Are you looking to build an athletic-looking V-shaped body? If you are, then it’s a good idea to learn exactly which muscles you should be targeting to achieve your goals. Doing so can save you months of wasted time and disappointment (trust me!). Today I’ll be revealing 8 muscles that give you the V-shape body.
The muscles required for a pronounced V-shape are the lats, anterior deltoids, lateral deltoids, posterior deltoids, pectorals, trapezius, rhomboids, and biceps/triceps. Developing these 8 muscles will broaden the shoulders, chest, and back. This widens the upper body to produce a V-taper.
This article ranks these muscles in order of importance and explains exactly how I trained them to build my V-shape!
- 8 Muscles That Give The Perfect V-Shape Body
- 1) The Lats Are Essential For A V-Taper Back
- 2) Anterior Deltoids Contribute To A Broad Chest & Shoulders
- 3) Lateral Deltoids Are Essential For V-Shaped Shoulders
- 4) Posterior Deltoids Broaden The Back.
- 5) Strong Pectorals Give A V-Shaped Chest
- 6) Trapezius Defines The Upper V-Shape
- 7) Rhomboids Lead To A Thick Back
- 8) Biceps And Triceps Complete The V-Shape
- How To Get V-Shape Abs
8 Muscles That Give The Perfect V-Shape Body
The perfect V-shaped body essentially boils down to a wide upper body and a slim waist. This gives the visual impression of a V-taper from the waist to the shoulders.
With that in mind, there are 3 methods to build a V-shape:
- Increase upper body width to give the illusion of a slim waist.
- Decrease waist width to give the illusion of an broad upper body.
- Combination of both.
All 3 methods require you to train the back, shoulders, chest, and arms.
Here are the 8 muscles that give you a V-shape:
|V-Shape Muscle||Location||How To Train it:|
|Latissimus Dorsi||Sides of the mid-back||Lat pull-down, pull-up, chin-up, bent-over row.|
|Anterior Deltoids||Front shoulders||Shoulder press, front raise, dumbbell cross-over.|
|Lateral Deltoids||Side shoulders||Shoulder press, upright row, lateral raise.|
|Posterior Deltoids||Rear shoulders||Shoulder press, incline row, rear delt-fly.|
|Pectorals||Entire width and length of the chest||Bench press, chest fly, dumbbell pull-over, push-up.|
|Trapezius||Back of the neck and shoulders||Upright row, deadlift, dumbbell shrugs.|
|Rhomboids||Middle of the upper-back||Bent-over row, wide-grip pull-up, reverse fly.|
|Biceps and Triceps||Upper Arms||Bicep curl, tricep extension.|
1) The Lats Are Essential For A V-Taper Back
Training the latissimus dorsi is the best way to get a V-taper back. This can be achieved with movements that bring the upper arm and elbows towards the mid-back in a downward motion. Good exercises for V-lats include the lat pull-down, pull-up, and chin-up.
The latissimus dorsi– or simply “lats”- are one of the most important muscles that give a powerful V-shape.
They contribute to a highly visible torso flare that connects a slim waistline to a broad upper body.
How to build bigger lats:
If you have a gym membership- start training the lats by doing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps on the lat pull-down machine. This is a great way for beginners to start building V-lats. Pull-up assist machines also work great for beginners. You can then progress onto unassisted pull-ups as you become stronger.
If you’re training at home- start by doing assisted pull-ups. The simplest way to do this is to loop one end of a resistance band around the knee and the other end around the pull-up bar. The tension of the band helps to pull you back up.
When buying bands, be cautious about the budget brands. I’ve had 2 sets snap on me in the past. I recommend spending a bit extra on a good model like the Undersun’s (click here for the cheapest price) which has a lifetime warranty. They work great with the Sports Royal Pull-Up Tower (click here for the cheapest price). You can see both bits of gear in action (above).
To continue challenging the lats, you should increase the weight on lat pull-downs or hold a dumbbell between the legs for weighted pull-ups and chin-ups!
2) Anterior Deltoids Contribute To A Broad Chest & Shoulders
The anterior deltoids are important muscles for the V-shape because they broaden the chest and shoulders. They can be trained with movements that bring the arms forward in an upward motion. Good exercises for the anterior deltoids include the shoulder press, incline bench press, and front raise.
If your exercise program is well-balanced you shouldn’t require dedicated exercises for the anterior delts
That’s because most of your compound pressing exercises like the bench press and shoulder press give them ample stimulation.
How to build bigger anterior deltoids:
The incline bench press should be a staple exercise to build a V-shaped torso.
