Look around your gym and you’ll notice that one silhouette dominates in men who are strong but lean – the V-shape. That’s because muscle tends to live at the top of your torso, while fat camps out down low. The out-of-shape man looks like a doughy ‘A’: a wide waist tapering to narrow shoulders. But if you drop blubber and build strength, that ratio shifts, and the letter turns upside down.

To speed up its spin, you need to hit your big back muscles, says Leo Savage, personal trainer at London’s luxury Third Space gym. It’s a two-pronged attack: you build size and work some of your body’s biggest muscles, which spikes calorie burn. The result? Growth – and width – up top, plus accelerated fat loss, to narrow that wobble round your waist.

“If you want a big back, you’ve got to row,” says Savage. Pulling moves hit the muscles in your upper and middle back, especially your lats – the muscles at the outer edge, beneath your armpits, which create your V-shape’s width. By mixing up your rows you hit your back all over to build more size.

But to craft a killer V you’ll also need to target your shoulders, a notoriously tough place to add size. Grow your medial deltoids – the muscle where shoulder meets arm – and you create the width that makes your V-shape more pronounced. But these muscles fatigue quickly, which means you can’t move as much weight. So focus on tempo, says Savage: “Make sure you lower the weight over at least three seconds.” Slow reps mean your muscle fibres spend more time under tension. Which translates to fuller t-shirts.

The V-Shape Workout

Perform the shoulder workout once a week and the back workout twice a week (with at least two days between them). Focus on form and tempo – slow movements with less weight will build more muscle than hammering out reps, says Savage. And you can’t build a V-shape in a hospital bed.

The Bigger Back Workout

Complete 8-12 reps per set, then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat for four sets before moving onto the next exercise.

Lat Pull-Down

Sit in the lat pull-down machine and grab the handles with your palms facing away. Tense your lats and drive your elbows down to your hips to lift the weight. Pause at the bottom, then slowly lower the weight.

Seated Cable Row

Sit in front of a cable machine and grab the handles. With your arms extended and shoulders down – no shrugging – drive your elbows back until the handles reach your stomach. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’ve got a golf ball trapped between them. Pause, then return.


Grab the handles of a pull-up station, hands more than shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you. Squeeze your lats to lift yourself up until your chest meets the bar. Pause, then slowly lower to a dead hang – your elbows should be straight – before repeating.

Single-Arm Row

Grab a heavy dumbbell and place it on the floor next to a bench. Position yourself with your left palm and knee on the bench, right foot on the floor and back flat. Grab the dumbbell with your right hand and row it up to your hip, keeping your torso locked and shoulders down. Slowly lower. After all your reps, repeat with your left arm.

Prone Row

Lie down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your shoulders down and row the weights up to your stomach, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause, then slowly lower.

The V-Shape Shoulder Workout

Complete 8-12 reps per set, then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat for four sets before moving onto the next exercise.

Lateral Raise

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, weights by your side. Keeping your arms straight, lift the weights straight out until they’re level with your shoulders, so you’re in a crucifix position. Pause, then slowly lower.

Military Press

With your heels together, hold a barbell or pair of dumbbells in front of your chest, palms facing forward. Drive the weight up and over your head until your elbows lock. Pause, then slowly lower.

Front Raise

Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them next to your thighs, palms facing each other. Without swinging, lift the weight straight up until your arms are parallel with the floor. Pause, then slowly lower.


Hold a pair of heavy dumbbells by your sides, palms facing each other. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears to lift the weight. Pause, then slowly lower.