The Ultimate V-Taper Training Program

A Comprehensive Guide to Developing the Perfect V-Shape

When it comes to bodybuilding and aesthetics, the ultimate goal is to develop a symmetrical, well-rounded physique.

While modern-day bodybuilding has moved more towards building pure size, athletes in the golden era of bodybuilding typically sported smaller waists and an incredible V-taper as a result.

But what actually is the V-taper and how can you effectively attain it?

This article will begin by explaining what the V-taper actually is before moving on to highlight the key muscles and training & nutrition principles to focus on for optimal V-taper development.

Abs workoutThe V-Taper

The V-Taper simply refers to the V-shape of the torso and is a look that is absolutely paramount in bodybuilding that can be attained through appropriate strength training and nutrition.

Due to the shape and size of the muscles of the trunk, the V-taper is actually a very natural look. However, carrying excess body fat, poor-quality strength training, and postural issues can all interfere with it.

An individual with a well developed V-taper will have large shoulders and a wide back to form the upper portion of the V. They will also have a low body fat percentage and narrow waist to form the lower portion of the V.

An important element of the V-taper that is often overlooked is the impact of proportions. By keeping the waist small, the size of both the shoulders and back will be greatly emphasized.

Therefore, it is important that a number of training principles are applied and specific muscles are developed in order to maintain a well-rounded physique.


Key V-Taper Musculature

In order to develop the V-taper most effectively, there are three muscle groups that should be prioritized as significant growth in these areas will have the most impact on creating the V-taper.

1) Latissimus Dorsi

The lats are big wing-like muscles that originate from the lower back and stretch all the way up to the shoulders.

The V-Taper should start with the lats as building lat size will increase back width and contribute most significantly towards developing the V-shape that so many desire.

Additionally increasing back size and width will also draw more attention to the waist and enhance overall aesthetics.

The lats contract to control a range of shoulder movements and also provide stability to the spine.

Vertical and horizontal pulling movements such as deadlifts, lat pulldowns, rows, and pull-ups are all highly effective lat exercises.

2) Deltoids

The deltoids are the muscles of the shoulders. While the delts are just one muscle, it has three individual portions – anterior, middle and posterior.

Building large shoulders is an essential component of the V-taper as this will substantially add width to the top portion of the V.

As with the lats, the delts contract in order to drive a range of shoulder movements while simultaneously stabilizing the joint.

To effectively work the delts, the focus should be primarily on vertical pressing movements such as overhead presses and lateral raises. 

3) Abdominals

The muscle group that is most associated with the V-taper is the abdominals. When it comes to aesthetics, well-defined abdominals tend to be the most eye-catching element of all.

While it is the reduction of body fat that will contribute most to abdominal aesthetics, specific ab-targeted exercises can increase the definition of the muscles.

The abs are often misunderstood as just one muscle; in fact, there are four individual abdominal muscles – the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, external oblique, and internal oblique.

These muscles work to control and stabilize the many movements of the trunk. There are a number of effective ab-targeted exercises including sit-ups, crunches, and isometric holds.

Training Principles for V-Taper Development

There are a number of principles that must be applied to your training in order to bring about efficient changes in muscle size and contribute towards V-taper development.

1) Exercise Mastery

While training volume is undoubtedly important for onsetting muscle growth, it is futile if each exercise is performed poorly.

For optimal muscle growth, time under tension should be prioritized (1). As the name suggests, this is simply the time that the muscle spends experiencing stress.

Poor exercise execution or rushing through each rep will not maximize time under tension and the rate of muscle growth may be affected as a consequence.

If you are a beginner, start light and focus on the movements required and muscles being worked. Be willing to spend time and effort on mastering the exercise and establishing a “mind-muscle connection”.

To effectively do this, look to slow down the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement of the exercise and focus on squeezing the working muscle with each and every rep.

Once you have mastered the movements required for the exercise, then you can begin to add significant load.

