Top Five Classic Books For Strength Training and Bodybuilding


Every year, in every field of study, hundreds of new books are published. But you if dig deep enough, you will find a small handful of books that are considered must-read even though they may be hundreds of years old. Case in point: In the field of advertising, one of the must-read books is Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, published over 50 years ago. But this ancient book is still one of the best.

In fact, legendary ad man David Ogilvy states: Nobody should be allowed to have anything do with advertising until he has read this book 7 times. So what are the must-read classic texts for weight lifters? I’ve read hundreds of weight training books over the years. But there are only FIVE that I consider to be true classic, must-read books. In fact, I will take it one step further and say No one should be allowed to pick up a barbell until they’ve read each of these five books three times a piece. If I could go back in time and force the 16-year old version of myself to read these books, I would be a much bigger and stronger man today. So without further ado, here are my picks for top five classic books on weight training.

#1: The Complete Keys To Progress. By John McCallum

McCallums book comes across like advice from a well-meaning uncle – if your uncle weighed 230 pounds of solid muscle. The book is a collection of articles and each article seamlessly intertwines rock-solid advice with masterful storytelling. The book covers all topics of interest, including weight lifting, gaining weight, losing fat, quitting smoking, mental training exercises and everything else you need.

#2: Beyond Brawn: The Insiders Encyclopedia on How to Build Muscle & Might. By Stuart McRobert.

Written with the hardgainer in mind, Beyond Brawn contains simple, straight-forward and sensible advice on how to build up your body, build strength and develop your physique. And the author is no arm-chair quarter back: In the book McRobert details the training cycle that allowed him to accomplish an impressive strength feat: A set of 20 deadlifts with 400lbs.

#3: Super Squats: How to gain 30lbs of Muscle In Six Weeks. By Randall J. Strossen

Despite the hyped-up title, this book details a sensible plan guaranteed to pack muscle mass on even the skinniest kids. While 30lbs of muscle in six weeks is a stretch, anyone who follows the 20-rep breathing squats plus gallon of milk per day routine from this book will definitely put on weight and build strength. Like all the books on this list, Super Squats does a great job of emphasizing just how important HARD WORK is when trying to build muscle.

#4: The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training For Football. By Bill Starr

Bill Starr was the strength and conditioning coach for the 1970 Superbowl champion Baltimore Colts. And he was Olympic and powerlifting champion. In short, the man knows his stuff. This book was written for football players but the advice applies to anyone wanting to get bigger, stronger and faster. Starrs legendary training program contains just three main exercises – the squat, bench press and power clean – but many men have built massive muscle and strength on Starrs routines.

#5: Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. By Mark Rippetoe & Lon Kilgore

The second edition of Starting Strength was published in 2007… so how did this book sneak into my top five classic texts? In my opinion, 30 years from now, this book will still be one of best books for weightlifters. Consider it an instant classic. What makes this book so good? For one, much of the content of this book is based on classic weight training principles. In fact, the author of Starting Strength was coached by Bill Starr himself.

But the beauty of this book is in the highly-detailed descriptions how to properly perform the basic exercises. A full-squat may look like a simple movement but I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone in the gym perform a correct squat. Starting Strength devotes over 80 pages to the proper squat form. And while proper form may not sound like the most glamorous topics, this is crucial information. Because using proper form allows you to lift more weight and make faster strength gains. And ignoring proper form sets the stage for painful and debilitating injuries. So if you want to build strength, add muscle and develop a stunning physique, find room on your bookshelf for these five classic books.

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