Saturday, 6 July 2013

How to get that V-shaped upper body

From Google images
So, you want that big V-shaped upper body, most men dream about ?
That is perfectly understandable, since most women's magazines have surveys stating that the most attractive part of a man's body is the wide chest and broad shoulders..
Heck, even some of my female friends have told me that that's what they look for in a potential partner..

Well, let me tell you how to achieve that :)

First, let me explain something about the anatomy of the chest.
The chest has 2 muscles, the pectoralis major and minor (also known as pecs). The minor lies beneath the major, which is the large one going from the sternum to the upper-arm.
When you train the chest, you're making the muscle thicker (and possibly shorter), which gives your chest depth, but it doesn't actually make you wider.
It actually pulls your shoulders forward and slightly inward, which just makes your chest look deeper and less wide.

So, how do we get that wide chest and broad shoulders, like on the photo above, you might ask ?
Well, the key is to work the antagonist of the chest muscles; the latissimus dorsi and the rhomboideii.
What is really making his V-shaped upper body pop is the latissimus dorsi (also known as Lats or Wings), which originates from the lower back and attaches on the upper arm.
The rhomboideii help in pulling the shoulder blades closer to the vertebra and in doing so also pulling the shoulders backwards, doing the exact opposite of what the pecs are doing.

So in order to achieve this legendary V-shape upper body, I would suggest doing some of the following exercises. If you've read my blog before, you know I'm all for compound exercises over isolated ones.

Chest exercises:

  • Barbell Bench Press - This exercise works your pecs as well as the anterior part of the shoulders and your triceps..
  • Dumbbell Bench Press - Dumbbell version of the Barbell Bench Press, not much difference, except it requires more muscular stability, so you might not be able to go as heavy as with the Barbell version.

Back exercises:

  • Pull-ups - Pull-ups are one of the most effective and straightforward ways to get a strong back and big lats, giving you that wide chest. You'll want to use a grip, where the palms face away from you, since that will put more emphasis on the lats rather than the biceps. Keep the grip just wider than shoulder width.
  • Deadlift - To some people, this is not a back exercise, but it does work all the muscles in the posterior muscle-chain, including the lats, so this one will help you develop your V-shaped upper body.
  • Bent-over Barbell Row - Helps training the back muscles, especially the rhomboideii, pulling those shoulder blades closer together. It also train the posterior part of the shoulders and your biceps.

Shoulder exercises

  • Overhead Press (Barbell or Dumbbell) - This one works the anterior and middle part of the shoulders, as well as your triceps. Dumbbell version requires more stability around the shoulder joints, so you most likely won't be able to go as heavy as with the barbell version.
  • Bench press - Look under Chest exercises.

Recommended load:
Since we want size in this particular case, I recommend doing 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps, using a weight at about 85%-90% of your 1RM
Some sites, though, recommend 8-12 reps of 3-6 sets (that's about 65-80% of 1RM).

I hope you enjoyed this article, if so, let me know in the comments below
- Stefan


  • Styrketræning by Danmarks Idræts Forbund (Strength Training by Denmarks Sports Association)
  • Physio-school notes