My buddy John Lawson, a trainer at Athletes Body in Las Vegas, recently hit me up seeking advice on how to grow as a trainer. Man, I love people who are hungry to grow, and it always makes me happy when someone makes it out of the 209.
I get these requests from time to time. “What books do you recommend if I want to learn about X, Y, Z?”
Whether you’re a personal trainer looking to develop your career skills, or someone who just wants to know how to better control your own health and fitness, these resources will be of tremendous value to you.
I’ve also included some business stuff at the end.
Most general population clients are interested in looking and feeling better. Nearly everyone general population client I’ve worked with wants to lose weight. Nutrition is by far the most important factor for weight management. Understanding the link between nutrition and weight loss gives you control over your body and makes you immune to the nonsense fads that come and go.
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger summarizes the science of weight loss (and weight gain, for those looking to bulk). It also discusses other factors that affect body composition, like sleep, mental stress, alcohol, exercise, muscle mass, etc. As a bonus, there are workouts as well. This is a great resource for learning how to change your body.
For a more in-depth look at how nutrition affects the way our body functions on a deeper level, I recommend The Wahls Protocol. The author is a doctor who developed multiple sclerosis. She followed the traditional medical advice and did everything her doctors told her to do, but she kept getting worse and worse. She went from marathon to wheel chair, and then decided to take things into her own hands by changing the way she ate. It didn’t “cure” her MS, but her body became able to walk again and actually started getting better instead of worse. In this book, Dr. Wahls details her exact diet, why she does it, and argues it makes our bodies super healthy.
To become masterful with training, health, and fitness, you must have a great understanding of the underlying science that dominates the human body: anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and neurology.
A great place to start is the NSCA’s Essentials of Strength and Conditioning book. This textbook is study material for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification and covers the basics of most of what you need to know to understanding how the body responds to different types of training.
Want to help people get better cardio? It’s covered.
Get stronger? Covered.
Jump higher? Run faster? Covered.
If you’re looking to build you base knowledge of all things training related, this is a good springboard to do that.
For an in-depth look at how to best workout for muscle growth–which has impacts on health far beyond just getting jacked–I highly recommend Brad Schoenfeld’s Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy.
Brad Shoenfeld has a PhD in hypertrophy (the fancy word for muscle growth). He’s literally got it down to a science.
If you have questions like “how many sets per week should I do to get the most muscle growth” or “how many reps should be in each set,” this book is for you.
Lastly, if you’d like to learn how to train an athlete in the weight room, Joel Smith’s Speed Strength is a great resource. Joel is an ex-strength coach at UC Berkeley and runs a very successful podcast called the Just Fly Performance Podcast (which you should also check out).
Becoming fast and explosive on a field or court is a different ball game than just getting strong in the weight room. Strength is good, but if strength is all it took, wouldn’t powerlifter and body builders be the best athletes in the world, too?
Speed Strength gives you the knowledge and tools you need to know how to make someone more athletic using the weight room. As an added bonus, there are significant sections on sprint mechanics as well, so you’ll learn what good sprinting should look like.
- Change Psychology
This could probably be #2 or 3 on this list.
Just because someone knows they shouldn’t do something, doesn’t mean they won’t do it.
Everyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows this (including me). Yes, I shouldn’t eat that…but I’m probably going to.
It’s not enough to know what to do. You need to know how to set yourself (or your clients) up for success so you ACTUALLY do it.
This is about habits, psychology, and environment more than anything else. If you put yourself in a good position, good things happen. If you put yourself in a bad position, bad things happen. The trick is knowing how make your environment, like your house and work spaces, good situations so that you are encouraged and maybe even rewarded for making good choices.
A quick example to illustrate the point.
A client I once worked with had lost a ton of weight and kept most of it off, but she started gaining some back. A lot had changed in her life, including a new job and two hour commute. After talking with her, we realized when she got home from her shift, she was so stressed out she needed to decompress, and she did that with candy.
After a few more questions, we discovered having a cup of tea would also help her calm and destress. Better option than candy, right?
She didn’t want to get rid of the candy because her grandkids enjoyed it. So instead, I asked her if she could hide it in the most inconvenient spot possible. She put it behind a bunch of pots and pans in a pantry. I also asked if she could set her tea kettle, tea bag, and mug out before she left for work, so when she got home all she had to do was turn on the burner.
Her situation changed. When she got home, the candy wasn’t the first thing she saw anymore. In fact, it was a pain in the ass to get to it. But the tea…the tea was there, ready to go.
She stopped eating candy after work, and her weight gain stopped too.
Change Anything discusses such environmental factors and how you can manipulate them to set yourself up for success. If you want to improve your life, or other peoples, buy that book and read it intently.
Switch is a more theoretical approach to why people make the decisions they do and how you can influence them. The book discusses the Rider (reason) and the Elephant (emotion).
People can ride elephants. But if an elephant ever goes crazy, there’s no way a rider could control it.
The analogy follows that when emotions are high, there is no amount of reasoning that can change a person’s mind. Thus, you must tap into what inspires someone (or yourself) emotionally in order to spur immediate action. Following up with reason keeps a person on course, but without an emotional connection, it’s like trying to tell an elephant to go left when that elephant really wants to go right.
It’s not going to end well.
Lastly, Motivational Interviewing is a very well known style of communication that helps you guide people into talking themselves into doing what is best for them. Motivational Interviewing is used in all fields–not just health and fitness.
If you want to help people change their behaviors–which, you do, if you’re working with general population clients–I highly recommend these three resources.
- Speed Development
If you want to help athletes run faster, just get these two books. Just do it. Trust me.
The Science of Speed: The Art of the Sprint is written by an Olympic Sprint Coach (Tom Tellez) and one of his athletes, who is also one of the most decorated Olympians of all time (Carl Lewis). It is a deep dive into sprint technique.
The Sprinter’s Compendium is a complete resource on speed development. Don’t sleep on this one.
You can be the greatest trainer in the world, but if you can’t sell anything, you’re broke and you can’t help anybody.
I’ve read a fair amount of sales books and done quite a bit of sales training. By far, the best resource I’ve come across is SPIN Selling.
It is clear, concise, makes sense, and the book includes exercises to help you develop your own sales process. It debunks sales myths and gives you all the “do’s” and “don’ts”.
You will not regret investing a little time and money in this. One sale will pay it off.
- Fitness Career Stuff
If you’re considering (or already in) a fitness career, these are nice guides to help you be successful.
Ignite the Fire by Jon Goodman covers a little bit of everything about the business of personal training. Types of pay structures, how to get clients, how to keep clients, etc. It also helps you understand what type of trainer you want to be and how to make that happen.
The Wealthy Fit Pro’s Guide to Getting Clients and Referrals, also by Jon Goodman, delivers on what is claimed in the title. Tons of ideas and strategies for getting more clients, getting referrals, and keeping the clients you do have around for the long-term.
Lastly, I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve heard great things about John Berardi’s Change Maker: Turn Your Passion for Health and Fitness into a Powerful Purpose and a Wildly Successful Career. People I trust have said good things about it. Check it out for yourself.
These are my recommended starting points for those looking to learn more about better controlling their health and fitness.
If you have any questions at all, feel free to hit me up on IG or comment on this post!