Who doesn't want broad shoulders and sweeping lats that lead down to a narrow but solid waist? Achieving a V-taper comes down to three key components:

  • A foundation of strength
  • Spot-specific hypertrophy for your lats and medial delts
  • Adequate leanness

The best way to get there? A specialization program, like the one here. As a bonus, I'll throw in a nutrition program to fuel your success. But first, let's take a closer look at these three keys.

Key One: A Foundation Of Strength

No impressive physique is built without an impressive foundation of strength. Heavy compound lifts, specifically the overhead press, pull-up, and deadlift, are the cornerstone of V-taper physique training.

These will provide the necessary tension to build dense muscle and activate the maximum number of muscle fibers to accelerate growth. More importantly, building impressive top-end strength builds a body that's actually as strong as it looks.

Key Two: Spot-Specific Hypertrophy Work

This is bodybuilding-style work to accentuate the muscles that really make a V-taper.

Shoulders

Your anterior delts get plenty of work with overhead and horizontal pressing movements. While these compound movements are a pillar for building a V-taper, we'll spice up your training with a bunch of lateral and rear-delt building variations. This emphasis will help improve your posture, balance out the muscular development of your lats, and add width at the top of the V.

Lats

Well-developed lats are a must to accentuate a lean waist. While vertical pulling exercises like pull-ups are essential to building the V-taper, it's important to remember that the lats aid in internal rotation. If you overemphasize exercises that internally rotate your humerus, you'll exacerbate caveman posture, round your shoulders, and minimize the top the "V" so to speak.

To balance out your physique, we'll add a steady dose of horizontal pulling movements, like rows, to retract your shoulder blades. You'll improve posture, reduce shoulder dysfunction, and visually enhance the V-taper.

Abs

You must be lean to maximize the V-taper. An intelligent plan includes exercises to target the "anti-movements" and provide a pillar of stability for performance and injury prevention while adding a little meat on your rectus abdominus. For additional volume, we'll combine anti-movements, single-limb training, and flexion-based abdominal training.

Key Three: Adequate Leanness

No physique will stand out if it's hidden beneath a few layers of body fat. Sure, you can still look athletic or strong if you're carrying some extra weight, but your "V" won't really have a chance to taper if the girth of your waist is the same as the girth of your shoulders.

Much of this component comes down to diet, and you'll see what I suggest at the end here. So don't click off once you've gotten the workout program. Check out the nutrition recommendations too.

V-Taper Physique Program

The V-taper program is a specialization program consisting of five separate training days. Take a look:

  • Two days focused on vertical push-pull exercises
  • Two days focused on horizontal push-pull exercises
  • One day focused on legs

This program is best done intermittently as a 6-8 week specialization phase placed between more balanced programming. Think of this as a specialization period, not a long-term thing. Your elbows and shoulders will benefit from a reduction in volume.

Ease up after this and you'll notice increased muscle growth due to super-compensation in the days and weeks following the V-taper specialization.

Here's exactly how the program will help you build muscle in all the right places.

Four Ways You'll Trigger Muscle Growth

1. Technical Mastery

Exercise selection and rep schemes are important, but they're meaningless without careful attention to mastering the execution of each rep. When building muscle is the goal, you need to maximize tension on each rep and focus on creating a mind-muscle connection.

In the beginning of the program, decrease the weight you think you'd normally use, slow down your eccentric (lowering) phase, and focus on squeezing the target muscle. Once you've locked in technical mastery of an exercise, add load.

2. Heavier Weight

You'll be using giant sets with heavy weight, moderately-low reps, and auto-regulated rest periods. Setting up training this way is going to allow you to fit in more volume due to the heavier weights, and resting just long enough not to have to drop the weight as the sets progress. This will provide significant mechanical tension to trigger growth.

3. Mechanical Tension

This is arguably the most crucial factor for building muscle. Tension refers to the amount of stress placed on a working muscle for a given length of time. The problem is, most lifters only associate mechanical tension with heavy, compound lifting. But to maximize growth, we must focus on a variety of muscular contractions, not just heavy or explosive lifting.

For example, in one workout below, you may increase tension through the use of partial reps and eccentric pauses. In another, you may use giant sets to increase tension through heavier weight, along with mid-rep pauses, ROM manipulation, and partial reps.

You'll notice that almost every exercise has some form of tension manipulation technique to help you get more out of each lift.

4. The Pump

One of the keys to building big, dense muscle is sending as much nutrient-rich blood as possible into the muscle you're targeting. The heavy giant sets will help, but you're going to complement them with some brutal end-of-session finishers to fill up those muscles with blood to stimulate more repair and growth.

