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When you compare bodybuilders of the ’70s-’80s to those of today, probably the most recognizable distinction (aside from the sheer size of today’s pros) is the difference in aesthetics. Many of today’s elite bodybuilders have a more “blocky” physique, while those of the “golden era” were more aesthetically pleasing to the eye – mostly because of their V taper. As a result, many guys hit the gym in an effort to sculpt their own v taper, but its often slow going with limited success. However, there is an easier way.
Simply put, a V taper is when the upper body seems to be in the shape of the letter “V”. This is achieved when you have a wide set of shoulders (like the top of a “V”) that transition down into a wide, but narrowing set of lats (like the middle part of a “V”). This all culminates at the bottom with a thin and narrow waist (like the bottom of a “V”).
Life isn’t always fair, and as such, some guys are naturally better suited to more easily building a V taper into their physique. It could be they have a mesomorph body type that builds lean muscle and sheds fat more easily. Or it could be because they have naturally wide clavicles, leading to wider shoulders. Then there are those lucky souls born with that super-narrow midsection that will never wear jeans larger than a 30” waist. However, don’t despair if you weren’t born with the best genetics, as you can still build your own V taper with the right effort and dedication.
Ask almost any guy how he plans on improving his V taper, and he’ll tell you that he’s working on his shoulders and lats. He may try to build shoulder size as a whole, but at least part of his routine will focus on the side delts so as to make his shoulders “wider”. Similar could be said for efforts on building wider lats, both in an attempt to create that “wide-to-narrow” looking appearance. However, while this works, it can be a slow, time-consuming process.
When you stop and think about it, building a wide set of shoulders and lats isn’t really the goal here. Meaning, starting with a set of shoulders that are one measurement, then ending with shoulders that stretch the tape further isn’t what you’re really after. What you want is shoulders that are wider than your waist. Most guys go the route of neglecting the waist to concentrate on building wider shoulders. The problem with this is that putting on muscle can take a while. A quicker alternative would be to instead shift your focus to getting lean, losing fat, and in turn, narrowing your waist.
In either instance, the proportion between shoulders and waist is improved, which is what creates that V taper look. But losing fat and narrowing the waist can be done much more quickly than putting on muscle and building wider shoulders.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t orient your workout routine toward building a wider set of shoulders and lats. Incorporating a fair amount of side delt work as well as pullups/pulldowns will definitely help achieve that V taper look. However, if you focus more on narrowing the waist than you do widening the shoulders, you’ll likely create the appearance you’re looking for more quickly.