22 Books You Need to Read in 2022
In 2019, I recorded a podcast titled, 19 Book You Need to Read in 2019. I received a lot of great feedback from that episode. However, I feel this type of piece needs to be updated from time to time. And, I’m a book nerd so, here we are three years later with an updated list.
The new year is the perfect time to pick up a new habit, or better yet, work on becoming a better version of yourself. New year, new you. Amirite?
Aside from starting a new workout program, reading is one of the more popular habits people want to start during this time of year. The problem is, where do you start? We live in the information age. There is no barrier of entry to put out information. Anyone can self-publish a book. We are bombarded with content left and right. Deciding who to listen to is hard enough. There are millions of books out there, my goal is to provide you with a list to get you started in the right direction.
Over the past ten years, I have made it a point to read, on average, one book per week. I feel this not only keeps my mind sharp but also keeps me ahead of the game. If you spend 30-60 minutes per day studying your profession and working on personal development, you’re much more likely to be successful.
I like to separate the books I read into two categories. Category one is “fitness” which consists of exercise science, training, nutrition, supplementation, etc. Category two is personal development which includes business, mindset, motivation, inspiration, etc. Those are the topics I’m interested in and chances are, if you listen to my podcast or follow my work, you are interested in those topics as well. As you will see below, that’s how the list is organized.
At the end of the day, books provide great value. Even if you only get one piece of quality information out of a book, it’s well worth the small investment in time and money.
It’s important to note, don’t just read books to see how many you can get under your belt. That is a mistake I made in the past. Really focus on learning and more importantly implementing what you read. Take notes. Highlight. Read pages over again. Don’t be afraid to read a great book a second time, or even a third time. If you have already read one or more of the books I listed below, I suggest going back in and taking a second look. This time you will be reading with all of the new knowledge you have gained in the time since you first read it. I would rather know ten great books inside and out than vaguely remember a couple of hundred. It’s like the Bruce Lee quote, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
These books are in no particular order.
Listen to the podcast here:
If you like this episode and want to get notified when a new one goes live, head over to Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, or Amazon Music and subscribe.
Category#1: Fitness 1. 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler
5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength. It’s wild this even has to be said, but sometimes what people need is less information. Sometimes the key to making progress is simplifying what you are doing. I think that is one of the key reasons why the 5/3/1 program became so popular. 5/3/1 gave people a basic plan to follow with some structure that was easy to understand.
If you came up during my era of fitness, it’s likely 5/3/1 was the first actual training program you followed. The concept of using percentages, building in progression from week to week, AMRAPs, planed de-loads, etc. was foreign to a large group within the fitness community. These seem like basic, and well-known terms today, but they were relatively unknown outside of the powerlifting or strength and conditioning community in the early 2010s. In fact, at the time, you rarely heard bodybuilders talking about using percentages or programming de-loads.
Although it was never Jim’s intention when he wrote it, 5/3/1 did a great job bringing together people from every corner of the fitness industry. Naturally, it was very popular in powerlifting circles, but you also had natural bodybuilders like Matt Ogus using it, and vlogging about it. It was big in the Crossfit community as well. I know of a lot of CrossFit gyms that used 5/3/1 as their strength template.
The original 5/3/1 book is great, but he has a few others that are worth picking up as well.
*5/3/1 Second Edition (original 5/3/1 book)
*5/3/1 for Powerlifting
After being a big fan of Jim’s for so long, it’s still crazy to me I had the opportunity to sit down with him for two podcasts. Here is a short clip from our first episode.
2. Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson
Cal Dietz is a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota, so naturally, this book is centered around training for athletic performance. However, Triphasic Training is really just a great text on programming. There is no other book I know of that talks about isometrics and tempo work in as much detail as Triphasic Training. The entire Triphasic system is about breaking down athletic movements into their three components – eccentric, isometric, and concentric. If you want to learn how and why to implement isometric/paused work, along with various other methods on how to maximize strength, speed, and power, this is the book.
