December 25, 2011

10 Books Every Fitness Professional Should Read and Own

As a professor and educator in exercise science, I am inundated with texts on exercise and nutrition to use in my courses. Most of the books are quite good; some not so much. A few stand out above the rest. Accordingly, what follows is a list of my “Top 10” texts that every fitness professional should read. Don’t just borrow a friend’s copy or take one out on library loan. These books should be on your shelf as essential sources of reference. Reread them periodically so the information remains embedded in your long-term memory.

Note that I’m only covering scientifically-based texts here. There are plenty of good consumer fitness books out there, but they are a different breed altogether from the books mentioned in this post. Feel free to chime in with your own favorites!

  1. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (Baechle and Earle)–This book serves as the basis of the CSCS exam for strength and conditioning professionals. It covers all the relevant underlying science of the subject, including basic bioenergetics, biomechanics, physiological responses to exercises, and many others. There also are applied chapters on exercise testing, exercise technique, and program design, amongst others. In short, just about everything you need to know on the subject is touched upon. The fact that the book is so comprehensive, however, prevents exploration of the various topics in great detail. So consider this an excellent primer and fill in your knowledge gaps with the other texts mentioned herein. For a good text on training the non-athletic population, consider it’s sister publication, “The Essentials of Personal Training.”
  2. Supertraining (Siff and Verkhoshansky)–The late Mel Siff was one of my mentors. I learned a great deal from him. He died far too young. Fortunately, this book serves as his legacy to the fitness world. Packed with cutting-edge, evidence-based training information, it’s a must-read for every person interested in optimizing their fitness potential. After finishing this book, you may want to check out Dr. Siff’s, “Facts and Fallacies of Fitness,” which dispels some of the more prominent myths that perpetrate the fitness field.
  3. The Science and Practice of Strength Training (Zatsiorsky and Kraemer)–You can’t go wrong when two of the world’s leading exercise scientists team up to write a book. In this excellent text, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky and Dr. William Kraemer share their extensive knowledge on strength and conditioning. My only qualm is that at a rather paltry 264 pages, the book should have covered more info. That said, it’s still a great read.
  4. Joint Structure and Function: A Comprehensive Analysis (Levangie and Norkin)–As the name implies, this book discusses the human skeletal structure in great detail, covering the structure and function of the muscles and connective tissues about each joint. Some find it a bit overly technical, but you won’t find a more comprehensive text on the subject. Well worth the effort.
  5. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Trainingng (Bompa and Haff)–Periodization is widely accepted as an important technique for optimizing fitness. This book is the definitive text on the topic. The book delves into every aspect of periodization and does a great job discussing its application to a wide variety of sports. Well-referenced and well-organized, you’ll come away with a thorough understanding of how to structure a periodized routine for virtually any fitness goal.
  6. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription–Before you work with any client, it’s essential to know their abilities and limitations. This book is the gold standard on testing and prescription, detailing everything you need to know on the subject. Nuff said.
  7. Neuromechanics of Human Movement (Enoka)–I was first introduced to this text in the mid-90’s and it quickly became my favorite book on biomechanics. Now in its 4th edition and completely updated, this continues to be a definitive text on the subject. Roger Enoka is one of the most respected biomechanists in the field, and here he covers all the relevant aspects of kinetics and kinematics. If you want to learn about the subject, you can’t go wrong with this one
  8. Anatomy of Movement (Calais-Germain)–Understanding muscular anatomy and its application to human movement is an essential component of exercise program design. This is amongst the best texts that I’ve come across on the topic. Free from fluff, it’s easy to read and relatively inexpensive (at least as far as textbooks go). A solid reference for your library.
  9. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (Creswell)–I know some of you would rather be waterboarded than read research. That’s okay. Still, you should at least have an understanding of what goes into conducting a research study so that you can properly interpret and apply information about fitness. This book is as thorough a text as it gets on the subject. Although its not specifically written for exercise research, all the info is applicable to the various quantitative and qualitative studies that you’ll encounter. The writing is concise and easy to read. At the very least, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the importance of evidence-based practice.
  10. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (Gropper and Smith)–Low fat? Low carb? 40-30-30? Forget all the hype. Nutrition is an essential component of any fitness program and it’s important that you know the facts. This book delves into the science of the topic, exploring how nutrients affect the human body with respect to body composition and health.


  1. Looks like a great list Brad. I am definitely going to pick up some of those for 2012. Thanks.

    Comment by Kyle — December 25, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  2. Excellent! Thanks, Brad!

    Comment by Kathleen — December 26, 2011 @ 7:51 am

  3. great suggestion but regarding the Prof Bompa book,i wuld like to suggest the 4Th edition not this one because the main idea has been changed.

    Comment by nima — March 14, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

  4. Hello!

    I am curious about ur thought on sueprtraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky. How it that one compared with the later version of Verkhoshanskyn 2009, I am reading the later one right now and there is gold in it but I find the books structure poor, comments?

    Comment by Alfred — March 14, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

  5. What do you think about:
    The Science of Running by Steve Magness;
    Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism by Gripper and Smith;
    Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and Its Applications by Brooks, Fahey, Baldwin.

    I haven’t had a chance to read any of them (they have been highly suggesed), that’s why I’m asking.


    Comment by Tim — March 15, 2015 @ 3:57 am

  6. It’s time to start reading! Tthanks for the recommendation Brad.

    Comment by Entrenador personal barrio de Salamanca — April 20, 2016 @ 6:14 pm

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