12 Jun The 12 Best Strength Training Books Ever Written…

I admit, I’m an addict.

Hold on there, let me explain this one.

It’s a good addiction, not a destructive one.

I’m addicted to books.

I’m always reading, learning, and applying new things.

If you saw my home office, you’d think I was nuts…seriously.

Books, books, and more books.

If you saw my list of Amazon ‘wish list’ books, you’d really think I was crazy.

Sometimes, I buy books faster than I can read them, but I can’t help it.

I love to learn.

Always have.

I also love to teach and share what I learn, which is why I created this site.

It’s all good though.

There’s a great saying, “when you’re green you’re growing and when you’re ripe you rot.

Now, that’s good stuff.

I think you get the point, always keep learning and growing.

The easiest way to do that is by reading books.

People ask me, what’s the secret to reading so much, how do you do it?

How do you find the time?

Do you want to know the secret?

It’s very easy.

Always carry a book with you and read at every opportunity you have.

Shut the TV off, sit down, and open up a book, and read.

There’s no secret, you just do it.

Block time, even if for just 15 minutes (which usually ends up being much more).

Why am I telling you all this.

Because I read a lot.

No, I read A LOT.

I told you, I’m addicted to books.

With that said, here are the 12 best strength training books I’ve read to date.

I couldn’t get this list to 10, so 12 was the magic number.

This was an extremely difficult task, to narrow down the countless books I’ve read in this topic.

To me, these are the greatest strength training books ever written.

I’m sure there are probably others that deserve to be on this list.

I know that.

Some I haven’t read yet and others that I could have easily put on this list.

But, I had to come up with my list of the best 12, so this is it.

These are in no particular order.

You should know that these are not mainstream fitness books.

These are not the “6 Weeks to 6 Pack Abs” and “Total Body Transformation” type stuff.

No, these are strength training, performance, and results books.

This is the science and application of getting stronger and moving better, just to be clear on what the list represents.

If you read these or even just one of these, you’ll have a rock solid understanding on the importance of strength.

Here’s my list, enjoy!

1.)  SUPERTRAINING by Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff.

This book represents insane knowledge and the “real science” of strength and performance training.

This book is NOT for everyone, though.

However, it is one of the very best books (if not the best) on strength training ever written.

Dr. Verkhonshansky and Dr. Siff have written a masterpiece that should be used as a continuous reference for the serious strength enthusiast.

If you are a science nerd, as I am, you’ll love the deep science presented in the book.

As massive as the book it, it’s actually broken up into nice readable segments.

Without question, this is definitely the most comprehensive book on this list, but it’s more theory and science than practical application, at least compared to other books on the list.

The research is overwhelming and the depth in all areas of strength (speed strength, strength speed, maximal strength, explosive strength, hypertrophy) is absolutely mind-blowing.

If you read this and understand it, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of strength, performance, and even hypertrophy training.

I have to be honest though, if I didn’t have the strong science background, I probably would have been completely lost – and at times I was anyway because it goes so deep.

Do not expect to read the book quickly. This is a book you sit and read in small parts over a long time (as I still do to this day).

Take your time with it, digest the material, and refer back to it.

That’s exactly what I do.

This is the “deepest dive” in strength training you man ever read.

It’s a brilliant book for those that truly want a total understanding and appreciation of real strength, but it is very technical.

Easy Strength2.) EASY STRENGTH by Dan John and Pavel.

I love this book, period.

It’s a brilliant book, in my opinion, with so much incredible knowledge from Dan and Pavel.

The book covers everything and has a ton of programming ideas for strength and hypertrophy training.

A VERY practical book, whereas Supertaining is very scientific, this is more practical application.

You’ll get endless programming ideas with a solid rationale.

It’s a fantastic text to educate and take action with and use highly effective programs, such as the infamous Easy Strength program or the Justa singles routine.

I love the format of how Pavel and Dan present the concepts and I read through it fairly quick because it was so engaging.

There are also many great pearls from other top strength coaches and athletes, as well.

As with most books on this list, it’s one you may have to read a few times to get the most out of it.

But, you’ll be able to take away valuable insight you can use immediately.

An awesome read and I highly recommend it.

Starting Strength3.) STARTING STRENGTH by Mark Rippetoe.

If you train with a barbell, my feeling is you MUST get this book.

I say this because it’s the most important manual for proper barbell technique I’ve seen.

This is the book I wish I’d had when I was a kid just starting out in training because it would have radically changed my entire training approach.

Guys, this book is the essential manual for barbell training and an extremely valuable and practical guide that will help you train better.

If there’s a downside to the book it’s that it is packed with technical information about the major barbell lifts, but it’s all great information.

It’s a big book, so it will take you some time to read and comprehend all the material.

