WildnSwole is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
The appearance of a V-shaped, or tapered back looks different from person to person because everyone has individual muscle insertions. Doing the right exercises helps build the areas that are responsible for developing your unique V.
The V-shaped back is achieved by performing exercises that emphasize shoulder adduction and extension such as supinated pulldowns and pull-ups. These exercises target the lats and teres major muscles which are mainly responsible for back width.
I’ll cover how to perform these exercises below, along with other strategies to help you get the V in your back.
Table of Contents
1. Perform Supinated Pulldowns To Widen Your Lats
When building the V you need to do exercises for the bottom and top sections of the outer back. This is how you’ll create the complete shape.
The muscles that give your back a V-shape appearance are the latissimus dorsi and teres major. The latissimus dorsi, or lats flare outwards from the lower to the middle back, while the teres major is located in the outer back, below the armpit.
Supinated pulldowns target the lower lats via shoulder extension to develop the base of the V. The teres major and upper sections of the lats are stimulated too.
To perform supinated lat pulldowns:
- Attach a straight-curved bar to a high cable machine.
- Grab the bar using an underhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Sit on the seat with your knees secured and feet flat on the floor.
- Align your head under the bar with your arms extended overhead.
- Point your chest at the bar.
- Pull the bar toward your chest while leaning your upper body back slightly.
- Aim your elbows at your back pockets as you pull.
- Re-extend your arms.
- Repeat for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.
Check out how long it takes before most trainees see significant lat growth in my guide covering the realistic timeline for getting the V-back.
2. Use Pull-Ups To Make Your Teres Major’s Pop
Pull-ups utilize an overhand grip and wide hand position. This targets the upper lats more through shoulder adduction.
You should be able to do 5 or 6 reps for multiple sets before adding external weight. If you’re not there yet, you can also do assisted pull-ups using a machine or a resistance band.
Alternatively, overhand grip lat pulldowns serve the same purpose. Just make sure you use an overhand grip with your hands 1.5x shoulder width.
To do pull-ups:
- Grab the bar with your hands 1.5x shoulder width and your arms and body in a dead hang.
- Squeeze your glutes and core.
- Point your chest toward the bar and bend your elbows toward your ribs to pull yourself up.
- Stop once your chin reaches the bar and reverse under control.
- Repeat for 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.
3. Do External Rotations for Your Teres Minor
The teres minor is a rotator cuff muscle located above the major. Although small and not as crucial to the V, building it will improve the upper width.
Side-lying external rotations elicit high activation of the minor.
- Lay on your side on a bench or the floor.
- Place a small, rolled towel between your upper arm and ribs.
- Hold a dumbbell using a neutral grip with your arm bent at 90 degrees and horizontal to the floor.
- Squeeze and depress your shoulder blades.
- Rotate the dumbbell until your lower arm is vertical.
- Lower the weight and repeat for 3 sets of 10-20 reps.
4. Perform Lateral Raises for Broader Side Delts
The side delts aren’t a back muscle. However, developing them will make your shoulders pop from the back. This mixed with wide lats will make you look like a Dorito without having to flex.
This cable lateral raise variation provides constant tension on the side delts.
- Attach a D-handle to a low cable.
- Grab the handle with a neutral grip and assume a staggered stance with the cable between your legs.
- Stand with your working arm on the opposite side of the cable base.
- Swing the handle out and up toward the ceiling.
- Lower under control.
- Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.
5. Do Bicycle Crunches for Oblique Control
Bicycle crunches are an effective activator of the obliques, which push the skin tighter when muscular. Exercising them improves waist control and makes your waist appear smaller from the back when posing with low body fat.
- Lay on your back with your fingers gently on your ears.
- Round your upper back off the floor to press your lower back against the floor.
- Raise your right knee toward your forehead and twist your torso toward that knee.
- Act like you’re trying to touch your left elbow to that knee.
- Switch directions.
- Alternate for 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
Do these hurt your back? If so, check out my article on why bicycle crunches can be bad for your back and how to fix them.
6. Practice the Back Relaxed Pose
Many people don’t have the V when standing naturally. The back relaxed pose expands the lats, side delts, and teres muscles to give you that look and improves mind-muscle connection.
Rotating your obliques to different angles makes your waist look even narrower compared to your shoulders. Practice for 15-30 minutes a day to figure out which angles are best for you.
7. Enter a Calorie Deficit To Lose Excess Fat
Once you’ve built bigger lats, side delts, and teres muscles the final thing to do is lose excess fat by eating fewer calories than you burn per day. Doing so reduces love handles and water retention, making your muscles tighter to the skin.
Using an app like Fit Genie to track how much you’re eating per day will help hold you accountable. It’ll also give you weekly calorie adjustments to reach your goal weight healthily. Aim to lose 0.5-1 pounds per week, depending on your current body fat percentage.
Sample Workout To Achieve the V-Shape Back
This pull workout includes the above exercises and is intended to be performed once per week. Practice the relaxed pose afterward for 15 minutes since your back will be wider from the pump.
- Supinated lat pulldowns: 4 sets x 12 reps
- Pull-ups: 3 x 6
- Side lying external rotations: 3 x 15
- Cable lateral raises: 3 x 15
- Bicycle crunches: 2 x 20
The V-Shape Back Isn’t for Everyone
There are many claims about how the ability to develop a distinct V-shape is dependent on genetics. No matter how many sets of lat pulldowns you do, there is a truth to this.
Attaining a V-shaped back is heavily reliant on the genetics of your waist-to-shoulder bone ratio. People with narrow collarbones and wide ribs and hips won’t have as good of a V as someone with naturally wide collarbones and a narrow waist.
Either way, don’t avoid the exercises and strategies outlined above. They will help you improve your physical appearance and shoulder functionality. Plus, you’ll never know how good of a V you can attain until you try.