When you first started your personal training business, you probably spent hours reading articles, comprehensive guides, and any other information you could find about how to be a personal trainer. Now that you’ve built a foundation and are a working fitness professional, you might think you have all the knowledge you need — but that’s not the case. The learning never stops in the fitness industry, which is why having a library of personal trainer books to continue to develop your skills is essential.
To help you get started on your continuing education, we’ve rounded up our recommendations for the best books for personal trainers below!
Best Personal Training Books
First, we’re going to go over some of the essential books every personal trainer should read when starting out or looking to evolve their business. These will cover the basics of what you need to know to be a successful personal trainer, including foundational knowledge about fitness training as well as building an independent career.
ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription
Now in its 11th edition, Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription is the American College of Sports Medicine’s flagship publication and a must-have for studious personal trainers. As you’d expect from ACSM, the book focuses on evidence-based recommendations, including the latest clinical research. It also delves into exercise advice for healthy and diseased populations, behavioral theories, health screenings, and more.
The newest addition features a chapter focused on the role exercise can play in managing brain conditions like Alzheimer’s, autism, depression, and anxiety. It also includes the most current guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, such as the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Ignite the Fire: The Secrets to Building a Successful Personal Training Career
Jonathan Goodman’s Ignite the Fire is a career-building guide that’s on all the lists of top books for personal trainers. Going beyond how to create a workout program or recommend a meal plan, this book gets into the nitty gritty of everything else it takes to be successful as a personal trainer.
Goodman’s approach is holistic, focusing on everything from how to choose your certifications to how to motivate your clients and even tips for making a sale. He also runs the Personal Trainer Development Center website, which is worth checking out if you’re looking for further resources after you finish reading his book.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Simon Sinek’s global bestseller might seem like a choice out of left field for a fitness professional, but it’s an incredibly powerful read. The crux of the book is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Drawing from the successes of companies like Apple, and notable figures like the Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King Jr., Sinek posits that it’s all about the “why” — why you do things is much more impactful than how or even what you do.
As a personal trainer, a big part of your job is to inspire your clients and lead them to success. Also, running your own business is not easy, so it’ll be important to hold onto your why when things get challenging. This book provides a clear roadmap for how to do both of those things.
NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Essentials of Personal Fitness Training is another foundational resource that should be in every aspiring and working personal trainer’s library. In this book, you’ll learn the ins and outs of exercise science, nutrition, fitness assessments, and how to grow your business. And if you’re still working on your certification, you’ll have everything you need to prepare with this resource.
Although the initial price tag may be a little hefty, it’ll be worth it for the comprehensive information and learning experience NASM’s guide offers. The 7th edition is the most recent, featuring new photos, illustrations, and the latest research in exercise science.
No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness
While No Sweat isn’t written for personal trainers specifically, it explores many of the motivational obstacles your clients might face. The more familiar you are with these obstacles, the better you’ll be able to help clients overcome them to reach their fitness goals.
Michelle Segar’s book takes years of research on exercise and motivation and turns it into a program for readers to use to become truly motivated to live an active lifestyle. An especially helpful tool it offers is specific questions you can ask your clients to get to the bottom of their motivation issues and begin to solve them.
Nutrition Books for Personal Trainers
Whether or not you create nutrition plans for your clients, nutrition plays an integral role in your clients’ fitness journeys, so it’s important that you’re familiar with the essentials. As their fitness coach, you’re likely the first stop for clients with questions, even if you don’t offer nutrition services. These books will help prepare you to answer their questions and provide basic guidance when needed.
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health
As you work with clients, you’ll likely come across many who are counting calories and tracking macros. In Gary Taubes’s book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, he argues that it’s not so much the number of calories we take in, but the kind. Despite what many people believe, he says, a healthy diet is all about getting your energy from a variety of different sources, rather than just cutting carbs or fat. He also gets into the debate about carbs vs. fat, which will help you advise clients who are trying to figure out how to use macros to reach their goals.
Essentials of Human Nutrition
If you’re looking for one resource to get you up to speed on all the basics about nutrition, Essentials of Human Nutrition is it. In it you’ll find the latest scientific information about nutrition, diet, and how they affect health. Various international experts write the chapters, which cover topics from nutrition principles and food analysis to how nutrition impacts people based on age, genetics, and community.
Kinesiology Books for Personal Trainers
Kinesiology is defined as the study of the mechanics of bodily movements. As a professional who designs workout programs to facilitate and improve body movement, kinesiology is a subject personal trainers should have some familiarity with. We’ve selected a few books that cover some of the kinesiology-related topics you’re most likely to come across to add to your reading list.
Professor Stuart McGill is the world’s foremost authority on spine and back pain. In his seminal book, he dispels the long-standing myth that back pain can be “non-specific.” He also challenges you to work with clients experiencing back pain to find the root of the issue and offer guidance to address their pain.
Back Mechanic is a great resource that you, as a personal trainer, can come back to time and again, particularly if you’re dealing with clients who have tried other forms of treatment and rehab to no avail.
Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists
Anatomy Trains offers a unique and comprehensive understanding of the role of fascia in healthy movement. Fascia — the thin connective tissue that surrounds and holds all your organs, blood vessels, bones, nerve fibers, and muscles in place — is literally everywhere in the body. This book is ideal for personal trainers looking to further their knowledge about how it relates to the body and movement.
Fascia and myofascial release could be seen as overwhelming topics, but everything is presented in a clear and accessible way, complete with diagrams, photographs, and access to video demonstrations. Author Thomas Myers has over 40 years of experience practicing manual therapy and has delivered workshops and training worldwide, making him a true authority on everything fascia.
Anatomy & Physiology Books for Personal Trainers
Anatomy and physiology are two obviously important components to any profession that deals with the physical body. Although personal trainers don’t need to understand anatomy at the same level as a healthcare professional, you do need to understand it in the context of fitness so you can train clients safely and effectively. These are our top recommendations for anatomy and physiology books for personal trainers to start with.
Strength Training Anatomy
Strength Training Anatomy is a book by Frédéric Delavier that offers a lot of information and understanding about how muscles work during strength training. It also goes over the role of other parts of the body in strength training, such as tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, and bones. The best part is the over 600 highly detailed illustrations of how the muscles work with these other bodily components in the context of strength training.
Anatomy of Movement
This book is another resource that will help you understand muscular anatomy and how it applies to movement. The text is clear and concise, so you don’t have to be a medical student to understand it, and includes over a thousand graphic drawings to help you better visualize muscles at work. Anatomy of Movement focuses not just on anatomy, but its functional relationship to movements of the body in exercise and other physical activity.
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