How to Build Muscle on a Pitbull Terrier (+ Puppy Tips)

How to Build Muscle on a Pitbull Puppy

I was recently asked how to build music on a pitbull puppy on a social media thread. I don’t advocate building muscle on young puppies. However, after some research, I have got some tips for building muscle on pitbull terriers as adults, which might help.

These are not my ideas, simply information I have curated from online forums.

Building muscle on pitbulls

The range of terriers that collectively make up the pitbull type of dog are specifically bred to be strong dogs. For a pitbull with good genes, all that is required to build muscle is a well-balanced diet and an exercise regime that includes cardiovascular as well as strength training.

A diet that builds muscle on pitbulls

Whereas exercise is necessary to keep a pitbull toned, the correct diet is fundamental for building muscles. Eighty percent of the success of a well-built pitbull is determined by its diet. It is advisable to speak to your vet about the correct proportions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the diet.

Protein is a source of energy and should make up at least 25% of the diet. A high protein diet would stretch that to 40%.

Proteins are necessary for the manufacture of the body’s building blocks, such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage and muscle. The enzymes that drive the vital organs of the body also rely on a steady supply of protein.

Fat is a high energy source, containing around double the calorie content of the same weight of lean meat. Care must be taken not to feed your dog too much fat and thereby cause it to gain weight.

Its most important function is to enable the body to absorb certain minerals and vitamins that are only soluble in fat. It also helps keep the brain, nervous system, and the body’s cell walls healthy.

how to build muscle on pitbull puppies
I don’t recommend trying to build muscle on a Pitbull puppy until they are adults. (Image via

Fats and oils help to prevent dry skin and itchiness. The best oils to include in your dog’s diet would be fatty fish oil and coconut oil. Fats and oils should not make up more than 20% of your dog’s diet.

Carbohydrates are easily broken down into the sugars that the body needs to produce energy. They also provide vital trace elements that are needed for maintaining your pet’s health and building immunity. Unrefined carbohydrates have the added benefit of containing fibre which aids digestion.

Dogs do not need carbohydrates in order to survive. However, if they do not get these in their diet, their bodies will break down muscles to obtain energy.

Strong muscles need strong bones in order to be effective. Calcium is essential and can be introduced in the diet in the form of bones, bonemeal and even crushed egg shells.

Raw Diet

The philosophy behind a raw diet is that canine species in the wild, such as wolves, would be predators. Their diet would be carnivorous and consist almost entirely of raw proteins and fats.

Feeding animals a raw diet is not for the faint-hearted. My dogs consider any prey they catch as a trophy and it is difficult to watch my otherwise pampered pooches consume odd bits of raw rodent.

A raw diet includes:

  • lean muscle meat, possibly still attached to the bone
  • crushed or minced bonemeal
  • meat from the vital organs such as heart, liver and kidneys
  • raw eggs
  • dairy products, such as milk, whey or yoghurt
  • leafy green vegetables, carrots
  • apples

Although dogs don’t appear to mind how old their meat is, there is the potential for inadvertently introducing bacteria and other pathogens, when working with a raw diet. Salmonella, e.coli and parasites, such as tapeworm, are examples of the health hazards, both for humans and their pets.


Much like in humans, supplements should be dispensed judiciously. Check with your vet that the supplement will not harm your dog, especially if you are using a combination of different products.

A vitamin and mineral supplement will benefit the overall health of most dogs. However, supplements targeted at building muscle aid in the metabolising of proteins in order to form muscle. They could aid the dog’s digestive system to break down plant-based and dairy proteins optimally.

Discipline and socialisation

With the correct muscle building training, your pitbull is going to be a strong, healthy animal, and it will look the part. It will be extremely difficult to control if it is not taught discipline from a very early age.

Hopefully, your pup has spent sufficient time with its mother and litter mates to have some inkling of its standing in the world. The period from 6-9 weeks of age helps to establish the concept of a hierarchy or pecking order in the pup’s mind.

