This review brings you ten of the best exercise books on Amazon. Any one of the exercise books reviewed in this article can help increase your fitness knowledge while providing you with training ideas and motivation.
The 10 best fitness books have been selected because they are leaders in their respective sub-genres. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopaedia of Modern Body Building is a strength and conditioning classic the likes of which holds equal importance in the world of bodybuilding as Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor does in the world of stock market investing.
Another leader in its field is Daniel Lieberman’s Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity. Exercised is widely regarded as one of the most important books to date on the science of exercise. As well putting to bed a number of pernicious myths – such as running buggers your knees – Lieberman lays out an important argument for why we should regularly engage in physical exercise.
But why bother reading about exercise? Shouldn’t we prioritise practice over theory?
Henry David Thoreau, the great American naturalist, writer, and advocator of non-violent civil disobedience, wrote:
‘To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will tax the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem.’
Reading, as Thoreau was alluding, is like exercise for the mind: reading is the cognitive equivalent of callisthenics or cardiovascular training – though we may not particularly enjoy it, it is certainly good for us.
And as Bruce Lee believed, improving and augmenting our understanding of training principles and methodologies will enable us to further advance our physical abilities.
For sure, the science of exercise is far from finalised. By that I mean, scientific research is constantly evolving and consequently changing common perceptions of what constitutes correct training.
For example, a few years ago it would’ve been borderline exercise heresy to suggest that a mere 3- to 7-minutes of HIIT training could promote fat loss and improve fitness. Yet in a 2011 documentary entitled The Truth About Exercise, Dr Michael Mosely visited a team of researchers who were proving precisely that.
A strong mind can build a strong body
To keep pace with the ever-changing field of fitness training you’ve got to continually update and expand your exercise knowledge. And the only way to do that is to read.
The 10 best fitness books below have been chosen because they bring you a wealth of exercise and training knowledge. Furthermore, with anyone of the exercise books below, you are offered a chance to access the training wisdom – to enter the mind, so to speak – of some of the greatest practitioners and leaders in their field.
So whether you’re looking to learn how to build strength, develop an exercise routine or prepare for an event, there’s a book in this article for you.
10 Top Fitness Books
Best exercise books #1: Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity
In industrialized nations, our sedentary lifestyles have contributed to skyrocketing rates of obesity and diseases like diabetes. A key remedy, we are told, is exercise - voluntary physical activity for the sake of health. However, most of us struggle to stay fit, and our attitudes to exercise are plagued by misconceptions, finger-pointing and anxiety.
But, as Daniel Lieberman shows in Exercised, the first book of its kind by a leading scientific expert, we never evolved to exercise. We are hardwired for moderate exertion throughout each day, not triathlons or treadmills.
The myth-busting science behind our modern attitudes to exercise: what our bodies really need, why it matters, and its effects on health and wellbeing.
Drawing on over a decade of high-level scientific research and eye-opening insights from evolutionary biology and anthropology, Lieberman explains precisely how exercise can promote health; debunks persistent myths about sitting, speed, strength and endurance; and points the way towards more enjoyable and physically active living in the modern world.
Best exercise books #2: Royal Marines Fitness Manual: Physical Training Manual
The physical training that all Royal Marines recruits undergo is challenging and demanding, yet also structured and achievable. Here, for the first time, is an official manual to show you in detail how they succeed and how you can mirror all relevant aspects in your own fitness training.
Best workout books
Packed with facts and step-by-step instruction accompanied by hundreds of colour photographs, Royal Marines Fitness contains a wealth of guidance for anyone wanting to achieve a higher level of fitness, whether it’s preparing for a marathon, losing weight or putting on muscle mass.
This manual provides you with all the tools and information you need to put together a training programme specific to your own fitness targets, and to adapt it as you surpass your expectations.
In addition, you will gain an insight into the Royal Marines training ethos, mindset and extreme self-discipline. It is these attributes that account for why Royal Marines are universally regarded as the fittest soldiers on earth.
The Royal Marines Fitness Manual will teach you:
Physical fitness including the seven components of fitness.
