Hey, you know what’s fun? Lifting weights and getting stronger and stuff!
Here is a breakdown of the best weightlifting books for beginners to seasoned vets.
Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe
One of the contemporary classics of strength training is Mark Rippetoe’s comprehensive Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training.
The book provides the foundation for the strength training programs of countless sport teams. If you have played organized sport in North America–whether at the high school or professional level–there is a solid chance that the strength training program you used was based on this book.
(You can also read a more comprehensive review I did of Starting Strength here.)
Starting Strength is not necessarily an encyclopedia of weightlifting, but rather an exercise protocol centered around using barbells and full body compound exercises to involve as much of the body’s muscle mass as possible.
The main strength of Starting Strength is its simplicity.
Stripping away all the extraneous noise and shiny gimmicks and hype to tell it to you straight. You don’t need to overthink getting stronger–it’s just lifting heavy things in functional patterns in a progressive manner.
Rippetoe includes plenty of nutritional advice on top of the detailed instructions for the main lifts that form the Starting Strength program.
With plenty of illustrations, high-quality images (look for the third edition), and no-BS instructions and background, Rippetoe’s Starting Strength is an essential resource for both the beginner and advanced lifter looking to get stronger.
Where to Buy — Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
Strength Training Anatomy (3rd Edition) by Frederic Delavier
One of the classic strength training and bodybuilding manuals, Delavier’s illustrations highlight how muscles work together and when they work together while strength training.
Strength Training Anatomy features over 600 detailed illustrations in color, giving lifters a cross-sectional view of all the muscles, ligaments, bones, tendons, and connective tissue involved with each lift.
You’ve seen the posters in your local gyms—here is the full collection. The third edition includes more instructions on exercises, additional injury prevention tips and more.
Perhaps one of my favorite features of this kind of visual is that it helps you properly rehearse and visualize the muscles you should be activating within each exercise.
An essential anatomy book that will enrich your knowledge of the physiology of the human body, whether you are an amateur lifter or a lifelong fitness professional.
Where to Buy – Strength Training Anatomy (3rd Edition) by Frederic Delavier
5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength by Jim Wendler
The 5/3/1 program is another “duh, keep it simple stupid” plans that is super effective because it boils down strength training to its bare necessities: Lift heavy, eat lots, and recover like a goddamn champion.
Wendler, a former powerlifter, stumbled into the programming after becoming a new father and finding himself with a bunch of added bodyweight after getting burnt out on the training required for high level powerlifting competition.
The workouts are short. There aren’t a ton of exercises to do. And you don’t need to be in the gym every day of the week. Like Starting Strength, the 5/3/1 programming is built on the back of full-body compound movements.
Where to Buy — 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler
New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger
It’s hard to have a definitive list of weightlifting books without an appearance by the OG, the Governator, Argh-Nold.
Arnold is super passionate about getting jacked up in the gym, and this passion and drive shines from the pages.
Whether it’s looking for strategies for busting through a plateau, finding those personal and individual reasons to get motivated to go the gym, or what to do when working your way through injury, Arnold’s “New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” is an invaluable resource for beginner and advanced lifters alike.
Beyond programming, Arnold gets into the different kind of essential gym equipment to use, from a workout log book to rep ranges, head straps, picking a gym, getting yourself motivated to workout, and literally everything else.
This guy likes talking about the gym, working out, and everything else, which leaves you feeling like there is no excuse left to not get your butt through the doors of your local gym facility.
This book is very worthy of being on this list of awesome weightlifting books if only for the fact that you will find yourself reading in Arnold’s voice from time to time (“Get to da choppa!”).
Where to Buy “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” by Arnold Schwazenegger
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Starting Strength: A Simple and Proven Blueprint for Strength (Book Review). Mark Rippetoe’s classic, Starting Strength, is a killer blueprint for getting hilariously strong.
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