The chapter on squatting is worth the price of the book alone – it’s outstanding.

This book was an easy decision to add to the list and knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t train without reading it.

I should also mention, that all the books by “Rip” are oustanding, as well.

Any one of his books could have been made the list and I would recommend them all, but Starting Strength is where it all starts.

An incredible read and high value content.

Oly Weightlifting

4.) OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING by Greg Everett.

For Olympic Weightlifting, this book is essential for proper technique, progressions, and key learnings.

It’s another detailed and comprehensive book and the definitive textbook for Olympic lifting.

If you’re a “technician” and want to learn all the details and progressions, this is the book to get.

It progresses and focuses much deeper into the Olympic lifts than Starting Strength.

If you want to get started or even advance your Olympic lifting techniques, this book is a must have and the one I recommend.

Actually, I’d recommend getting the DVD to accompany the book, as well.

It’s over 400 pages, so expect to take some time reading through this one, like the ones I’ve already mentioned.

For a much lighter read and a more concise book on the Olympic lifts, check out the much shorter, Olympic Lifting for Sports by the same author.

The shorter version is still excellent with the proper drills and progressions and may be a better option when getting started.

ETK5.) ENTER THE KETTLEBELL by Pavel Tsatsouline.

Here’s the classic book on kettlebell training with a strong introduction to the fundamentals of modern kettlebells by the man who initiated the modern kettlebell movement, Pavel Tsatsouline.

This book is the one that started my entire kettlebell journey, so there’s no way this book wouldn’t be on this list.

The kettlebell is a unique strength tool.

Yes, it’s just a tool, but an amazing and highly effective tool when used properly.

This is for those that are serious about discovering strength with kettlebells.

It’s for beginners through advanced, as there’s something there for everyone and it’s always good to go back and refer to.

The RKC minimum program and Rite of Passage program are essential, simplistic, and extremely effective.

The book also answers all your kettlebell questions and is a great reference on “why the kettlebell.”

No matter where you are with kettlebells (or if you have not discovered them yet), you need to read this book.

Kettlebells are strength and this is where it starts.

All of Pavel’s books are of exceptional value, but this is the starting point on the topic of kettlebells and this book is an absolute classic.

5/3/16.) 5/3/1 by Jim Wender.

This book has to be on the list because it’s a very effective program to get you stronger.

If you want to get strong, then get this book and follow the 5/3/1 program.

It’s that simple.

This is definitely NOT a science book and all the extensive data and theories on gaining strength.

It’s just a raw program for maximal strength with barbell lifts.

There isn’t nearly the content as some other books on the list, but it is one hell of an effective program for progressive strength gains.

When I was coming up with this list of great strength training books, it would have been difficult to leave off such an effective program as the 5/3/1 program.

This book is the “how to” get stronger.

A very short read, but a proven, powerful program that deserves accolades and it’s space on the list, based on the results.

To get strong, get the book and do the program.

Supple Leopard7.) SUPPLE LEOPARD by Kelly Starrett.

This one may come as a surprise, as it’s really not positioned as a strength training book.

However, it is a fantastic book about optimizing human movement and preventing injury.

It deserves to be on this list because it’s a dynamic guide to the human body and will help us improve performance, whether in strength training or anything else.

A lot of the book is mobility, but there’s a lot of technique and movement principles, all of which relate to optimal performance.

This is an excellent book and covers rationale, technique, progressions, and fixes.

This book covers a lot of useful material and is truly unique.

I think that the chapters on The Laws of Torque and Midline Stabilization are easily worth the price of the book because the principles can radically transform your training approach.

The techniques will really help people to get stronger and improve their training performance by learning how to optimize positioning, minimize risk for injury, and restore potential limitations.

An outstanding book for every strength athlete and coach and one that can be constantly referred back to for fixes and technique refinement.

A “game changer” for the strength athlete and an innovative, practical resource.

It’s meant to be read and put into practice.

Purposeful Primitive8.) THE PURPOSEFUL PRIMITIVE by Marty Gallagher.

I love this book, as well. It’s a classic.

It’s another big book at almost 500 pages, but it’s one of the best and it’s organized so well, covering a wide array of topics.

The 1st part of the book (Iron Masters) is outstanding.

Learning about legends in strength like Paul Anderson, Ed Coan, and Kirk Karwoski, among others is incredible reading with great stories and backgrounds on some of the best strength athletes in the world.

This is great insight and entreating reading.

Learning about these athletes is amazing.

The book also covers the methods, mindset, nutrition, and an assortment of other topics, including “cardio.”

The practical application of the material is also excellent and you’ll learn a lot about the world of strength and conditioning.

It’s a great addition to the strength library for the serious strength enthusiast.

