The best books to help you learn to construct your own fitness routines

Who am I?

My philosophy as a coach, physical therapist, and author is based on the maxim: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” My books Overcoming Gravity, Overcoming Poor Posture, and Overcoming Tendonitis were written with this in mind. I find this phrase key in learning and growing as an athlete and in my own life outside of fitness and from those I’ve coached and taught too. Understanding and applying is a lifetime pursuit that keeps the brain active and stimulated.  

I wrote...

Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength

By Steven Low,

Book cover of Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength

What is my book about?

Commonly referred to by readers as an "exercise Bible", Overcoming Gravity is a comprehensive guide that provides a gold mine of information for gymnastics and bodyweight strength training within its large 8.5"x11" size and nearly 600 pages. The first two parts examine the physiology behind strength training to prepare the body for the rigors of bodyweight training and analyze the parts of a strength training routine and how they fit together to make progress. The next sections offer information on health and injury management and program implementation. Finally, exercise progressions are included to help you achieve your goals. 

If you prefer your health and fitness books to include scientific data, comprehensive sample programming, and effective recommendations, Overcoming Gravity is the ideal choice for your library.

The books I picked & why

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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear,

Book cover of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Why this book?

You didn’t expect to see this book, did you? Well, the #1 thing with anything in life if you want to be successful is consistency. Most people who fail to meet their goals relied solely on motivation which is based on feelings that come and go rather than building disciplined habits into their life. Consistency is important with almost everything, but it is especially important for starting and maintaining an exercise routine. One must align their habits and their life to be successful with training. 

Practical Programming for Strength Training

By Mark Rippetoe, Andy Baker,

Book cover of Practical Programming for Strength Training

Why this book?

Practical programming is a very good introduction to programming and periodization methods that beginners and intermediates can easily implement to be effective in their own routines. Unlike some of the later recommended books, Practical Programming gives templates which the reader can use as their own program while explaining why they work which can eliminate some of the guesswork and confusion of trying to apply concepts to make their own routine. Only once it gets into the advanced section does it become more theoretical in nature and ask you to apply the concepts you learn to your own training. In conclusion, this book helps to bridge the gaps from using routines to making your own routines well. 

Science and Practice of Strength Training

By Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, William J Kraemer, Andrew C. Fry

Book cover of Science and Practice of Strength Training

Why this book?

The Science and Practice of Strength Training is an intermediate to elite book aimed at understanding periodization concepts as how they best apply to specific tissues, adaptations, and populations. This deeper understanding will allow the reader to understand the reasons why they are implementing exercises, sets, repetitions, rest times, and so on into their routines and how that can play out with long-term progress. The specific populations mentioned are training for women, young adults, and seniors, so it's applicable to a broad range of people not just your regular athletes or recreational athletes wanting to know more. 

Periodization Training for Sports

By Tudor O. Bompa, Carlo Buzzichelli,

Book cover of Periodization Training for Sports

Why this book?

Periodization training for sports is one of the best books in terms of understanding how everything comes together into a full plan (“cycle”). Like some of the other books, it also delves into the anatomy and physiology of strength training and tissue adaptations, but where this book shines is the focus on understanding the various manipulation of training variables to progress. It covers short term, medium, and long term which are usually weekly, about 1-2 months, and yearly plans respectively. 

Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance

By Kelly Starrett, Glen Cordoza,

Book cover of Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance

Why this book?

This book is a little off the beaten path too. One of the big issues that make athletes and recreational athletes quit their fitness journey is injuries. Supple Leopard aims to help an athlete use prehabilitation (“pre-rehabilitation”) methods to prevent pain and injuries. Often athletes may neglect their flexibility or mobility which leaves them with excessive tightness and sometimes dysfunction. One small fault in reading is that it’s easy to overemphasize using certain methods in this book to attempt to fix their issues (e.g. pain, tightness, lack of mobility) and neglect specifically targeted exercises addressing underlying issues like weakness, lack of endurance, and instability which can resolve them. These should be done at the same time rather than one or the other. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in strength training, physiology, and change?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about strength training, physiology, and change.

Strength Training Explore 5 books about strength training
Physiology Explore 46 books about physiology
Change Explore 26 books about change

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football, Strength Rules, How to Get Stronger Than Almost Anyone--And the Proven Plan to Make It Real, and Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others if you like this list.