Opinion

Catch Up On These 20 Fitness Must-Reads While You’re Stuck At Home Daydreaming About The Gym

No access to a gym? Workout equipment is cheaper than you think.

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Whether you’re injured, recovering from surgery, or socially isolating to protect yourself and the immunocompromised folks from COVID-19, you might suddenly find yourself unable to go to the gym.

If that’s even half as big of a nightmare for you as it is for me, you might understandably be running full force into your living room wall with frustration. 

My entire body feels out of sorts when I can’t lift, but honestly? It’s not good for our bodies to lift all the time anyway. So, instead of driving yourself up a literal wall, you can take this resting time to curl up with a protein shake (please, for the love of all things holy, do not scoop in any pre workout when you’ve got nothing to do) and integrate some solid fitness education into your training. 

No matter where you are in your lifting career (super green beginner or card-holding powerlifter), the beautiful thing about strength sports is that there is always more to learn.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, science-based lifting education, mental training for strength athletes, or specific lifting education, this guide to awesome lifting books will have something for you. In these times of trouble, your dollar will go further with your local bookstore (if they’re open or if they deliver) or on a site like Indiebound, but we’ve pasted Amazon links below if you prefer.

So if you can’t bring your body to the gym, bring your mind to the gym world: your training will thank you later.

We’ve listed all the books below, then you can scroll past the table to learn more about each book.

Embrace the Suck
embrace the suck
Embrace the Suck

Written by an editor of Bicycling magazine turned CrossFit® athlete, this is about how he changed his thinking to get into his best shape ever.

Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion
dottir
Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion

Katrin Davidsdottir is one of three women to repeat as Fittest Woman on Earth™. This is her story.

The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
the body is not an apology
The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

This book teaches something many athletes forget: loving your body, no matter how it looks or performs.

How I Became The Fittest Woman On Earth: My Story So Far
how i became the fittest woman on earth
How I Became The Fittest Woman On Earth: My Story So Far

CrossFit® superstar Tia-Clair Toomey chronicles her journey from the Australian tropics to the top of the podium at the CrossFit Games.

The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
The little black book of workout motivation
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation

The founder of Legion Supplements reveals his secrets to staying fit even when you don’t really want to.

Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder
muscle confessions of an unlikely bodybuilder
Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder

A great read about an academic who found himself becoming a competitive bodybuilder.

The 4-Hour Body
4 hour body
The 4-Hour Body

A number 1 New York Times bestseller, this highly readable book is about “body hacking” for hypertrophy, fat loss, speed, and more.

Body Respect
body respect
Body Respect

Written by two PhDs, this book aims to give a better approach to health than just “weight loss” and explores the stigmas we have around our bodies.

The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy
The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy
The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy

Stop program hopping and get results by learning the fundamentals behind rep schemes and weight percentages.

Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength
encyclopedia of muscle and strength
Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength

A well-known nutritionist, bodybuilder, PhD, and supplement creator explains how to target the muscles that matter.

Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
Health at Every Size
Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight

Shredded isn’t necessarily healthy — this book helps understand what’s really important about body composition.

The Art of Mental Training - A Guide to Performance Excellence
the art of mental training
The Art of Mental Training - A Guide to Performance Excellence

A former Federal Agent and military cyber-security specialist walks you through his lessons learned through sports hypnotherapy and the athletic mindset.

10-Minute Toughness
10-minute toughness
10-Minute Toughness

This book is all about honing focus and drive right before your workout or competition.

Mind Gym : An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence
mind gym
Mind Gym : An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence

Mental strength is an underemphasized component of athletic excellence — “Mind Gym” will help you train it.

Beginner's Guide to Weight Lifting: Simple Exercises and Workouts to Get Strong
beginner's guide to weight lifting
Beginner's Guide to Weight Lifting: Simple Exercises and Workouts to Get Strong

A great book for those who are completely new to strength training and want simple programming and form guides to help.

100 Days of Technique: A Simple Guide to Olympic Weightlifting
100 days of technique
100 Days of Technique: A Simple Guide to Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting is extremely technical and harder than it looks — that’s why it’s important to read a book like this if you want to pick it up.