V-Taper Program Schedule

  • Day 1: Upper Body (horizontal)
  • Day 2: Upper Body (vertical)
  • Day 3: Lower Body
  • Day 4: OFF
  • Day 5: Upper Body (horizontal)
  • Day 6: Upper Body (vertical)
  • Day 7: OFF

Weeks 1-3

Upper Body Horizontal Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Barbell Bench Press 4 5  
Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back and initiate the bench by "rowing" the bar to your chest.
A2 Band Pull-Apart 4 25 2 min.
Brace your abs and keep all movement through shoulder retraction. Do these the second way shown in the video, not the first.
B1 Pronated-Grip Dumbbell One-Arm Row 3 8-10 1 min.
Focus on driving your elbow towards your hip, maximizing tension on your lat. At the end range of your row, pull the elbow in slightly as if you were wrapping it around your back to further squeeze your lat.
B2 Alternating Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 3 8-10 1 min.
C T-Bar Row 3 10 1 min.
D Dip 2 6-8 1 min.
E1 One-and-a-Half Rep Inverted Row 3 12 30 sec.
Pronated grip, elbows flared. Lower yourself all the way down, row half-way up, back down, then up for a full rep.
E2 Rear Delt Flye 3 12-15 30 sec.
Don't retract your shoulder blades! Doing so takes tension off your rear delts and emphasizes your traps.

Upper Body Vertical Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press 2 6 45 sec.
To maximize tension, "crush" the handle of the kettlebell throughout the set.
B Chin-Up 4 4-6 90 sec.
Imagine pulling your elbows into your hip pocket to squeeze your lats on each rep.
C1 Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 8 90 sec.
4-1-1-1 tempo (four seconds to lower, one second at the bottom, one second to pull up, and one second at the top). Don't tap the dumbbells together at the top.
C2 Lean-Away Lat Stretch 3 30 sec. 1 min.
Grab onto a dumbbell or squat rack, shift your hips towards the side you're looking to stretch. Stretch 30 sec. per side.
D 2:1 Accentuated Eccentric Lat Pulldown 3 6 90 sec.
E1 Lean-Away Lateral Raise 3 8 0-30 sec.
E2 Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 8 0-30 sec.
E3 Shoulder Circle, front to back 3 8 0-30 sec.
E4 Shoulder Circle, back to front 3 8 1 min.
F Jackknife Pull-Up 3 failure 1 min.
Use a 4-1-1-1 tempo and squeeze the hell out of your lats on each rep.

Lower Body (Maintenance)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Squat 3 6 2 min.
Do 2-3 warm-up sets as needed, then three progressively heavier sets.
B1 Barbell Hip Thrust 3 8 1 min.
Hold at peak contraction for two seconds on each rep.
B2 Feet-Elevated Side Plank 3 45 sec./side 1 min.
C Snatch-Grip RDL 3 10 1 min.
D1 Dumbbell Walking Lunge 3 6/leg  
D2 Hollow Body Hold 3 45 sec. 1 min.
E1 Kneeling Cable Crunch 3 12 30 sec.
E2 Sprinter Sit-Up (Flatten out completely each rep) 3 12 30 sec.

Upper Body (horizontal)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Cable Rope Face Pull 3 15,12,10 0-30 sec.
B1 Split-Stance Dumbbell Row (Go heavy, strap up) 4 6 1 min.
B2 Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8 1 min.
Use a tempo of 3-1-1-1 (three seconds to lower, one second at the bottom, one second to pull up, and one second at the top) and don't clank the dumbbells together at the top.
C Hammer Strength or Dumbbell Chest-Supported Row 2 12 1 min.
D1 Ring Iso-Hold to Row 3 10,8,8 1 min.
Do a 15-second hold first, then follow up with the reps as listed.
D2 Ring Push-Up (Pause at peak contraction for 2 sec) 3 8-12 1 min..
E1 Chest-Supported Incline Shrug 3 12 45 sec.
E2 Prone Dumbbell Swing 3 25 45 sec.

Upper Body (vertical)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Half-Kneeling Cable Scapular Slide 2 12 45 sec.
B Barbell Overhead Press 4 4-6 90 sec.
Do 2-3 warm-up sets as needed, then four progressively heavier sets.
C Pull-Up (Tuck lats into your hip pockets each rep) 3 8-10 1 min.
D1 Arnold Press 3 10-12 1 min.
D2 Lean-Away Lat Stretch 3 30 sec.  
E Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Down 4 8-10 1 min.
3 second eccentric. Think about pulling your elbows into your hip pocket.
F1 Dumbbell L-Lateral Raise 3 8 45 sec.
F2 Bus Driver (Use a 25-pound plate) 3 failure 45 sec.

