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Top 20 Best Weight Lifting Books
for 2023

When it comes to finding the best weightlifting books, you could spend a lifetime sorting them all out. Dozens of these books are published every year, and the majority of them simply repackage existing information.

The books on the market cover everything from functional training, bodyweight workouts, high-intensity training, and sports training to body workouts, classic strength training, and every other type of training regimen you can imagine designed for the human body.

The Best Weight Lifting Books

The Best Weight Lifting Books

Here’s our rundown of the best weightlifting books for 2023. Because there are literally hundreds of books on the topic, we chose a mix of classic bestsellers, books written for specific groups, and some new books that provide a combination of foundational information with new science and new functional training techniques.

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Starting Strength

Starting Strength

Mark Rippetoe, Lon Kilgore (2005)

Starting Strength has helped hundreds of thousands of people learn the basic barbell exercises and master the foundation of strength training.

The first edition of the book Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training came out in 2003. The book is widely regarded as the single best resource for anyone just getting into lifting weights and gaining muscle. The second edition of the book was published in April of 2011, followed by a completely new third edition in April of 2016.

The book discusses the fundamentals of weight lifting in terms of physiology, biomechanics, and programming specifically for novices (beginners) because novices are the population that most need to gain strength.

This simple, easy-to-understand guide for all competitive athletes and trainers, coaches, and parents is based on three key exercises: the squat, press, and deadlift. These exercises develop the foundation of strength that transfers to all sports. The author has proven that following these three basic compound movements–performed correctly–along with proper diet will increase your athletic performance.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Michael Mathews (2012)

Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body is an e-book by fitness author Michael Matthews.

Bigger Leaner Stronger has helped hundreds of thousands of men and women work toward their goals, with over 400 pages of new workouts, progress photos, and detailed instruction.

This strength training book has information to help increase muscle mass and lose body fat. There are over 175 pages with topics including what to eat to gain muscle, how to lift weights and how many times a week, when to take supplements, and how to find the correct routine for different goals.

The author claims readers will have increased strength in just a short time if they follow his advice. Sidebars throughout give readers additional information on related topics including why women should be lifting weights too and whether there are any health risks involved.

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Science and Practice of Strength Training

Science and Practice of Strength Training

Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky (1995)

Author Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky is a world-renowned sport biomechanist and former strength and conditioning consultant for the Soviet Union Olympic teams.

In Science and Practice of Strength Training, the author examines strength from a biomechanical and physiological perspective and shows strength and conditioning professionals and coaches how to use basic scientific principles to improve muscular strength in their athletes.

Zatsiorsky begins the book by discussing strength training theory and the biomechanical and physiological factors determining muscle strength. Next, he shows readers how to apply this information to strength training programs by using data gathered from the training logs of more than one thousand elite Eastern European Olympic and world-class athletes.

The book also covers exercise selection, injury prevention, goal-setting, periodization (timing in training), and alternative exercises for strength enhancement.

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding

Arnold Schwarzenegger (2012)

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is the authoritative and comprehensive guide to all aspects of bodybuilding: training, nutrition, and supplements. Updated in its 13th edition (with over 30,000 words added), it offers the most in-depth look at bodybuilding training, adding a staggering 10,000 words to the previous edition.

The only book to comprehensively cover the sport of bodybuilding and weightlifting, it covers bodybuilding’s history, equipment, exercises, training principles, lifestyle issues, nutrition, and contest preparation. Also contains a detailed description of more than 1000 exercises with step-by-step photos.

Arnold gives his readers a collection of training methods and workouts, along with a crucial guide on how to eat for growth and a plethora of inspirational quotes from bodybuilding icons to keep you motivated. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is must-read material for everyone who loves bodybuilding.

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Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning

Greg Haff, N. Travis Triplett (2016)

A comprehensive, yet practical, weight training book that covers a variety of topics in great detail. The Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning is a must-have reference guide for anyone interested in improving athletic performance, injury prevention, recovery and function, and so much more!

The book features teaching guidelines, math formulas, sample programs, exercise technique descriptions and photographs, injury prevention info, and more.

This book is for beginner to intermediate level weight trainers or conditioning specialists who want a clear, complete overview of the practices and theories of resistance exercise.

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning remains a classic resource in the field and offers concepts, advice, and techniques that are applicable to all strength training applications. Packed with clear and concise coverage of the basics of strength training, the book provides the reader with an unyielding foundation from which to approach their goals.