The Powerbuilding Blueprint 2.0
The powerbuilding blueprint
The Powerbuilding Blueprint 2.0

A guide to powerbuilding, a discipline that aims to take the best from bodybuilding and powerlifting to build both a strong and aesthetically pleasing physique.

Bodyweight Workouts: How to Program for Fast Muscle Growth using Calisthenics Hypertrophy Training
bodyweight workouts
Bodyweight Workouts: How to Program for Fast Muscle Growth using Calisthenics Hypertrophy Training

An ideal book for those with limited gym access or who want to build coordination, stability, and yes, even muscle, with their bodyweight.

Strength Training Revolution
strength training revolution
Strength Training Revolution

Andy Xiong’s book provides a 4-step system for seasoned strength athletes who want more from their lifting.

Kettlebell Workouts and Challenges 2.0
kettlebell workouts and challenges 2.0
Kettlebell Workouts and Challenges 2.0

Taco Fleur’s book provides sound guidance for both beginners and experts to improve form and technique.

Inspiration (And, Of Course, Solid Information)

1. Embrace the Suck: What I Learned at the Box About Hard Work, (Very) Sore Muscles, and Burpees Before Sunrise, by Stephen Madden

Thinking about starting CrossFit, but all you’ve heard about is the pain? Or the very word burpees is more than enough to make you say nah? These lessons from the CrossFit box, written by a former editor of Bicycling who turned to functional fitness, will have you thinking, hey, maybe I can do it, too.

Embrace the Suck
embrace the suck
Embrace the Suck

Written by an editor of Bicycling magazine turned CrossFit® athlete, this is about how he changed his thinking to get into his best shape ever.

2. Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion, by Katrin Davidsdottir

If you haven’t won the CrossFit Games more than once (and, you know, even if you have), you definitely need to learn more about how Katrin Davidsdottir developed her superhuman abilities, and this book is your ticket to all that and more.

Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion
dottir
Dottir: My Journey to Becoming a Two-Time CrossFit Games Champion

Katrin Davidsdottir is one of three women to repeat as Fittest Woman on Earth™. This is her story.

3. How I Became The Fittest Woman On Earth: My Story So Far, by Tia-Clair Toomey

If you want to know how someone gets crowned the Fittest Woman on Earth™ — and what superhuman feats she’s going to accomplish next — you’ve got to check out this book. And really, why wouldn’t you want to know all that? Interestingly, this book was published after she won her first title and before she won two more, so it makes for an interesting prequel, a display of how Toomey built her foundation to become the titan she is today.

How I Became The Fittest Woman On Earth: My Story So Far
how i became the fittest woman on earth
How I Became The Fittest Woman On Earth: My Story So Far

CrossFit® superstar Tia-Clair Toomey chronicles her journey from the Australian tropics to the top of the podium at the CrossFit Games.

4. The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, by Sonya Renee Taylor

Fitness culture can be a beautiful thing — it can hold us up and give us courage, but it can also bring us down and try to convince us that we’re only worth what we can lift. This book challenges that narrative and teaches you how to bring self-love into the practice of moving your body.

The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
the body is not an apology
The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

This book teaches something many athletes forget: loving your body, no matter how it looks or performs.

5. The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation, by Michael Matthews

It doesn’t matter how much you love your sport. There are always going to be those days when getting suited up for your workout is the last thing in the universe that you want to do. For those (many) days, keep this book handy to help you out of your deepest slumps (though of course, it is always alright to take breaks!).

The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
The little black book of workout motivation
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation

The founder of Legion Supplements reveals his secrets to staying fit even when you don’t really want to.

6. Muscle: Confession of an Unlikely Bodybuilder, by Samuel Wilson Fussell

Bodybuilding may or may not be a strength sport, but Muscle is a book that’s consistently adored by every gymgoer who reads it. Men’s Journal called this story of a nerdy lit major ascending to the elite and, at times, absurd world of competitive bodybuilding “easily the best memoir ever written about weight training, steroids, and all.”

Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder
muscle confessions of an unlikely bodybuilder
Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder

A great read about an academic who found himself becoming a competitive bodybuilder.

