Online PT Blog.

Top 8 Books for Personal Trainers on Exercise Programming

Whether you've been a personal trainer for one year or ten, you're never in a position where you can stop learning. There's always more to learn - partly because the science behind fitness is constantly improving, changing and updating; and partly because there is no such thing as knowing too much.

In order to continue to design great workouts for your clients, you need to stay clued up on all there is to know about how to programme your sessions. Whether you see people in your local gym or train them online, the methods and principles behind programming effective workouts will be the same. 

But how can you do that? There are plenty of ways for you to improve your skills and extend your knowledge. CPD courses may sound like the obvious choice, but what if there isn't one available near you or you want the knowledge only? You can also follow reputable online fitness magazines and blogs. Another is to talk to other people in the industry and network with those who know their stuff.

Another great option is to read many books on the subject. Next up, we'll look at some of the best books that you might want to check out, which could help you improve the way you programme your clients' workouts. These are all worth looking into if you're going to continue to improve the services you are offering your clients.


#1. Secrets Of Successful Program Design: A How-To Guide For Busy Fitness Professionals - Alwyn Cosgrove And Craig Rasmussen
Buy on Amazon

As the title suggests, this book is a wonderful option if you are a particularly busy fitness professional who needs some help designing better programmes. If you're wondering what you can do to improve those skills, Alwyn Cosgrove and Craig Rasmussen have you covered.

Alwyn started his career in fitness in Scotland and worked with a range of athletes and the general population to widen his knowledge. These days he runs Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California, writes books, articles for platforms like Men's Health, T-Nation or Bodybuilding.com and is available for public speaking gigs. Craig Rasmussen is the Head Coach and Powerlifting Specialist at Results Fitness and has plenty of hands-on experience on how to get results for clients.

The book promises to help you deliver more reliable results to your clients by exploring their individual needs and designing the right programme for their goal. It's known to be a reliable and system-based manual, so it's worth checking out.


#2. The New Rules Of Lifting For Women — Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove
Buy on Amazon

If you're offering strength training workouts for women, you'll want to know all there is to know about lifting for women. The New Rules of Lifting for Women covers the three most important areas of questions your potential female clients will ask. 

In part 1, the book argues against the notion that women bulk up when they lift weights, saying that actually, it's hard enough even for men to do so. The focus here is on achieving a toned look and a healthy body, so if your clients are after those aims, this should be very helpful. Part 2 will detail nutrition principles and habits, and finally, the last part educates the readers about resistance training and includes exercises and workouts that are vital for women's fitness.

While this book was written for the general public, it can give you great insight into how to communicate with women about their fitness goals, understand their struggles, and gain added knowledge on the resistance exercises you might want to include for your female clients.


#3. Back Mechanic — Stuart McGill, PhD
Buy on Amazon

Some personal trainers are explicitly interested in helping their clients to do away with pain. Also, a significant part of the population will experience back pain at some point in their life, especially 35+ clients. So it's paramount that at one point in your career, you might need to look into how to work with someone experiencing pain.

With this book by Stuart McGill, you can learn a lot about taking the road to recovery from pain. Passing that information on to your clients in the form of more efficient workouts will ensure that they become stronger while also nurturing their body and staying on the road to recovery.

Keep in mind that rehabbing clients is beyond the scope of a personal trainer unless you have related qualifications. If that's the case, your first point would be to refer your client to a GP, a physiotherapist or an osteopath. Once they get the all-clear to resume exercise, that's when your knowledge will become invaluable.


#4. Strength Training For Fat Loss — Nick Tumminello
Buy on Amazon

One of the primary benefits of strength training is that it improves metabolism and the body's ability to burn fat, making it suitable for adding muscle and losing fat overall. If your personal training services target primarily people who want to lose body fat and improve body composition, Nick Tumminello's book will be a great addition to your library.

You might well have a programme already centred around fat loss, but is it doing the job for your clients in the way you would hope? If you want to improve that, take a look at this much-loved book from Nick Tumminello, which lists 150 exercises you can incorporate into clients workouts.


#5. Starting Strength, Third Edition — Mark Rippetoe
Buy on Amazon

Sometimes, you need to make sure that you have all of the underpinning knowledge before employing a training method in your clients' workout plan. If you ever find yourself asking why you include a specific weight training exercise in a programme, then this could be a sign that it's time to go back to the drawing board. Also, if you feel your experience and knowledge on barbell training needs improvement, Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength - Basic Barbell Training is for you.

This book takes you through the mechanics of lifting unlike any other, and it is hugely helpful to have on your shelf. Mark Rippetoe has put over 3 decades of experience as a powerlifter, Olympic lifting coach and gym owner into this book, and it's already on its 3rd edition, which means it stays updated and in line with recent sports science discoveries. 


#6. Strength Training Anatomy, Third Edition — Frédéric Delavier
Buy on Amazon

Frédéric Delavier's Strength Training anatomy is a staple book in any personal trainer's fitness library. Especially if you're a visual person when it comes to understanding which muscles are activated in specific strength training exercises. The graphics in this book will blow your mind and teach you all there is to know about training anatomy and exactly what your clients should feel contracting and relaxing when they perform their prescribed training.

On top of that, the exercises are categorised based on the muscles you want to target, and they are colour coded for better visual comprehension. At the end of the book, you'll also find graphics of the skeleton with all the bones marked and the musculature of a human through the physique of the statue of the Farnese Hercules.


#7. Science And Development Of Muscle Hypertrophy, Second Edition — Brad Schoenfeld
Buy on Amazon

This book has been described as the single most complete resource on muscle hypertrophy in the world. Muscle hypertrophy is essential for those wishing to gain muscle mass and strength, so if you are trying to help your personal training clients in that way, this book will be a lifesaver.

Compiling the latest research findings with tips on applications for personal trainers, this is the kind of book you will wish you had always had. The author, Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS,*D, CSPS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D, FNSCA, is recognised worldwide as one of the most prominent authorities on hypertrophy. He is a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder who has won multiple natural bodybuilding titles and is currently an associate professor of exercise science at Lehman's College in the Bronx, New York.


#8. Becoming A Supple Leopard – Dr Kelly Starrett
Buy on Amazon

For personal trainers working with athletes of all levels, this book will be a must-have. Whether you train general population clients who regularly attend running races, triathlons, obstacle courses or even white-collar boxing or professional athletes of any sport, the demand on their bodies while preparing for an event can be taxing.

Dr Kelly Starrett's book will help you understand the principles and theory behind exercises and training methods later detailed in the book, which is ideal for those personal trainers who want to extend their knowledge. 

Part 2 of the book lists movements in three categories and details the correct way of performing them. You'll find compound movements like Squat variations, the Deadlift, Pushup and so on, power movements like Wall Balls or the Kettlebell Swing and complex movements that are reasonably advanced like the Burpee, the Turkish Getup or the Snatch.

Part 3 is all about mobilisation techniques split into areas that are colour coded, and you'll find mobility exercises with pictures and correct technique explained for each area. As the cover says, this book is the ultimate guide to resolving pain, preventing injury and optimising athletic performance.
5 star status

“I'm not one for profanities but W..T..F.. This is awesome!”

Review from The Institute of Personal Trainers