The best strength training books

What are the best strength training books? This definitive list holds all the answers. It goes without saying that these books are must-haves for any serious strength coach but many are also essential for athletes or anyone that’s interested in learning about strength or getting stronger.

There can be no doubt. Physical strength is one of the foundational elements of success in any sport. We recently interviewed former GB athlete and cycling sprint coach Matt Crampton who wholeheartedly agreed. When asked his one tip to become a better sprint cyclist he answered simply ‘Get strong’. (Incidentally, can you guess what he said when we asked for his top tip in becoming a successful coach? ‘Learn and read’. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.)

Human Kinetics has published numerous leading books on strength training. In fact, alongside our 10 most valuable academic sport science titles they make up some of our bestselling products. But which of these 12 essential strength books are best for you and your individual goals? All will be revealed. Whether you’re a coach, an athlete or you just want to get stronger, you can lay your foundation of strength with the knowledge in these 12 books. Because as the saying goes … knowledge is power and there’s strength in numbers.

The best strength training books

12. Strength Training

Strength TrainingAt number 12 on our list of the best strength training books is the appropriately titled Strength Training. The 2nd edition was released in early 2017 and has been popular with strength coaches, personal trainers and regular gym goers since publication.

It’s written by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the leading S&C organisation trusted by thousands of elite strength coaches, personal trainers and dedicated researchers and educators globally.

Whether you’re launching a lifting programme or fine-tuning a serious training regimen, Strength Training fills any knowledge gaps and corrects common misconceptions to ensure proper technique, safety and progression.

This book has many easy-to-follow scientifically proven research programmes. There are workouts for specific machines, free weights, body weight and other types of apparatus which provide the flexibility to tailor your training to personal preferences and needs.

The text includes programmes for beginners, intermediate and advanced lifters as well as sample programmes for youth and seniors which is why it’s been so popular with PTs. It also has a wealth of detailed colour photography so you can clearly see the exercises being demonstrated by a variety of athletes.

The Modern Art of High Intensity Training illustration

A colourful spread depicting the correct form of a kettlebell swing in The Modern Art of High Intensity Training.

11. The Modern Art of High Intensity Training

The Modern Art of High Intensity TrainingThis colourful, eye-catching text with inspiring illustrations topped our list of the best books of 2017.

It may look like a lot of fun (and it is) but don’t be fooled, it’s a serious piece of work too. The book covers a variety of material from basic athletic exercises such as bodyweight training (burpees and push-ups etc) to Olympic Lifts and more. The book also features lots of great artistic drawings and clear picture demonstrations too. Why not try the 15-week training programme which comes with the book? That should leave you in no doubt as to the uncompromising nature of the text.

Author Aurélien Broussal-Derval has coached a variety of professional athletes including Olympic medalists. He’s worked with the French Olympic weightlifting and boxing teams and the British and Russian judo teams. He currently leads research for France Volleyball and is the technical director to one of the world’s premier martial arts studios, the prestigious Cercle Tissier in Vincennes. He’s also written two articles for us Warm-up advice and How to snatch.

The Modern Art of High Intensity Training is perfect for those wanting to incorporate more HIIT training into their workouts, it’s packed with variety and inspiration.

10. Strength Training For Fat Loss

Strength Training for Fat LossStrength Training for Fat Loss gives you advice on how to accelerate your metabolism through strength training.

Often described as an innovator in the field and one of the most respected strength coaches in the world, Nick Tumminello gives you full access to his elite training programme.

This book is popular with personal trainers, coaches and those looking for ways to reduce body fat. Fat loss is perhaps the number one reason why people start going to the gym. Sound like you or your clients? Then this book is perfect for you. Of course, it’s backed by science but it’s easy to understand and full of maintainable programmes.

Those looking for fad diets will be disappointed. But if scientifically proven training principles and realistic nutrition strategies are what you’re after (why wouldn’t you be?) look no further.

Award-Winning Fitness Journalist Lou Schuler states “Nick Tumminello’s workouts aren’t just effective; they’re also fun to perform. Readers of Strength Training for Fat Loss are in for a real treat.”

Nick Tumminello has a new book coming out in summer 2018 titled Your Workout PERFECTED. You can order it now.