A comprehensive manual with a lot of takeaways – I’m due for a ‘re-read’ myself.

Excellent book, well written, and high value content covering just about everything.

Science of Strength9.) THE SCIENCE AND PRACTICE OF STRENGTH TRAINING by Vladimir Zatoriorsky and William Kraemer.

Here’s a very useful book for those that have serious interest in strength training.

This is the textbook in strength covering many great topics.

While it is very “scientific” and reads more like a textbook than a book, it’s definitely much easier to understand and comprehend than Supertraining by Verkhoshansky.

I’d even say it’s a streamlined version of Supertraining.

This book offers excellent details, as well as practical applications to strength training.

It is well organized and if there is a book to really understand the “science” of strength, this is it.

I think it’s an essential resource to have in your library to understand optimal programming approaches, training in special populations, and basic principles of strength.

I refer back to it often.

If you want to better understand all the aspects of strength training in it’s full scope in an easy to follow reference book, I’d recommend this one.

Essential reading for coaches, trainers, and serious fitness enthusiasts.

Beyond Bodybuilding10.) BEYOND BODYBUILDING by Pavel Tsatsouline.

Another one of Pavel’s great books, but this one maybe doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

The subtitle is “muscle and strength training secrets for the renaissance man” and that’s exactly what it is.

Definitely different from other books by Pavel, but contains awesome information on training.

Many of his best concepts and techniques are covered in this book and there are many pearls of wisdom and key learnings to take away and apply.

The book also answers many great questions and myths about strength training.

And, there are some very “outside the box” exercise progressions, as well.

For size and strength, this book is outstanding.

Over 300 pages of great content and you will walk away and instantly apply new ideas and methods to your training to go to the next level.

Definitely one of his best, in my opinion.

Never Let Go11.) NEVER LET GO by Dan John.

This book is awesome and if you don’t have it, just click above and get it now.

Easily one of my favorite fitness/strength/performance/philosophy books of all time.

Dan has a way of making complicated things simple, that’s his gift.

While this is not a scientific body of work, it is an extremely valuable resource for strength training, programming, and overall philosophy of lifting.

And, it’s also a very entertaining read, as well.

Coach Dan John is definitely a phenomenal storyteller.

As good as the stories and entertainment value are in the book, the content here is absolutely top notch.

I would classify this as an essential training manual and there’s something in the book for everyone.

Every chapter is a new learning experience for the reader.

I’ve read it several times now and always find myself referring back to it for wisdom, insight, and training ideas.

An absolutely brilliant book and I know everyone that has read it has felt the same.

It’s a lighter, easier read than other books on the list, but offers massive value.

If you haven’t read any of these books, I’d start with this one.

You won’t be disappointed.

Movement 12.) MOVEMENT by Gray Cook 

As I close the list out of the “best books ever written in strength training,” I have to include one of the most important topics: human movement.

Without a baseline of fundamental human movement, we will not reach our full physical potential.

Fundamentals are always first” as the book states.

This book is the foundation to strength because we must move well, then move strong.

Written by another Physical Therapist, Gray Cook, the book is brilliantly written.

And, it is another “heavy” read and it definitely looks like a college textbook – like what I had when I was in grad school for Physical Therapy.

I would even say that this is mostly geared towards the high level strength coach, trainer, or health care provider.

Some of the information may not apply to the reader (the chapters on SFMA, for example).

But, there is so much other useful information to be learned in the book, for most people who are interested in movement and human potential.

There’s not another book like this and there’s so many important things covered I’m not sure how to describe it, other than to say that the book “bridges the gap” between human movement and peak physical performance.

It’s outstanding, extremely detailed, and by reading it, you will much better understand and appreciate “authentic” functional human movement.

A very important book for optimizing performance.

———————————————-

There’s my list of the 12 best strength training books ever written.

I have to tell you again, this was REALLY hard to put together because I have read so many great books on strength training.

It was hard to drill things down to just 12 books.

And, there are some really great books on strength training that I haven’t even read yet, so maybe the list will shift a little as I discover others, who knows.

Now, you may have read the list and thought to yourself, “well what about this book or that book?

Well, if you come up with a list of just 12 books on a topic, you have to remember that not every great book will make that list, you know what I mean?

I don’t want to discredit any other great strength training book that is not listed here.

For example, I can tell you that there are other excellent books written Pavel that are “game changers,” as well.

I picked the ones that I thought were his very best.

Could you make an argument that some of his other work should be included?

Absolutely, you can.

I could have included other books by Mark Rippetoe and Dan John that are “off the charts” great, as well.

But, I had to keep the list down to the best 12.

I could have made this a MASSIVE list with all the outstanding strength books I’ve read.

