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Shrink your waist and get a V-taper

Q: How can I make my waist smaller? I feel thick around the middle.


The first thing you need to do is assess whether your problem is related to excess body fat, or if it’s a function of your body type. If it’s a body fat issue, then you simply need to combine exercise and diet in the proper fashion. Sounds rudimentary, but it’s the one proven formula for generating sustained weight loss. Realize, though, you can’t dictate where you lose weight. As a rule, your body will burn fat in a global manner, taking from all areas of your body. Some areas will be more difficult than others to reduce, depending on a variety of genetic factors (regional proportion of alpha versus beta receptors, estrogen production, etc.). But with diligence and attention to program design, you eventually will lean out your midsection, even if it is resistant to fat loss.

On the other hand, if your problem is related to body type (i.e., you are naturally thick-waisted), there is no way to directly shrink your waistline, short of surgically removing some of your ribs – something I would definitely not advise! That said, you can use body-sculpting techniques to create the illusion of having a smaller waist. By increasing your shoulder-to-waist differential, you’ll develop a natural V-taper that makes you look less blocky, adding contour to your physique.

An increased shoulder-to-waist differential is achieved by developing the medial (side) portion of the deltoids. To target the medial head, you need to perform movements that employ shoulder joint abduction (lifting your upper arm out to the side, away from the midline of your body). Specifically, there are two basic types of shoulder joint abduction exercises: lateral raises and upright rows.

Lateral raises are single-joint movements that target the medial delts. To ensure optimal stress on this aspect of the muscle, keep your elbow rigid and make sure your pinkie is higher than your thumb throughout the move (slight internal rotation). This allows the medial head to directly oppose gravity, maximizing its force capacity.

Upright rows, alternatively, are compound movements and therefore require the activation of many upper-body muscles. But by maintaining a shoulder-width grip and lifting directly from the shoulders (not the hands, as often is the case), the medial delt becomes the prime mover and receives most of the stimulation.

A note of caution: during the performance of upright rows, it is important to avoid raising your upper arm beyond 90 degrees (the point where the elbow is parallel to the ground). When abduction is combined with internal rotation, the greater tubercle of the humerus (upper arm bone) approaches the acromion (part of the shoulder blade). This tends to cause impingement of the supraspinatus tendon and long head of the biceps when the arm passes 90 degrees – a consequence that can lead to a debilitating injury. Hence, make sure to bring your arm up only until it reaches a position parallel to the ground.

Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., CSCS, CSPS, FNSCA is an internationally renowned fitness expert and widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on training for muscle development and fat loss. He is a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder, and has won numerous natural bodybuilding titles. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed studies on various exercise- and nutrition-related topics. Brad is a best-selling author of multiple fitness books including The M.A.X. Muscle Plan (Human Kinetics, 2012), which has been widely referred to as the “muscle-building bible” and Strong and Sculpted (Human Kinetics, 2016), which details a cutting-edge, body-sculpting program targeted to women. Brad also has authored the seminal textbook Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy (Human Kinetics, 2016), the first text devoted to an evidence-based elucidation of the mechanisms and strategies for optimizing muscle growth. In total, Brad’s books have sold over a half-million copies. For more information, visit For more information, visit