9. New Functional Training for Sports

New Functional Training for SportsNot a dedicated ‘strength book’ however because of its success and popularity with S&C professionals New Functional Training for Sports makes it on to the list. The book is aimed at athletes (professional and amateur) and sports coaches. It is broad in the sense the principals can be used across a wide spectrum of sports. The workouts aim to mimic the actual movements that an athlete must produce during a game whether it be on the field, court, mats or ice!

New Functional Training for Sports, 2nd edition includes access to 71 online video clips demonstrating many of the exercises found in the book. Each book has a key code, giving you access to all these videos stored on humankinetics.com.

The feedback we get from this book from trainers is that they love the simplicity and the clear explanations of why Boyle chooses the exercises that he does, as well as why he avoids others.

The has been dubbed ‘the best book on sports training published to date’ by the Australian Fitness Network. They add his wisdom, simplicity of approach, scientific foundations and over 30 years in the coaching game have produced the new standard in the field and a book that will remain a ‘must-read’ for a long time to come.

Mike Boyle is known internationally for his pioneering work and is an in-demand speaker at strength and conditioning conferences and athletic training clinics around the world. Living in Boston, USA he has worked with Boston Red Sox (Baseball), Boston Bruins (Ice Hockey), New England Revolution (soccer) and Boston Breakers (ladies soccer) as well as the U.S. women’s Olympic teams in soccer and ice hockey.

Jim-Stoppani's-Encyclopedia-of-Muscle-and-Strength

Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength is a comprehensive training guide and reference.

8. Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength

Jim Stoppani's Encyclopaedia of Muscle and StrengthA no-nonsense approach to gaining muscle and strength. This book has 381 exercises and 116 programmes. It goes into great detail about strength, hypertrophy, power and muscular endurance.

The book features Stoppani’s very popular workout ‘Shortcut to Size’, which has received excellent reviews by many bodybuilders but also strength coaches as the programme also leads to strength gains. The programme is based on linear periodisation.

As well as extensive workout programmes backed by scientific research Jim also gives great detail about nutrition and supplements. Check out our blog post Best supplements for muscle gain taken from Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength, 2nd Edition.

With over 1 million Facebook followers, 226k Instagram followers and 88k Twitter followers Jim is one of the most followed fitness figures on the planet.

7. Principles and Practice of Resistance Training

This is a true classic, published backPrinciples and Practice of Resistance Training in 2007, however, the principals, of course, still stand. The book is as popular now as it was a decade ago. British Weightlifting describes it as ‘a true breakthrough in planning and monitoring strength training programmes’.

This textbook deals primarily with resistance training for competitive sport. Within this context resistance training includes the strength sports of weightlifting and powerlifting. As resistance training is integral to other sports too such as football, rugby, Track and Field events, tennis, gymnastics etc this book is regularly used and referenced by coaches who work in those sports too as it aid’s programme design for any athlete. Sports science students regularly reference Principles and Practice of Resistance Training as it is widely adopted by universities around the world.

The text is rich with scientific references. Mike Stone and his fellow authors are quick to deal with many of the fitness trends or fads so prevalent in this profession. Machine vs. free weights is reviewed, as is vibration training and unstable or balance training. The book’s largest chapter, not surprisingly considering Mike Stone’s role in the subject, deals with periodisation.

Dr Michael Stone has had a massive impact in weightlifting circles.  He was the head of sports physiology for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the chair of sport at Edinburgh University in Edinburgh, Scotland. His wife, Meg Stone has coached several international-level athletes, including many Olympians, in both the United States and Great Britain. The pair has collaborated with William A. Sands, PhD. He is head of sports biomechanics and engineering for the United States Olympic Committee.  He has coached numerous Olympic and world championship gymnasts. Between them, they have over 100 years of experience of working in the Strength and Conditioning (S&C) industry.

6. High-Performance Training for Sports 

High-Performance Training for SportsAgain, not a dedicated ‘strength training book’ however it is popular with S&C coaches as well as sport specific coaches. No doubt you will have seen this book everywhere, from your local Waterstones to your local gym/sports club. Used by many of the best coaches around the world it is a go-to guide that should be on any shelf of a serious coach.

