The Best V-Taper Dumbbell Workout (Step By Step Guide)

building the V-taper is done through back exercises set out to increase lat width and thickness

The V-taper is an iconic superhero look that has been the end goal for many gym-goers looking to have a strong, athletic physique. 

So how do you build a V-taper body with dumbbells?  

Building the V-taper is done through back exercises set out to increase lat width and thickness, such as single-arm dumbbell rows (with your elbow out).  In addition, training the shoulders will help give you a V-taper look, specifically the lateral deltoid and traps using exercises like dumbbell upright rows and lateral raises.   

It should also be said that in order to enhance the V-taper body, you need to cut fat around your waist.  It’s important to lose fat properly to ensure you do not lose your size, which is a common problem among people who are looking to get ripped.

In this article, we will break down: 

  • What it means to have a V-taper
  • What muscle groups should be trained to develop a more drastic V-taper
  • A step-by-step dumbbell V-taper workout program

What Does V-Taper Mean?

v-taper is the term used to describe a physique that involves the upper back, shoulders, and traps to be broad and wide

V-taper is the term used to describe a physique that involves the upper back, shoulders, and traps to be broad and wide, while the waist is narrower, creating a “V” shaped body. 

This is often seen with bodybuilders, swimmers, and even in action movies where individuals often train the back and shoulders more frequently to change the way the body looks. 

Note that some lifters who have narrower shoulders (anatomical structures) may find it more difficult to have a more pronounced V-taper, however it can still be done.

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Muscle Groups the Make the Best V-Taper

Below are the main muscle groups responsible for the V-taper look. 

Depending on the individual, some muscle groups may naturally be more dominant than others, however the ones that are less dominant or hard to grow should be trained more frequently to bring them up to speed.

We call this “weak point training”.  So if your shoulders are the “weak point”, you should aim to train them 2-3 times per week versus once per week.  

Lats (Back Muscles)

The back muscles are responsible for providing thickness (side view) and width (V-taper) of the back. 

Rowing movements tend to train the back to develop more thickness and create a more pronounced separation between the sides of the back, whereas pull ups and pulldown movements help to create width.

You need both thickness and width of the back to create the v-taper look.  


Building big shoulders is another key ingredient to giving you that wider than life appearance. 

Specifically, you want to build bigger lateral and rear delts using dumbbell lateral raises, dumbbell overhead presses, and dumbbell reverse flys.


Training the traps can offer even more thickness and size to the upper back, both extending the traps upwards towards the ears but also gives you a wider look as they stretch along the entire upper back laterally. 

The traps also can develop deep thickness in the back and help enhance the separation of the lats down the middle of the back. 

Training them with dumbbell upright rows, dumbbell raises, and dumbbell shrugs are all great ways to add significant size to the traps and further the V-taper look.

Abs/Lower Back (Core)

Training the abs is something that some lifters may or may not need to do. 

Some lifters may find that training the abs (specifically the obliques) often increases their waist circumference, which might not add to a v-taper look.  

What I recommend instead of hitting abs every day is focusing on trimming the waist with a proper diet.

We have several articles to help you with that: 

Step-By-Step Guide to Get a V-Taper?

3-step guide on how to develop a V-taper

Below is a 3-step guide on how to develop a V-taper. 

These steps below are not in order, but rather should take place simultaneously, with the exception of step 3, which is dependent on the individual and their training timelines.

Related Article: The Ultimate V-Shaped Body Workout (3 Workouts Explained)

Step 1 – Build Bigger Shoulders

Building bigger shoulders is a no-brainer, as they help you gain width necessary for the V-taper look, while also helping to give shape to the deltoids. 

This can be done by training all three heads of the deltoids through dumbbell shoulder presses, lateral raises, bent over reverse flyes, and front raises. 

Training the shoulders in a variety of rep ranges is key as well (6-20 reps), as the deltoids can grow with heavier loads as well as lighter loads, so making sure to train the entire spectrum of rep ranges is key.

Related Article: Full Body Dumbbell Workout (3 Examples)

Step 2 – Increase the Width of Your Back

Training the back for thickness and width is also a critical aspect of creating a serious V-taper physique. 

The back muscles can be effectively trained (and should be trained) at a variety of angles, since the pennation angles of the muscles vary, and therefore require that you train pulling movements from a vertical position, horizontal position, and anywhere else in between. 

When training the back for width, you want to focus on movements like pull ups, pull downs, and wider grip row variations that can hit the traps and rear delts (these aren’t dumbbell exercises, but they’re still necessary to do if you want to build a V-taper). 

That said, if you do not have access to a pull up bar or machines where you can pull down from a vertical position, this will be one of the hardest angles to hit with dumbbell only work (and one of the main limitations of dumbbell only back workouts).

