The Best Personal Training Books

The Best Personal Training Books

Search on the internet for "personal training books" and you'll likely get dozens, if not hundreds of hits. Everything from fat loss and best business practices to exercise prescription and training special populations — you name it, there's probably a book for it. With so many options right at your fingertips, it's hard to know which ones are worth reading and which ones should remain on someone else's bookshelf.

This list of must-have fitness books will help personal trainers gain insight into the design and delivery of exercise programs, allow them to educate clients on basic nutrition and give tips on how to best motivate even the toughest trainees.

Exercise Program Development

Program development is the foundation for working with personal training clients. Knowing how to structure a workout based on sound training principles and individual needs is key to an effective trainer-client relationship.

Science and Development of Muscular Hypertrophy

The book, Science and Development of Muscular Hypertrophy by Brad Schoenfeld, PhD offers recommendations about how to gain muscle based on anecdotes from bodybuilders and fitness magazines. Over the past several years there has been a tremendous amount of research that has improved our understanding of the mechanisms that make muscles grow, as well as the application of training principles to program design. This book provides all the cutting-edge science on the topic as well as discusses the various practical implications as to how to put the information into practice.

Strength Training Anatomy

The book, Strength Training Anatomy, by Frederic Delavier provides personal trainers with a solid guide to how the body works. Delavier gives fitness professionals a valuable resource that helps them learn muscle anatomy and exercise form at the same time. With over 600 full-color illustrations this book shows readers how the primary muscles work along with all the relevant surrounding structures, including bones, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue.


Movement, by Gray Cook, MSPT, OCS, CSCS explains how fitness professionals can partner with rehabilitation specialists to help injured clients on the road to recovery. Cook helps connect the two fields by providing a clear model and a common language under which fitness and rehabilitation professionals can work together.

The Essentials of Strength Training

The NSCA's Essentials of Strength Training, by the National Strength & Conditioning Association, provides fitness professionals with a comprehensive resource that 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 books also gives trainers valuable information and tips on how to manage their fitness business.

Other books in this category:

These books are also worth mentioning as they come from well-established organizations.

  • ACSM's Resource for the Personal Trainer-- American College of Sports Medicine
  • NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training -- National Strength & Conditioning Association 

Nutrition Knowledge

Personal trainers are often asked to help clients with dietary needs. These books offer guidance for trainers, as well as a resource for clients, to help discern the massive amount of information on nutrition.

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, by Nancy Clark, RD, gives personal trainers a resource to reference when asked to weigh in on their client's diet and nutrition program. Giving advice on this topic can be a slippery slope if you're not a registered dietitian (RD). Clark's book will help you provide accurate information about daily nutrient requirements, special dietary considerations that relate to exercise and sports, and how to best support athletes of all levels.

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, by Tom Venuto, CSCS, offers trainers a very detailed resource about the science of fat loss for any age, body type or fitness levels. This book talks about how building fitness, strength, lean muscle, health and confidence has to be approached from more than one angle.

Personal and Business Development

Fitness knowledge isn't enough in the quest for longevity as a personal trainer. Understanding human behavior, and learning how to keep your business afloat, are two areas in which trainers need to excel if they want to make it in this business.

Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness

In Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness, by Dawn Clifford and Laura Curtis, trainers are taught an interview technique that allows them to become a helper in the change process. Clifford and Curtis’s book looks at how making and maintaining lasting changes in nutrition and exercise are not easy for anyone, yet the communication style of a fitness professional can make a huge difference. The tools in this book help you encourage clients to work through ambivalence, overcome barriers to change and break free of diets and the quick-fix mentality.

Ignite the Fire

Ignite the Fire, by Jonathan Goodman, CSCS, has become the go-to for fitness professionals of all levels looking to start or build their personal training business. Jonathan Goodman has spent years perfecting the art of training clients and running a successful business. In this book, he discusses everything from building amazing workouts for beginners to developing multiple income streams while maintaining your reputation. Goodman lays out his best tips and secrets in this must-have manual for anyone in the health and fitness profession.