V-Taper Workout: Building An Impressive, Wedge-Shaped Back

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The look. You know it when you see it.

It’s what separates the ones who pretend to train and the ones who actually put the work in to achieve such aesthetics.

It’s the V-taper.

Historically, the V-taper was the gold standard in the bodybuilding world. Possessing broad shoulders, a tiny waist and having lats that can fly are the building blocks of a show-stopping physique.

Related: The 5 Perils Of Muscle Building (And 5 Practical Solutions)

However, things have changed a bit. The pursuit of huge has claimed its real estate. Putting on size is not inherently bad. But when symmetry, proportion, bodyfat and health are at the expense of sloppy size, you can only wonder if the goal is worth pursuing – especially for non-competitive lifters.

It’s time to put things in perspective.

If you’re a non-competitive lifter, then building your body in a way that supports a lean, athletic and strong fashion is the logical approach. Why on earth would you want to add on 25 pounds of weight onto your frame in 10 weeks only to look and feel frumpy?

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Between 1932 and and 1986 a pioneering publication called Strength & Health circulated through the hands of lifters back in the day. If you look at the physiques in those days, they were muscular, lean and attractive. Also, for the lay man, these types of physiques are a more practical and realistic aim.

Building your body doesn’t mean you should let your health fall off the wheels. And, think about your every day life. You surely don’t want to have to buy a new wardrobe because your waistline is busting through your pants, right? You don’t want to have to look in the mirror with a puffy face because you’re eating 7,000 calories a day do you? You don’t want to exist to train, do you?

Instead, build your V-taper in a way that fits into your life. Craft a physique that you’re proud of that lets you look sharp in a suit and feel confident in your board shorts at the pool. And most importantly, posses an impressive physique that is also healthy.

When you walk away from this article, you’ll have a pragmatic approach to doing just that: Building V-shaped physique with broad shoulders, a tiny waist and a wide back.

V-Taper Workout Program Notes

Building the V-taper requires a targeted approach. It begins with building the lats. If you’re waist is wider than your upper back you end up looking like a peach or traffic cone. Not the best look.

In pursuing your V-taper, neglecting to build your back is physique suicide. You simply can’t overlook this aspect of your body. Physique athletes have known this for decades and is the hallmark of many of the classic physiques that serve as models for us today.

Through the decades from the 1930’s up until today, there have been a few distinct ways to go about developing your lats and an impressive back. Pull-downs, deadlifts and rowing movements are the golden tickets to back development. In your plan below, you’ll get your dose of each to ensure you give you back the attention it needs.

Having a set of well-built shoulders is a key element in improving your physique. Although the shoulders aren’t the largest muscle group of the upper body, it’s what people notice first.

Having a set of boulder shoulders is a sign of strength and is critical to the upper chest-shoulder tie in which makes a physique look great. Moreover a set of well defined, strong shoulders creates an illusion of a smaller waist.

In order to make those delts pop, you’ll have to work all three heads of the muscle (front, medial and rear). Your program below will hit all of these to make sure your shoulders development is balanced.

You can’t fake a chiseled midsection. It’s proof that you’ve put the work in and your diet is on point. Training your abs shouldn’t be complex however. Instead, a few movements executed properly will do the job. In your program, we’ll break these movements down so you can develop that ripped midsection.

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V-Taper Workout Directions

You’ll perform each workout (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3) once per week. Take a rest day between each session. On your off days, conditioning work is permitted.

Movements that are marked with “A” and “B” are supersets. Meaning there is no rest in the transition. In other movements, you’ll rest as prescribed between each set.

For each workout, complete the number of sets per movement(s) before moving to the next movement(s).

Day 1 Movements

  • 1A – Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press (3 second descent): 4 sets of 10-12. Rest 0 seconds.

Set an incline bench to about 20 degrees and lie back against it with a dumbbell in each hand. You’ll perform a press by taking the dumbbells from the bottom position to over your chest. On the descent, you’ll return the dumbbells in a controlled fashion – using a full three seconds to return to starting position.

  • 1B – One Arm Dumbbell Row: 4 sets of 10-12. Rest 90 seconds.

You’ll use a flat bench for support. Place your left knee on the top end of the bench and bend your torso at the waist. Your upper body should be parallel to the floor. Your left hand should be planted on the bench to support yourself.

Take one dumbbell with your right hand and assume the starting position. The dumbbell will be hanging – your right arm acting as a cable. To initiate, you’ll pull the dumbbell up and back towards your right hip. Be sure to keep a flat back throughout the pull and squeeze the back muscles at the top of the movement. Return to starting position and repeat.

  • 2A – Inverted Row: 4 sets of 10-12. Rest 0 seconds.

Set a bar in a rack at about hip level and hand from it with your arms fully extended. Your legs should be out in front of you with toes pointed up (knees fully extended). Before you pull, engage your abs and tighten your glutes. Then, initiate by pulling your chest to the bar by activating the lats (and not the arms). Squeeze your shoulders together at the top of the movement. Lower yourself to starting position and repeat.

  • 2B – Dumbbell Push Ups: 4 sets of 10-12. Rest 90 seconds.

Position a pair of dumbbells slightly wider than shoulder width apart. You’ll assume push up position with your hands locked into the dumbbells (palms facing each other). With a tight midline and glutes engaged, you’ll lower yourself to the floor and then push up contracting your chest at the top of the movement before initiating the next rep.