Strength Training Anatomy

Strength Training Anatomy

Frédéric Delavier (2001)

Strength Training Anatomy is full of the knowledge, guidance, and secrets to get the most from your workouts. Learn how to improve your performance, target specific muscle groups, and master various routines, whether you’re a beginner or advanced athlete.

This book contains all the info you need to jump-start your success in the weight room–plus detailed anatomical drawings and photographs that show you how to do each exercise correctly.

With over 600 color photos and 550 anatomical terms, this comprehensive anatomy guide shows you exactly how every muscle in your body works. Plus, you’ll gain valuable insight into practical ways to perfect your technique for every major lift.

Each of Strength Training Anatomy’s chapters covers a body area, with detailed illustrations showcasing the muscles being worked. Discover how to perform and master basic exercises, and learn how to improve your workouts by incorporating targeted areas of training.

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Practical Programming for Strength Training

Practical Programming for Strength Training

Mark Rippetoe, Andy Baker (2013)

This weightlifting book by Mark Rippetoe (author of Starting Strength ) and Lon Kilgore will get you stronger in the big three lifts–the squat, bench press, and deadlift–as well as other important compound movements.

Updated with over 20% new material, a comprehensive section on programming for both powerlifting and bodybuilding goals, more photo examples of exercises and common mistakes, and revised photos and charts throughout, this book is a must-have addition to the library of anyone who wants to achieve maximum strength training results.

Practical Programming for Strength Training is a strength training book that provides simple and effective templates for setting up your own routine. This book covers general tips, where to get started, how to make progress, the common exercises you need to be doing (and the ones you don’t), and gives detailed workout examples for a complete routine for beginners or for those who are already familiar with the basics.

Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches

Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches

Greg Everett (2016)

Olympic Weightlifting A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches features over 600 pages of in-depth information on all areas of weightlifting. This book includes chapters that cover the sport’s history, technique, training methodology, programming, and nutrition.

The new third edition has been expanded to over 150 pages with revised and improved chapters, improved organization, more tables and diagrams, and over 600 photographs. The new edition has improved reference functionality with an index, glossary, and expanded table of contents.

Olympic Weightlifting A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches takes you step by step through the sport, from how to warm up before lifting sessions to the correct way to execute Olympic lifts themselves. You’ll learn how to strengthen the human body and stay injury-free, and how to incorporate Olympic lifting into a general strength-training program.

With contributions from both coaches and athletes, this book will allow you to take your weightlifting game to the next level.

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Strength Training Past 50

Strength Training Past 50

Wayne Westcott, Thomas R. Baechle (2015)

Strength Training Past 50 provides you with the knowledge you need to hit the gym and start your own weightlifting program. Whether you’re just beginning or are an experienced lifter, the information in this book is both helpful and practical.

It’s written by two exercise physiologist scientists and a clinical psychologist who all hold doctorates in their respective fields. This is not a book for people interested in high-intensity training, however the book is packed with information about aging muscles, strengthening muscles, balancing strength use with activity level, dealing with arthritis, and more.

There’s also a thorough discussion of the various types of weightlifting machines that are available—everything from Nautilus machines to weight machines you can buy at Wal-Mart or borrow at your local public gym. The goal was to provide the best and most complete book possible on this topic.

Other topics discussed include how weightlifting can benefit your body, how to build a weightlifting routine for beginners, how to gain strength and muscle mass, easy moves you can do at home, beginner routines on machines at the gym as well as on free weights and much more.

The Bodybuilder’s Kitchen

The Bodybuilder’s Kitchen

Erin Stern (2018)

You know how professional bodybuilders get that herculean look? Well, you might be surprised to find out it’s not just about working out and eating right. There are other factors at play like what goes into their kitchens!

Professional bodybuilders take careful planning so they can achieve those sculpted physiques—but now anyone who wants a healthier lifestyle has access to this book. We’ll help guide you every step of the way from selecting healthy food options based on personal preferences or dietary needs (like veganism) all while providing necessary vitamins/minerals.

The Bodybuilder’s Kitchen features five weekly meal plans, 100 mouth-watering recipes and expert insight from champion bodybuilder Erin Stern on how to fuel your workouts for bulking up your physique.


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Cardio Sucks!

Cardio Sucks!

