Over the decades, few books have stood both the test of time and the tests done in the gym. The publication rate of new books promising you the key to more muscle and less fat seems to keep up with new Starbucks openings. Which books are worth their weight (pun intended) and your hard-earned money?
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1. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Dobbins
What is a list of bodybuilding books without this mention? The impact this book has had on so many eager lifters over the last 3-plus decades cannot be understated. Chock-full of information spanning from the history of bodybuilding to every imaginable exercise and program, you will be hard pressed to find a better authority on the sport and practice of bodybuilding.
2. Jim Stoppani's Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength
Jim Stoppani, PhD
Dr. Jim Stoppani backs up everything he says with science and this book is the culmination of his countless years of research. Not only is this book packed with science-based training, the good doctor also practices what he preaches by boasting a jacked physique himself. Full of training variations, precise exercise selections, and comprehensive programs, this encyclopedia delivers results.
3. Natural Bodybuilding Bible
As a natural bodybuilder, Tyler English drops his wealth of knowledge and his collection of years of bodybuilding training, competition, and client experiences into this comprehensive guide to reshaping your body the natural way. He also gives plenty of variations and specialized programs that differ from the traditional bodybuilding fare.
4. Strength Training Anatomy
Are you the type who likes to get knee-deep in the details? This book breaks down every muscle imaginable regarding traditional bodybuilding exercises. Replete with descriptions, anatomy illustrations, and function details, Strength Training Anatomy is a great companion for creating your own bodybuilding program.
5. Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Douglas Kent Hall
This book falls in the inspirational category. Yes, it includes some of the basic bodybuilding programs Arnold advocates, but it’s more useful as a motivational go-to. As his first autobiography, Arnold chronicles his rise to bodybuilding champion, complete with setbacks and triumphs. Inspirational, impactful, and a great read!
6. Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts
Frederic Delavier and Michael Gundill
After the success of Strength Training Anatomy for men, Frederic Delavier revisited the basics with a program specifically for women. Much like the original book, this one details many traditional lifts women are interested in as well as workout guides to put them into practice. Another very comprehensive guide.
7. Serious Strength Training
Tudor Bompa, Mauro Di Pasquale and Lorenzo Cornacchia
This is another more academic style book complete with the science behind training. More importantly, it does a great job of differentiating styles of training in regard to your goals – yes, there is a difference between training for strength and training for mass and this book tells you the why and how.
8. Starting Strength
Mark Rippetoe and Jason Kelly
I realize this isn’t necessarily a bodybuilding book, but Mark Rippetoe is worth listening to. A master of proper form and function, Rippetoe outlines the dos and don’ts of real, effective barbell training. As a huge advocate of simple barbell moves, Mark believes it’s the ultimate functional tool utilizing such moves as the squat, overhead press and deadlift.
9. Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding
Charles Gaines and George Butler
If you’ve seen the docudrama then you need to read the book. Full of stories and anecdotes from an outsider’s viewpoint, Pumping Iron is true bodybuilding history. Rare photos and destinations not included in the movie will inspire your training in many ways due to the fact that those physiques were built with minimal equipment.
10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Stephen R. Covey
This book is a staple when it comes to self-improvement in any facet of your life. In a simple, step-by-step style, The 7 Habits has stood the test of time as a highly effective tool for organizing, prioritizing, and focusing on your life as a whole. How could that not improve your bodybuilding success?!
Have any of these books influenced your training? Do you have any educational or inspirational bodybuilding books to share? Feel free to discuss in the comments!