Books for Fitness Coaches and Personal Trainers: 20 Must Reads

Books for Fitness Coaches and Personal Trainers: 20 Must Reads

The fitness industry is competitive. To stand out as a personal trainer or fitness coach you have to be dedicated to continuous education. That’s why coaches like our founder, James FitzGerald, are avid readers. A quick scroll through his Instagram will show that even he is continuously reading new books on the latest exercise trends, nutrition science, best business practices, and human psychology.

To help personal trainers and fitness coaches like you stand out in the industry, we compiled this must-read book list. These books have been directly recommended by our coaches and include books that FitzGerald himself recommends. This list covers four categories including training, business, nourishment, and personal development. 

No matter what you want to learn there is a book perfect for you. Now dive into the list and continue your education.

20 Must-Read Books for Fitness Coaches and Personal Trainers

The Best Training Books

1) Poliquin Principles

By: Charles Poliquin

Charles Poliquin was one of the original strength and conditioning coaches and was a personal mentor to James FitzGerald. His book, Poliquin Principles, covers his method of resistance training, how to progress it, and principles of nutrition. We recommend this book specifically for Poliquin’s information on training program progressions. 

2) Supertraining

By: Yuri V. Verkhoshansky and Mel C. Siff 

Supertraining is a strength training classic. It has valuable information about loading, periodization, and how to program along the strength continuum. While this is an older book, the wisdom is still tried and true. This is a great but hefty read for beginner coaches looking for a base of support of technical knowledge for their fitness coaching.

3) Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches

By: Greg Everett

Weightlifting is a great tool to use with advanced clients. This book covers the fundamentals of all of the Olympic lifts down to the specifics of foot position and grip. If you are working with high-level functional fitness athletes or weightlifting athletes then this book is for you.

4) Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training

By: Mark Rippetoe

Starting Strength covers the fundamentals of barbell strength training. We love it because of its detailed insights into biomechanics. This is a great book if you are looking to become a master coach of the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

5) The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding

By: Arnold Schwarzenegger

This book is a classic. We recommend that all coaches understand bodybuilder type training. It is the foundation of all strength training and a great tool to use with any client. Specifically, we love the principles of progression and full-body training in this book. 

The Best Business Books

1) Principles: Life and Work

By: Ray Dalio

Principles is a classic business book that focuses on how life and work can be thought of as systems turning decision-making into a clear straightforward process. This is recommended by our CEO, Carl Hardwick, and Big Dawgs Head Coach, Sam Smith. 

2) Atomic Habits

By: James Clear

Atomic Habits highlights how your daily habits form your life and how you can create/change your habits through systems. This is a great read if you are looking to become more efficient throughout your day and build your own coaching systems.

3) Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It

By: Chris Voss

Written by a former FBI kidnapping negotiator, this book covers better ways to negotiate and communicate. It’s directly applicable to business owners and coaches as the skills in this book can be applied to both clients and business.

4) Conversational Marketing: How the World's Fastest Growing Companies Use Chatbots to Generate Leads 24/7/365 (and How You Can Too)

By: David Cancel

Marketing and sales aren’t what they used to be. This book explains how chatbots and messaging are now providing direct conversation about products when it’s convenient for the customer. This book provides great insight into how to automate client acquisition. 

5) Thinking Fast and Slow

By: Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman explains the two systems that control how we think. System 1 is fast and emotional and System 2 is slow and logical. He then relates how these two systems affect decision making and our cognitive biases. It’s a great read if you are looking to improve your decision making.

The Best Nourishment Books

1) How to Eat Move and Be Healthy

By: Paul Chek

This book is a great introduction to the concept of personalized exercise and nutrition. Paul Chek is a friend of FitzGerald and a world-renowned expert in exercise and holistic wellness. Once finished we recommend signing up for our free personalized fitness coaching course to learn how to apply these principles in the real world.

2) Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival

By: T.S. Wiley

The invention of the light bulb has thrown off humans’ circadian rhythms for more than a century. In this book, T.S. Wiley covers how the majority of health problems can be traced back to poor sleep. This book is a reason why sleep in one of the OPEX Basic Lifestyle Guidelines.

3) Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You

By: Robb Wolf

“[This book] is a true gem by Robb Wolf that creates awareness around food and how it affects us.” - Coach Sam Smith. This book is great for learning about food quality and consistency. Wolf preaches the paleo diet, but remember the best diet is the one that works best for the client.

4) The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

By: Dr. Jason Fung

This book highlights how insulin and insulin sensitivity are the keys to controlling health. This book is recommended by FitzGerald and as he puts it, “This has been known for a while, but in my 25-year career there has been much resistance to this, the resistance is strong against the righteous path.”

5) Your Body's Many Cries for Water

By: Dr. F. Batmanghelidj

Water—we all know we need it, but many of us don’t get enough of it. This book looks at how chronic dehydration can cause stress and degenerative diseases. Here’s the short of it: consume half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day, another OPEX Basic Lifestyle Guideline.

The Best Personal Development Books

1) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By: Greg McKewon

Essentialism is focusing on what is only essential. This book highlights how a disciplined pursuit of less gives us more freedom. This book is great for new coaches who feel overwhelmed and want to develop systems in their business and practice.

2) Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers 

By: Robert M. Sapolsky

We live in a society where there is constant pressure to get more done and our stress levels are as high as ever. In this book, Sapolsky covers how prolonged stress and adrenal fatigue are the cause of the majority of our health problems. This book is highly recommended by FitzGerald.

3) 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

By: Jordan B. Peterson

12 Rules for Life is an absolute gem. Peterson presents readers with hard truths about life from ancient tradition and scientific research. This is a great book for self-development. We are incredibly fond of rule 6, “set your house in perfect order before criticizing the world.” Hence, why we encourage our coaches to practice what they preach.

4) The Power of Now

By: Eckhart Tolle

The Power of Now helps readers to find their true and deepest self. This book is great for those looking for guidance and how to be truly present in the world. We recommend it to both new and seasoned coaches alike because as FitzGerald puts it, “effectively helping others starts with uncovering one’s self.” 

5) The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

By: Greg Lukianoff

This book is recommended by both FitzGerald and Smith. This book explores how three great untruths are interfering with the development of America’s adolescents, making it harder for them to become autonomous adults. “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

The Best Books for Fitness Coach and Personal Trainers

To be competitive in the fitness industry you need to be dedicated to continuous education. But more importantly, you need an education that builds the foundation of your skill-set. 

Do you have the knowledge to fall back on when you're stumped by a client’s progression or by a nutrition plan? We believe all coaches should have access to an education that provides this. That’s why we created our free Professional Coaching Blueprint.

It’s a free coaching course that covers the fundamentals of our Coaching Certificate Program (CCP). Sign up today and learn fundamentals that you can rely on the next time you are struggling to help a client.


Fitness Assessments for New Clients