How To Build a V-Shaped Body: Ultimate Guide

Achieving a V-shaped body is a popular goal today. Many trainees are interested in workout approaches that help them develop a V-shaped look because it makes them more proportional and aesthetic.

Plus, a V-shaped body looks great while wearing clothes and tells everyone around you, “Yes, I’m fit.” 

In today’s guide, we’ll go over precisely what a V-shaped body is, what it takes to develop it, and what training practices you can follow.

Let’s dive in.

What Does It Mean to Have a V-Shaped Body?

Having a V-shaped body is about achieving good proportions and the correct shoulder to waist ratio. Specifically, the particular look comes from having broad shoulders and a tiny waist.

The chest must also be wider than the waist, further contributing to the V-shaped look.

What Muscles Contribute to The V-Shaped Body Look?

You must focus on four muscle groups above all others if you’re interested in building a V-shaped body. These are the:

  • Upper back – latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, etc.
  • Shoulders – particularly the side deltoids
  • Chest – the pectoralis major and minor
  • Arms – biceps and triceps

Many trainees make the mistake of obsessing over a single muscle group, typically the chest or arms. While that can improve your body’s appearance, you must be more methodical with your approach and realize that each muscle group plays a role. The more attention you give to each muscle group, the quicker you’ll be able to develop your upper body, making it appear larger and broader compared to your waist.

The Best Exercises For Each Muscle Group For a V-Shaped Body

Chest Exercises

  • Bench press – one of the most effective exercises that emphasizes the middle and lower chest regions. The movement has an excellent overloading potential and works great for inducing the necessary overload to promote muscle growth in the long run.
  • Incline press – similar to the previous movement, the incline press is excellent for chest development. The exercise emphasizes the upper (clavicular) portion of the chest, contributing to the muscle’s balanced development.
  • Push-up – fantastic bodyweight exercise with mechanics similar to the bench press. The primary difference is that you’re using your body weight for resistance instead of pressing an external weight, such as dumbbells or a barbell. Plus, your shoulders are in an excellent position to protract and retract, leading to better serratus anterior activation and growth.
  • Chest fly – an effective isolation exercise that emphasizes your chest, leading to superior muscle growth and promoting a good mind-muscle connection. Chest flyes come in many forms, and including a variation in your training is beneficial for accumulating training volume and making quick progress.

Back Exercises

  • Pull-ups/chin-ups – two of the best bodyweight exercises you can perform to strengthen and develop your entire back. Pull-ups and chin-ups leverage your body weight for resistance and emphasize the lats––the largest and most powerful muscle in the upper body. As a result, your back broadens, contributing to the V-shaped look.
  • Bent-over barbell row – an excellent compound exercise that allows you to overload your back with a lot of weight. You can perform the classic version or set the weight on the floor after each repetition. The latter is known as a Pendlay row, named after Glenn Pendlay, and reduces the stress you place on your back.
  • Straight-arm cable lat pullover – a movement that gets close to isolating your back without involving your biceps. Pullovers are great for emphasizing your lats, contributing to the broad back look.
  • Dumbbell row – an excellent unilateral exercise that allows you to train both sides of your back independently. As a result, you can achieve more balanced back development and reduce the risk of issues that can impact your posture or performance.

Shoulder Exercises

  • Barbell press – an excellent compound exercise that allows you to overload your deltoids, triceps, and upper chest with more weight. You can perform the movement standing or seated––whichever you prefer.
  • Lateral raises – an effective isolation exercise that targets the lateral (middle) head of the shoulder, promoting a round appearance. Performing lateral raises is beneficial for making your shoulders appear broader and contributes to the overall V-shaped look.
  • Upright rows – another effective exercise that allows you to overload your shoulders with more weight and promote growth. The movement is also beneficial for the upper back and biceps, which are essential for the V-shaped look.
  • Face pulls – an overlooked movement that emphasizes the rear of the shoulders, works the upper back, and promotes shoulder health. Doing face pulls is beneficial for promoting shoulder stability and strengthening the rotator cuff muscles.

Biceps Exercises

  • Barbell curls – an effective movement that allows you to overload your biceps with more weight, leading to growth and strength gain. You can also perform the activity using an EZ bar if the straight bar leads to wrist discomfort.
  • Concentration curls – a fantastic isolation exercise that truly targets your biceps and prevents other muscle groups from contributing. The objective is to sit, have your feet apart, and place your triceps against your inner thigh as an anchor. Doing so allows you to concentrate on the bicep and promote growth.
  • Preacher curls – a movement similar to concentration curls because you must place the back of your upper arms against an object to prevent cheating. Preacher curls are performed on a preacher bench where you place your arms against a pad, forcing your biceps to do all the work and grow more effectively.
  • Hammer curls – a practical exercise that strengthens and develops your biceps and forearms simultaneously. The objective is to curl a pair of dumbbells while keeping your palms neutral (facing one another). Doing so forces your brachioradialis (a forearm muscle) to assist elbow flexion, leading to more balanced growth.