Your best option to try to develop width with dumbbells would be wide grip rows, where your palms are facing towards you, and your elbows are pointed out. This will be more of a rear delt rowing variation, however it can help give a wider physique at the shoulders.

Train these movements with moderate loads in the 10-15 and 15-20 rep range for optimal growth.

Next, you need to make sure you train rowing movements as well, which can help you increase the thickness of the middle back and offer shape to the lower lats (love handles). 

Doing movements like dumbbell low rows, reverse grip rows, single arm rows from various angles, and even pullovers can all help you create a more drastic V-taper.

Related Article: The COMPLETE Greek God Physique Workout + Diet

Step 3 – Lose Body Fat Around the Waist

This one is one of the main struggles bigger lifters have when looking to get that V-taper look, as they are already well-developed with their shoulders and back. 

Training the core awill most of the time end up creating an even thicker midsection, which would decrease the V-taper appearance even further.

Instead, if you have fat to lose (most people over 10% bodyfat), need to really focus on eating less so that they can lose body fat. For most individuals, this means sticking with a diet for 6-12 weeks, with the fat loss around the waist often taking the longest.

When looking to address your diet, be sure to not be too drastic as you do not want to lose muscle mass in the process. 

I recommend aiming to lose 0.5-1.0 pounds per week, for 8-16 weeks, making sure to not lose more than 10% of your current weight in one diet phase (anything fast than that and you really run the risk of losing weight too fast, losing muscle, and regaining fat more easily when you are done dieting).

For individuals who are already lean, you may actually want to spend some time eating more calories and allowing your body to create more muscle mass and size in the shoulders and back through hard training, then when you are ready you can cut body fat as described above. 

This is often needed for lifters who are already under 10% body fat and have issues gaining size (they simply aren’t eating enough to gain muscle mass and size). 

Are you a hardgainer looking to find a diet and training program that works? Check out this article on How to Bulk with a Fast Metabolism.

As you can see, diet is a critical part of the V-taper look, and depending on where you are starting from, you may need to tailor your diet and training plan to your needs and training timelines.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.

Dumbbell Only V-Taper Workout Program (2-Day)

dumbbell only v-taper workout program

The below workout program trains the shoulders and back muscles with a total of 16 work sets per week. Additionally, the traps and erectors (lower back muscles) are trained 4 and 6 sets per week respectively. 

Note that this program only includes shoulder, traps, and back workouts. For best results, you need to combine this with an existing program that includes other muscle groups as well, such as legs, arms, and chest. 

If you want to progress this to increase training volume, I suggest increasing your training volume (total weekly sets) by 1-2 weekly sets per week, until you reach 20 total sets. 

Conversely, you may find adding more work sets does not result in better growth (sometimes people adapt better to doing less volume, and more high quality work). 

The below program should get you great results if you train to near failure or failure every set, and use good form and adhere to not using momentum.

Remember, how much you lift isn’t always as important as how you lift, however when you lifting and form is spot on, loading up will just amplify your results!

V-Taper Dumbbell Workout #1

  • Dumbbell Flexion Row: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, pausing at the top briefly
  • Wide Grip Pull Up (Band Assist if Need): 4 sets of 5-10 reps, 2-3 sec eccentric phase
  • Dumbbell ISO Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 2-3 seconds eccentric phase
  • Bent Over or Bench Supported Reverse Flye: 4 sets of 10-12 reps, pausing at the top
  • Dumbbell Pullover: 4 sets of 10-12 reps, 2-3 second eccentric phase
  • Dumbbell Shrug: 4 sets of 12-15 reps, 2-3 second pause at the top of every rep
  • Hyperextensions: 3 sets of 15-20 reps, pausing at the top briefly

V-Taper Dumbbell Workout #2

  • Wide Grip Pull Up (Band Assist if Need): 4 sets of 5-10 reps, 2-3 sec eccentric phase
  • Bench Supported Incline Row: 4 sets of 12-15 reps, pausing at the top briefly
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 10-12 reps, pausing at the top briefly
  • Dumbbell ISO Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 12-15 reps, 2-3 seconds eccentric phase
  • Dumbbell Shrug: 4 sets of 12-15 reps, 2-3 second pause at the top of every rep
  • Dumbbell Pullover: 4 sets of 112-15 reps, 2-3 second eccentric phase
  • Hyperextensions: 3 sets of 15-20 reps, pausing at the top briefly

If you are looking for a workout program that is designed to help you gain muscle and strength across all muscle groups, and help you with the V-taper, download the Fitbod app and choose any of our muscle growth programs.

Need a workout program? Try free workouts on Fitbod right now.

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.