12 Jun The 12 Best Strength Training Books Ever Written
I’m addicted to books, I admit.
The truth is that sometimes I buy them faster than I can read them.
But, I’m always reading, learning, and applying new things.
Love to learn and always have since I was kid.
I wasn’t always the best student, but I always loved to learn.
One of the downsides of being a constant learner is not always taking action with what you read.
Hate when that happens.
It was only in recent years that I came up with this: always try to take away one big thing and put it into action.
If I can do that, I consider it a win.
I love to teach and share what I learn, which is why I created this site.
There’s a great saying, “when you’re green – you’re growing and when you’re ripe – you rot.”
I think you get the point, to always keep learning and keep growing to be your best.
The easiest way to do that in my opinion 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 real answer to how I read countless books each year?
It’s very easy.
Always carry a book with you and read at every opportunity you have.
Here’s my secret formula:
- Sit down (or stand if you like)
- Open the book
- Start reading
- Do this for at least 10 minutes of focused time each day
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 10-15 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, I wrote this list of the 12 best strength training books I’ve ever read to date.
This was an extremely difficult task, to narrow down the countless books I’ve read on this topic.
There are others that deserve to be on this list, but if you asked me for the top dozen books on strength, this is what I’ve got for you.
These books are in no particular order.
Also, realize that these are not mainstream fitness books, but books for the serious fitness enthusiast, coach, trainer, athlete, clinician, scientist or rehab professional.
These are strength training and human performance books.
They represent the science and application of getting stronger and moving better, just to be clear on what the list represents.
If you read even just one of these, you’ll have a rock-solid understanding on the importance of strength and human potential.
This was difficult, but here’s my list.
SUPERTRAINING by Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff
Is Supertraining all it’s hyped up to be?
I believe it is. But, this book is NOT for everyone and truth be told, it’s a hard book to read.
I’ve been “reading” this book for years now.
You have to take it in “bite-sized-chunks.” That’s the key to this book, in my opinion.
While it is certainly not the most “user-friendly” book to read, the book represents an incredible knowledge breadth and depth on strength and performance training.
It’s been called one of the greatest books on the topic of strength ever written and I agree.
Dr. Verkhonshansky and Dr. Siff have written a masterpiece that could be used as a continuous reference for the serious strength enthusiast or coach.
If you’re a science nerd or a clinical strength coach, you’ll enjoy the deep science presented in the book.
As massive as the book is, 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 (outdated though) and the depth in all areas of strength (speed strength, strength speed, maximal strength, explosive strength, hypertrophy) is mind-blowing.
If you read this and understand some of the concepts, 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 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 it, and refer back to it.
That’s what I do.
This is the “deepest dive” in strength training you may 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.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? To deeply understand strength and performance training from a physiological and scientific perspective.
EASY STRENGTH by Dan John and Pavel
I love this book and now we’re talking about a book that is much more “user-friendly.”
So many great insights, programming approaches, and important concepts about getting stronger and maximizing hypertrophy.
A very practical book, whereas Supertaining is very scientific, this is more the practical application to training.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s science there, too. But it’s a very practical guide to strength training.
Talk about valuable “nuggets” of information – this book is loaded with them.
You’ll get endless programming ideas with a solid rationale.
This book contains the infamous Easy Strength program and then other simple, effective program ideas like the Justa singles routine, just to name a couple.
I also love the format as Pavel and Dan present the concepts with each of their own perspectives.
I read through this fairly quick because it was so engaging. And, I refer back to it very often.
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.
With that said, you’ll still be able to take away valuable insight you can use immediately.
An awesome read and I highly recommend it for all coaches and athletes. It is a book you will use.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? To gain a needed perspective on strength training and hypertrophy with specific programming and practical applications. There are many “nuggets” that can be applied immediately upon reading.
STARTING STRENGTH by Mark Rippetoe
If you train with a barbell, you MUST get this book to understand the biomechanics and technique of safe and effective barbell training.
This book is legendary.
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 just starting out in my training because it would have radically changed my training approach.
This book is the essential manual for barbell training and breaks down the techniques of all the big barbell lifts, the squat, bench press, overhead press, and all the accessory barbell exercises in great detail.
There’s a reason this has been a best-seller for years and years.
If there’s a downside to the book it’s that it is packed with technical information on the lifts. If you don’t have a background in anatomy or biomechanics, it could be more challenging, but this is a great way to learn.
It’s also a big book, so it will take 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 Mark Rippetoe are outstanding. He’s an interesting character and his content is exceptional.