I took a ton of notes the first time I read this book, which is often an indicator of how useful I felt it was.
In the book, you will get a nice overview of the basic programming principles and their application to training. There is a section on periodization, which goes into detail on undulating, block, and linear periodization. As I said, no other book goes into as much detail about the phases of a lift – eccentric, isometric, and concentric individually. You will learn about French Contrast training, plyometrics, and more. As I am writing this out, I am making a note to go back through this book at some point this year.
The bottom line is this if you are interested in improving your athletic performance, or if you are a coach that works with athletes, this is a must-read.
3. The Muscle and Strength Pyramids – Nutrition and Training by Eric Helms
These are actually two individual books but I am grouping them together here.
“Navigating the available fitness information online can be confusing and time-consuming at best, and a minefield of misinformation at worst. One inherent problem is that information online is always presented as supremely important and as the next ‘big thing,’ without context or any understanding of priorities.”
With all of the information available today, it’s easy to overthink things and start to put an emphasis on stuff that doesn’t really matter. You see this all the time. People prioritize having a post-workout protein shake before knowing how much total protein they consume on a daily basis. People buy supplements before having a training program to follow. Not everything we do in the gym and in the kitchen deserves the same amount of attention, which is the beauty of these books.
Overall, these are probably the best two books on training and nutrition for bodybuilding and powerlifting. Eric does a fantastic job mixing in the science with practical advice you can implement right away.
If you want to learn about training variables – volume, intensity, frequency, exercise selection, rest periods, lifting tempo, energy balance, macronutrients, micronutrients, nutrient timing, supplementation, how to make adjustments to your program, and more, these are your books.
If you only read two books from the list, you will probably get the most out of these two.
“Coach Dan John breaks down the most complicated concepts of strength training and high-performance athletics in his personal, no-nonsense, thought-provoking and motivating style.
Workout routines, Olympic lifting guidance, Highland Games, track and field and Strongman events are all covered, in addition to weight training philosophy for the general public.
How to get stronger, faster, and leaner;
Simple steps to great conditioning;
What it takes to compete at high-level athletics;
Dan John’s top training tips;
Effective workouts to carry you through your training seasons;
Variations of the classic 5×5 workout;
Sample kettlebell and barbell workout combinations;
Outdoor cardiovascular training options for athletes;
And much more…”
Flat out, I love this book. I have read it multiple times and each time, I take something different from it.
In my opinion, as a coach, it’s important to be well-rounded. You need to read the science/evidence-based material but you also need to read stuff from the non-science crowd as well. There is a benefit to not always sticking 100% to what the research says. Even the researchers will tell you, some material is just not heavily studied yet.
We have a group of individuals in the fitness industry who speak like they are veteran researchers and/or strength coaches without ever stepping foot in a lab or coaching more than a handful of people. There really is no substitute for experience. It almost takes an abundance of experience to truly respect the value of it.
A lot of young fitness professionals are too confident in what they “know” to be true. When evidence-based coaching got popular in the early 2010s, it gave rise to the abstract scientist. Essentially, people just spent hours on PubMed reading abstracts and then acting like they read the entire paper and understood all of the intricate details.
The good news is, I don’t think we see that as much anymore. However, the bad news is, now with the abundance of information available, we have people that just regurgitate information and act like experts. Don’t get me wrong, you can self teach yourself almost anything today. You can spend hours listening to podcasts, watching youtube videos, subscribing to research reviews, and even reading all of the books on this list, but it’s important to recognize the limitations that come with that. If you can’t explain it or apply it, you don’t really know it.
This is a mistake I made early on in my fitness journey.
Never Let Go is more than a training book. It’s a book filled with stories from decades in the strength world. As the cover says, it’s a philosophy of lifting, living, and learning. With the abundance of bullshit in the fitness industry today, a book like this is very refreshing, and a must-read.
5. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is probably the most popular bodybuilding book of all time written by the most popular bodybuilder. This book is on the list purely out of nostalgia. I must have flipped through this book 1,000 times in my teen years and I am not even exaggerating. I still remember the day I bought it. I picked up this 700+ page tome at a Walden Books Store in the Arnot Mall in Big Flats, New York. As a side note, remember when Walden Books was in every mall? I kind of miss Malls, and book stores for that matter.
The pictures and stories in this book are incredible. This is an old-school bodybuilding book through and through. Don’t read this expecting to learn any science or new training/nutrition information. Read this book more for inspiration than information. If you don’t get fired up to train after looking at all of the black and white pictures of the old school bodybuilders, this lifting weights thing might not be for you.
However, if you want to do some crazy high volume lifting, check out the double split (a.m/p.m) 6 day per week “Advanced Bodybuilding” routine Arnold lays out. Of course, I gave that a run back in the day.
I don’t think you could consider yourself a true bodybuilding enthusiast if you haven’t read this book.
Also worth reading from Arnold, The Education of a Bodybuilder
“One-third of our lives — that’s 3,000 hours a year–is spent trying to sleep. The time we spend in bed shapes our moods, motivation, alertness, decision-making skills, reaction time, creativity . . . in short, our ability to perform, whether at work, at home, or at play. But most of us have disturbed, restless nights, relying on over-stimulation from caffeine and sugar to drag us through the day. The old eight-hour rule just doesn’t work, and it’s time for a new approach.”
Sleep. It’s one thing that does not get enough attention in the fitness space. Typically people just say the blanket statements like getting 7-8 hours per night without really breaking it down and explaining why.
There are a few good books on Sleep, a lot of people talk about Matthew Walker’s book, but Sleep by Nick Littlehales is my favorite.
This is a great book, written by an actual sleep coach that works with athletes. In the book, Nick goes over what you need to do in order to get better sleep. If you are serious about your performance, dialing in your sleep is a must.
This was a fun read that was easy to understand and follow along. This is another book I took a ton of notes on.
I had Nick on the podcast back on episode 194.
7. Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe
“There is a difference between Exercise and Training. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you’re through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal. Training is how athletes prepare to win, and how all motivated people approach physical preparation.
Practical Programming for Strength Training 3rd Edition addresses the topic of Training. It details the mechanics of the process, from the basic physiology of adaptation to the specific programs that apply these principles to novice, intermediate, and advanced lifters. ”
If you want to learn about how to properly structure strength training programs, Practical Programming is a great place to start. Overall, this is probably the best book on the introduction to programming.
8. Scientific Principles of Strength Training by Mike Israetel
“A comprehensive guide of the various training principles, what they mean, how they interact with each other, and how you can use them to design your own programming for strength sports.
Authored by an expert team of Ph.D. professors, researchers, and high-level competitive athletes.
Your ultimate guide to learning how to more effectively and efficiently create training programs to ensure you are getting the most out of your own training and creating programs for others.”
This is probably the most in-depth and well-rounded book on powerlifting/strength programming there is. If you are a powerlifter or strength athlete and want to learn more about programming variables – specificity, volume, intensity, fatigue management, variation, etc. this is the book.
However, this is a 371-page gauntlet. It’s not a quick read if you want to understand everything. When I said it’s in-depth, I meant it. It’s essentially, a great next step after finishing Practical Programming.
Overall, this is not a difficult read. It’s long, but not difficult like some of the translated Russian texts are. This is one book where you undoubtedly will want to take notes and read more than once. The second time you read it, you will probably take more out of it.
If you are more interested in programming for muscle building, the same group of authors wrote the Scientific Principles of Hypertrophy Training which is great as well.
9. The Complete Keys to Progress by John McCallum
“Who knows how many teenagers in the 1960s bought Strength & Health magazine primarily to inhale John McCallum’s articles – he taught us to squat, how to achieve success through hard work, and how to care for our health as we built size and strength, and the whole time, he entertained us with his stories filled with such characters as the legendary Maurice Jones, the mythical Marvin, and the mountainous Doug Hepburn. Here they are the full collection of the original John McCallum articles, classic gems. If you were to only buy one book – ever – on how to train, this is it.”