Using this approach will not only allow you to add strength and size most efficiently, it will also promote exercise safely and lower the risk of sustaining an injury.

2) High Volume, Heavy Loads

When it comes to optimizing muscle growth, the research is clear – volume is king. High volume has been associated with the greatest improvements in muscle mass (2).

As a result, the following V-taper program uses advanced training methods such as supersets, tri-sets, and giant sets in order to substantially increase the volume.

Furthermore, the rep range has been kept low to moderate to allow for the use of heavy weight.

Using heavy loads will create a large degree of mechanical tension and muscle damage – both of which are key components of muscle hypertrophy (growth).

While the traditional belief is that muscle growth occurs most optimally when using a 6 – 12 rep range, recent research has highlighted a range of repetitions can be used for effective growth (3).

Therefore, while the following program does primarily utilize heavy loads and low-moderate reps, there are also a number of accessory exercises that require a high number of reps to be completed.

3) Mechanical Tension

As touched on in the previous section, mechanical tension is one of the biggest driving factors in bringing about significant muscle growth (4).

Mechanical tension refers to the amount of stress that is applied to the muscle. The more tension applied to the muscle, the greater the adaptation will be.

While mechanical tension is most commonly associated with heavy, compound lifts, there are a number of other methods that will also effectively apply mechanical tension.

The program uses a variety of exercises and training techniques such as partial reps, isometrics, and eccentrics, in an attempt to manipulate mechanical tension and hypertrophy.

4) Muscle Pump

In bodybuilder training, a muscle pump is something that sought after in the majority of training sessions.

Muscle pump occurs when blood rushes to the working muscle causing it to swell and increase in size. As a result, the working muscles will feel full, tight and fatigued.

Muscle pump is typically achieved by performing high repetitions while maintaining tension on the muscle at all times.

Many use the muscle pump as a method of encouraging muscle growth. It is theorized that the rush of nutrient-rich blood to the muscle may assist in the repair process and enhance growth.

In the program, the giant set will undoubtedly contribute towards a pump, however, there are specific “finisher” exercises incorporated into the sessions that have been designed to specifically bring about the pump.


V-Taper Training Program

This section will provide detail on a training program that will have a substantial impact on V-Taper development.

As demonstrated below, the program requires you to exercise five times per week. There are 5 sessions to be performed – four upper body days and one lower body day.

Day 1 – Upper 1 (Horizontal)
Day 2 – Upper 1 (Vertical)
Day 3 – Lower
Day 4 – Recovery
Day 5 – Upper 2 (Horizontal)
Day 6 – Upper 2 (Vertical)
Day 7 – Recovery

To comprehensively work the upper body, there are two types of upper body workout – the first type utilizes exercises in a horizontal plane while the second uses exercises in a vertical plane.

Considering that volume plays such a huge role in muscular hypertrophy, having such a large volume of upper body training will optimally accelerate muscle growth.

While developing the size of the upper body will have the most telling impact on the V-taper, training the lower body can also positively impact V-taper development.

In addition, it is important that you do not neglect training the lower body and maintain leg size and strength.

The below tables provide all the details required to complete each training session. Pay particular attention to the superset, tri-set and giant set exercises and the rest periods to be taken.

Upper 1 (Horizontal) Session

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest (s)
A1 – Barbell Bench Press
A2 – Band Pull Aparts
4 x 5
4 x 25

B1 – Single-Arm Dumbbell Row (Pronated Grip)
B2 – Alternating Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
3 x 8 – 10
3 x 8 – 10
C – T-Bar Row 3 x 10 60
D – Dips 2 x 6 – 8 60
E1 – 1.5 Inverted Row
E2 – Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly
3 x 12
3 x 12 – 15


