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When you take a look at bodybuilders, you will notice they all feature a large, wide back. The V-shape you commonly associate with these athletes provides an important aesthetic benefit.
For one thing, it makes your waist appear smaller than it actually is.
What Is The V Taper?
The V taper refers to the shape that is created when someone has broad shoulders, giving the appearance of a narrow waist.
The muscles that give you the V shape are the lats and the traps, but you should also make sure to work your abdominal muscles too.
If you were to build huge biceps but you didn’t work on your V-tapers, it would look ridiculous. If you’re looking to build on your V-shaped look, the following 9 exercises will help.
#1: Wide Grip Pull-Ups
One of the key exercises that will help you build a strong, wide back is the wide-grip pull-up.
This intensive exercise involves gripping the pull-up bar slightly wider than you typically would. Ideally, you want to aim for a grasp that is past the shoulders.
The key is to ensure you pull yourself all the way up, before coming back down. The pull-up bar should be level with your chest when you reach the top of your rep.
Start by doing just 10 of these in each set. Once you have got used to doing around 5 sets at a time, you can then think about adding a little more weight.
#2: Straight-Arm Pushdowns
Famously Doug Young, the Iron Legend, used to love this exercise. Your lats will be practically completely isolated when you perform this exercise; it won’t work your biceps at all really.
You will need to use a straight bar attachment and remember to keep the arms straight as you lower it towards your thighs. Be sure to lean forward with the top so you emphasise each stretch. Aim for 15 reps in each set and 5 sets in total.
#3: V-Grip Pull-Ups
Another great pull-up exercise, these actually used to be used quite a lot in early back-training days. You will need a V-Grip attachment which fits over the pull-up bar.
As you pull yourself up, make sure your chest touches the attachment. The key is to use your upper back and lats to pull yourself up.
Remember not to swing and aim to do a minimum of 5 sets.
#4: One-Arm Lat Pull-Downs
This exercise will isolate your lats which in turn will help to really increase the width of the back. You will need the handle attachment connected to the lat pulldown stack.
Use one hand to grasp the bar so you can feel a large stretch at the top of the arm. Then pull it down until the handle is at your shoulder. Remember to keep your form strict and use muscle intention to make the most out of the workout.
Your lats should be doing all of the work. Aim for 5 sets with 10-15 reps in each one.
#5: Lateral Raise
The lateral raise will work your shoulders, giving you those wide shoulders you are aiming for.
To perform a lateral raise you should stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand. You should keep your back straight, and make sure that your core is also braced.
Next, slowly lift the weights out to the side so that your arms are parallel to the floor. Your elbows should be slightly bent.
To minimise the risk of injury I would recommend raising the dumbbells slightly in front of your body, rather than directly to the sides.
#6: Upright Rows
I would suggest using dumbbells for this exercise as they allow you to work through a wider range of motion. They also will minimise the inward rotation of your shoulder joint, which will reduce the risk of injury.
To perform upright rows you will need to hold a dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbells should be rested on your thighs, with your arms extended with a slight bend at your elbows. You should keep your back straight and ensure your core is braced.
Take a deep breath and lift the dumbbells using your elbows to drive the motion. You should exhale as you lift and you should try to keep the weight as close to your body as possible.
Return to the starting position and breathe in as you lower the weight.
#7: Arnold Press
This exercise was a favourite of 7-time Mr Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It is good for building mass in your shoulders and can be performed by holding a dumbbell in each hand.
The starting position is at the top of the bicep curl. Now, instead of pushing the weight straight up you are going to be spreading your arms to each side laterally. You will then be pressing your arms up while simultaneously twisting your hands so your palms face forwards.
The final position should be when you have reached as high as possible, with your biceps close to your ears.
You should be aware that while this exercise works all three parts of your deltoid, there is a degree of risk when performing this exercise.
As this exercise involves rotating the weights, you will experience internal muscle rotation that can lead to shoulder impingement.
While emphasis should be placed on your shoulders and lats when trying to build your V-taper, you should make sure to work your chest too. Dips are a great chest builder.
They can be performed by grabbing hold of some parallel bars, jumping up and straightening your arms.
You should lower your body by bending your arms while leaning forward, dipping until your shoulders are below your elbows.
To complete a single rep you should lift your body up by straightening your arms. Locking your elbows at the top.
#9: Dumbbell Row
This exercise is often overlooked but is a good choice if you are looking to build muscle mass in your lats, rhomboids, lower traps and erector muscles of the lower back.
To perform this exercise you will need a flat bench and a dumbbell on each side of it.
To start, place your right knee on the bottom end of the bench, and then your right hand at the top of the bench for support.
Using your left hand, pick up the dumbbell, and keeping your back straight lift the weight straight up towards your shoulder. Remember this exercise is for your back so make sure to squeeze those back muscles while lifting.
Once you have completed the required number of reps you can swap and perform the lift using the opposite side.
Overall the key to building up a wide back is to follow a strict form and use muscle intention. If you incorporate the exercises above into your routine, you will soon notice a huge difference in the width of your back.
Don't forget that working out is just one part of the puzzle. To gain muscle you also need adequate rest and nutrition. Our bulking guide will help with these aspects.