Many of us lust over the classic V-shape that screams athleticism. If you want a cheap and convenient way to build a V-shape at home, then look no further. This article will teach you how to get a V-shaped body with dumbbells.
Building a V-shaped body with dumbbells requires dumbbells that are heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth. The best exercises target the back, shoulder, chest, and arm muscles. A suitable nutrition program is also required to make upper-body muscle gains whilst keeping a slim waist.
I spent years trying to build a V-shape torso. And I know how frustrating it can be to work so hard for little results. But I managed to get there (eventually!)
This article will show you exactly how I did it.
I’ll share the exact exercises I used and also give you a complete V-shaped dumbbell workout to try at home!
Let’s get stuck in.
How To Get A V-Shape
A V-shape requires an upper-body width that is 1.5x larger than the waist. This is achieved through heavy resistance training to target the back, shoulders, chest, and arms. Training the abdominals and legs is less important, but can assist in highlighting the V-taper.
Here’s how each muscle group contributes to the overall V-shape:
- Wide back is essential for a V-shape. Training the lats, traps, and rhomboids is the best way to develop the coveted “outward flare” in the upper-body when viewed from the front and rear.
- Shoulders are also essential. In conjunction with the back muscles, the 3 deltoid muscles- anterior, lateral, and posterior- also contribute to a wide-taper upper body.
- Chest provides balance in the upper-body. The pectorals add volume between both shoulders and help to give the impression of broader shoulders when viewed from the front and side.
- Arms accentuate the shoulders. The biceps and triceps insert directly next to the deltoids and help to highlight broad shoulders and the overall v-shape.
- Defined abdominals contribute to a slim-looking waist. Training the core isn’t essential for a V-taper, but definition in the abdominals and obliques can help to make your waist look slimmer and contribute to an overall more impressive V-shape.
- Lean legs complement a slim waist. Just like with the abs, training the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves are not essential for the V-shape. But they are some of the largest muscles in the body and help you to burn more calories, ramp up your metabolism, and assist in burning fat for a shredded waist.
You can go to my other post to learn how to train these V-shaped body muscles.
15 Best Dumbbell Exercises For A V-Shaped Body
From my experience, compound lifting is the most efficient way to build a V-shaped body with dumbbells.
Unlike isolation-type exercises, compound exercises work multiple muscles in a single movement. They give more bang for your buck and lead to faster gains.
“Compound exercises maximize muscle recruitment, nervous-system activation, and lead to more stimulus for muscle growth in beginner and advanced lifters alike.”Ryan Patrick, C.S.C.S Strength Coach.
Therefore a good V-shape program should focus on compound lifting to quickly build mass, supplemented with some isolation-type lifting to define specific muscles.
Here are my favorite exercises with dumbbells to get a V-shaped body:
1) Bent-over dumbbell row.
One of my favorite dumbbell exercises for building a v-shaped back at home. The bent-over row hits all the back muscles in a single motion. It comes at a close second to the pull-up in terms of building a V-taper. If you can’t yet do a pull-up, then this is the next best thing. Generally speaking, any rowing movement works great for a dumbbell V-shaped body workout.
2) Upright dumbbell row.
This variation of the dumbbell row shifts emphasis to the traps and posterior deltoid. This makes the upright row an awesome exercise to build the upper-most region of the V-shape. Avoid swinging your hips outwards to help you lift the dumbbells. This is cheating and you’ll lose out on gains!
3) Reverse incline dumbbell fly.
The reverse fly is an isolation-type exercise that helps to add definition to your traps, upper rhomboids, and posterior deltoids. Lay your chest on an incline bench to prevent cheating. This will work wonders for engaging your upper-back muscles (compared to standing), the way the exercise is intended to!
4) Pull-up weighted with dumbbells.
My all-time favorite exercise for a V-shaped torso! This is a challenging exercise for beginners, but man, it’s so worth it. The pull-up engages all the back muscles, with particular emphasis on the latissimus dorsi. When developed, the lats single-handedly contribute to a strong V back when viewed from the front and rear. Use a resistance band to help pull you’re weight up in the early training stages. And as you get stronger, you can progress to unassisted pull-ups then dumbbell-weighted pull-ups!
5) Seated dumbbell shoulder press.
Along with the pull-up, the shoulder press is another essential dumbbell exercise to build a V-shape at home. It works all 3 deltoid muscles as well as the triceps. This makes the shoulder press great for building definition in the upper arms too. You can do the exercise standing or seated. But from my experience, sitting down will help you press more weight. And this is great for fast-tracking those V-shaped shoulder gains!
