Why Are Pit Bulls So Muscular?

Many consider pit bulls to be a somewhat intimidating dog breed. This is partly because they tend to be rather large and beautifully muscular, with powerful legs and prominent chest muscles. When people think of pit bulls, they think of power.

Some owners may wonder, is this normal? Are all pit bull breeds so muscular? How does this affect the pit bull's ability to be a good pet and companion? How can I help my pit bull to get and maintain a healthy muscular physique?

Why are pitbulls so muscular?

The short answer is - genetics. Pit bulls, especially breeds like the American pit bull terrier, naturally have a larger muscle mass. This is mainly because they were bred from other active breeds, such as terriers and bulldogs.

A muscular pit bull stands in a sunbeam

Courtesy of Pexels

They were, unfortunately, originally primarily bred to be fighters and bull-baiting dogs, meaning that a powerful and intimidating stature was important. Nowadays, some people continue to breed them for more humane sports such as weight pulling and dock jumping.

This genetic predisposition also means that they are more prone to being active and enjoying sporty activities, which helps them to maintain a muscular stature.

What can I do to help my pit bull grow and maintain their muscles?

A healthy, muscular pitbull should have somewhat defined muscles and a low body-fat density. How can you help them to achieve this? Especially if your dog is a rescue and already underweight or overweight.

Diet Control

Any human bodybuilder will tell you that the first step to building muscle is ensuring that you have a good, sustainable diet.

Regular pet food is a good place to start, but it might not provide adequate nutrition for your pit bull to reach its goals. Muscle growth requires a proper diet with a good amount of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

Protein - Proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass. A high protein diet is essential for any dog, but especially a muscular breed. You can combine most boiled meats, such as chicken, beef, or pork, with your pit bull’s food for an extra protein-rich diet.

Fats - Fats can normally be found in oil form. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish oils, algal oil, and even eggs. Omega-6 oils can be found in most vegetable oils like sunflower or canola oil. However, too much oil can also cause an upset stomach or weight gain, so they should be used in moderation.

Carbohydrates - Carbs will give your dog the energy they need to keep moving and working. Generally, brown rice, barley, cooked oats, potatoes, and corn (without cobs).

It's normally good to provide your dog with a few smaller meals rather than one or two large meals. This will keep their energy up and prevent them from feeling sluggish on a full belly.

A hand pouring food into a white bowl

Courtesy of Pexels

Dietary Supplements

The word ‘supplements’ might make a few owners nervous. Do not worry, we are not referring to some kind of doggy steroid or unnatural hormone pill.

Dietary supplements [1] are normally extra nutrients that you can give to your dog to replenish what they've lost during exercising. This will include things like fatty Omega-oils, vitamin supplements, and antioxidants.

Supplements might not be completely necessary, especially if your dog is doing well on a balanced diet, but it's a good thing to keep in mind.

Cardio Exercise

Once your dog has a proper diet, you can move on to the next phase, exercise.

As mentioned already, Pit bulls are an active dog breed, meaning that they should already be getting adequate exercise, such as regular walks.

However, it's possible to include some high intensity cardio for muscle training. This is normally short bursts of rigorous activity, such as sprinting, especially on a surface such as up a hill or on a beach.

Sometimes, with a vet’s recommendation, a weighted vest can be included. Though owners should be on the lookout for overexertion [2] or heat stroke from exercise. Remember that cardio should only be done in moderation, as it can quickly exhaust a dog and actually set them back.

A dark grey pit bull with a ball runs in an open field

Courtesy of Pexels

Muscle Building

Muscular dog breeds, such as pit bulls, should naturally begin to gain muscle as they exercise. So oftentimes, specific muscle building exercises may not really be necessary. They’ll be building adequate muscle mass through everyday training.

However, there are some specific exercises that can help them to tone and build their muscles for owners who really enjoy the beauty in a healthy muscular pitbull. [3]

You can slowly add weights, either with a weighted vest or a sled. Doing this in intervals is a good idea, allowing your pitbull to exert itself and then have a good rest. 

Other activities, such as spring poles or rope pulling, also allow pit bulls to work on the muscles they need for a strong physique while fulfilling their need for play and stimulation. You can also enjoy the fun by playing with them and their toys.

Why Is My Pit Bull Struggling To Build Muscle?