And, truth be told, I initially had the list at 10, but I simply couldn’t leave 2 books off, so I ended up with 12.

Again, this was very hard.

Anyway, I do hope this list serves you well in a couple of ways.

First, I hope that you are inspired to pick one of the books above that you haven’t read, get it, and take action with it.

Second, I hope that you save this list as your “required reading list” in the area of strength and performance.

These books are all excellent and have my highest recommendations.

Learn and take action with them, one at a time.

And, finally, I hope that if you’ve read a few of these, maybe I can challenge you to go back and “re-read” and re-learn something new to implement.

All of these books are great if you don’t let them sit on the shelf occupying space.

Instead, consistently refer back to them and put them into practice.

Better understand movement, mobility, and strength.

Always seek to be better in these areas and come closer to your full physical potential, whether you’re beginner or advanced.

We can all find new ways to be better tomorrow than we are today.

These books will help you do that.

And, remember what I said in the beginning of this article.

Reading is easy.

Carry a book with you at all times and read at every opportunity you can.

I really hope you got value from this post.

Share this on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you’d like.

Scott Iardella MPT, CSCS writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff!
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12 Comments
  • Jeff
    Posted at 17:58h, 12 June Reply

    Ive read most of those books. Im a bit surprised Intervention by Dan John wasnt on there. Thats one of my favorites. Also I would have added Power to the People by Pavel and Strong Enough? By Mark Rippetoe. There are so many awesome books out there. This list is top notch. The only one I havent read yet is Supple Leopard

    • Scott
      Posted at 19:21h, 12 June Reply

      Jeff,

      Anyone of those books could have, maybe should have, been on the list. Intervention is unbelievable, no doubt. As are the others, but if I had to pick 12 books, these are the 12 (I think).
      Very tough. Sounds like you’re an intense reader, as well. Awesome man!

      Scott

  • cique
    Posted at 03:15h, 13 June Reply

    Hi Scott,
    have you got some suggestion on bodyweight training?
    thnx

    • Scott
      Posted at 09:35h, 13 June Reply

      Bodyweight training?
      Yes, absolutely!

      Here’s the 3 that immediately popped in my head:

      1-Naked Warrior by Pavel (could have easily been on this list)
      2-Never Gymless by Ross Enamait (Killer book, one of my favorites, as well)
      3-Convict Conditioning.

      Think these would be my top 3 BW books..
      Hope that helps.
      Scott

  • Pete
    Posted at 04:12h, 13 June Reply

    Some great books there for sure! Some I have read and some I have not, will definitely be checking out 5/3/1 on your recommendation.

    Thanks Scott!

    • Scott
      Posted at 09:35h, 13 June Reply

      Very simple, but a great program and people love it!

  • wjc
    Posted at 00:01h, 22 January Reply

    I think you need to add Barbell Prescription to this list – a new book came out in December by Dr Sllivan and AndyBaker. – about training for the 40+ athlete and how to use barbell training to keep young and healthy.
    Great advice in here, with very thorough explanations of training programs and design. Check out Andy Bakers
    website (andybaer,com). Read thru his articles and blogs for some sensible mostly old school type training.

    • Scott
      Posted at 00:47h, 22 January Reply

      Hey man, thanks for the recommendation for “Barbell Prescription.” I did catch that one on my radar, but just flagged it and will pick it up soon. Have no doubt it will be excellent and I’m very familiar with Jonathan Sullivan and Andy, of course. I interviewed Andy a way’s back on the podcast. Appreciate the feedback and suggestion – awesome brother!

  • Steve Kamp
    Posted at 23:48h, 03 February Reply

    hey scott,

    I love your book list I think they touch a little bit of everything when it comes to fitness. I was wondering if you follow or can recommend any books and experts on Athletic Training specifically when it comes to performance. An example to go off of is a guy I follow named Marcus Elliot, he created the gym and lab P3 Performance in Santa Barbara. He really takes athletic performance and exercise prescription to a whole new level. Anybody, books, or videos would be awesome for my own personal reference directory. Thank you!

    • Scott
      Posted at 18:04h, 05 February Reply

      Steve,

      2 books that come immediately to mind:

      1-High Performance Training For Sports
      2-Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation

      Both are edited by David Joyce (who works with professional athletes) and these books are phenomenal.
      David was also on one of the back episodes of the podcast.

      These books cover “A LOT” of different topics related to athletic performance.

      Hope that helps – Scott

  • Constantine Mercouris
    Posted at 20:17h, 13 February Reply

    Hey Scott,
    Any thoughts on “Beyond training” by Ben Greenfield?

    Cheers

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:17h, 22 February Reply

      That’s a good suggestion. You know, I haven’t read that one yet.

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