7. The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, by Tim Ferriss

Notorious life hacker and business mogul Tim Ferriss is well known for his first book on productivity, The 4-Hour Workweek, but his follow-up became a seminal read for both beginner and advanced fitness fans. Each chapter reads like a mini autobiography of why Ferriss got interested in whatever the chapter is about — they include powerlifting, fat loss, Turkish get-ups, sprinting, and more — and then segues into actionable advice. The book’s not without it’s controversy, but it’s extremely readable. 

The 4-Hour Body
4 hour body
The 4-Hour Body

A number 1 New York Times bestseller, this highly readable book is about “body hacking” for hypertrophy, fat loss, speed, and more.

Science-Based Education (And, Of Course, Information)

8. Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight, by Dr. Linda Bacon and Dr. Lucy Aphramor

If you feel like the typical health books telling you how and why to diet and lose body fat are leaving you out of fitness communities, then this is the science-based book for you. The lessons it imparts include the difference between longevity and looks, your waistline and your health, and your most important relationship: the one you have with your body.

Body Respect
body respect
Body Respect

Written by two PhDs, this book aims to give a better approach to health than just “weight loss” and explores the stigmas we have around our bodies.

9. The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy: The Shockingly Simple Truth on How to Build Muscle using the Best Bodybuilding and Strength Train, by Andy Xiong

You know hypertrophy gets you bigger muscles, and you know bigger muscles is something you want — but how the hell do you get there? Fact is, you can try to follow program after program, but if you don’t know the basic fundamentals behind your rep schemes and weight percentages, you’ll likely plateau, and fast. This book is going to empower you to know your body better, and make your gains much stronger.

The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy
The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy
The Simple Science of Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy

Stop program hopping and get results by learning the fundamentals behind rep schemes and weight percentages.

10. Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength, by Jim Stoppani

Let’s face it: it’s a pretty good feeling to know exactly what muscles you’re targeting with your workouts and why you’re targeting them. It’s an even more awesome feeling to realize what muscles you’re neglecting and figure out how to train them. It’ll boost your gains and your brains, and really, who doesn’t want that? An additional bonus is that this book is written by Dr. Jim Stoppani, a nutritionist, bodybuilder, and entrepreneur who now helms the enormously successful supplement company Jym.

Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength
encyclopedia of muscle and strength
Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength

A well-known nutritionist, bodybuilder, PhD, and supplement creator explains how to target the muscles that matter.

11. Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, by Linda Bacon

Here’s the science behind the myths of no pain no gain and how you need to burn body fat to be healthy. Using this science-based research to reorient how you train can fundamentally change the way you think about your health, your strength, and your overall value as a person (and, trust me — you are incredibly valuable).

Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
Health at Every Size
Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight

Shredded isn’t necessarily healthy — this book helps understand what’s really important about body composition.

Mental Training To Boost Your Strength

12. The Art of Mental Training: A Guide to Performance Excellence, by DC Gonzalez

Mental training and a solid understanding of sports psychology may sound like it belongs in the yoga studio or in the classroom, but immersing yourself in training your mind as much as you train your body is going to work wonders on all your strength goals; and this book can help you get there.

The Art of Mental Training - A Guide to Performance Excellence
the art of mental training
The Art of Mental Training - A Guide to Performance Excellence

A former Federal Agent and military cyber-security specialist walks you through his lessons learned through sports hypnotherapy and the athletic mindset.

13. 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins, by Jason Selk

Sure, you know all about meditative techniques in general (or maybe you don’t!). But what happens in those crucial ten minutes before a game or competition? This book will take you through exactly what mindset is going to help you perform at your best when you need to most.

10-Minute Toughness
10-minute toughness
10-Minute Toughness

This book is all about honing focus and drive right before your workout or competition.

14. Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence, by Gary Mack and David Casstevens

Believing in yourself isn’t just something we tell our kids when they step up to the plate with the bases loaded — it works for Olympians, too. If you’ve ever attempted a heavy clean and jerk and got scared you couldn’t complete it, convinced yourself that you wouldn’t do it… odds are, you missed it. This book is here to help.

Mind Gym : An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence
mind gym
Mind Gym : An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence

Mental strength is an underemphasized component of athletic excellence — “Mind Gym” will help you train it.

