This Back Row Series Will Help You Get the Perfect V-Taper

While lots of guys train for bulging biceps, washboard abs, or tree-trunk legs, looking at the bigger picture and focusing on your body’s overall shape could be the key to achieving your aesthetic goals. You’ll be aiming, then, to sculpt a V-shaped torso—that elusive taper that starts in the upper body then narrows down to the hips.

You’ll be shooting for a strong, muscled back and shoulders, which means you’ll need plenty of rowing work to build up your rear delts and rhomboids. This V-taper DB row series workout from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. gives you just that—and you’ll get some quality ab work for good measure, too.

“If you only have time for one back exercise, make this one it,” says Samuel. “It’s a versatile horizontal pull—which is shoulder-safer than a vertical pull, and, if you work a desk job, more essential to generate the scapular retraction that you’re not getting while sitting at a computer.” And, of course, Samuel calls the series “one-stop shopping” for the movements you’ll need for the ideal V-taper.

To perform the workout, you’ll need a set of dumbbells and and an adjustable bench. If you want to try this at home and need a set of dumbbells, check out this versatile set from Bowflex.

Men’s Health/Eric Rosati

  • Adjust the bench so that you can hinge at the hips and lean one arm on the headrest.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the other hand. Your feet should be squared, with your knees slightly bent. Squeeze your core to keep your spine straight as you lean over the bench.
  • Squeeze your back muscles to perform 2 row reps, flaring your elbow out. To do this, the hand holding the weight should be facing behind you.
  • After the flared reps, complete 1 traditional row rep with your elbow close to your body and your hand facing inward. Pause at the top of the rep for 1 second and squeeze your shoulders together before lowering to the starting position.

    The two types of rows work different parts of the back and shoulders, according to Samuel. “Each row with your elbow flared out is catching your rear delts and your rhomboids, keys to building the kind of back width that will pop out of a T-shirt,” he says. “Then you go into that more standard row with the elbow close to the body, which is going to hit the wide part of your lats. This will generally always be your heaviest dumbbell row; since you can’t go as heavy as you might want with it, we get to add in that pause.”

    The pause doesn’t just work your backside, although the time under tension gives you the opportunity to really get a good squeeze in. You’ll also smash your abs here, since your core and lower back muscles fight a ton of anti-rotation, Samuel says—as long as you keep your position square.

    To add this to your back workout (or to make it your whole session when you’re low on time), try 3 to 4 sets of 3 to 4 clusters of reps. For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.


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