A large and muscular female pit bull sits on some playground equipment

Sparkpaws Official Instagram

There are a number of factors that can influence how quickly and easily your dog builds muscle. Some of these are easily fixed, and others may sadly be unsolvable. The most common factors are - 


A puppy or adolescent pit bull, any dog under two years of age, is still growing. This means that most of their nutrition is geared towards growing rather than building muscles. They may also struggle to keep up with a rigorous training regime. Too much could even harm their development and they should be given some leeway.

In the same vein, an older pit bull may also have a difficult time keeping up with hard exercise. Changes in their aging metabolism will also leave them more prone to weight gain and muscle loss.

Breed type

At the end of the day, genetics is going to be the biggest player in creating a muscular dog. While a pit bulls' naturally muscular frame tends to be somewhat standard,  they are not a conglomerate breed.

Breeds such as the American pit bull terrier are some of the world’s most muscular dogs and should therefore have a much easier time building large and clearly defined muscles.

While other breeds, such as the Staffordshire bull terrier or the English bull terrier, tend to be stockier dogs. They may carry a bit more fat under their skin than other breeds, and therefore their muscles may not be as defined. Their shorter legs may also prevent them from keeping up with the capabilities of their American pit bull terrier counterparts.

If you got your pit bull from a breeder or know your pup's parents, then looking at their genetic lineage may give you insight into how much to expect from them.

Male dogs who have been neutered, especially at a very young age, may have a harder time losing weight and gaining muscles. It's not impossible, and the safety of your animal should always come first, but it may make it a bit more difficult to see results quickly.

A blonde woman takes a pit bull for a walk in the suburbs

Courtesy of Pexels


Even if you feed your dog an adequate and nutritious diet, calories and protein might be lost after vigorous exercise. Your dog might simply not be getting enough food. You can try increasing the number of meals or bringing nutritious treats to training sessions.

Digestive parasites, such as whipworms and tapeworms, can also be sapping nutrition from your dog. Therefore, it's good to have them dewormed regularly.

Stress and Health

If your dog is very stressed out, it may struggle to recover properly after a training session, making them more prone to overexertion and exhaustion. 

It might be a good idea to take it easy with your pit bull for a short while if you know they have gone through a stressful event, such as a move or introduction to a new pet. Unbalanced or prolonged training could also stress them out.

Other health conditions such as arthritis, infection, or allergies can also greatly affect your pit bull’s ability to train, as well as the effectiveness of training.

NEVER resume intense exercise or muscle training with a dog that has recently been sick or undergone an operation (including getting spayed for females) without first consulting a vet!

Is It Healthy To Have A Muscular Pit Bull?

Yes. The natural state of a pit bull tends to be muscular, and it shows that your dog is well-cared for and a healthy weight.

As long as your dog gets adequate nutrition, rest, and downtime, then there is no need to worry about them being overly muscular. Having a larger, more powerful stature will not affect their temperament or behavior.

However, a more powerful dog may be harder to control, so it's important to keep that in mind. You do not want an untrained, reactive, or aggressive dog that is beyond your ability to handle.


A pit bull in a harness jumps up, its back clearly defined

Sparkpaws catalogue 

Pit bulls are a naturally active and muscular type of dog, with certain breeds being a little more muscular than others. This is largely due to their genetics and their tendency to be active animals.

Diet is very important to building and maintaining muscles. Therefore, your dog should be getting an adequate amount of protein, carbs, and omega fatty acids. Dietary supplements can also give your dog’s nutrition a boost.

Cardio exercise is a good place to start, and may be all your dog needs to maintain their physique. Though you may include things such as weight training, running, rope pulling, and spring poles into their routine to increase their abilities.

Age, breed, and general health will also impact how your pit bull’s ability to gain muscle, as well as the speed that they are able to do so.

While a strong, muscular dog is a sign of good care and health, be wary that you do not push a dog beyond its limits. Always be on the lookout for signs of overexertion and under-nutrition, as well as health conditions that may make it difficult for your dog to stick to a rigorous exercise program.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your pit bull is healthy, happy, and looking their best.

Article Sources:

[1] https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/popular-dog-supplements/

[2] https://gallant.com/blog/dos-donts-working-dog/

[3] https://blog.roguepetscience.com/muscle-building-for-dogs