Not only does it work the upper pectorals for a fuller-looking chest, but a 2020 study has shown the 30° incline press to also activate the anterior deltoids equally well.
A classic “2 birds 1 stone” situation!
Combine the incline press with the shoulder press and your anterior deltoids should develop nicely.
And if you find them lagging, then add 3-5 weekly sets of front raises to your program.
3) Lateral Deltoids Are Essential For V-Shaped Shoulders
Building the lateral deltoids is one of the best ways to get V-shaped shoulders. Good exercises are the shoulder press, lateral raise, and upright row. It’s also recommended to include exercises such as the incline press and reverse delt fly to train the anterior and posterior deltoids.
Together with the lats, the lateral deltoids are one of the most important muscles that give you a V-shape. They give rise to the “shoulder boulders” that contribute to a broad upper body when viewed from the front and back.
So don’t neglect them!
How to build bigger lateral deltoids:
As a beginner, aim for 15 weekly sets of shoulder exercises, 6 sets of which can be the shoulder press and lateral raise (3 of each). The remaining 9 sets can be distributed amongst the incline bench press, upright row, and rear delt fly (again 3 of each).
Use a high rep range (12-15 reps) with light weight (65-50% 1RM) for the lateral raise and delt fly and a low rep range (6-12 reps) with heavy weight (85-65% 1RM) for the shoulder press, incline press, and upright row.
Check out my article on repetition maximums to learn how what a 1RM is.
This ensures strong hypertrophy (growth) stimulus for the lateral delts, as well as the anterior and posterior delts for balanced shoulder development.
A good pair of adjustable dumbbells are a great way to train the shoulders at home.
I previously used cheap spinlock dumbbells but found they deteriorated fairly quickly and didn’t provide enough weight.
Now I use the Powerblock Elites. They can be quickly adjusted from 2.5lbs per dumbbell up to 50-90lbs per dumbbell. This provides you with a range of poundage required to do all the different shoulder exercises with the proper weight.
4) Posterior Deltoids Broaden The Back.
Strong posterior deltoids make the back look wide by broadening the rear shoulders. The posterior deltoids can be trained with movements that bring the arms up and backward. Good exercises include the shoulder press, incline row, and rear delt fly.
Last (but not least) of the 3 deltoid heads!
The posterior deltoids are another one of the most important muscles that give the V-shape. Together with the lateral deltoids, they give your shoulders that full 3-dimensional look when viewed from the front and rear.
How to build bigger posterior deltoids:
The posterior delts should grow naturally if you’re doing shoulder presses and a variety of compound pulling/ rowing exercises like the pull-up, chin-up, and bent-over row.
But if you find them lagging, you can add a few weekly sets (I recommend 5 max) of incline rows and rear delt flyes.
Go with 8-12 reps (~75% 1RM) on the incline row and 12-15 reps (~60% 1RM) on the rear delt fly.
Resting your chest on an incline bench whilst performing these exercises will help you achieve the greatest rear delt activation.
You can check out my other article for 5 V-shape body workouts you can do at home with or without equipment!
5) Strong Pectorals Give A V-Shaped Chest
Training the pectorals is the best way to get a V-shaped chest. This can be achieved with movements that bring the arms forward and towards the torso midline. It’s recommended to train all 3 pectoral regions with bench presses and flyes performed at different angles.
No upper body workout would be complete without training one of the most distinguishable mirror muscles- the chest!
The chest comprises 3 pectoral regions– upper, mid, and lower pecs. These should all be worked with at least two training sessions per week.
This leads to a full-looking chest which accentuates a slim waist, making the pecs one of the most important muscles that give a V-shape.
How to build bigger pecs:
The flat and incline bench press is key here.
Aim to do 6 weekly sets each, supplemented with 3 additional sets of flat/incline dumbbell flyes if you still find the pectorals lagging.
You’ll need a good bench to do these exercises at home.
I use the Flybird adjustable bench. It’s stable, comfortable, and the 700-lb capacity works great with all dumbbells and most intermediate barbell weights. It can also be folded and stowed away after your workout. You can get it delivered cheaply from Amazon (check the cheapest price here).
If you have a power tower (like the Sports Royal recommended previously), you can swap the flat bench press with weighted chest dips which are just as effective and don’t require a bench.
Check out my other article for a complete V-shaped body workout with dumbbells!
6) Trapezius Defines The Upper V-Shape
The trapezius is important for adding definition to the upper-most region of the V-taper back. It can be trained with movements that bring the shoulders upwards and backward. Good exercises for V-shaped traps include the upright row, deadlift, and dumbbell shrug.