Lifting-Specific Education

15. Beginner’s Guide to Weight Lifting: Simple Exercises and Workouts to Get Strong, by Kyle Hunt

Never lifted before? Never even stepped into the weight room? No problem. This book will take you through step-by-step, and help you get exactly where you want to be.

Beginner's Guide to Weight Lifting: Simple Exercises and Workouts to Get Strong
beginner's guide to weight lifting
Beginner's Guide to Weight Lifting: Simple Exercises and Workouts to Get Strong

A great book for those who are completely new to strength training and want simple programming and form guides to help.

16. 100 Days of Technique: A Simple Guide to Olympic Weightlifting, by Christopher Yang, Daniel Yeager, and Samantha Chin

Have you seen that woman at your gym clean and jerking your entire body weight and want to be as badass as her? This book will take you through all the know-how and technique to get you there.

100 Days of Technique: A Simple Guide to Olympic Weightlifting
100 days of technique
100 Days of Technique: A Simple Guide to Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting is extremely technical and harder than it looks — that’s why it’s important to read a book like this if you want to pick it up.

17. The Powerbuilding Blueprint 2.0: Your 12-Week Blueprint For Adding Muscle Size And Shattering PRs, by Todd C. Henry

You’ve heard about powerlifting, and you’re definitely familiar with the bodybuilding bros in your gym. But powerbuilding? What the heck is that? The goal is to get the best from bodybuilding and powerlifting. In other words, to get both strong and jacked, without sacrificing (too much) of either area of your physique. Find out here, and start revolutionizing your training today.

The Powerbuilding Blueprint 2.0
The powerbuilding blueprint
The Powerbuilding Blueprint 2.0

A guide to powerbuilding, a discipline that aims to take the best from bodybuilding and powerlifting to build both a strong and aesthetically pleasing physique.

18. Bodyweight Workouts: How to Program for Fast Muscle Growth using Calisthenics Hypertrophy Training, by Andy L. Xiong

Don’t love working out in a gym but want to get strong (and building muscles wouldn’t hurt, either)? No problem: Xiong will guide you through exactly how to get strong (and swole) using nothing but your body weight and the great outdoors. This is especially ideal for those of us without a gym, be it because of your quarantine or because you’re just too damn broke.

Bodyweight Workouts: How to Program for Fast Muscle Growth using Calisthenics Hypertrophy Training
bodyweight workouts
Bodyweight Workouts: How to Program for Fast Muscle Growth using Calisthenics Hypertrophy Training

An ideal book for those with limited gym access or who want to build coordination, stability, and yes, even muscle, with their bodyweight.

19. Strength Training Revolution: Grow Bigger and Stronger with the 4-Step Training System that Redefines Strength for Intermediate-Advanced Barbell, Powerlifting, and Strength Athletes, by Andy Xiong

You’ve been lifting for a while, but you’re looking for that next step, that next bit of education and technique advice that’s going to get you to keep moving forward in your strength sport. Never fear: your plateau won’t last long, because Xiong has got you covered.

Strength Training Revolution
strength training revolution
Strength Training Revolution

Andy Xiong’s book provides a 4-step system for seasoned strength athletes who want more from their lifting.

20. Kettlebell Workouts and Challenges 2.0: Kettlebell Workouts for Everyone, Beginners to Advanced with Scaling Alternatives, by Taco Fleur

Whether you’re completely new to kettlebells (what’s that weird-shaped thing that people keep doing weird movements with?) or fancy yourself a kettlebell expert, the workouts and form tips in this book are bound to help you improve your bell game.

Kettlebell Workouts and Challenges 2.0
kettlebell workouts and challenges 2.0
Kettlebell Workouts and Challenges 2.0

Taco Fleur’s book provides sound guidance for both beginners and experts to improve form and technique.

Turn That Frown Upside Down And Start Reading

Education is just as important to lifting as lifting itself. Use your time off to get yourself ready to absolutely crush it when you get back under the barbell. You’ve got this — and remember that sharing is caring, so feel free to share your favorite books with your favorite lifting friends.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image via Amazon