Any one of his books could have been made the list and I would recommend them all, but Starting Strength is where it begins.
High value content and a “must-have” book for the strength enthusiast.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? In the simplest terms, to understand how to effectively lift with barbells. This is a barbell training manual for safe, biomechanically efficient lifting.
OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING, 3rd Edition by Greg Everett
For Olympic Weightlifting (performing the snatch and clean and jerk), this book is the best for proper technique, progressions, and a complete and thorough understanding.
It’s another comprehensive book on the list and “the” definitive textbook for Olympic weightlifting on the market.
If you’re a coach or weightlifter and want to learn all the details and progressions, this is the book to get.
It progresses and focuses much deeper with Weightlifting than Starting Strength.
Whether you are getting started or advancing with your techniques, this is the #1 book I’d recommend on this topic. I’d also recommend getting the DVD to accompany the book, as well.
The new edition is nearly 600 pages, so expect to take some time reading through this one, much like others I’ve already mentioned.
For a much lighter read and a more concise book on weightlifting, 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. I think it’s a great companion book to the big version.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? For the athlete or coach who truly wants to understand, coach, or excel with Olympic weightlifting, this is the complete guide. It’s one of the books I use and refer back to on a consistent basis.
SIMPLE & SINISTER by Pavel
In the previous version of this list, I had Pavel’s “Enter The Kettlebell” listed here.
However, I think that Simple & Sinister represents Pavel’s most up-to-date training principles and techniques as they pertain to the hardstyle kettebell swing and Turkish get-up.
Both of these kettlebell exercises are of the highest value for all lifters, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts.
This book is brilliant in it’s simplicity.
It’s an important book to fully understand the value of kettlebells for any athlete, coach or enthusiast to improve strength and performance.
This book represents some of Pavel’s best work in a simplified approach and methodology.
For anyone new to kettlebells, this has become my top recommended resource to understand the benefits of hardstyle kettlebell training.
By comparison to many other books listed here, this is a very light read – but of the highest value.
If you new to kettlebells, this is the book I’d recommend.
If you already have a strong understanding of the tool, this is essential to help you master the fundamentals, the swing and the get-up.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? To understand hardstyle kettlebell training and to learn how to perform the kettebell swing and Turkish get-up. The book is basically about those 2 exercises, but it’s a book on the philosophy and methodology of strength and movement.
SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES OF STRENGTH by Dr. Mike Israetel, James Hoffman & Chad Wesley-Smith
This book is ONLY available through JTSStrength.com and is now available as an ebook or print edition (by no surprise, I recommend the print edition).
The book is extremely helpful and I almost classify this as a “modern-day” Supertraining, but more streamlined and practical. The focus of the book is on the principles of training.
The principles that are outlined in the book are essential for program design and intelligent progression.
While the book is geared for the powerlifter, these principles book can be extrapolated to any area of strength training. That’s why this book is on the list.
If we understand the principles of training and do not violate the principles, we can have massive success and consistent results. If you’re wondering what I mean by principles, examples of key principles are specificity and overload.
Dr. Israetel (who is brilliant) did an outstanding job simplifying the science, but the book is definitely geared for the intelligent lifter or coach.
As with most books on the list, it will probably require a few read throughs to fully grasp the concepts.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? To understand what constitutes sound strength training and progression. An invaluable book for any strength athlete or coach to assist in short term and long term program design.
SUPPLE LEOPARD by Kelly Starrett with Glen Cordoza
This is not positioned as a strength training book, per se. It’s a performance book.
*NOTE: I recommend the 2nd edition as a fully upgraded and better organized reference book.
Supple Leopard is a tremendous resource about optimizing human movement and preventing injury as being relevant to the strength and performance athlete.
It’s dynamic guide and paradigm-shifting approach to the human body and will help us improve performance, whether in strength training or any performance skill.
Extremely comprehensive with both philosophy and “how to” practical applications. Loaded with pictures and visual demonstrations for readers to apply immediately.
The book covers rationale, techniques, progressions, and fixes. It’s not just mobility, but conceptual applications to human movement and performance.
The chapters on The Laws of Torque and Midline Stabilization are easily worth the price of the book because these concepts alone can radically transform our training approach.
This book has been called “revolutionary” and “a game changer” for the strength and performance athlete.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? To better understand human movement as it relates to fitness performance. The book covers movement principles and rationale, as well as specific practical applications and “movement fixes.” A very innovative and useful book in the strength athlete and coaches library.
