young kid. Aside from the enormous size of the individual in question, the thing that stands out in my mind, more than anything else, was how wide he looked standing totally relaxed, with that impressive V-shape, super wide shoulders and back, tapering down to a tight small waistline. I thought to myself that he looked like something out of one of my favorite comic books.

A living, breathing, super-hero, come to life! A normal man isn't supposed to look like that! Being a bodybuilder though, is a far cry from being normal.

Bodybuilding sets you apart from the rest of the crowd, because everywhere you go, you carry your sport with you. If you could throw a fastball at 90 MPH, no one would know it, but on a hot summer's day, wearing only a T-shirt, and a pair of shorts, people will immediately know you are a person who prides himself on how he looks ... a bodybuilder!!!

The V-Shape

One of the main things that make a bodybuilder stand out in a crowd, in my humble opinion, is the V-shape taper! Today, having a V-shaped back, tapering down to a wasp-like waistline, with a ripped 6-pack, is fast becoming a thing of the past.

What with the advent of "The Bigger Is Better" syndrome in today's bodybuilding world, many people forget about aesthetics when perusing the challenge of building a formidable physique. Now I'm not saying that one of your goals shouldn't be to try and get bigger, but I am saying that you shouldn't sacrifice symmetry, and proportion, in the process.

After all, bodybuilding literally means to build the body, but you should never lose sight of creating a balanced, quality physique. In this article, I will outline a 3 pronged attack on how to build a V-shaped, muscular upper body. There are three main muscle groups that contribute to this look; they are, the lats, deltoids, and the abdominals.

Let's take a deeper look at them, and how they contribute to building the taper.

The Lats

Building a V-shape taper begins with building the lats. A back as wide as a barn door, is essential when building a taper. Everyone from the kid just starting to workout at home in his cellar, to the seasoned trainee, or contest competitor, is striving to build bigger and wider lats. There are two distinct ways to go about developing good lats and an impressive back.

One of the approaches are to do pull-down movements and chin-ups, and the other is to do rowing movements, and deadlifts. The pull-down type exercises build width, and the rowing moves build thickness. You can't have an impressive back without a combination of the two.

Here's a sample routine that will accomplish both, if given enough time and applying enough effort.

Back/Lat Routineicon

Barbell Deadlift

4 sets, 5-10 reps (after a light warm up)
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift



3 sets to failure (if you can get more than 10 reps on all sets add weight)
Pullups Pullups


Bent Over Barbell Row

3 sets of 8-12 reps (Always use good form and wear a lifting belt)
Bent Over Barbell Row Bent Over Barbell Row


Seated Cable Rows

2 sets of 10-12 reps (Force the back to do the majority of the work)
Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows


V-Bar Pulldown

2 sets of 10-12 reps (Pull to chest with a slight arch in the back)
V-Bar Pulldown V-Bar Pulldown


Barbell Shrug

3 sets of 12-20 reps (Straight up and down no rolling of the shoulder's)
Barbell Shrug Barbell Shrug

The Delts

Wide shoulder's with impressive cannonball deltoids are the hallmark of a great V-shape. Having a naturally wide structure surely helps in this regard, but developing thick, round delts, that cap off the shoulder's is attainable by anyone. I personally recommend working all three heads of the deltoid for maximum development.

Always do a heavy pressing movement followed by leverage raising type exercises to target each head specifically. Another tip to implement in your delt workout is to go as heavy as possible but never at the expense of form. Lateral raises should not be accomplished by swinging the dumbbells but by raising and lowering under full control at all times for best results.

Shoulder Routineicon
Smith Machine Overhead Shoulder Press Smith Machine Overhead Shoulder Press

Lower the weight to ear lobe level and press up just short of lock-out, this creates constant tension.


Side Lateral Raise

4 sets of 8-12 reps
Side Lateral Raise Side Lateral Raise

Tip the bells in a pouring motion at the top of the movement, to further isolate the lateral deltoid head.

Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise

Lower and raise weights under complete control with no excess body motion.

Bent Over Low-Pulley Side Lateral Bent Over Low-Pulley Side Lateral

Alternate each arm with no rest until all sets are completed, these can also be done behind the back for a slight change.

The Abdominals

A sharply chiseled set of abs is admired by just about everybody. When you're at the beach, or in a bodybuilding contest the first thing that the eyes are drawn to, is your midsection. If it's ripped and tight, then that is a good first impression to make, and also exhibits good overall fitness.

My approach to ab training differs from many other trainer's but I, as well as my trainees, have gotten good results while using it in conjunction with a good healthy diet. I use no weights for added resistance when I work the abs.

Instead I do a series of exercises done one after another without rest. I feel that training the abs with weights as resistance, will definitely increase the girth of the waist, resulting in a bigger waist measurement thus, defeating the V-Shape we are trying to attain.

Direct oblique training is a big mistake as far as I'm concerned and I cringe when I see people doing side bends, especially with a heavy dumbbell. This is sheer suicide if your aspirations are to get as small a waist as possible. Any increase in waist size is a sure fire way to detract from shoulder width and waist differential.

The obliques will get plenty of indirect work on presses, squats, ab work and a host of other movements. A lot of people disagree with this philosophy but my waist has been as small as 27 inches at times with 4-5% body fat. I for one will continue using my approach to training abs!

Ab Routineicon


3 sets of 25 reps
Crunches Crunches

Lie on a mat or an exercise bench, in a crunch position, curl the body up slowly, and exhale forcibly at the top of the movement. For a better contraction, return to starting position slowly and under control, concentrating on the abs only.


Lying Leg Curls

3 sets of 20 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

Lie on an exercise bench, and slowly raise and lower legs, focusing on the abs only, keep knees slightly bent, to take the hip flexors out of the movement.



3 sets of 15 reps
Sit-Up Sit-Up

On a sit-up board, with bent knees, come up to about 1/4 of the way up, and slowly return to starting position.

Seated Flat Bench Leg Pull-In Seated Flat Bench Leg Pull-In

Sit on the edge of a bench with feet together, pull knees into the chest, lower, and repeat.


Hanging Leg Raise

3 sets to failure
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

Hang from a chin-up bar, and with bent legs, pull knees up as high as possible, lower, and repeat.


If you follow my three pronged attack to create a better V-shape, you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. Remember, eat a good muscle building type diet high in proteins, with moderate carbs, low fats and plenty of good old H2O.

The next time you hit the beach, or the bodybuilding stage in your next contest, heads will be sure to turn your way!