8 MUST READ Strength Training Books

The internet is an unbelievable repository of information, and I use it daily to delve into new and old strength training/conditioning topics, research, and advice from iron hardened gym warriors, but contrary to what many believe, not everything is on the internet.

Some of the best information I have learned regarding strength training has come from books, and the list below is compiled from the books I have learned the most from, as well as books that have challenged me to question facts and ideas that I had previously assumed to be true.

If you already train hard but also want to train smart, then keep reading. In no significant order:

Arnold Bodybuilding BibleThe New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding : The Bible of Bodybuilding, Fully Updated and Revised – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Written by Arnold Schwarzenegger and published in 1985, this 800 page muscle bible is the required textbook for bodybuilding 101. Within its pages you’ll learn about the extensive history of bodybuilding and the bodybuilding hall of fame, but most importantly, Arnold has left no stone unturned when it comes to explaining exercise movement, the purpose of each exercise, and bodybuilding techniques such as repetition tempo and mind muscle connection. All this information is placed alongside muscle diagrams of Arnold himself demonstrating the exercises and techniques. A must buy for any serious bodybuilder or Schwarzenegger fan

Starting StrengthStarting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition – Mark Rippetoe

While Mark Rippetoe is somewhat of a controversial figure in the strength training world, when it comes to understanding the mechanics of movements/exercises and how to correctly and safely perform compound barbell exercises, Mark Rippetoe is an authority on the subject. I highly recommend this book for beginners, as it will start you off on the right path in regards to proper strength training if you are interested in compound barbell exercises. Intermediate, advanced, and expert lifters can also learn something new after reading Starting Strength. Each time I read this book I learn a new fact, form a new idea, or make a connection which I previously hadn’t realized.

Wendlers 5-3-15/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength – Jim Wendler

5/3/1 is the BEST training program I have ever followed, having run it twice now for 6 months the first time and 11 months the second. The progress I made using 5/3/1 was incredible, but more importantly, the solid no nonsense approach that Wendler dishes out allows you to gain a figurative 10 years of training knowledge and maturity, as long as you follow his advice 100%. Wendler calls it as he sees it, and once you see the results for yourself by following his training concepts and program to the T, you won’t ever doubt the man again. Do yourself a favor, buy this book, run 5/3/1 for 6+ months (preferably a year), and see the results for yourself.

Beyond 5-3-1Beyond 5/3/1: Simple Training for Extraordinary Results – Jim Wendler

If the first 5/3/1 book wasn’t enough for you, then you’re in luck. The original 5/3/1 program is very cut and dry, and that’s what makes it so great, but in specific situations, 5/3/1 can be modified slightly in various ways for better progress. Beyond 5/3/1 covers all of those situations and strategies in-depth while retaining the same no nonsense approach that Wendler is renowned for. I recommend buying and reading through 5/3/1 first, but read this after your first successful 5/3/1 training cycle.

Olympic Lifting Greg EverettOlympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches – Greg Everett

While I highly recommend that you get a coach when starting to learn the Olympic lifts, this book is a fantastic supplemental resource to get anyone started on learning and instructing the Olympic and related lifts. Included are teaching progressions, error correction suggestions, warm-up routines, and training programs. Everett is the head coach and owner of Catalyst Athletics and the masters American record holder in the clean & jerk.

Convict ConditioningConvict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness-Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength – Paul Wade

Paul Wade is a bit of a mystery. Never allowing photographs of himself and rarely doing interviews due to nearly two decades spent behind bars, the man behind Convict Conditioning could be a 97 pound weakling for all we know, but putting speculation aside the information Wade lays out in Convict Conditioning is world class. Where most calisthenics gurus advocate and program a variety of body-weight exercises for their clients with no real focus, Paul Wade has applied the same concept behind exercise progressions and variations that top level powerlifters, bodybuilders, and olympic weightlifters use towards calisthenics. Convict Conditioning focuses specifically on six training exercises (which are the: one-arm pushup, pistol squat, one-arm pullup, hanging straight leg raise, stand-to-stand bridge, and one-arm handstand pushup) and their variations. By training through increasingly difficult exercise variations leading up to one of the final “big-six” exercises, a clear training progression is laid out before the reader in a way that is packed with information while still being clear to the reader. This is the #1 book I would buy if interested in training calisthenics.

bodyweight strength training anatomyBodyweight Strength Training Anatomy – Bret Contreras

Written by the “Glute Guy”, this book is similar to Convict Conditioning in the fact that it exclusively covers body-weight exercises, but Bret Contreras’s Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy casts a wider net than Convict Conditioning, covering in detail over 150 body-weight exercises and/or exercise variations. The amount of information contained in this book makes it a great resource for those newly introduced to calisthenics, and I recommend you read this book along with Convict Conditioning in conjunction.

The hybrid athleteThe Hybrid Athlete – Alex Viada

Alex Viada is a freak. From running ultramarathons to squatting and deadlifting 600+ pounds, there is seemingly little that this man can’t do. Behind the scenes though, it has taken Viada decades to reach this level of fitness, and more importantly specific programming which allows him to excel at anaerobic and aerobic exercise simultaneously. If this Navy Seal type of fitness appeals to you, then instead of spending 15+ years figuring it out how to blend these two vastly different training styles like Viada did by yourself, just pick his book up instead and hit the ground running (no pun).


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Stefan Burns

Stefan Burns

Fitness, nutrition, and powerlifting buff. Created Strength Cooperative as a way for hardworking, natural lifters to share advice on how THEY got results in the gym.
Stefan Burns

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