Fitness psychology training your mind to control your body.
Exercise physiology understands how your body will respond to training.
Diet and nutrition, the facts and figures you need to know.
Fitness program, the Royal Marines approach.
How to warm up and cool down effectively and safely.
Fitness training all the methods, aerobic, anaerobic, circuits and weights.
Step-by-step instructions for all types of fitness training.
Best exercise books #3: The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
From elite bodybuilding competitors to gymnasts, from golfers to fitness gurus, anyone who works out with weights must own this book - a book that only Arnold Schwarzenegger could write, a book that has earned its reputation as "the bible of bodybuilding."
Inside, Arnold covers the very latest advances in both weight training and bodybuilding competition, with new sections on diet and nutrition, sports psychology, the treatment and prevention of injuries, and methods of training, each illustrated with detailed photos of some of bodybuilding's newest stars.
‘The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Body building is one of the all-time best strength training books.’
Covering every level of expertise and experience, with his unique perspective as a seven-time winner of the Mr. Olympia title, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding will help you achieve your personal best.
The features that have made this book a classic include
Arnold's tried-and-true tips for sculpting, strengthening, and defining each and every muscle to create the ultimate buff physique
The most effective methods of strength training to suit your needs, whether you're an amateur athlete or a pro bodybuilder preparing for a competition
Comprehensive information on health, nutrition, and dietary supplements to help you build muscle, lose fat, and maintain optimum energy
Expert advice on the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries
Strategies and tactics for competitive bodybuilders from selecting poses to handling publicity
The fascinating history and growth of bodybuilding as a sport, with a photographic "Bodybuilding Hall of Fame"
And, of course, Arnold's individual brand of inspiration and motivation throughout.
Best exercise books #4: Bigger Leaner Stronger
‘This book’ according to author, ‘has helped tens of thousands of men build their best body ever.’
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger is one of the best selling fitness books on Amazon and boasts nearly 10,000 customer reviews. And the majority of those reviews are 5-stars, which probably accounts for why it was considered one of the best fitness books 2020.
So why all the attention? What does this book offer that has made it a favourite among men (and woman) trying to get bigger, leaner and stringer?
Well, if you want to sculpt that Grecian God physique without steroids, extreme dieting, or wasting ridiculous amounts of time in the gym, this book believes that it provides the formula. And, as the author maintains, ‘building lean muscle and burning stubborn fat isn't nearly as complicated you’ve been led to believe.’
The ultimate personal training books
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger offers a shortcut to your physical ideal. And, with this book:
You don't need to: spend hundreds of dollars per month on the worthless supplements that steroid-fuelled bodybuilders "swear by." Most pills, powders, and potions do absolutely nothing.
You don't need to: Constantly change up your workout routine to gain lean muscle in all the right places. Muscle building is much simpler than that.
You don't need to: Waste a couple of hours in the gym every day grinding through gruelling workouts you hate. In fact, this is a great way to get nowhere.
You don't need to: Slog away at boring cardio to shed ugly belly fat and get a six-pack. In fact, you probably don't have to do any cardio to get the body you really want.
You don't need to: Obsess over "clean eating" and avoiding "unhealthy" foods to get ripped. Instead, you can get and stay fit eating the foods you love.
Those are just a few of the harmful lies and myths that keep guys from ever achieving the lean, muscular, and strong body they truly desire.
In addition to dispelling muscle-building myths, this book will teach you ‘the exact methods of eating and exercising that make gaining 10 to 15 pounds of lean muscle a breeze . . . and it only takes a few months.’
Here are just a few of the things you’ll discover in this book:
The 10 biggest fat loss and muscle building myths and mistakes that keep guys fat, weak, and confused.
The 3 scientific laws of muscle growth and fat loss that literally force your body to get bigger, leaner, and stronger. (And no, they have nothing to do with “muscle confusion,” “functional training,” or any other pseudoscientific nonsense.)
How to create flexible meal plans that empower you to transform your body eating the foods you love—and without ever feeling starved, deprived, or like you're "on a diet."
