Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

How to build muscle while walking your dog

by Kris Phillips

One of the worst parts about being cooped up in the gym all winter is having to get your sweat on without your favorite four-legged workout buddy! But the long cold winter is finally over and that means it’s time to reunite with your best bud and take your workout outside!

There are LOTs of way to get fit with your pooch. Hiking, jogging, cycling if your pup has the focus for it. But if running’s not your jam, or your dog isn’t a good candidate for it, you’re not outta luck! I have three moves that you can do alone or incorporate into your usual walk or run. These are guaranteed to mix things up, build muscle, and challenge your dog’s focus.

Walking lunges are a great lower-body, core, and even cardio addition to your daily walks. They are challenging for all fitness levels. If you’re just starting your fitness journey, try doing 4 lunges, followed by 4 normal steps. And then up the challenge as you get stronger. Part of what makes them effective is that the motion slows your momentum, forcing you to use more muscle to cover the same ground. This also makes this a versatile move with your dog. If you have a non-athletic dog, walking lunges will allow them to keep up with you. If you have a high energy dog, walking lunges will force them to slow down and focus on your pace.

Squat your dog! Squats primarily train your glutes, and who doesn’t want a great booty?! Butt…if you’ve been doing them for a while, trainers recommend adding resistance for better results. If you’re outside the gym, what better resistance than your four-legged training partner. (I don’t recommend trying this with any two legged partners) How challenging this move is will, of course, depend mostly on your dog. Floki is about 78 lbs as of his last weigh in. If you have a smaller pup, just do more reps. If you’ve never done squats before, make sure you understand how to do them properly before adding any weight. This move will not only give you a great caboose, but could actually save your dogs life. Large dogs in particular get wigged out when someone picks them up if they’re not used to it. If you ever find your dog in need of medical attention, that may be the only way to get them help. Whether you’re in the living room or the back country, you may have to carry your dog to safety. And that is going to be a lot easier if he’s not flailing like a fish outta water. So even if they’re nervous at first, making this move a routine part of your outings will help your dog get comfortable while you get stronger.

Sit & Push Up. Teaching your dog to sit & stay is probably one of the most valuable commands they can learn. But it’s hard to find the time for an orchestrated training session. Plus, you want your dog to behave in the real world. Push-ups are a great upper body & core strengthener. And whether you just don’t want to get muddy or you’re not quite strong enough to do them on the ground, using a bench is a great alternative. Ask your dog to sit while you do a set of ten. If they get up ask them to sit again, and start over. And give them a big reward if you actually make it to 10! You can incorporate this move at every bench on your regular jogging trail. If you want the challenge and don’t mind the dirt, try it with regular push-ups in the grass. I bet your dog will find it extra challenging to stay sitting while you lay in the grass. If you’re extra ambitious you could tech them to do puppy push-ups with you! When you push up, your dog sits. When you lower down, your dog lays. And back and forth.

Incorporating your dog into your workout routine will give you a stronger bond and a more fun workout! Just remember to make it a game with lots of praise and treats while your dog figures out the new routine.

** As with any physical endeavor, know your limitation and attempt at your own risk.

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