THE PURPOSEFUL PRIMITIVE by Marty Gallagher
This is an interesting book. It’s also very different from many others on the list.
First, Mary Gallagher is a genius. He’s coached some of the best strength athletes in the world, including Ed Coan, who has been called “the greatest powerlifter of all time.”
This massive book checks in at almost 500 pages and covers a wide variety of topics, beyond just strength training.
Personally, I really like the 1st part of the book (Iron Masters), which shares the stories of many top strength athletes and lifters.
Learning about legends in strength like Paul Anderson, Ed Coan, and Kirk Karwoski is incredible reading with great stories and backgrounds on some of the best strength athletes in the world.
It provides great insight.
The book also covers the methods, mindset, nutrition, and an assortment of other topics, including cardiovascular training.
The practical application of the material is also excellent, with many programming ideas and examples that can assist in program design.
I know many people who have read this book call this work “one of the best books on strength development ever written.” It’s deep and covers what we all need to know.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? Honestly, the stories about the strength athletes are outstanding and I’d say read this book just for the stories. The reality is there is a lot more to this book than just stories and Purposeful Primitive is an extremely important book to improve health, fitness, and performance.
THE SCIENCE AND PRACTICE OF STRENGTH TRAINING by Vladimir Zatoriorsky and William Kraemer
One of of the most referenced books in my training library.
This work is incredibly useful for those who have serious interest in strength training, but it’s also more digestible for the layperson.
While it is scientific and reads more like a college textbook than a book, it’s definitely much easier to understand and comprehend than something like Supertraining by Verkhoshansky.
Again, this is a more streamlined version of Supertraining, containing concepts and ideas from Verkhoshansky’s work, but in a more simple approach.
This book offers many excellent insights, as well as many practical applications relevant to strength training.
It is also extremely well organized and if there is a book for anyone to really understand the science of strength training, this is it.
It’s an essential resource to have in the library to understand optimal programming approaches, training in special populations, and the basic principles and concepts of strength.
As mentioned, I refer back this book very often.
Essential reading for coaches, trainers, and serious fitness enthusiasts.
WHY READ THIS BOOK? Read this book to have a fundamental and broad understanding on the development of strength. All trainers and coaches should have this is their training library. Remember the title of this book – The Science and Practice of Strength Training? Well, the title upheld it’s promise and that is why it’s necessary reading.
INTERVENTION by Dan John
If there is work in the body of literature that has had a major impact on me, certainly the work of Dan John would be at the top of the list.
I’ve read every one of Dan’s books – cover to cover – and they are all outstanding pieces of work that are complementary to each other. I could recommend any of Dan’s books and Easy Strength is already on this list.
I recommend Intervention as the introduction to the “systems” of Dan John and it will change your approach to coaching and performance.
THE BARBELL PRESCRIPTION by Dr. Jonathon Sullivan & Andy Baker
This book is NEW to the updated version of this list (this book was released in late 2016).
It was a comment on this post that made me aware of this great book and when I found out about it, I immediately got myself a copy and read it.
In my opinion, this book is one of the most important contributions to the strength training literature ever written.
Why do I say that?
There are many reasons.
First, Dr. Jonathon Sullivan is an MD who understands strength and what it means not only to human performance, but what it means in terms of improving quality of life in all humans.
The first part of the book (Why – From Exercise Prescription to Training Program) is some of the most important reading in the strength training literature – and if you read nothing else, you MUST read this important part of the book.
This section contains the scientific explanations of why strength training is so critically important in life.
This goes beyond the athlete and athletic endeavors, but takes things to the physiological level in an easy to understand way (as Dr. Sullivan does so exceptionally well).
I wrote about these ideas in my own book (The Edge of Strength), but Dr. Sullivan has taked these concepts to an entirely new level and communicates the information brilliantly and easily, drawing from the scientific research.
MOVEMENT by Gray Cook
Movement by Gray Cook.
Why is this book here?
To be strong, we must have the foundation of movement first.
This book is the gateway to fully understanding the importance of Human Movement.
As Gray has stated, “you can’t put fitness on dysfunction.” Gray’s FMS (Functional Movement Screen) has changed the way we look at performance.
This book serves as the complete and essential book on understanding movement assessment and corrective approaches.
The downside of this book?
Well, like others on this list, it’s extremely content-rich.
When I say it’s like a textbook, I mean it truly is a textbook.
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.
Read, learn and apply.
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