A paint-by-numbers training system for building a full chest . . . wide back . . . powerful legs. . . and bulging arms . . . with only 3 to 6 hours of exercise per week.
A no-BS guide to supplements that'll save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars on useless (and sometimes even dangerous) pills, powders, and potions.
Best exercise books #5: Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body
Learn the secrets to obtaining Bruce Lee's astounding physique with this insightful martial arts training book.
The Art of Expressing the Human Body, a title coined by Bruce Lee himself to describe his approach to martial arts, documents the techniques he used so effectively to perfect his body for superior health, fitness and muscularity.
Beyond his martial arts and acting abilities, Lee's physical appearance and strength were truly astounding. He achieved this through an intensive and ever-evolving conditioning regime that is being revealed for the first time in this book.
Drawing on Lee's notes, letters, diaries, and training logs, Bruce Lee historian John Little presents the full extent of Lee's unique training methods including nutrition, aerobics, isometrics, stretching, and weight training. It is these training methods that Bruce Lee used to develop his awesome combat skills.
In addition to serving as a record of Bruce Lee's training, The Art of Expressing the Human Body, with its easy-to-understand and simple-to-follow training routines, is a valuable sourcebook for those who seek dramatic improvement in their health, conditioning, physical fitness, and appearance.
Best exercise books #6: Serious Cycling
Ride faster and more efficiently with Serious Cycling. Exercise scientists have unearthed a wealth of information that cyclists can use to improve their performance. However, most cyclists have never had access to this great body of knowledge. Now you do!
"Not only is this book a top-rated synthesis on-road cycling in general, it is also an invaluable tool for helping cyclists at all levels achieve their dreams of athletic success."
Chris Carmichael, Tour de France Coach
Serious Cycling bridges the gap between scientific observation and cycling performance. It takes the latest scientific data on physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, injury prevention and recovery, and training, and translates it into practical applications that will have an immediate impact on your personal training program.
Written by one of cycling’s top experts, this book will help you build endurance, increase the lactate threshold, and enhance cycling strength and power. In addition, Serious Cycling will teach you how to improve post-training recovery while also outlining methods of avoiding cycling-related injuries.
Packed full of cutting-edge advice, Serious Cycling packs a serious punch:
Get training programs designed and tailored by professional coaches
Advice on best diet & nutrition practices
Bike set-up and positioning
Hundreds of tips on how to improve performance
Includes insights into overtraining and methods of maximising efficiency
Best exercise books #7: The Russian Kettlebell Challenge
Pavel Tsatsouline, is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor, who is regarded as one of the premier strength authorities in the world today, having created the first-ever kettlebell instructor certification system.
In 2001 Dragon Door launched the modern kettlebell movement with the publication of the Russian Kettlebell Challenge book and video, the world's first-ever kettlebell instruction certification program, the RKC, plus a line of American-manufactured kettlebells.
Here is the book that created one of the greatest shifts ever in the modern fitness world, where individuals could achieve startling physical transformations without ever having to set foot in a gym or grind out extended cardio sessions. Whether you are looking for rapid strength and conditioning gains or wish to lose weight--and keep it off permanently--then kettlebells have proved the answer.
What inspired hundreds of thousands of people to switch to the simple kettlebell as their ultimate fitness tool? What was the original program from which all other kettlebell programs have been developed?
You will find the answers in the book that began it all: The Russian Kettlebell Challenge.
Fitness motivation and more:
Get really, really tough -- with a commando's wiry strength, the explosive agility of a tiger and the stamina of a world-class ironman
Own the single best conditioning tool for killer sports like kickboxing, wrestling, and football
Watch in amazement as high-rep kettlebells let you hack the fat off your meat -- without the dishonour of aerobics and dieting
Kick your fighting system into warp speed with high-rep snatches and clean-and-jerks
Develop steel tendons and ligaments -- with a whiplash power to match
Effortlessly absorb ballistic shocks -- and laugh as you shrug off the hardest hits your opponent can muster
Best exercise books #8: Science of Running
Analyse your Technique, Prevent Injury, Revolutionize your Training
Chris Napier is a clinician, a researcher specialising in running injury prevention, and a keen runner.