Michael Matthews (2012)

Cardio Sucks turns the idea of cardio as an answer to losing weight on its head. If your goal is to get or stay lean you don’t need to spend hours every week dripping sweat on a treadmill, elliptical machine, Peloton Bike, or destroying your knees running.

Not only is cardio work boring and time-consuming, it doesn’t come close to the same return on investment as lifting weights or resistance training.

The book features five simple eating habits that keep you lean, healthy, and happy, “without having to obsess over every calorie you eat.” The book covers high-intensity interval cardio, which is the best type of cardio for burning fat as quickly as possible.

Mathews also writes about “fasted cardio” to lose fat and includes seven powerful cardio workouts that the author claims will help you burn fat and not muscle in less than 30 minutes per day.

Strength LAB

Strength LAB

Matthew Vincent (2014)

Strength LAB: Explosive Power and Maximum Strength for Athletes is a follow up from author Matt Vincent’s Training LAB.

His first book covered block periodization training for strength athletes specifically training for the Highland Games. Matt is the 2012 Highland Games World Champion. He also competed in numerous Strongman, Weight Lifting, and Powerlifting competitions.

Strength LAB explains Matt’s philosophies for training and lays out block programming for any strength athlete looking to build maximum strength and explosive power. He focuses on the big lifts like square, deadlift, bench, push press, snatch, and clean.

He also covers mobility issues, conditioning, and a simple training program called “The HVIII.” The five week program is simple and effective.

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The New Rules of Lifting for Women

The New Rules of Lifting for Women

Lou Schuler, Alwyn Cosgrove (2008)

In The New Rules of Lifting for Women, fitness experts and authors Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove continue their wildly popular New Rules of Lifting series with a comprehensive strength training, conditioning, and nutrition plan specifically designed to help women reap the benefits of weightlifting.

With women’s fitness expert Cassandra Forsythe, they show how ditching the cardio and picking up some iron can help women get the body they want.

The book dispels the common belief that weight training will cause women to “bulk up.” On the contrary they show that it creates properly conditioned muscles that will in turn increase metabolism and promote weight loss, and give women a lean, healthy look.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women includes six months’ worth of progressively challenging workouts that strip fat while increasing strength and building lean muscle in just two to three hours a week. The authors also provide an easy-to-use, customizable nutrition program that shows you how much to eat to reach your goals.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weight Training

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weight Training

Deidre Johnson-Cane, Joe Glickman, Jonathan Cane (2000)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weight Training is useful for those looking for an approachable, beginner’s guide to lifting weights.

The book includes multiple exercises for all of the major muscle groups and photos for each exercise. Like other books in the “For Dummies” series, this book aims to keep is simple and easy to understand.

Each exercise depicts a beginning, midpoint, and end position. Accompanying photos show the most common mistakes in executing various exercises allowing readers to learn before they make the mistake and risk injury.

Two-color line illustrations show readers which muscles are involved with each exercise, breaks down what you should know before you start a particular exercise, and even covers warm up stretching, diet, and proper attire.


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Rebuilding Milo

Rebuilding Milo

Aaron Horschig (2021)

Rebuilding Milo is the culmination of Dr. Horschig’s life’s work as a sports physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and Olympic weightlifting coach. It contains all of the knowledge he has amassed over the past decade while helping some of the best athletes in the world.

Rebuilding Milo is a comprehensive resource for any lifter who has ever experienced a nagging weightlifting-related injury.

There are many books and numerous articles on how to lift weights, but this book is the first to cover the many ways and reasons why people get injured while specifically weightlifting.

More than that, it gives advice on how to prevent these injuries from reoccurring while successfully continuing to lift. This book is meant both as a self-help guide for weightlifters who have had injury problems and as a great resource for fitness professionals.

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy

Brad J. Schoenfeld (2016)

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, Second Edition, is a comprehensive resource on muscle hypertrophy.

Written by Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, an internationally renowned expert on muscle hypertrophy, this book is the definitive resource for strength and conditioning professionals, personal trainers, sport scientists, researchers, and exercise science instructors.

It’s packed with information regarding muscle hypertrophy, including the mechanism of its development, how the body structurally and hormonal changes when exposed to stress, ways to most effectively design training programs, and nutritional guidelines for eliciting hypertrophic changes.