You, as the owner, need to reinforce that by establishing yourself as the pack leader. The first and most important lessons should be in obedience training.

Your dog should know how to walk on a lead and to obey immediately when you call it to heel. A range of other basic commands, such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, etc. will also prove useful.

Muscle building exercises for pitbulls

In the beginning

Once again, lessons can be learnt from human exercise programs when building up your dog’s strength and physique.

Up until the age of two years old, a dog’s bones do not have the strength for endurance or weight bearing training. Your pup will have boundless energy and won’t know when to stop. You will need to set the boundaries.

From the age of a year, your pitbull may look big, strong and healthy but its body is not mature enough to cope with marathon runs and pulling or carrying excess weight. It will need sufficient rest and recovery time.

As with humans, it is necessary to build up fitness in stages. For example, increase your dog’s stamina by lengthening your walk by ten percent each week. You can also walk the same distance but increase the frequency or speed.

It is vital before embarking on any vigorous exercise, to warm up your muscles and those of your dog, in order to prevent injury. During exercise, make sure that your dog remains hydrated and does not overheat.

Also bear in mind, that if your aim is to build up the muscle on your dog, it will be easier to do so with a male.

A female that has had pups needs a number of months to recover after weaning them, before embarking on any vigorous exercise and training. This is in order to regain her strength and to get her internal organs back in alignment.

Cardiovascular exercises

These exercises are the basic building blocks of fitness and help to keep your dog lean. They include walking, running and swimming and generally don’t need any specialised equipment.

Unless you have won triathlon trophies, your adult pitbull is soon going to be able to exercise longer and harder than you can. Strategies need to be developed to harness that excess energy.

Long walks, especially in places where the dog can be let off the lead, will build stamina and will give the dog mental stimulation. To add interest for the dog, set up a treasure hunt, for a stick or any other object that has your scent on it, and train it to look for it. Tell your dog to ‘stay’ while you hide the object, and then wait patiently while it searches.

Swimming is a low impact exercise that uses most of the dog’s muscles and is great for hot days. It also helps to strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the dog’s joints.

Your dog will enjoy jogging with you but this is a more jarring form of exercise, especially for heavier pitbulls. You may find that leaner dogs can easily outpace you.

Your dog can also be trained to run next to you as you cycle. The dog will then be able to maintain speed for longer periods than it would if it were running with you.

A flirt stick or pole has a lure at the end of it, and can be used for high intensity training in a relatively small space. Jumping and sprinting after the ‘prey’ builds muscles and engenders ‘gameness’, a character trait much prized in pitbulls.

Strength training

Strength training will build muscles faster than cardiovascular exercise and usually requires the use of specialised equipment.

Spring poles are a bit of a misnomer. Essentially they comprise a spring, a rope and a toy or lure. The contraption is best attached overhead, to a strong branch, an overhead pole or a bracket on a wall.

The dog needs to jump to reach the lure. While wrestling with the lure in mid-air, the dog will be building up its core muscles. This activity will encourage ‘gameness’ and occupy the dog for ages while you need only look on. Care needs to be taken that the dog does not overdo it.

Weighted vests can be strapped to the dog in order to build strength. Additional weight can be added incrementally to pockets in the vest in order to increase the dog’s capability.

Small parachutes, attached to a dog’s harness, are used to create resistance when a dog runs and simulates the effects of pulling weights.

Some types of pitbull terriers are ideal candidates for participating in weight pulling competitions. These are strictly controlled events overseen by kennel associations, and the dogs have to meet certain criteria.

The dog pulls a wheeled cart containing a measured weight across a distance of 16 feet within one minute. The record of 5400 pounds is held by an Alaskan Malamute.

Clearly, the dog needs to be put through a managed exercise program in order to ensure that it is fit enough to participate and is not injured by doing so.


Pitbull puppies will build muscle eventually, so no need to rush them at a young age. Once they have stopped developing and are adult Pitbulls, then it’s something you might want to consider.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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