Having a great V-taper is one of the most respected attributes in the fitness world, and even those that don’t follow fitness will look at you and think, “Woah.” But building one is far easier said than done – especially with just dumbbells.
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Regardless, let me teach you about the best way to sculpt a V-taper with dumbbells.
V-Taper Dumbbell Workout Overview
As the name suggests, you’ll only need dumbbells. This means no machines, no barbells, and no cables. However, I’m going to take the luxury of assuming you can find a pull-up bar (or branch) somewhere and that you have an adjustable bench, at least.
While the limitations of the equipment will certainly make things harder, it won’t limit us completely. The most important things are that you have progression and consistency, as those two factors will determine the amount of aesthetic progress you’ll be able to make.
- Fitness level: Beginner
- Duration: 12 weeks
- Workouts per week: 3 / 4 workouts per week
- Average workout duration: 45 minutes + 15 – 30 minutes for cardio
- Equipment needed: Minimal equipment
- Goal: Build muscle and lose weight
Can you really have the goals of both “build muscle and lose weight?” Absolutely – as a beginner. See, as a beginner, your body is so sensitive to change that you can do the least amount of work and still see massive changes. This is called newbie gains.
This noob gains phase last anywhere between 3 and 6 months, and as long as you train and diet efficiently, you can lose fat while building a muscular V-taper.
How is that even possible, bro?! The Laws of Thermodynamics literally say you cannot destroy nor create energy, so if I need energy for muscle gain and need less energy for fat loss, how do we do that at the same time?!
It’s true. According to thermodynamics, we shouldn’t be able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. However, thermodynamics doesn’t take other factors into consideration – like hormones. Or the fact that a calorie from protein is different from a calorie from carbohydrates.
Scientists were also puzzled by this originally, and the most prevailing hypothesis at the moment is that the calorie deficit you create to lose fat becomes the energy surplus needed to grow muscle. Energy can move from one place to another, so your fat becomes the energy needed to build muscle. Fascinating, if you really think about it.
* Note: This is only possible for newbies or those who’ve taken several months off training. If you’ve been consistently training for years, you need to choose between the two.
So, in the V-taper dumbbell workout, we’ll be dieting for weight loss, training for muscle gain, and living as stress-free as we can. If you’ve read some of my other articles, these 5 principles will look familiar because they really are the most important part of any fitness journey:
- Being able to control your calories, macros, and hydration will allow you to change your performance and body composition at will.
- Stress is a nasty thing that’ll decrease your recovery like no other, so destress as much as you can.
- Too many people do too much, and having too much volume will see only detrimental returns.
- SLEEP! You have to sleep to recover and, funnily enough, grow muscle.
- If you’re so inclined, supplements can help in your journey.
Control those things, and you’ll be unstoppable. With that said, let’s look at the actual workout!
V-Taper Dumbbell Workout Schedule & Details
Again, we’re limited by the dumbbells-only vibe, but we’re going to make the best of it. Hopefully, you have adjustable dumbbells (or a few pairs) to allow you to play around with the resistance.
Because we have slightly limited resources, we’ll be following a full-body split. Why?
Well, this allows us to progress all the muscles every second day! You’re a beginner, meaning you don’t need a ton of volume to progress. Less volume means more recovery, which means more opportunities to progress!
* Note: Rest times are individual. A good rule of thumb is to rest longer rather than shorter, seeing as the goal is muscle gain and not fitness.
Day 1 – Full Body Day 1
- Dumbbell RDL – 2 sets x 5 – 12 reps
- Lying Dumbbell Hamstring Curl – 2 sets x 10 – 15
- Goblet Squat – 2 sets x 8 – 15 reps
- Dumbbell Pullovers – 2 sets x 5 – 12 reps
- Wide Grip Pull-Ups – 3 sets x failure
- Dumbbell Rows – 2 sets x 5 – 12 reps
- Dumbbell Flat Bench Press – 2 sets x 5 – 10 reps
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 2 sets x 8 – 14 reps
- Dumbbell Curls – 1 set x 10 – 15 reps
- Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension (single arm) – 1 set x 10 – 15 reps
- Vacuum Holds – 5 sets x 15 seconds
Why only one set of arms? Well, you’re a beginner, remember? You shouldn’t need more volume to make such small muscles grow.
As you progress, you can start using more volume on muscles that “need” more based on your own genetics. For instance, I do 15 sets for the chest in a week – but only 6 for the quads. I have phenomenal quads, genetically, but my chest needs help.
Day 2 – Full Body Day 2
- Chin Ups – 3 sets x failure
- Chest Supported Upper Back Rows – 2 sets x 10 – 15 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 3 sets x 6 – 12 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 2 sets x 10 – 15 reps
- Dumbbell Deadlifts – 3 sets x 5 – 12 reps
- Dumbbell Lunges – 2 sets x 10 – 15 reps per leg
- Dumbbell Hammer Curls – 1 set x 10 – 15 reps
- Dumbbell Skullcrushers – 1 set x 6 – 12 reps
- Vacuum Holds – 5 sets x 15 seconds
Again, we don’t need an excess amount of volume to make gains! The idea is to do the least amount of work to get the most results. Pushing further than that (or pushing further than your max recoverable volume – shoutout to Dr. Mike Israetel) will only lead to pain and injury.
There are only two days in this plan, which means you’ll do day 1, take a day off, and then do day 2. You’ll do 7 sessions across 2 weeks, meaning you might have to train on some Sundays.
