The best books for training for bodybuilding

Craig Cecil Author Of Bodybuilding: From Heavy Duty to SuperSlow: Evolutionary Strategies for Building Maximum Muscle
By Craig Cecil

Who am I?

I’ve been involved in weight training for over three decades, from a competitor (setting state and national powerlifting records), to coach (for amateur bodybuilders and powerlifters), to author of four best-selling fitness books. All of my training partners, students, and readers have told me the same thing—my background in weight training knowledge, history, and techniques have enabled me to provide them with the expertise, motivation, and longevity to improve both their physical and mental lives.


I wrote...

Bodybuilding: From Heavy Duty to SuperSlow: Evolutionary Strategies for Building Maximum Muscle

By Craig Cecil,

Book cover of Bodybuilding: From Heavy Duty to SuperSlow: Evolutionary Strategies for Building Maximum Muscle

What is my book about?

There's more than one way to build muscle...Learn about all of the bodybuilding strategies from the past century. Bodybuilding: From Heavy Duty to SuperSlow takes you through the evolution of bodybuilding training, from early 20th century circus strongmen to the latest muscle-building techniques of today.

In this book, you’ll learn diverse training strategies, including: Volume Training, Peripheral Heart Action Training, High-Intensity Training, Periodization, The Bulgarian Method, Pre-Exhaustion Training, Heavy Duty, The Weider System, The Hardgainer Method, SuperSlow, Holistic Training, Power Factor Training, Positions of Flexion, and Static Contraction Training. Each training system is fully explained and includes sample workouts to get you started. Don't keep training the same way every time you workout!

The books I picked & why

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The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding

By Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Dobbins,

Book cover of The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding

Why this book?

This is the book I started with, and the one almost all aspiring bodybuilders get as well. And for good reason. It contains everything you need to get started, from exercise explanations to workout programs, nutrition, dealing with injuries, posing, and competition preparation. Of course, the author seems to be a reliable source of this information ;-) Even after three decades of bodybuilding training, I still reach for this book for inspiration and information.


Keys to the Inner Universe

By Bill Pearl,

Book cover of Keys to the Inner Universe

Why this book?

Early in my bodybuilding career, a fellow gym member introduced me to this book. I was astounded by the sheer volume and variety of exercises and variations possible within those pages. Over 1,000 exercises are illustrated and described, so if you ever think you will get “bored” by training with weights, just flip open this book. There truly is a universe of options available. Oh, and Bill Pearl, 5-time Mr. Universe is still going strong lifting weights in his 90s. Variety is the key to longevity.


The Complete Keys to Progress

By John McCallum,

Book cover of The Complete Keys to Progress

Why this book?

Never before or since, has a bodybuilding book been written in the style and flair of John McCallum. Instead of simply describing exercises and programs, John presents bodybuilding lessons in an ongoing series of stories involving Marvin, Ollie, and a cast of others. After reading this book, you’ll never look at a bottle of milk or a cheese sandwich the same again.


The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football

By Bill Starr,

Book cover of The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football

Why this book?

Why am I recommending a football strength training book for bodybuilding? Because every great bodybuilder is a good powerlifter at heart. Football training is about powerlifting movement, and there is no better source on this type of training than Bill Starr, the man who invented the modern strength training programs, used by all college and professional football teams, as well as professional strongmen and powerlifters. Starr learned these techniques from Tommy Kono, the most decorated weightlifter in American history, and he passed those lessons on to one of his students, Mark Rippetoe.


Brother Iron, Sister Steel: A Bodybuilder's Book

By Dave Draper,

Book cover of Brother Iron, Sister Steel: A Bodybuilder's Book

Why this book?

If there was ever a bodybuilder’s bodybuilder, it was Dave Draper, the Blond Bomber. Dave was able to combine his blond-haired, good-looking California style of living and training, with a successful career in professional bodybuilding in the 1960s and 1970s (Mr. American, Mr. Universe, Mr. World), with a passion and eloquence in writing that was only matched by John McCallum. So, do yourself a favor, read Dave’s book and soak in the true essence of bodybuilding and his training wisdom.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bodybuilding, the human body, and the Bible?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bodybuilding, the human body, and the Bible.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Men's Health The Book of Muscle: The World's Most Authoritative Guide to Building Your Body, Strength Training Anatomy, and Periodization Training for Sports if you like this list.