Best Personal Trainer Books and Certifications. Topics Include: Physical Therapy, Yoga, Nutrition, Mobility, Strength, and CrossFit

Thinking of buying that highly ranked book on Amazon? Maybe you have your eye on that expensive personal trainer certification you saw on google?  Check our reviews first, and buy the right personal trainer book or certification.

Personal Trainer Certifications
I’ve had over 70 coaches work for me, and I’ve spoken with them in-depth about what their personal training certifications contain.  Some certifications are really helpful in becoming a better coach, and some are a waste of time.  If you are considering a new personal trainer certification, post a comment on this page and ask us about it.
Personal Trainer Books
To date, I’ve read 84 books cover to cover on topics ranging from stretching, yoga, personal training, muscle activation, and therapy.  Here’s the complete list of books I’ve read plus some comments about what I’ve learned from reading them.

If you are looking to learn the most you can on a given subject… shouldn’t you start with the best book on that subject? That’s what this guide is for … to sift through the huge amount of personal trainer books available and focus on the few that are the best in their field. Since most authors won’t put in the time to push the knowledge sphere forward, they’ll just recycle what’s already known. Amazon doesn’t help. The truth is lots of people like to write reviews, but often their opinions are uneducated, or the reasoning behind their review unexplained.

Designing Resistance Training Programs, 4th Edition

Category: Strength Training

Author: Steven Fleck.  My Rating 7/10

Designing Resistance Training ProgramsMy Review: One the best fitness books on designing fitness programming.  It covers almost every university study on almost every fitness topic.  How many bench press sets is best?  Should I mix strength training and yoga?  What about two-a-days?  Covered.  Good as it is, there are still somethings missing.

In particular, Fleck could have a done a better job at interpreting many of charts he provides for you.  It’s great in that the book provides you with the raw data, but what you do with the raw data becomes the burden of the reader.  I will admit, that the conclusion should be the easy part, and perhaps Fleck felt that a skilled coach could handle it.

Verdict: This is a good book for fitness professionals… but too dense for beginner athletes (ask your coach to read it.)

The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

Category: Weight Loss Diets

Author: Melissa Hartwig.  My Rating 9/10

My Review: Clear. Concise. Interesting. Fast Read. Melissa and Paul have a similar writing style. Keep the rules clear where you can, explain the exceptions, and illustrate with examples. The Whole 30 diet is an anti-inflammation diet couched in about 10 major rules that are easy to understand, but riddled with caveats (like Asimov’s 3 laws.) Fruits are good, unless it’s juiced, but if it’s used to sweeten food then it’s ok :-).

In all fairness Melissa does a very good job of taking a very complex topic and drawing clear lines where she can, and showing the gray boundaries where she can. People use the Whole 30 for weight loss, and honestly that is a mistake. This diet is hard to follow, because it’s restrictive. However, where the Whole 30 shines is eliminating foods that may be making you sick (Milk, soy, gluten, etc.) Weight loss is slower on this diet, but you’ll feel better (after you go through the detox that is.)

The diet is easy to understand, but tough to master. I am a better nutrition coach for having read this book, and for that reason alone I recommend it.

Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers and Athletes

Category: Strength Training

Author: Michael Boyle.  My Rating 1/10

My Review: I purchased this book because Mike Boyle is a renown strength and conditioning coach and someone who deals with research not fads.  I’ve had the opportunity to see Mike speak at several conferences and have learned much from him.  Overall, I found this book to be below standard.  It is really a half-baked book full anecdotes with partial treatment on many subjects.  It’s hard to recommend this book over books that treat subjects completely.  I was able to read the book cover

to cover in about 3 hours, because it’s mostly fluff.  Boyle’s a legendary coach, but this is no legendary book.

Recent Fitness Book Reviews

Muscle Energy Techniques Review and Video

Muscle Energy Techniques Review and Video

Muscle Energy Techniques provides techniques for testing joint range and then increasing the range of motion through contract and release stretching with a therapist.  In this short book, MET demonstrates how to test, strengthen, and lengthen some of the most important muscles in the human body.  This review discusses some of the techniques provided, and provides additional detail on alternatives.

Functional Movement Systems Book Review

Functional Movement Systems Book Review

The Functional Movement Book Review

View all Personal Trainer Certifications and Books

This book provides an overview of the research and history that Gray Cook and Brett Jones sells at  While dated, the techniques explained for the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and Selective Functional Movement Assessment SFMA are really the same today as they were then.

In this review, I am not going to cover the FMS or SFMA components that are discussed in the book.  The reason being is that there is ample discussion of these two services from the hundreds of people who have taken the certifications.  The book does cover more than just the FMS and SFMA, and that’s the parts I am going to discuss.  In addition, if you don’t have the cash to pay for the FMS or SFMA certifications, this book does provide a very detailed explanation of how to perform these techniques.

Functional Movement Systems: map dysfunctional movement patterns, note asymmetry, limitations, and inabilities.

Rating Explanations and Criteria

All books are read twice cover to cover.  I space the readings at least 6 months apart.  I’ve found that I learn a great deal more reading a book twice because I understand it’s organization better.  I’m also able to understand some of the more subtle points the author is trying to make.

Ratings are based on the following criteria:

  1. Cost of book: more expensive books should be better.  If they aren’t, I lower the rating.
  2. Clarity of illustrations: good illustrations make reading the book easier.
  3. Redundancy: I hate when books waste my time by repeating the same principles over and over.
  4. Organization: Organization of material is very important for learning new concepts.
  5. Worksheets, Charts, Bonus Videos, etc.:  Did the author include quality bonus materials
  6. Best of Breed: Did this book really discuss new research and information.  Does it do something better than other books.
  7. Not Yet Rated.  If I haven’t read the book twice, you’ll see it’s rated as not yet rated.

Missing a Book on this List?

Send me an email and I’ll read it, review it, and add it to this list.

Leave a Comment