The “traps” won’t make or break a V-shape. They’re more like the icing on top of the cake.
You may notice something missing at the top of the V-torso without a set of pronounced traps.
How to build bigger traps:
All of the popular back exercises will work the traps to a certain degree. These include the pull-up, chin-up, deadlift, upright row, and bent-over row.
But if you want to isolate lagging traps, you can do 3 sets of 12 reps of dumbbell shrugs at the end of your workout. Make sure you pull your shoulders up AND back to maximize trap activation.
I stress the word “end”- the shrug is an isolation-type movement that’s best performed as a finisher to blast the traps after you’ve performed the important compound lifts (which require the most energy).
7) Rhomboids Lead To A Thick Back
The rhomboids contribute to a good posture and a thick upper back which highlights a strong V-taper. They can be trained with movements that retract the shoulder blades. Good exercises for thick rhomboids include the pull-up, chin-up, row, and reverse dumbbell fly.
You can build a wide back without the rhomboids. But your back may end up lacking visual volume when viewed from the rear.
The good news is that all back exercises hit the rhomboids to some degree or another.
How to build thicker rhomboids:
Focus on bringing your arms as far back as they will physically go when performing your compound pulling exercises like the row and pull-up. Actively pinching the shoulder blades together at peak contraction will help.
This maximizes rhomboid activation.
You can also add 3-4 finisher sets of reverse dumbbell flyes at the end of your workout to isolate the rhomboids.
8) Biceps And Triceps Complete The V-Shape
The biceps and triceps complement the shoulder muscles to accentuate the V-shaped body. They can be trained with isolation-type exercises like the bicep curl and tricep extension. Compound pulling and pushing exercises like the pull-up and bench press also train the arms effectively.
You don’t need to do dedicated exercises to get bigger arms as a beginner.
If your program is mostly based on compound exercises like the pull-up and bench press, your arms will grow on their own accord.
That being said, adding some tricep training will help you build V-shaped triceps that give your arms that cut look.
How to get V-shaped triceps:
I found overhead and lying tricep extensions to be the most effective way to build V-shaped triceps. Lying skull crushers are also great.
Try adding 3 weekly sets to your program as a beginner (1-12 months training) or 6 sets as an intermediate (1-2 years training). Most of your tricep work should come from your bench presses and shoulder presses
If you’re struggling to build muscle, it may be because you’re missing some key essentials. Check out my other article for a complete guide to building 10lbs of muscle here.
How To Get V-Shape Abs
Getting V-cut abs requires resistance training to develop the internal obliques, external obliques, and lower abdominal muscles. This should be combined with a clean and protein-rich diet to lose fat from the abdominal area and reveal the resultant V-cut line.
I’m still on my journey to getting V-cut abs. But here’s what I’ve gathered from my research.
Good exercises to target the obliques and lower abdominals include:
- Hanging leg raises. Requires pull-up bar or tower.
- Lying leg lifts.
- Weighted decline sit-ups .Requires a decline bench.
- Reverse crunches.
- Russian twists.
- Dumbbell side bends.
- Wood chopper with dumbbells.
- Golf swing with dumbbells.
You can also add weight by holding a dumbbell with your arms or in between the legs to make the exercises more intense.
Are there any other V-cut ab exercises you can think of? Let me know in the comments!
Eating a clean diet is just as (if not more important) as working out. After all, your V-cut will never show if your belly fat is covering it up!
Stick to a mild caloric deficit in conjunction with your regular weight training. This will help your body to shed fat.
To find your caloric deficit- determine your maintenance calories using a TDEE calculator and then subtract 10% (multiply your maintenance calories by 0.90). That’s how many calories you should be eating every day.
Your daily calories should also come from whole foods and protein-rich foods. Avoid processed junk and sugars.
I found the best way to lose belly fat is to perform 20-30 minutes of light cardio after an intense weight workout (a slow uphill treadmill session works great).
I also found HIIT-style cardio workouts with light weights on rest days to be effective.
I’ve shared 8 muscles that give you a V-shape and the best exercises to train these muscles.
I used these exercises to build a V-shaped body myself, so I’m confident it can work for you too.
Building a V-shaped body takes time (up to 6-12 months).
But consistently working those muscles with progressive overload and a good nutrition program will significantly decrease the time required for you to build the coveted V you desire!
Are there any other V-shaped exercises you think of that are not on the list?
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It gives the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)