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Training Day with Fido: Combining Canine Cardio and Dumbbell Workouts

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Original post: September 18, 2010

While running, I curled twenty reps with the dumbbell to work the biceps; then immediately did twenty reps of upright triceps extension; and then about twenty reps of lateral extensions for shoulder workout; another twenty reps of straight arm front raises; and immediately after that I did upright dumbbell shoulder press. All the while,

I ran to the park.

Training Day with Fido: Combining Canine Cardio and Dumbbell Workouts

The weight is very light but as I progress through the high rep work, the running adds to the resistance muscle work due to the mild impact. This impact contributes to the muscle fatigue. As the weight moves outward to the side or forward general core work to the midsection of my body is noticeable.

The key is in carefully controlling the weight so not to strain the joints. You will have to be the judge of how much weight you can safely use. This program works wonders because the running movement forces the need to control the weight at all times. This imposes constant work right through the entire range of the movement when curling to work the biceps or pressing the weight to work triceps and shoulders. This strategy also results in tighter contraction as each step in the run further intensifies the contracted muscle.

This is not the principle I used to build an IFBB Mr. North America physique but it is the program I used occasionally to mix it up three to four times per month. Today, I use this more often as part of my training program because cardio-fitness is more a focus than muscle building. This unconventional exercise strategy helps build strong joints since the support muscles and tendons are forced to assist the movement of the weight in the plane of the run’s direction. If this program is applied regularly and in a controlled manner, the long term outcome is a lower risk for joint and tendon injury due to the adapting support muscles and tendons that compensate for the lateral movements.

Once the circuit was completed with one arm, I switched the weight to the other hand and exchanged it for the dog’s leash. I repeated the cycle with the left arm this time. Once completed and without rest, I exchanged the weight for the leash and repeated the cycle again with the right arm.

I have done this with a ten or twelve pound weight as well and it is definitely much harder. There is a point where the workload is too difficult to maintain throughout the whole run or walk. I found this to be the case with a fifteen pound dumbbell for me. It starts out feeling pretty light but it gets heavy as the run or walk advances.

On this occasion with the eight pound weight, I managed to cycle through the superset, three times per side. Upon reaching my intended destination – the first hill- I put the weight down and sprinted up (50-60 yards/meters) the hill with Diesel, my trusty Jack Russell by my side. This was followed by a walk down to the bottom. The walk or run up helps build good back end muscle for my dog. The walk down the hill helps build good front end muscle for Diesel. Of course, until this point the running program is continuous with no rest.

I maintained steady with the continuous cardiovascular work while stimulating the muscles with the light resistance weight work. Upon completing this hill climbing segment of the program, I immediately picked up my dumbbell, my pooch by my side and still on his leash, and continued on to the next hill on the route.

Training Day with Fido: Combining Canine Cardio and Dumbbell Workouts

This hill happens to have a lower grade so I ran up this (about 50 yards / meters) one holding the eight pound weight. I repeated this up and down cycle four times; the weight two times on each hand. When running with a weight in hand, I make certain to hold the weight against or as close to my side or stomach. The weight should be kept at the center of gravity as much as possible if the running pace is fast. This prevents the weight from bouncing around and jolting the body and stride offline. The centering reduces the chance of isolated strains. Upon completing this I continued without any rest to run back home.

I repeated the cycles of one-arm supersets while running home. This time I completed only two supersets per side but I picked up the pace from the pace I ran on the way there. With the pace faster, I didn’t extend the weight out too far out or up to full arm extension to prevent joint strain. The whole program only took me forty minutes. This was good for me but wasn’t quite enough for my dog. On another occasion, I might run the pace faster on the way there and do more hills to induce some fatigue for me. I might use a lighter weight or none at all. I might throw the ball up the hill several times for my dog to allow him the extra ‘fetch’ work he might need while allowing for some rest for me in between the first intense half and the fast paced run back home.

Changing the workouts contributes to anabolic drive by preventing the body from adapting to the workload and work style. If we cause the body to strive for adaptation at all times, it is more likely to continue to advance. These adaptation principles can be applied to resistance training programs such as weight training as well as cardiovascular training programs such as running or cycling. Another way to give fido some extra work is to ride your bicycle at a pace that’s comfortable for your dog. Be aware that your dog is wearing a coat and will be working quite a bit harder than you if you are on a bicycle. Work together safely and prevent heat exhaustion or dehydration.

The neat thing is that you get to achieve measurable fitness goals with your pet and it doesn’t have to get complicated. On some occasions just walk; on others run; others again, ride your bike. On some runs take the hills and on others keep it simple on a flat path. Once or twice per week incorporate the dumbbell work I’ve described above. Whatever you decide to do each day, your pet is right by your side enjoying the opportunity to get out, stimulate the senses and get fit and healthy with you.

Training Day with Fido: Combining Canine Cardio and Dumbbell Workouts

Start slow and keep it simple. Most importantly enjoy your relationship and bond with your dog and make this focus the new reason to stay with your program if you can’t stay consistent with the program at the gym.


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