Upper 1 (Vertical) Session

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest (s)
A – Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press 2 x 6 45
B – Chin-Ups 4 x 4 – 6 90
C1 – Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
C2 – Leaning Lat Stretch
3 x 8
3 x 30 
D – Eccentric Lat Pulldown 3 x 6 90
E1 – Leaning Lateral Raise
E2 – Dumbbell Lateral Raise
E3 – Shoulder Circle (front to back)
E4 – Shoulder Circle (back to front)
3 x 8
3 x 8
3 x 8
3 x 8
0 – 30
0 – 30
0 – 30
F – Jackknife Pull-Up 3 x failure 60

Lower Session

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest (s)
A – Squats 3 x 6 120
B1 – Barbell Hip Thrust
B2 – Feet-Elevated Side Plank
3 x 8
3 x 45s (per side)
C – Snatch-Grip Romanian Deadlift 3 x 10 60
D1 – Dumbbell Walking Lunge
D2 – Hollow Body Hold
3 x 12
3 x 45s

E1 – Kneeling Cable Crunch
E2 – Sprinting Sit-Up
3 x 12
3 x 12

Upper 2 (Horizontal) Session

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest (s)
A – Cable Face Pull 3 x 15, 12, 10 0-30
B1 – Split-Stance Dumbbell Row
B2 – Dumbbell Bench Press
4 x 6
4 x 8
C – Chest-Supported Row 2 x 12 60
D1 – Ring Isometric-Hold to Row
D2 – Ring Push-Up
3 x 8, 8, 10
3 x 8 – 12
E1 – Chest-Supported Incline Shrug
E2 – Prone Dumbbell Swing
3 x 12
3 x 25


Upper 2 (Vertical) Session

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest (s)
A – Half-Kneeling Cable Scapular Slide 2 x 12 45
B – Barbell Overhead Press 4 x 4 – 6 90
C – Pull-Ups 3 x 8 – 10 60
D1 – Arnold Press
D2 – Leaning Lat Stretch
3 x 10 – 12
3 x 30s


E – Wide Lat Pulldown 4 x 8 – 10 60
F1 – Dumbbell L-Lateral Raise
F2 – Bus Driver
3 x 8
3 x failure

Nutritional Considerations for V-Taper Development

When it comes to changes in body composition, there is no doubt that strength training is important and can bring about significant changes.

However, nutrition also plays a highly crucial role in altering your body composition. As mentioned, carrying excess body fat will interfere with creating the V-taper.

It is necessary to lean down to the point where muscles become more visible. If body fat percentage is too high, these muscles will be hidden under a layer of body fat thus impact overall aesthetics.

The facilitate substantial changes in body fat, look to restrict your calorie intake on non-training days to place you in a deficit. During training days, consume for maintenance.

Final Word

By following the V-taper program and applying the recommended training and nutrition principles you will bring effectively bring about substantial changes to body composition and inevitably achieve the V-taper.


1 – Burd, Nicholas A; Andrews, Richard J; West, Daniel WD; Little, Jonathan P; Cochran, Andrew JR; Hector, Amy J; Cashaback, Joshua GA; Gibala, Martin J; Potvin, James R; Baker, Steven K; Phillips, Stuart M (January 15, 2012). “Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men”. The Journal of Physiology. 590 (Pt 2): 351–362. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200. ISSN 0022-3751. PMC 3285070. PMID 22106173.

2 – Schoenfeld, Brad J.; Contreras, Bret; Krieger, James; Grgic, Jozo; Delcastillo, Kenneth; Belliard, Ramon; Alto, Andrew (01 2019). “Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men”. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 51 (1): 94–103. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001764. ISSN 1530-0315. PMC 6303131. PMID 30153194.

3 – Schoenfeld, Brad J.; Grgic, Jozo; Ogborn, Dan; Krieger, James W. (2017-12). “Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 31 (12): 3508–3523. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002200. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 28834797.

4 – Franchi, Martino V.; Reeves, Neil D.; Narici, Marco V. (July 4, 2017). “Skeletal Muscle Remodeling in Response to Eccentric vs. Concentric Loading: Morphological, Molecular, and Metabolic Adaptations”. Frontiers in Physiology. 8. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00447. ISSN 1664-042X. PMC 5495834. PMID 28725197.

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