6) Dumbbell lateral raise.
Although the shoulder press alone can build V-shaped shoulders, the dumbbell lateral raise emphasizes the lateral deltoids. This helps to define your shoulders and give it that “cut” look when viewed from the side. Try to keep your torso still as you lift the dumbbells. This might mean you’ll have to sacrifice some weight, but you’ll get better muscle activation in return.
7) Flat dumbbell bench press.
The bench press works all of the pectoral regions as well as the triceps and anterior deltoids. In my opinion, it’s a must if you want to get a V-shaped body with dumbbells. The chest may not contribute directly to the V-taper outline, but it fills the gap between the shoulders. So without a full chest, you may notice something missing from you’re V-shape. The dumbbell press can also be substituted with the chest dip which is amazing for hitting the lower pecs. But in my experience, the bench press is one of the best dumbbell exercises to bodybuild.
8) Incline dumbbell bench press.
The incline variation of the dumbbell bench press shifts emphasis to the upper pectorals. And this in turn contributes to a strong V-shaped chest. Therefore the incline dumbbell bench press goes a long way to helping you build a V-taper that looks balanced.
9) Dumbbell pull-over.
This is a unique compound exercise because it works your chest and back at the same time. The top half of the movement primarily engages the pectorals whilst the bottom half of the movement engages the latissimus dorsi. So you must go through a full range of motion to receive the full benefits of the dumbbell pull-over. This exercise also engages the triceps and deltoids to stabilize the movement.
10) Bicep curl with wrist supination.
The biceps already receive a lot of stimulation from the other compound pulling exercises in this list. And this is generally enough to pack mass onto skinny arms. But doing additional bicep curls can add extra definition. I like to supinate the dumbbells as I curl them up. To do this, rotate the wrists up and out as you curl. It’s a ninja tip that will maximize bicep activation and lead to bigger V-shape arms.
11) Lying tricep extension.
Just like the biceps, the triceps already see a lot of work from the compound pushing exercises on this list. But tricep extensions will help you to develop the “cut-look” arms many people covet. You can do this exercise standing or lying. I prefer laying on a bench because it leads to a deeper stretch and greater tricep activation!
12) Dumbbell-weighted decline sit-ups.
From my experience, abdominal exercises aren’t essential for building a V-shape. But adding a few sets every week will help add definition to your core. Not only this, but a strong core can also help you to lift heavier weights in the compound moves by stabilizing the body.
13) Dumbbell side bends.
The core isn’t just made up of the abdominals. You also have the obliques on the side which also need training. And dumbbell side bends are of the best ways to do that. Side bends contribute to a stronger core and V-shaped abs.
14) Goblet squats.
No one wants to end up with chicken legs. That’s exactly what will happen if you focus too much on the upper body and neglect the lower body. Goblet squats engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This will help your lower body keep up with your upper-body gains and contribute to a balanced physique.
15) Dumbbell deadlift.
The dumbbell deadlift is great because it works every single muscle in the body. This serves multiple purposes in building an awesome V-shape. First, this exercise is energy-intensive and helps to ramp up your metabolism which helps to keep your waist slim. Secondly, your back is engaged in the lock-out that occurs at the top of the deadlift. And thirdly, the deadlift is a great way to work the legs to build a balanced physique (no chicken legs!).
For more dumbbell exercises that will help you to build a V-shape, you can check out my other article here!
Complete V-Shaped Body Workout With Dumbells
The dumbbell exercises I share above helped me to build my V-shape torso as a skinny guy. So I know it can work for you too.
Here is a 3-day V-shape workout plan that got me results fast.
This program is great for skinny beginners to quickly pack lean mass onto the upper body whilst also adding definition to the abs and legs. It can also be used if you’re skinny-fat. Just adjust your nutrition (as per the guidelines later).
On each day, you’ll be using dumbbells to work out all the muscles required to build a V-shaped body.
Each training day is separated by 1 or 2 full days of rest, allowing your muscles time to recover and grow.
It doesn’t matter which days you train- choose a schedule that works for you. The important thing is to include at least 1 full day of rest between workouts.