Triceps Exercises

  • EZ-bar skullcrushers – an effective assistance exercise that isolates your triceps and overloads the muscle with more weight. The objective is to lie on a flat gym bench and bring the bar behind your head, stretching your triceps. From there, extend your arms by contracting your triceps.
  • Close-grip bench press – one of the most effective compound movements for emphasizing the triceps and forcing them to grow. The great thing about a close-grip press is that you can adjust the resistance to fit your strength capacity and gradually overload your muscles with more weight.
  • Diamond push-ups – an effective bodyweight exercise that allows you to train your triceps no matter where you are. Like the close-grip press, having your hands close together prevents your chest from contributing and forces the triceps to do most of the work.
  • Rope cable tricep extension – a fantastic isolation exercise that emphasizes the medial and lateral triceps heads. Using a rope forces you to maintain proper technique and increases the activity’s range of motion, allowing you to contract your triceps more effectively as you extend your arms.

Commonly Asked Questions

1. Will core exercises thicken my waist?

Prevailing wisdom suggests that you must avoid all core exercises because they develop the midsection musculature, contributing to a thick waist. Examples of such activities include the crunch, cable woodchop, and plank. 

While the idea makes some sense, there is no actual validity. First, training your midsection is incredibly valuable because all of the muscles in the area play a crucial role in your stability, power output, and overall safety during training. 

Second, you will train and develop these muscles when performing compound exercises, anyway. Not doing direct work for your midsection doesn’t mean the area can’t grow and strengthen. 

Third, your midsection muscles won’t get that large and change your waist size drastically. The primary thing you can do to make your waist smaller is to lose fat and lower your overall body fat percentage. Apart from that, midsection size will mostly come down to genetics.

2. Should I limit leg training?

Another common concern trainees have relates to leg training. In other words, if someone is interested in building a V-shaped body, logic would suggest they limit leg training. Developing big quads might be necessary for stepping on a bodybuilding stage, but wouldn’t it get in the way of a V-shaped body?

There is some truth to the idea. Developing your legs alongside your upper body will lead to an X-shaped frame: broad shoulders, narrow waist, and wide legs. 

People interested in a V-shaped body should consider limiting their leg training, but they shouldn’t avoid it because doing so creates an imbalanced physique. We all know people with built upper bodies and sticks for legs. It never looks good.

3. Which muscle group should I focus on the most?

Each muscle in the upper body contributes to a broader frame that makes your waist look tiny in comparison. Giving enough attention to all the major muscle groups will lead to the quickest and most noticeable results. 

With that said, if you want to prioritize your upper body training, focus on your upper back and shoulders. The two muscle groups play a significant role in how broad your upper body looks.

4. Is the V-shaped body purely genetic?

A common argument against training for a V-shaped body is that it is based on genetics and not subject to change. There is some validity to the idea because some people naturally have broad shoulders and a narrow waist. They can get away with minimal training and still look great. These guys typically win bodybuilding competitions because they work hard and have great proportions.

Luckily for everyone, achieving a V-shaped body is entirely possible, but it might take longer. Everyone who develops their upper body will make the waist appear smaller in comparison.

5. How long does it take to achieve a V-shaped body?

There is no single answer to the question because the time it takes you to achieve a V-shaped body depends on several factors. 

Most notably, we must consider your starting point and proportions. As mentioned in the previous point, genetics can go a long way in making your body V-shaped. Some individuals can do just a few months of structured weight training to make their back and shoulders even broader. Others, especially those with narrower shoulders and a wider waist, might need years to transform their physique.

Another thing to consider is your body fat percentage. Building muscle occurs optimally when in a calorie surplus. Unfortunately, a surplus leads to some fat gain. You must spend time in a surplus to build muscle, then do a fat loss phase to get rid of the excess fat and reveal your hard-earned muscle. 

Everyone builds muscle at different rates, so it’s challenging to say, but most people can see noticeable improvements in their physique in the first months of training.

A Simple And Effective Training Program For a V-Shaped Body

Countless training approaches can help you achieve a V-shaped body. Here is one great option:

Workout 1 – Chest

Flat dumbbell bench press – 3-4 sets of 8 to 12 reps

Incline barbell press – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

Horizontal chest flyes – 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

Push-ups – 3 sets of 15 to 30 reps

Workout 2 – Back

Chin-ups – 3-4 sets of 5 to 15 reps

Bent-over barbell row – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

Dumbbell row – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

Straight arm cable pullovers – 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

Workout 3 – Shoulders

Seated barbell shoulder press – 3-4 sets of 8 to 12 reps

Upright rows – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

Cable lateral raises – 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

Face pulls – 3 sets of 15 to 25 reps

Workout 4 – Arms 

Barbell curls – 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps

EZ-bar skullcrushers – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

Hammer curls – 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Diamond push-ups – 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

Preacher curls – 2-3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

Rope cable tricep extensions – 2-3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

The above is your traditional body part (bro) split. It works well because it allows you to accumulate plenty of training volume for growth and develop a V-shaped body. 

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