High-Performance Training for Sports will help you build robust athletes and develop athletic capacity, whatever your sport. It will aid you in getting stronger but also propel your sporting performances.

Edited by High-Performance Specialist David Joyce who is currently the Head of Athletic Performance at Aussie Rules club GWS Giants. He has fantastic experience working with a variety of elite athletes across a variety of sports clubs including, Team China in the Olympics, specifically working with the national rowing, swimming, diving, table tennis, gymnastics and water polo teams. He has also worked for Western Force and Saracens (rugby union), Hull FC (rugby league), Galatasaray and Blackburn Rovers (football), GB Taekwondo and team GB Olympic track and field, squash, rowing, cycling and disabled swimming athletes.

The second editor is Daniel Lewingdon he is the Head of Performance Science & Medicine for British Tennis and formerly England Rugby where he worked for over 10 years. He also works with extreme sports athletes and has a master’s degrees in both sports science and sports medicine.

The book has 29 other contributors which include some of the most decorated coaches in the world. Between them, they have worked with Olympians as well as top athletes and teams from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA, Tour de France and English Premier League.

This book looks like it will be the go-to texts in Strength & Conditioning for many years. As the balance of evidence-based advice and practical insight is presented in such depth and with such clarity while each chapter still manages to maintain the personality and style of the author.

The book has its own High-Performance Training for Sports discussion group Facebook page where over 14,000 members (mostly coaches) discuss the book and the S&C industry in general.

5. Science and Practice of Strength Training

Science and Practice of Strength TrainingScience and Practice of Strength Training, 2nd Edition is designed for serious readers who are willing to not only remember and repeat but also to understand and put the information to use.

The book acknowledges that no one programme works for all athletes at all times. Thus there is no single best programme and the best programmes are those based on solid principles and concepts with the understanding that change is inevitable. This book addresses these principals and the complexity of strength training while providing straightforward approaches to take under specific circumstances.

Perhaps surprisingly this book has fewer references than many of our other academic titles, this is because the authors took a very practical approach when writing it. Together the authors have trained more than 1,000 elite athletes, including Olympic, world, continental and national champions and record holders. The concepts they divulge are influenced by both Eastern European and North American perspectives. The authors integrate those concepts in solid principles, practical insights, coaching experiences and directions based on scientific findings.

Science and Practice of Strength Training, 2nd Edition is used widely and regularly by strength coaches, students and self-teaching athletes.

Written by Vladimir Zatsiorsky, PhD who is a true legend in the industry. He made his name as a strength and conditioning consultant for Olympic teams from the former Soviet Union, where he worked for 26 years. Zatsiorsky has trained hundreds of world-class athletes. Teamed with another huge influencer, American William Kraemer, PhD who has served on the Sports Medicine Committee for the United States Weightlifting Federation and on the Sport Science and Technology Committee for the United States Olympic Committee. Kraemer has authored and co-authored over 360 peer-reviewed manuscripts in the scientific literature related to sports science.

4. Periodization

PeriodizationNow in its 6th edition, the classic text Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor Bompa played a big role in shaping the training practices of many coaches and athletes throughout the world.

This 5th edition has been a major resource for sports science students, coaches and athletes from all over the world and has been translated into six languages.

Bompa has teamed up with one of the biggest names in the S&C industry, Greg Haff to couple the classic concepts that are central to periodisation and training theory with contemporary advances in sport science, physiology and coaching. Bompa is recognised as the world’s foremost expert on periodisation training. He developed the concept of periodisation of strength in Romania in 1963.

His training methods are applied across a range of sports. In only 8 years of international coaching, his athletes have won 11 medals (4 gold) in Olympic Games and World Championships and 22 national championships titles. He is the only coach who has produced Olympic and World champions in two different sports: track and field and rowing. He has also compiled training programmes for professional teams and guided individual athletes to highest athletic achievements. Prof. Bompa has received 22 honours and awards, 19 of them internationally.

Periodisation is essential for athletes competing in any sport, whether you are wanting to peak for the Olympics once every four years or periodise your training so you still have something left in the tank at the end of a 9 month football season. This book is highly recommended if you want to know more about tapering, peaking, training cycles, programme planning, strength development and periodisation in general.

This is a highly academic text with just short of 50 pages of references.

3. Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy

Science and Development of Muscle HypertrophyThis authoritative textbook compiles and reviews virtually every study ever published on hypertrophy (the reference list has 861 citations). Reviewers frequently say Schoenfeld has produced the standard reference textbook for the next generation of trainers and all those interested in muscular hypertrophy.

The book is written in a very accessible, applicable way. It’s scientific, of course, but it’s practical too.

Although muscle hypertrophy can be attained through a range of training programmes, this text allows readers to understand and apply the specific responses and mechanisms that promote optimal muscle hypertrophy in their athletes and clients. It explores how genetic background, age, sex and other factors have been shown to mediate the hypertrophic response to exercise affecting both the rate and the total gain in lean muscle mass. Sample programmes in the text show how to design a three or four-day-per-week undulating periodised programme and a modified linear periodised programme for maximizing muscular development.

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy is an invaluable resource for strength and conditioning professionals seeking to maximise hypertrophic gains and those searching for the most comprehensive, authoritative and current research in the field as it was only published in late 2016.

It has been adopted by Universities all over the world and is undoubtedly the best book in the world dedicated to hypertrophy. We would recommend this book to anybody who wants to understand the science behind putting on size.

2. Strength Training Anatomy

Strength Training AnatomyOften imitated, never bettered, Strength Training Anatomy by former Powerlifter Frédéric Delavier has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. This book has over 600 full-colour illustrations that reveal the primary muscles worked in a variety of exercises along with all the relevant surrounding structures including bones, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue.

Inside the book, you will find exercises for arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, buttocks and abdomen.

Strength Training Anatomy illustration

The anatomical depictions show both superficial and deep layers. It also details how various setup positions affect muscle recruitment and emphasise underlying structures.

Often one of the first books people buy when they are getting into strength training. It is particularly popular with bodybuilders and those with an interest in anatomy.

Also check out The Strength Training Anatomy Workout and The Strength Training Anatomy Workout II also written by Frédéric Delavier along with Michael Gundill, MBA, a popular figure in the bodybuilding world having written over 500 articles for bodybuilding and fitness magazines worldwide.

Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy by Bret Contreras is also one of the best selling strength training books. It’s an authoritative resource for sculpting your physique without free weights, machines or expensive equipment.

1. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning‘Essentials’ tops the charts again! Just like it did with The 10 most valuable academic sport science books list that we put together in September 2017. It has now topped the list for best strength training books.

This title is used by Universities, special services and strength coaches. Academic in nature but anyone who has a good basic knowledge of strength training will benefit from reading this book to further enhance their knowledge base. The book has 30 contributors from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is edited by Greg Haff PhD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA and N. Travis Triplett, PhD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA.

The popularity of this book is, in part, down to its fantastic explanation of key theories, concepts and scientific principles of strength training and conditioning as well as their direct application to athletic competition and performance, all explained by expert contributors.

The book provides the most comprehensive information on organisation and administration of facilities, testing and evaluation, exercise techniques, training adaptations, programme design and structure and function of body systems. Its scope, precision and dependability make it a definitive reference for strength and conditioning professionals to consult in their everyday practice.

Although not as colourful as perhaps The Modern Art of High-Intensity Training or Strength Training Anatomy, however for an academic textbook it has excellent quality colour pictures, charts and tables. Which students and coaches have reported being a useful visual learning aid.

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Fourth Edition, offers an expanded ancillary package. Below is an example of one of the resistance training videos, here you can see the female athlete performing a back squat with two spotters and a single spotter.

Read more about our ancillaries in our post Human Kinetics ancillaries and how to access them.

This list was compiled by Human Kinetics Europe and may not necessarily represent the best strength training books from the Human Kinetics USA/Canada offices.

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About Ryan Parker

Hi, I'm Ryan, one of the bloggers here at Human Kinetics Europe Ltd. (If you want my official title, it's Marketing Executive.) I've always had a passion for health and fitness, having previously worked in gyms and played a variety of sports all my life. Now (as a somewhat of a washed-up athlete) I find myself working at the world’s biggest independent publisher of sport, health, dancex and fitness resources. Which is amazing! Why? Because I get unrestricted access to all the best, most interesting, scientifically-proven writing on sports science. And what's more, I get to share it all with you!

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