There is a science to running, and now you can learn about it too! Whether you are beginning to run, have been for a while, or have conquered a few marathons, this runner's guide will show you how to train efficiently, find a suitable running regime, and master the art of running.
Inside the pages of this running book, you'll find:
30 key exercises and how to perfect precision to optimise their benefits
Bespoke training plans for runners at all levels
Explanations on the anatomy and physiology of the runner, and how running involves every system in the body
A scientific breakdown of the runner's stride - showing what's going on under the skin at every stage of the running cycle and highlighting areas of stress and strain
Anatomy of common injuries and exercise programs for both prevention and recovery.
In addition, this book will give you an expert-led insight into the research of running. Furthermore, it will show you how to start running, how to run faster, and how to improve your flexibility and gait for running efficiency and safety.
Included in the Science of Running are exercises and training programs that target each muscle to ensure you become a stronger, better runner.
The perfect fit book
The clear CGI images show annotations of the muscle mechanics of running. This will teach you how to improve your running technique which in turn will improve economy of motion, energy efficiency and personal performance.
Also, learn the science behind your body's energy systems, proper hydration and nutrition. This is the perfect fitness book that will help you to completely transform your training thus enabling you to ‘smash your goals!’
Best exercise books #9: 80/20 Triathlon
Discover the Breakthrough Elite-Training Formula for Ultimate Fitness and Performance at All Levels.
Matt Fitzgerald is an endurance sports writer, nutritionist, and author of more than twenty books. He is a coach and spokesperson for PEAR Sports and former senior editor at Triathlete and Competitor.
Cutting-edge research has proven that triathletes and other endurance athletes experience their greatest performance when they do 80 percent of their training at low intensity and the remaining 20 percent at moderate to high intensity.
But the vast majority of recreational triathletes are caught in the so-called "moderate-intensity rut," spending almost half of their time training too hard--harder than the pros.
Training harder isn't smarter; it actually results in low-grade chronic fatigue that prevents recreational athletes from getting the best results.
In 80/20 Triathlon, Matt Fitzgerald and David Warden lay out the real-world and scientific evidence, offering concrete tips and strategies. In addition, 80/20 Triathlon features complete training plans for every triathlon distance – sprint, Olympic, half-Ironman, and Ironman.
What this book boasts
Help athletes implement the 80/20 rule of intensity balance.
Reduced fatigue and injury risk
Increased motivation, and
Better race results.
Best exercise books #10: Strength Training Anatomy
Frederic Delavier is a gifted artist with an exceptional knowledge of human anatomy. He studied morphology and anatomy for five years at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and studied dissection for three years at the Paris Faculte de Medicine.
With new exercises, additional stretches, and more of Frederic Delavier's amazing illustrations, you'll gain a whole new understanding of how muscles perform during exercise.
This one-of-a-kind best-seller combines the visual detail of top anatomy texts with the best strength training advice. And, as one reviewer put it:
Strength Training Anatomy provides the reader with an ‘amazingly in-depth look at the body during exercise, showing the individual muscles used in each exercise using the correct terms for each muscle. This would be a priceless asset for someone completing a level 3 or 4 in exercise or fitness qualifications.’
Many books explain what muscles are used during exercise, but no other book brings the action to life like "Strength Training Anatomy". Over 600 full-colour illustrations reveal the primary muscles along with all the relevant bones, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue.
Like having an X-ray for each exercise, new pages show common strength training injuries in a fascinating light and offer precautions to help you exercise safely.
Books on fitness and nutrition
In this article we’ve endeavoured to bring you a diverse range of some of the best exercise books on Amazon. The list of fitness books is by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of other great fitness, exercise and nutrition books on the shelves.
As we would like to build on the current list, we ask our readers and fellow fitness enthusiasts to email over suggestions of other great exercise books. Let us know what your favourite fitness reads are and which authors have inspired you to take your training to the next level.
Either pop your suggestion in the comments box below or email them over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.