Barbells for Bullies

Saving Dogs Through Fitness – The CrossFit Charity Championing Bully Breeds

Barbells for Bullies is on a mission to save sheltered dogs through CrossFit.

Aiming to help as many “bullies” as possible, Barbells for Bullies is a charity that holds CrossFit, Strongman, Powerlifting and Weightlifting competitions across the US and donates all the proceedings to local rescues and animal advocacy groups.

They help every dog, but with the stigmas attached to “pit bull” type dogs and their incredibly low chances of getting to leave a shelter alive, the charity’s main focus is on ‘bully’ breeds.

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Long post incoming: Happy adoptaversary to Nala here! This derpface is a spitting image of our own pup at HQ – who I may add is currently snuggling next to me on the couch. My point of this whole post is this. You can make a difference. You, reading these words, can make a difference. Nala’s mom, Kirsten, rescued Nala from an LA area shelter 3 years ago as a puppy. Kirsten came to learn a lot: how puppies are a non stop undertaking, how much love and affection dogs can award you, and how, sadly, bully breeds are perceived negatively for those out of the know. Kirsten then took the initiative. She reached out to us two years ago, as a fledgling organization, and said she wanted to host an event at her gym in SoCal, on the other side of the country from us. We worked with the gym owner @da_floyd_ and @kirssss10 , and made it happen: twice , 2017,2018. A gifted photographer @alicia_a_baldwin and so many volunteers helped us judge and run the event. We raised and donated thousands. We changed minds. We made a difference. All of this because Kirsten dropped us a note, and we came running… My point is this: we all can make a difference; one rep, one share, one conversation, one seemingly random act at a time. I heard once something that stuck with me – that drives me to this day and will continue to in the days that come. “Love is the volunteer in us that raises a hand and steps forward without needing to be rewarded. Love is a currency in reverse; the only way to be rich with it, is to give more of it away.” Well I’m here to say to you that I want to give it all away. As you know, we are a volunteer organization with nobody drawing a salary or getting paid – not even me. We do it for the love of pups, the love of our pits, and our passionate dedication to fitness. We will give all the money, all the love we can. We had a fantastic piece about us appear this morning in @morningchalkup – and so many of you have reached out, and taken that next brave step, that random act of kindness, the raising of the proverbial hand. I wanted to say thank you, and we will raise our hand with you, together… Let’s save some pups. -Alex, Founder #barbellsforbullies

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Every year, 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in shelters across the US (which equals the population of Dallas, TX) and over half of them are labelled as “pit bulls”.

Those dogs have a harder time being adopted because of their perceived aggressive character and laws forbidding pit bull type dogs – including Shepherds, Rottweilers and Dobermans – to live in certain areas.

“There is a PR problem – a bad one – and we’re here to help remedy that,” Alex Castiglione, Founder and Director, told us. “And I don’t even have to cite the statistics regarding the average American’s health – we’re fighting that too.

“Our goal is to create an active, fit, socially conscientious community.”

Alex noticed the problem and founded Barbells for Bullies in 2016 with the mission to spread the message that “bully” breeds are loyal and loving animals, and assist in the adopting and fostering of them, aiming to help as many dogs – and people – as possible.


Through competitions all over the US, Barbells for Bullies hopes to raise awareness about the lives of puppies in and after shelters. They also raise with money for rescues and work to find a caring home for every shelter dog.

The competitions currently run from July to August and Satellite Events have just been launched.

Official Events

These are the competitions Barbells for Bullies has run so far, where the team runs an event and creates a competitive experience with a charitable spirit. You can find the official competitions calendar and sign up for the events here.

These are the confirmed dates for upcoming competitions:

  • June 1 – New Jersey
  • June 15 – Wags & Weightlifting – ATL
  • June 22 – Satellite Events – Detroit, Raleigh
  • July 20 – Double Header – Denver – Crossfit and Strongman
  • August 17 – Satellite Event – Buffalo

Barbells for Bullies follow CrossFit’s ethos and, as well as experienced Crossfitters, they target people who might be on the couch to get moving.


You can host a Barbells for Bullies event at your gym!

Hoping to empower gym owners and athletes to get involved, Barbells for Bullies has set up a new kind of competition: Satellite Events. The charity will handle everything leading up to the event and all an affiliate has to do is judge, score (on the platform provided) and run the event.

If you want to host a competition at your gym reach out at

Online Competitions

Barbells for Bullies is also working on national Online Competitions, much like the CrossFit Open. People can sign up, compete and raise money for a rescue close to them. The money raised will be dispersed to rescues in that state where the signup came from, so athletes know their workouts are helping the community.

In the past couple years, Barbells for Bullies have hosted 20 events in 12 cities and raised and donated over $65,000 to local dog rescues.


All net proceeds from the competitions and merchandise go directly to bully breed rescues, dog rescues, or other non-profits which work to help “human’s best friend”. In the past few years, the support from the charity has funded hundreds of spay neuters, provided thousands of heartworm preventative doses and supplied high quality dog food to local shelters.

The charity generally only works with small rescue and advocacy groups, as they need the most help. “What we really want to do is reward the underdogs – so to speak,” said Alex. “Larger organizations with inflated budgets will get donors and government funding.”

Together with The Underdog Fund, the charity also funds foster care, buys supplies, transportation and pledges money to cover a dog’s heartworm treatment and get them out of high-kill shelters.


The idea came after Alex lost his beloved Pit-Mastiff mix. Devastated, for a good while the only respite he had was the Box until, eventually, there came a time to find a new dog to save. At the local shelter in Atlanta – where he ended up leaving with two pups – he noticed that all pens had a “bully” breed in them. It didn’t seem right, and he wanted to do something about it.

He set up Barbells for Bullies and hosted the first competition in 2016 in Atlanta. After a huge success and another competition, people started to reach out and express the same concern he had had at the start of it all: bullies were overcrowding shelters and people wanted to act.

Barbells for Bullies then hosted seven competitions in 2017 and ten in 2018. They aim to impact as many cities as possible so that they can “AMRAP” – in dog speech, “As Many Rescues As Possible”. Now with the Satellite competitions, they can be in more places.


The aim is to continue growing and save as many pups as possible. If people want to host an event, all they have to do to start the process is reach out at

Follow their social media channels: @barbellsforbullies on Instagram and Barbells For Bullies on Facebook.