Weeks 4-6

Upper Body Horizontal Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Barbell Bench Press 4 5  
A2 Band Pull-Apart 4 25 2 min.
B1 Pronated-Grip Dumbbell One-Arm Row 3 8-10/side 1 min.
B2 Alternating Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 3 8-10/side 1 min.
C T-Bar Row 2 6-8 1 min.
D Dip 2 6-8 1 min.
E1 One and a Half Rep Inverted Row 4 10 30 sec.
E2 Rear Delt Flye 4 12 30 sec.

Upper Body Vertical Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press 2 6 45 sec.
B Chin-Up 4 6-8 90 sec.
C1 Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 8 90 sec.
C2 Lean-Away Lat Stretch 3 30 sec./side 1 min.
D 2:1 Accentuated Eccentric Lat Pulldown 3 6/side 90 sec.
E1 Iso-Dynamic Lateral Raise (15 second hold) 3 8  
E2 Shoulder Circle, front to back 3 8 0-30 sec.
E3 Shoulder Circle, back to front 3 8 1 min.
F Jackknife Pull-Up 3 failure 1 min.

Lower Body (Maintenance)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Squat 4 6-8 2 min.
B1 Barbell Hip Thrust 3 8 1 min.
B2 Feet-Elevated Side Plank 3 45 sec./side 1 min.
C Snatch-Grip RDL 3 10 1 min.
D1 Dumbbell Walking Lunge 3 6/leg  
D2 Hollow Body Hold 3 45 sec./leg 1 min.
E1 Cable Crunch 3 12 30 sec.
E2 Sprinter Sit-Up 3 10/side 30 sec.

Upper Body (horizontal)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Cable Rope Face-Pull 3 15,12,10 0-30 sec.
B1 Split-Stance Dumbbell Row 4 6 1 min.
B2 Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8 1 min.
C 2:1 Accentuated Eccentric Chest-Supported Row 3 8/side 1 min.
D1 Ring Iso-Hold to Row (Reps of 12,10,8, failure) 4   1 min.
D2 Ring Push-Up 4 10 1 min.
E1 Chest-Supported Incline Shrug 3 12 45 sec.
E2 Prone Dumbbell Swing 3 25 45 sec.

Upper Body (vertical)

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Half-Kneeling Cable Scapular Slide 2 12 45 sec.
B Barbell Overhead Press 4 6-8 90 sec.
C Pull-Up 4 8-10 1 min.
D1 Arnold Press 3 10-12 1 min.
D2 Lean-Away Lat Stretch 3 30 sec.  
E Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Down 4 8-10 1 min.
F1 Dumbbell L-Lateral Raise 3 8 45 sec.
F2 Bus Driver, use 25-pound plate 3 failure 45 sec.
Diet

V-Taper Physique Diet

Eat at maintenance on your training days but drop calories into a deficit on rest days. You'll maintain and build muscle in key areas while leaning out. Here's the basic setup.

Lifting Days

  • Calories: Bodyweight in pounds x 13-15
  • Protein: Bodyweight x 1.2 grams
  • Carbs: Bodyweight x 1.5 grams
  • Fat: Remaining calories

Off Day

  • Calories: 20% lower than training days
  • Protein: Bodyweight x 1.2 grams
  • Carbs: Bodyweight x 0.5 grams
  • Fat: Remaining calories

Need an example? Let's take a highly active, 200-pound guy:

Lifting Days For 200 Pound Lifter

Based upon his bodyweight we can determine these numbers:

  • Calories: 200 x 15 = 3,000
  • Protein: 200 x 1.2 = 240 grams
  • Carbs: 200 x 1.5 = 300 grams
  • Fat: 93 grams

Note On Fat: Take your carbs and fat, multiply them each by four. Then add them together and subtract that number from your total daily calories. This leaves you with your daily calorie allowance from fat. To find how many grams that is, just divide that number by 9 to get your total daily fat grams.

Off Day

  • Calories: 3,000 x 0.8 = 2,400
  • Protein: 200 x 1.2 = 240 grams
  • Carbs: 200 x 0.5 = 100 grams
  • Fat: 115 grams

Run this for 6-8 weeks and watch your physique change before your eyes.

Related:  The X-Physique Program

Related:  The Athletic Aesthetic