Forget the workout and fitness books that promise you to become superhuman in a month or secret shortcuts to awesome health and enormous muscle mass. It’s all second-hand knowledge – go to the source!
You Are A Critical Thinker
When I looked through books that currently are bestsellers in the health and fitness genre, I couldn’t help but wonder: why read books by people who just regurgitate what they read elsewhere and may even misinterpret? Why not go to the source and understand the basic principles that make the human body work and then apply these principles to your workouts?
This is why in this list you won’t find fitness and workout books that promise you “secrets”, “shortcuts” or your dream body in “fifteen minutes a day”. Instead, if you read what is on this list, you will gain an elementary understanding of human anatomy, how muscles work, what the principles of strength training are and how can you can apply all this to your own workouts. You won’t depend on others to tell you what is right and wrong and be able to critically evaluate the ideas of the thousands of coaches and trainers out there that try to sell you the “ultimate method”.
The first three books are for the layman and provide you with a good, basic overview. The second three are textbooks and to get something out of them, you should have more than a fleeting interest in working out and fitness:
I can guess your thought: “what does this do on here?” Well, trying to tinker with your body without knowing its basics is a bit like trying to repair your car blindfolded.
And this book is not very expensive, even easy to read, and gives you a good general understanding of the human body. You will learn how muscles function and where they get their energy from, how bones and joints work, how blood transports nutrients to every cell, how all this is assembled into a well-oiled clockwork and much more.
ACSM, the American College of Sports Medicine, is one of the very few organizations in the world of fitness that I truly respect.
When they put out a book that claims to be a “complete” guide to fitness and health, you can count on them getting together some of the leading researchers in these fields and assemble their words into something that will appeal to lay and professional audiences.
If you ever looked for one single book to answer all the “practical” fitness questions in one volume, this is it. It has it all: Does listening to music hurt my workout? Should I train when I’m sick? What role does my brain play in fatigue? Will running ruin my knees? Do I need extra protein to build muscle? Etc. Etc. Etc.
A fun and entertaining read, yet based on scientific facts.
With this book, we leave the area of those casually interested in working out and enter the sanctuary of those who truly want to know how things work.
Cardinale et al. go in-depth about micro- and macrostructure of muscles, motor units, genetics, the biomechanical concepts of strength and conditioning, the practical applications and much more.
Similar to the book above, but more focused on resistance training and covers everything from that perspective.
It may also be one of the few textbooks that takes bodybuilding seriously and classifies it as a “competitive sport”.
Last but not least, this book. Because if there ever was one I wished those guys writing guides about how to eat for “maximum muscle gain” and “top performances” would read, it would be this.
A textbook, but not dry and explains practically all you need to know about sports nutrition: carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, when, what, why, how much.
An Expensive But Useful Investment
Some of these books are expensive. But then again, after reading most workout books for $10 to $15 you often are none the wiser and have to take the author’s word that he actually understood what he read elsewhere. Besides, you only have to pay the full price for the above books if you want them brand new, and can often get used editions for a fraction of the original price.
And if we compare a textbook on strength training full of solid research to guys selling supposed “shortcuts” to six-pack abs for $97, even the $60 for a new edition don’t look that bad anymore.