17 November 2003

Get a V-shaped torso this summer

There’s one feature that always looks good on a bloke and that’s a V-shaped torso. Here’s how to get yours.


Not everybody wants to look like those mountains of muscle you see buying big tins of mass builder counter at your local pharmacy. But there’s one feature that always looks good on a bloke and that’s a V-shaped torso. Here’s how to get yours.

The broad-shouldered look has been in vogue for a while – several thousand years, in fact. Those ancient Greek sculptures all had the same broad shoulders, strong, wide back and narrow waist.

So how do you achieve the look? For a start, you need to lose any extra inches around your waist. This is not only aesthetically pleasing to everyone except the Michelin Man, but it has immediate health benefits too. If your trousers are bigger than size 38, your chances of a heart attack are increased. And a big waist means your shoulders need to be that much broader before you can have a V-shaped torso.

Be less cuddly. Let’s assume you’re doing what’s needed to lose weight – eating less fat, drinking plenty of water and doing vigorous cardiovascular workouts. Those love handles will bow out when you replace your beer with water and amend your couch potato lifestyle.

It’s also a good idea to do some sideways lunges. Stand with a 10kg dumbbell in each and keep your feet apart while you face a mirror. Keep your back straight, bend sideways from the waist, essentially allowing the dumbbell to drop towards your knees. Straighten and repeat. Do three sets of 10 on each side. You’re likely to feel stiff the next day if you’re doing it properly.

Building the ultimate V takes work, because it involves some big, powerful muscles. But when you get tired and start wondering whether this whole workout thing is just a lot of vanity, remember that almost everything you do with your arms – from carrying your babe up the steps to that weekend getaway cottage, to swinging a cricket bat or pruning your fruit trees - uses two sets of muscles, your lats and delts.

Your lats are those thick bands of muscle that run the length of your back. If you’re a swimmer or a surfer, they’ll be pronounced. Your delts – or deltoids are those bulging muscles that cover your shoulder joint. Without them you couldn’t lift your arms away from your body.

Do your deltoids. the best exercise for targeting your deltoids is probably the seated machine lateral raise. You sit on bench with your arms at your sides, then lift them away from your body until they’re parallel to the floor. A common mistake here is to try lift too much. Stick to a weight you can handle, but raise and lower it slowly. If you’re doing it correctly, you’ll be able to target the muscle. You’ll be building part of the muscle called the head of the deltoid, which is in the middle.

Going lat out: The best muscle for building those fan-shaped muscles is the lat pull-down machine. With your arms gripping the bar slightly wider than your shoulders and your hands facing forwards, pull the bar down to your chest. Personal trainer Larry Pepe writes that you must extend your lats completely on every repetition for them to build. Again, the slower the move, the more your muscles will build. If you’re jerking the weight down and arching your back, use a lighter weight.

One word of warning about the lat machine, though: it’s an excellent apparatus for building a strong back, but avoid pulling the bar down behind your neck. You won’t build any extra muscle and you risk injuring your shoulders.

Pull your weight. A good way to measure your progress is by doing pull-ups. If you can do four sets of eight pull-ups you’re doing well. You can use a standard chin-up bar or one that has diagonal handles. A strenuous alternative is to hang a towel over it, grab each end and pull yourself up. That’ll build not only your lats, but your forearms as well.

Swimming is another good way to build the muscles that give you a strong torso. A 20-minute swim after a workout involving the exercises described here should put you on the fast track to the coveted triangular shape. (William Smook)


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