This new edition offers more than 1,000 references and applied guidelines. Two all-new chapters deliver practical content on the measurement of muscle hypertrophy and advanced training practices.

Readers will learn various methods by which hypertrophy is measured, including site-specific measures (circumference measures, MRI, CT, and ultrasound), indirect measures (underwater weighing, DXA, BIA, ADP, and skinfolds), and histological measures (biopsy), as well as the strengths and limitations of each modality.

The new edition also provides guidance for achieving greater training volumes with training practices that maximize the individual’s genetic potential to gain muscle.


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Science of Strength Training

Science of Strength Training

Austin Current (2021)

Whether you are looking to tone and sculpt your body, lose weight, give yourself an edge in another sport, support bone strength, or simply improve posture, strength training can help you achieve your goals.

With unique CGI artworks, this book gets under the skin of more than 100 exercises to identify every muscle worked and show how they engage at every stage, so you can feel you’re getting it right—safely and with maximum benefit.

Follow flexible workout programs targeting a range of abilities and aims. Understand the physiology behind how to build and maintain muscle mass, raise metabolism, and reduce body fat.

Apply in-depth dietary advice to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that supports muscle building, including for vegans. Explore the science behind each lift, press, push, and pull to become your own personal trainer.

The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40

The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40

Jonathon Sullivan (2016)

The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 addresses the most pervasive problem faced by aging humans: the loss of physical strength and all its associated problems.

The biggest ones include the loss of muscle mass, bone mineral loss and osteoporosis, hip fractures, loss of balance and coordination, diabetes, heart disease related to a sedentary lifestyle, and the loss of independence.

The worst advice an older person ever gets is, Take it easy. Easy makes you soft, and soft leads to injuries and breaks. The Barbell Prescription maps an escape from the usual fate of older adults: a logical, programmed approach to aging well.

Unlike all other books on the subject of exercise for seniors, the book presents a no-nonsense training approach to strength and health and demonstrates that everybody can become significantly stronger lifting weights with the right approach.

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Weightlifting Programming: A Winning Coach’s Guide

Weightlifting Programming: A Winning Coach’s Guide

Bob Takano (2012)

World renown strength coach Bob Takano covers the theoretical and practical issues, the biological and mathematical underpinnings, and provides a straightforward process for developing training programs with plenty of examples.

Takano’s reputation as one of the all time great strength coaches made his book essential reading for serious weight lifters looking for an effective training system. The book has become an invaluable resource for elite athletes over the past decade.

It covers proven workout routines, weightlifting programming, gym equipment, and olympic style weightlifting used by world champions. The book is not geared towards individuals focused on human movement and bodyweight training, but is a tremendous reference for traditional strength development.

Weightlifting is a Waste of Time

Weightlifting is a Waste of Time

John Jaquish, Henry Alkire (2020)

The Wall Street Journal Bestseller Weight Lifting is a Waste of Time So is Cardio, and There’s a Better Way to Have the Body You Want is a must-read book for anyone trying to improve their physique and overall health

Why did a book that proposes weight lifting as a waste of time make this list?

Because it is a book about weight lifting, however, it takes a different angle on the topic and provides the reader with an alternative look at the topic. The unique part is that this is a book for weightlifters. This is a book for people who love cardio. Ultimately it’s a book for anyone who wants to gain muscle and lose fat.

Author John Jaquish, PhD, is known for inventing OsteoStrong, the most effective bone density medical technology on the market.

OsteoStrong led Dr. Jaquish to his second invention, X3 Bar Elite, the world’s most effective muscle building device based on variable resistance. X3 develops muscle faster than conventional weight lifting, with the benefit of dramatically lowering injury risk. X3 incorporates functional training, high-intensity training, and resistance band training into one portable home gym system.

In Weight Lifting is a Waste of Time Dr. Jaquish and co-author Henry Alkire deliver a powerful combination of science and utility.

This groundbreaking weightlifting book turns traditional weightlifting on its head, extracting what’s great about weightlifting and exposing its fatal flaws. Readers learn how variable resistance training is the safer and more effective way to build muscle and burn fat.

The authors cover nutrition, diet fads, and show how the body’s hormones influence muscle growth and fat loss, and how to optimize both.

Weight Lifting is a Waste of Time So is Cardio, and There’s a Better Way to Have the Body You Want is everything you need to understand about diet and exercise to get the body you’ve always dreamed of.

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