A Little More About This Program
This whole plan comes with one big caveat: you have to progress. Progressive overload can be described as providing the muscle with adequate mechanical tension to cause it to grow.
If you walk in on Monday, 12 June, and you do 60 lbs for 12 reps, and you do the same on the 16th, the 20th, and the 24th, at some point, your muscles simply won’t need to adjust.
“Yeah, what’s new?” Why not increase the load or the reps?! “Woah, that’s new! Sh*t, I have to grow!” And so, the muscle grows. You have to provide a reason for the muscle to grow.
Mechanical tension is the only thing that causes muscle growth. The “best” way to grow is to get within 3 – 5 reps of failure. This means if I did 60 lbs for 10 reps this week, and I had 2 “reps left,” I should be able to do 60 lbs for 11 reps with 2 “reps left” next week.
It might seem confusing, and in the beginning, it is – I’ll admit. The simplest way to remember it is to just remember, “I need to do better than last time.”
Here’s an example of how that could look:
|12 June||16 June||20 June|
|Dumbbell RDL||100lbs x 8 reps60lbs x 12 reps||100lbs x 9 reps60lbs x 12 reps||110lbs x 8 reps70lbs x 13 reps|
You don’t have to progress every session, but you should be progressing overall. If you find yourself “missing” lifts, you’re either not recovering (refer back to the 5 principles and make sure all 5 are good) – or you have “run the course” with an exercise.
In the case of the latter, you’d simply replace it with a similar movement – like an incline dumbbell press for incline dumbbell flies, etc.
The program runs for 12 weeks, after which you’ll take a deload week/period. A deload is simply a time when you remove the insane stress from training by dropping the load by 40 – 50%, and you stay far away from failure. After the deload, you can repeat this whole program.
Lastly, as mentioned, this is also a weight loss program. That allows us to use cardio as a means to burn some calories. You don’t need to do cardio from the start. In fact, some of you might not need cardio at all!
If you find yourself not progressing in regard to fat loss, either the scale is stuck, or your body composition is not changing in the mirror. You can introduce 15 minutes of cardio on your rest days. The lower intensity would be better, and you can also do some on your lifting days (but only AFTER doing weights).
If you wish, you can also increase cardio incrementally to 30 minutes, but not more. Too much cardio can limit recovery.
V-Taper Dumbbell Diet
Contrary to popular belief, the hardest part of a fitness journey is not the lifting but rather the dieting! You spend an hour a day in the gym, and during the other 23 hours, you better be on point with your diet…
Since we have the goal of fat loss and muscle gain, we have a few guidance “rules” that’ll allow you to make the most amount of progress. These aren’t set in stone.
However, when looking at all the successful diets, they all have these traits:
- Consume at least 1 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Protein is hard to turn into fat (science!) and will help you build muscle.
- You can use a calculator – like the Harris-Benedict Equation – to calculate how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight. Remove 200 calories from that number (removed calories should not come from protein).
- After subtracting your protein calories from the total calories, you can split your calories between carbs and fats as you wish. (Yes, there is some science to support splitting these in a specific manner, but as a beginner, you needn’t worry about that.)
- You should be losing between 0.5 – 1.0% of total body weight per week. When weight loss stops, either increase your cardio slightly or decrease your calories slightly.
- An easy way to track calories is with an app on your phone, like MyFitnessPal. This will allow you to see how many calories are in the food you eat and which macros are still needed for that day.
- There are many diets like keto, fasting, and paleo that all have benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to remember that no diet has ever been shown to be significantly better than another. The most important factors are protein and calories.
Follow these steps as closely as you can, and you’ll make progress. Even if you mess up with one meal, just get back on track.
You might only be 200 calories over your target caloric intake. But then going out for a whole cheat day because of those 200 calories could lead to a 2,000-calorie surplus… That’s a big difference for a small error.
2 V-Taper Dumbbell Workout Pros
- It’s incredibly simple: See, you only need to focus on hitting your macros, hitting your gym numbers, and hitting sleep goals to make progress – I’m willing to bet folding money. This type of program is often called a “recomposition,” and they’re some of the most successful ones we see daily. Simplicity breeds consistency, and consistency leads to consistent results.
- The diet is individual: Often, we find dietary requirements that say, “you HAVE to xxx.” I don’t really mind if you eat more fats or carbs as long as you remain within your calories and hit your protein goals. The latter two are the most important, meaning if you want to have pasta for dinner, you can! Just add a chicken breast…
2 V-Taper Dumbbell Workout Cons
- Simple is still “simple”: Hear me out. Some people find specific training programs/styles boring. That’s 100% understandable because you’re less likely to follow a plan you don’t find fun. Progressive overload doesn’t work for some people – they prefer a volume approach to training, and that’s completely fine.
- We do have limited equipment: There’s no getting around that fact. That said, you can still make amazing progress for months before other machines are needed.
V-Taper Dumbbell Workout Conclusion
The plan was specifically created for those who are beginners and only have dumbbells – a very niche group, I’ll admit. That said, it’s pretty spot-on for those individuals.
You don’t need machines (yet), and you only need to introduce more equipment when you feel yourself hitting a plateau.
The most important things you need to focus on are improving in the gym every time you go and staying consistent with your diet. Follow the 5 principles given in the beginning, and I promise you – you’ll make phenomenal gains.
In the words of Joran Peters (who I learned a lot from), “It’s okay to be tired, but it’s not okay to quit.” 7 hard sessions in two weeks are hard, I know, but boy, will it pay off.