Each workout should take around an hour to complete.
|Bent-over dumbbell row||Trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, biceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Upright dumbbell row||Trapezius, rhomboids, biceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Flat dumbbell bench press||Pectorals, triceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Seated dumbbell shoulder press||Deltoids, triceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Dumbbell-weighted decline sit-ups.||Abdominals||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Dumbbell deadlift||Whole-body||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Pull-up||Trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, biceps||6||3||85% 1RM|
|Incline dumbbell bench press||Upper pectorals, anterior deltoids, triceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Dumbbell pull-over||Upper pectorals, latissimus dorsi, triceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Lateral raise||Lateral deltoids||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Dumbbell side bends||Obliques||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Goblet squat||Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Reverse incline dumbbell fly||Trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Flat dumbbell bench press||Pectorals, triceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Seated dumbbell shoulder press||Deltoids, triceps||8||3||80% 1RM|
|Lateral raise||Lateral deltoids||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Bicep curls||Biceps||12||3||65% 1RM|
|Tricep extension||Triceps||12||3||65% 1RM|
Recommended starting weights have been listed in each workout.
1RM = 1-rep max.
You should use your first couple of weeks to test out your 1RMs through trial and error.
The Strength Level database can help save you time trying to determine your 1RMs.
Simply locate your exercise, training level, and body weight. The database will then suggest a 1RM based on what similar people are lifting.
Now multiply your 1RM by 0.8 or 0.65 to get to your 80% or 65% 1RM weight.
Check out my other article to find out more about the rep max and how it can help you build more muscle
To get the best results from this V-shaped body dumbbell workout, you will need to apply progressive overload every 1 or 2 weeks.
This keeps your muscles challenged for growth.
Overloading requires you to add more weight to your exercises.
How much weight should you add?
I always found the 5/10% rule to work well.
Simply add 5% or 10% to each lift (see below) whenever you can complete your 3 sets with good form and you feel that you’ve got the energy in the tank to squeeze out a few more reps.
Add 5% to the isolation exercises:
- Reverse incline dumbbell fly.
- Side bends.
- Lateral raise.
- Bicep curls.
- Tricep extensions.
Add 10% to the compound exercises:
- Bent-over dumbbell row.
- Upright dumbbell row.
- Dumbbell shoulder press.
- Flat dumbbell bench press.
- Incline dumbbell bench press.
- Dumbbell pull-over.
- Goblet squat.
- Dumbbell deadlift.
When you’re able to complete 3 training days per week without any muscle soreness, then this is a sign that you’re ready to increase to 4 training days.
Simply add another training day from the 3 already given.
You can even try 5 training days. But from my research and experience, it’s better to stick to 4 and adding more weight or lifting with a slower form (see next).
Dumbbells are inherently limited by their weight (unlike barbells).
This makes it particularly important to lift slow and with good form.
All of these exercises can be found on Youtube, and these vide0s are great for learning proper form.
Start by lifting at a tempo that feels natural to you.
When you’re a bit more comfortable with the exercises, you can decrease the tempo by prolonging the upward and downward phases on each lift.
Ultimately, you should reach a point where you can count for 1-2 seconds on the way up and 2-4 seconds on the way down.
You’ll get the greatest muscle activation by lifting in a slow and controlled manner.
Rest time between sets:
Take 1.5 to 3 minutes to rest between each set.
If you’re completely new to weight lifting, then stay closer to 3 minutes.
But if you have some experience or when you find yourself getting stronger, you can go down to 1.5 minutes.
For more tips on building a more powerful physique, you can go to my other article for tips to gain muscle as a beginner.
Nutrition Is Key To Building A V-Shaped Body
Even the best V-shaped dumbbell workout program in the world will do little for your journey to build a better physique.
You’ll also need to consume the right amount of protein and calories.
This is important for building muscle and keeping fat levels low- both of which are essential for a defined V-shape.
Here are the daily macronutrient intakes I recommend to build a V-shape, based on my research and experience with bulking:
(<12% Body Fat)
(13-24% Body Fat)
(>25% Body Fat)
|Calories||10-15% surplus||5-10% surplus||5-10% deficit|
|Protein||1g per lb bodyweight||1.1g per lb bodyweight||1.2g per lb bodyweight|
|Carbs||3g per lb bodyweight||2.5g per lb bodyweight||2g per lb bodyweight|
|Fat||0.4g per lb bodyweight||0.4g per lb bodyweight||0.2g per lb bodyweight|
|Dietary Fibre||5 portions fresh fruit & veg||5 portions fresh fruit & veg||5 portions fresh fruit & veg|
Following these guidelines will help your dumbbell training to:
- Build muscle with minimal fat gains as skinny person.
- Gain muscle and burn fat as a skinny-fat or overweight person (you can also check out my dumbbell weight loss guide here).
Regardless of which body type you belong to, following a nutrition plan will help you to build a V-taper upper body, keep your waist slim, and develop more definition.
