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Top 10 Weight Training and Bodybuilding Books

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Updated June 02, 2014

Whether you're a novice or an experienced weight lifter or bodybuilder, books are still an expert source of information even though the web has a lot to offer.

In these 10 books you will find much that you need to know whether you're an 'exercise at home person' or a committed gym trainer or bodybuilder. I've tried to balance quality of information, readability and range of interests from basic information to the far corners of the weight training disciplines. I hope you enjoy at least some of them as much as I did.

All books may not be available in all countries. Prices mentioned here are in $US.

1. Starting Strength

Young man reading book while lifting weights
PhotoAlto/Sandro Di Carlo Darsa/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Sub-Title: A Simple and Practical Guide for Coaching Beginners
Authors: Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, 2005
Paperback: 248 pages, 10.9 x 8.3 inches
Suitable for: novice to intermediate, and coaches
Comment: This is a fine book for anyone considering weight training in general and powerlifting in particular. It describes how to learn and teach the big three core lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift, plus the press and power clean. A chapter on programming and teaching youth weight training are included. Both authors are highly experienced coaches with lifting experience.

2. Weight Training for Dummies

Authors: Liz Neporent, Suzanne Schlosberg (third author varies by country), 2006
Paperback: 408 pages, 9.1 x 7.3 inches
Suitable for: novice to intermediate
Comment: This is a good starting out resource because it is quite comprehensive in its own way and very well written with short factoids, no verbosity and good humor. Even more experienced weight trainers could use this to brush up on some basic knowledge. The book includes illustration and photographs of all exercises. Different versions are produced for some countries. Perhaps has a subtle female flavor.

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3. Strength Training Anatomy

Author: Frederic Delavier, 2005
Paperback: 144 pages, 9.8 x 7.7 inches
Suitable for: novice to advanced
Comment: Almost my favorite strength training book. For less than $20 this is a bargain. It has wonderful illustration and naming of the anatomy of strength training and shows quite clearly which muscles respond to which exercises. About 100 exercises are described and illustrated plus some brief comment on injuries. Don't buy it for principles and practices, but for quick-view anatomy instruction, it's my favorite.

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4. Weight Training Steps to Success

Author: Thomas Baechle and Roger Earle, 2005
Paperback: 179 pages, 10.9 x 8.5
Suitable for: novice to intermediate
Comment: The value of this book is it's no-nonsense procedural description of weight training from the basic essentials to more advanced programming techniques. It's very thorough and much more focused on weight training programming than Weight Training for Dummies for example. Plenty of tables and charts and excellent exercise illustrations but no photos. Both authors have certification roles with the US National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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5. Science and Practice of Strength Training

Authors: Vladimir Zatsiorski and William Kramer, 2006
Hardcover: 264 pages, 11 x 8.6
Suitable for: intermediate to advanced
Comment: Both authors are esteemed academics with a long history of writing and training in the weight lifting sciences. This is not a book for the uninitiated unless you have a strong scientific background preferably with some exercise physiology. It's strength is the science and the many references that provide confidence that what they tell you is as accurate as possible. Zatsiorski describes research on decades of Russian weight lifting methods and results. An essential reference really.

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6. Periodization Training For Sports

Author: Tudor Bompa and Michael Carrera, 2005
Paperback: 259 pages, 11 x 8.7 inches
Suitable for: intermediate to advanced
Comment: Bompa is credited with establishing the concept of periodization within the weight training disciplines, particularly for sport-specific training. In this well-researched and referenced book, the guru takes us through the periodization process while offering many insights into what works and what does not with plenty of examples for different sports. It is reasonably complex and not perfectly organized but still a great book to have if you coach and deliver weight training.

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7. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding : The Bible of Bodybuilding

Authors: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Dobbins, 1999
Paperback: 832 pages, 10.9 x 8.5 inches
Suitable for: novice to advanced
Comment: How can you not be impressed by an 832 page book by a legend of the sport and all for about $20 and with excellent content and acceptable writing and presentation. Note, this is about bodybuilding pure and not so simple. You won't get specific information on sports training, powerlifting or Olympic lifting. Even so, it has a huge amount to offer even if bodybuilding is not your thing.

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8. Dumbbell Training for Strength And Fitness

Authors: Matt Brzycki and Fred Fornicola, 2006
Paperback: 160 pages, 8.4 x 5.4 inches
Suitable for: novice to advanced
Comment: This is one of those books that fills a niche and is just great to have in a library. Dumbbell training is so flexible -- do it at home or the gym in many ways -- and the variety of exercises is large, as this book demonstrates well. It's not the largest of the books listed here, but one of the best in concept and presentation. If you intend to do beginner or advanced training at home with dumbbells, then this is a great book to refer to.

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9. Strength Training for Women

Subtitle: Tone up, burn calories, stay strong
Author: Joan Pagano, 2005
Paperback: 160 pages, 9.2 x 7
Suitable for: novice to intermediate
Comment: As the title says, this books is written for women and it does not fail. An experienced personal trainer, Pagano teaches well and writes well, which results in this book being a very good guide for women starting out, but also for women with some experience of weights. There is some bias to working out at home but that's not a bad thing. It ranges across equipment such as dumbbells, fit balls, bands and includes plenty of body-only exercises. It's an excellent book.

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10. Supertraining

Author: Mel Cunningham Siff, 2003
Paperback: 498 pages
Suitable for: intermediate to advanced
Comment: Mel Siff, now departed (2003), was, and is, a legend in the sports and strength training community. I must admit I have not read this book even though I am a regular contributor to the Supertraining discussion list which originated with Dr Siff. Supertraining is not generally available in bookstores but it can be found online. This book forms a part of the history of weight training practice and science and this would seem to make it a logical choice here. Others confer upon it high praise indeed.

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