Top 10 Books for Personal Trainers

Due to the rapidly increasing obesity rate in the United States and the world, millions of people worldwide are switching their burgers and cable subscriptions for clean food and gym memberships. As a result, career opportunities nutritionists and personal trainers are booming. A personal trainer should arm themselves with the proper knowledge to both coach and educate their clients.

10. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding – Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Dobbins


Legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger and bodybuilding writer and photographer Bill Dobbins teamed up to create the ultimate A to Z handbook on everything a bodybuilder should know. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is often called “The Bible of Bodybuilding” because of its extensive coverage of bodybuilding and its subfields. The book is a goldmine of comprehensive fitness knowledge for any personal trainer.

The book includes information on exercise, nutrition, injuries, and coaching. The book’s information is interwoven with Arnold’s signature style of motivation and inspiration, making the Encyclopedia an enjoyable yet informative read for any trainer or athlete.

9. Strength Training Anatomy – Frédéric Delavier


A personal trainer should have know every muscle of the body and how they interact in order to help their clients build the strongest and most aesthetic physique possible. Frédéric Delavier is a graduate from the prestigious Paris Faculté de Médecine as well as an exceptionally talented artist. In Strength Training Anatomy, Delavier combines his knowledge and artistry to create over 400 full-color illustrations of muscles and exercises and how they interact with one’s joints and bones.


Strength Training Anatomy contains information on the body, the safest and most effective exercises, and prevention and treatment of sports injuries. It dedicates a chapter to each major muscle group. Pictures and information are provided for each individual exercise. A trainer can use this information to coach their clients on proper form and help them find the best exercises for the fastest results.

8. In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan


Many people do not eat properly, especially in the United States. The typical American diet of fast food and overly processed ingredients with little to no vegetables and lean meat makes being fit and healthy nearly impossible. Changing such an ingrained habit like one’s diet may seem daunting, yet Michael Pollan eloquently sums up how to change them.

It comes down to eating real food, yet not too much of it. Additionally, most of that food should be organic, unprocessed plant matter. Of course, there’s more to changing one’s habits than that, and In Defense of Food provides effective methods of doing so. The book is a simple read, yet is packed with insightful nutrition information.

7. Science and Practice of Strength Training – Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky


Yet another informational powerhouse, Science and Practice of Strength Training does just as its name entails. Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky explains in vivid detail the effects of strength training on the body and how to properly work the different muscles of the body. This book has helped train Olympic athletes, powerlifters, bodybuilders and record holders of sports of all kinds.

Science and Practice of Strength Training is especially worth the read for its specialized chapters tailored to different kinds of athletes. These include youth, the elderly, women, and specific types of athletes such as swimmers and golfers. The book is divided into three major sections. The first focuses on the basic mechanics of strength training, the second on training methods, and the third on training specific demographics of athletes.

6. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism – Sareen Gropper and W. Gordon Smith


A popular saying among athletes and trainers is “Abs are made in the kitchen”. Without a proper diet, a healthy physique is impossible to obtain. Advanced Nutrition and Human metabolism is regularly administered to students in undergraduate college nutrition and biochemistry courses.

The massive textbook first covers the the biochemistry of fats, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients and how they convert into energy. It also explains the roles of different nutrients in exercise, health, and disease. Starting from the ground up, the book explains the most advanced of metabolic processes.

5. The New Rules of Lifting for Women – Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove


For decades women have been turned off from weight training due to myths such as getting too buff and looking less feminine. More women than ever are getting into health and fitness. However, many of them still use ineffective training methods because they are afraid of gaining too much muscle! Only recently have these myths been dispelled. As the authors of The New Rules of Lifting for Women say, to have the body of a goddess you must lift like a man!

The book contains intense workouts with the best exercises for an ideal female physique, as well as nutritional information tailored to women. Although female nutritional and physical needs slightly differ from men’s, the difference is not significant as many may think. Nontheless, The New Rules of Lifting for Women is a must have for any trainer’s arsenal.

4. Guide to Flexible Dieting – Lyle McDonald


Many books will provide information on what makes a healthy diet, yet strangely few books discuss the psychological aspect of dieting. Additionally, many sources push the narrative that dieting is extremely physically and mentally demanding and one must be strict or else they will fail. Lyle McDonald disagrees – in fact, people who are less strict with their diets are more likely to succeed!

As a personal trainer, it is important to remember that you should not be too strict with your clients. The more limits you set, especially with newcomers, the more likely it is they may fail. The Guide to Flexible Dieting shows you how to effectively transition clients from their old habits while still giving them some freedom in their food choices.

3. Ignite the Fire – Jonathan Goodman


Becoming a personal trainer requires you to be a jack of all trades. You must not only have the right knowledge to train people, but you must also be able to motivate and build lasting relationships with your clients. There are many knowledgeable trainers out there, but knowing how to effectively sell yourself will set you apart from the rest.

Ignite the Fire explains how to build your personal training career from the ground up, improve your interpersonal skills for a lasting impression, and how to make the most amount of money from personal training. The book is an excellent source of information and motivation for a personal trainer who wants build their clientele and generate a passive income from their many personalized relationships with clients.

2. Practical Programming – Mark Rippetoe and Ion Kilgore


Although everyone can benefit from losing weights, not everyone should lift in exactly the same way. Prescribing a client a one-size-fits-all training method is effective initially, however as they advance their program must be adjusted to fit their needs. An advanced athlete will of course need more specialized exercises than a beginner, but every athlete’s specific needs will still vary.

Practical Programming explains the needs of beginner, intermediate, and advanced athletes. The book is updated with the newest and most revolutionary concepts in exercise programming.

1. Starting Strength – Mark Rippetoe


Starting Strength is widely regarded as the best beginner training program out there. It introduces newcomers to the “big 3” exercises (bench press, squat, and deadlift) and to the concept of alternating groups of exercises each day to give muscle groups time to recover. Barbell training can be very intimidating to new lifters. Despite this, barbell training is simpler and much healthier for the body than machines, which isolate a single muscle rather than properly syncing it with the other muscles of the body.

Even experienced athletes can benefit from the simple but effective exercise advice containing within Starting Strength. The book is designed for beginners to learn proper form as well as build strength quickly, giving them more freedom to sculpt their physique.