How Long Will It Take To Build A V-Shaped Body?
Generally speaking, it can take between 6-12 months to get a pronounced V-shaped body. The time will vary depending on the person’s current muscle mass, body fat percentage, and training history. People who currently have more muscle and less fat will develop a V-shape more quickly.
This timeframe is based on the generally accepted maximum muscle gain rate of 2lbs per month.
It can take 10lbs of muscle to produce the first noticeable signs of physique improvement. And up to 20lbs of muscle may be required for a visibly pronounced V-shape.
Of course, this will vary between individuals.
If you already have a good amount of muscle, then the process of building a V-shape will be much quicker for you, and vice versa.
Here are some tips to get a V-shaped body faster:
- Train at least 3 times per week to stimulate muscle growth.
- Avoid 5+ workouts per week to prevent overtraining.
- Lift heavy weights to maximize muscle gains.
- Do compound weight training to recruit more muscle fibres.
- Remain disciplined in your nutrition plan.
- Eat more protein to fuel the muscle-growth process.
- Have a pre-workout meal 1 hour before weight training.
- Facilitate muscle repair with a post-workout meal.
If you’re still unsure how long to bulk for, check out my other article to find out how long it takes for a skinny guy to get bigger.
Recommended Gear For This Workout
If you haven’t already got the equipment, then here’s a list of recommended gear to perform the V-shape dumbbell workout in this article.
They aren’t necessarily the most expensive or best equipment available on the market. They are simply what I use and recommend to friends. They get the job done nicely, and at a price that won’t break the bank!
Heavy adjustable dumbbells:
The most essential piece of kit you’ll need to build a V-shaped body with dumbbells- heavy adjustable dumbbells.
They need to be heavy enough to challenge your muscles now and into the future. I suggest dumbbells that go to at least 70lbs and preferably to 90lbs.
I’ve had plastic spinlock dumbbells in the past and would not recommend them– they chip easily and the weight is severely limited.
They come in at 50lbs and can be upgraded to 70lbs and 90lbs whenever you’re ready (you don’t need to do it on the initial purchase).
90lbs is awesome poundage for making continued muscle gains, no matter your training level.
They also come with small 2.5lb weight increments which make them great for progressive overloading.
And of course, being a Powerblock, the build quality is exceptional and the adjustment mechanism is slick.
If you’re on a tight budget, then Yes4All metal spinlock dumbbells are the best budget alternative.
If you’re looking to train cheaply and effectively at home, you can check out my other article to learn how to build a dumbbell-only home gym.
Adjustable weight bench:
The Flybird FB149 adjustable weight bench (link for cheapest price) works amazingly with the Powerblocks.
The bench can be folded and conveniently stowed away after your workout.
The 700-lb capacity is more than enough to build a V-shaped body with dumbbells, and it’s very comfortable to use.
However, it’s most suitable for people between 5’7″ to 6’0″.
If you fall outside this heigh range, then the Fitness Reality adjustable weight bench will provide a more comfortable dimensions.
A power tower will allow you to do pull-ups for a broad back as well as chest dips for a high-volume chest and shoulders.
I use and recommend the Sports Royal Power Tower (link for cheapest price).
It’s really easy to assemble, stable, and accommodates all user heights.
This power tower also has one of the smallest footprints out of the dozen towers I researched.
Being a power tower, it doesn’t require screwing into a wall or doorframe (unlike a pull-up bar). And this prevents damage to your property.
In my opinion, protein powders are a Godsend when it comes to helping you reach your daily nutrition targets.
I use and recommend the MyProtein Impact Whey (link for cheapest price).
It’s perfect for building a V-shaped body with dumbbells.
Each scoop contains 21g of protein and 100 calories (ideal for gaining upper body muscle and keeping the waist slim).
Plant-eaters may be interested in the MyVegan Pea Protein instead.
I also add a scoop of MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate to my shake.
Creatine is found in naturally low concentrations in all our muscles, where it helps with energy utilization (allowing you to lift heavier and do more reps).
The supplement simply tops up the concentration and leads to a noticeably higher power output from your muscles.
I’ve shared with you how I got a V-shaped body with dumbbells.
Building a Dorito-shaped torso doesn’t have to be an impossible task. You just have to pick the right exercises and apply the correct training principles.
Try the same V-shape dumbbell exercises and follow the workout detailed in this article. I’m confident you can also make significant improvements in your physique!
Are there any other exercises you think of that can help build a V-shaped body with dumbbells?
Let me know in the comments below!
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details 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)