This book is a hidden gem. Although the articles were written 50-60 years ago, a lot of the information still applies. I originally read this book when I was in high school, and to be honest, I didn’t get much out of it. I wasn’t ready for it. But, keep in mind, I was deep into bodybuilding at the time and the information seemed outdated. I didn’t appreciate the book for what it was. Well, I re-read it last year and was blown away. For one, the writing is fantastic. Everything is set up as a story. It’s highly entertaining.
As I get older, I really appreciate reading old content. It’s funny, many things in fitness that we think are new, are just new to us. Everything gets recycled and repackaged. Low carb, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Blood Flow Restriction Training, even belt squats. I remember a couple of years ago belt squats made a resurgence in popularity in the powerlifting community. It was funny, you had these kids on social media acting like it’s a new exercise. Na, John McCallum wrote about them fifty years ago.
I also think reading old content is important because it reminds you that at the end of the day, hard work and consistency are what’s most important for making progress. McCallum doesn’t cite a meta-analysis on training volume, he doesn’t talk about wearing fancy knee sleeves or squat shoes, he doesn’t mention creatine or pre-workout supplements. I’m not saying those things are not important, I just want to point out that you can make progress without them.
10. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by NSCA
“Developed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and now in its fourth edition, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning is the essential text for strength and conditioning professionals and students. This comprehensive resource, created by 30 expert contributors in the field, explains the key theories, concepts, and scientific principles of strength training and conditioning as well as their direct application to athletic competition and performance.”
This is the textbook for the NSCA CSCS certification. Out of all of the personal training textbooks, I have read, this one is the best. It’s a detailed look at exercise science, energy systems, biomechanics, nutrition, supplementation, exercise technique, testing/evaluating, program design, and more.
If you want a textbook-style overview of training and nutrition, this is the book.
11. Bodybuilding for Beginners by Kyle Hunt
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never set foot in a gym before―this book will have you bulking up in no time. Bodybuilding for Beginners is the ultimate guide for new bodybuilders. Learn how to build muscle and burn fat with detailed walkthroughs of 55 exercises that’ll work your legs, chest, arms, and everything in between. Looking for a quick start without the guesswork? 84 straight days of bodybuilding routines will increase both your strength and your confidence.”
Hey, I couldn’t make a list of books you should read without including one of my own. Bodybuilding for Beginners was the book I wished I had when I first started lifting weights. I tried to write a book that provided a lot of useful info without any fluff. I cover training, nutrition, warming up, a detailed section on exercise technique, and a full 12-week program. You can’t beat the value.
Honorable Mention: There are a ton of books that could have made the list, here are a few I had a hard time leaving off. Bigger Leaner Stronger, Renaissance Diet 2.0, Starting Strength, Strength Training Anatomy, Convict Conditioning, Ultimate MMA Conditioning, any of Lyle McDonald’s books, Westside Barbell Book of Methods, The Fat Loss Prescription, Wired to Eat, Discipline Equals Freedom.
Category #2: Personal Development 12. The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg
“Myth: If you save for decades and invest in 401(k)s, IRAs, and a home, these investments will grow steadily, allowing twenty to thirty years of secure, peaceful retirement.
Reality: Though this might have been true at some point in the last century, it is not true any longer. If you want to get ahead and enjoy a life of prosperity, you must invest in the last safe investment: yourself, and your own skills, value to others, relationships, and overall happiness.
Business strategist Bryan Franklin and author Michael Ellsberg (The Education of Millionaires) team up here to present a blueprint for building “True Wealth”: the ability to generate not just financial value but also the experiences you cherish most—security, freedom, creative expression, and love.”
I used to bring this book up a lot on the podcast. In terms of personal development, this is one of my favorites because it talks about a subject I feel very strongly about, investing in yourself.
In my eyes, the only safe investment is in ourselves. This goes for our health, knowledge, skills, abilities, etc.
In this day and age, we can accomplish anything. We have the ability to learn, create, and build like never before. The only thing holding us back is..