  • 3 – Pull Ups: 3 sets of 10-12

Hand from a pull bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width with your palms faced away from you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. It’s important that you use your lats to pull yourself up. The arms act a supportive cable – not the muscles that pull you up. A simple but effective cue for yourself is to think about pulling your elbows into our rib cage as your lift up towards the bar.
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Day 2 Movements

  • 1 – Muscle Snatch: 3 sets of 6-8. Rest 90 seconds.

The muscle snatch is the physique athlete’s Olympic lift. It’s not as technical or fast, but it serves the purpose of building the traps and shoulders.

In simple terms, you take the bar from the floor to overhead with a snatch grip.

In execution, you’ll start with a snatch grip with the bar on the floor. You’ll pull the bar off the floor in snatch fashion. However, when the bar gets to your hips that’s when things change a bit.

Rather than extending (the hips and knees) to punch under the bar and catch in the bottom position, you’ll follow the extension with an aggressive high pull with the elbows high and outside.

Once the bar reaches your neck, you’ll whip the bar overhead locking out for a press. Return the bar to starting position and repeat.

  • 2A – Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 12. Rest 0 seconds.

Grasp the dumbbells in front of your thighs with knees slightly bent. Raise dumbbells laterally until elbows are about shoulder height. To target the middle delt, at the top of the movement, turn your thumbs down slightly (think of pouring water out of a pitcher). Remember, are raised by shoulder abduction, not external rotation.

  • 2B – Bent over lateral raise: 4 sets of 12. Rest 60 seconds.

Without changing weight or resting, immediately bend over with a flat back and neutral head position. With the dumbbells hanging in front of you, raise the dumbbells horizontally with palms facing down. At the top of the movement be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades to together.

  • 3A – Dip: 4 sets of 10-12. Rest 0 seconds.

You’ll stand between a set of parallel bars and jump yourself up to the top with elbows extended. This is the starting position. The movement start with flexing the elbow, lowering yourself down until your delts are nearly touching the bars (or as deep as mobility allows). Keep your torso upright as possible to recruit the triceps in this version of the dip. Once in the hole, press yourself back up into starting position and repeat.

  • 3B – Leg raises + hip raise: 4 sets of 15-20. Rest 90 seconds.

You’ll lie on the floor fully extended in the hips and knees. With your hands out to your sides, you’ll raise both legs until the are perpendicular to the floor.

From here, you’ll take your hips and lift them off the ground as high as you can. A simple cue to think about is to imagine your toes touching the ceiling. You’ll lower your hips back to the floor and then return your legs to parallel position to assume the next rep.

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Day 3 Movements

  • 1 – Front Squat: 3 sets of 6-8. Rest 90 seconds.

Rack a barbell across your chest and make sure your upper arms (biceps and triceps) are parallel to the floor. Your fingers should act as assistance to the rack – avoid gripping the barbell with a closed grip.

Assume a squat stance with feet shoulder width apart. Before you squat, create some intra-abdominal pressure by breathing into your stomach and not your chest. Start by taking the hips back and down while keeping your upper torso upright as possible. A simple que is to drive your elbows up and out as you descend and ascend out of the hole.

  • 2A  – Power Curl: 4 sets of 10. Rest 0 seconds.

You’ll take two dumbbells from the floor and rack the to your shoulders. To execute, you’ll set up with by assuming a deadlift position with two dumbbells on each side of your feet.

With a parallel grip, you’ll power clean the dumbbells into a hammer curl to finish off the movement. On the proceeding rep, you’ll take the front head of each dumbbell and tap the floor at the bottom position to initiate the next rep.

  • 2B –  Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets of 8. Rest 90 seconds.

Take a barbell out from the rack with a deadlift grip. This movement starts at the top with your hips and knees fully extended.

To initiate, you’ll send your hips back while keeping a flat back and creating a slight bend in the knees. Also, be sure to keep a fixed bend in the knees – meaning, throughout the movement the flexion of your knees shouldn’t change. This will help keep the tension on the hamstrings.

Continue to bend at the hips until the bar is at about mid-shin. You should get an incredible stretch in the hamstrings at this point. From here, you’ll reverse the movement by driving the hips back up to extension returning to starting position.

  • 3 – Incline sit up: 4 sets of 25

These are old school, but few movements are superior for chiseling the midsection. You’ll strap in your feet at the end of the incline board and lower yourself right before your back touches the board. At this point you’ll sit yourself up until your upper torso is nearly perpendicular to the floor. From here, lower yourself to the bottom position to repeat. The abs should be in tension throughout the movement – the bottom or top positions should not offer any rest.

Off Days

When you’re not lifting, choose two days to perform some conditioning work. Either do 15 minutes of HIIT or 30 minutes of steady state twice a week.

Wrapping Up

Whether you want to fill out that suit with having to get it tailored (i.e put shoulder pads in), or feel confident walking into a lounge for a night out on the town or simply feeling awesome without a shirt on at the pool, the V-taper accentuates a your well built physique.

You’ve got the tools to do it. Now, you just gotta do the work.

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Name: Brian McFadden

Bio: Brian teaches motivated but overwhelmed active individuals the importance of adopting an integrative approach to their health and fitness, so they can finally make the gains they want in the gym, but also live a healthy life outside of it.