Top 20 Books for Personal Trainers

Personal training is one of the hottest and fastest growing professions in the United States at present. This is awesome to see! It’s almost like our entire culture has shifted focus from pencil thin body, low-fat eating, artificial everything to health conscious, fitness training, whole food eating, literally overnight. Just check out Instagram (follow TCD page) and Facebook (like TCD page) and you’ll see what I mean. Everywhere you look young and old are getting their fitness on, working for those #gainz and working to #eatclean as they are looking for that #fitnessmotivation so the #fitfam can be lean, strong and healthy!

With all of this renewed interest in the fitness lifestyle there are bound to be a few challenges. One of the most concerning is that anyone with an impressive physique can pass themselves off as a professional who can help you achieve the same thing. The challenge here is most people with amazing bodies were born with some disposition for that body and their eating and workouts (and possibly drugs and/or surgery) enhanced that natural ability to the degree you now see. No matter what a great body takes a lot of work to achieve, but having one does not mean a person understands how to professionally coach someone else. A great body does not mean a person is proficient in the science and art of fitness training, nor does it mean a person has the necessary education and understanding to help you achieve your fitness goals without setbacks. Personal training is much, much more than workout instruction. Quality trainers assess movement function and dysfunction, design precision engineered fitness programs, coach nutrition practices each and every day, sell services that lead to amazing experiences, motivate the under-motivated, hold accountable those who can’t control their own actions and constantly evaluate and reevaluate each and every component of their system.

Another area of concern is competition within the industry. If you’re not really, really good, you’re probably not going to be very successful. There are fitness businesses and “expert” trainers popping up all over the place and with so many people out there looking for training clients, only the best are going to make it. This leads me to the crux of the issue…becoming the best!

Becoming the best personal trainer is what this article is all about. Nothing more. How do you start out in the fitness industry and become better than everyone around you? How do you outclass, out-coach, outperform and outpace everyone else who is competing with you for the money that people are spending on professional fitness training these days? Attracting those clients and the earnings that come with them is the key to ultimate success, but in order to make it big, and earn big, you have to be a legitimate professional in all aspects of the word.

6 things you need to be a personal training success regardless of all other factors:

  • persistence – the ability to keep working and keep going when times are tough
  • organization – knowing your business, where your money is coming from, and how much, how often, when, where and why
  • flexibility – working when work is available, being open to opportunity and being willing to make changes to grasp it
  • integrity – know what you believe and who you are and what you are and are not willing to do in business, stay grounded
  • honesty – in all things be honest with others and yourself, be transparent, be simple to understand and hard to copy, be original and humble
  • courtesy – don’t try taking other people’s approaches and pass them off as yours, give credit where credit is due and be respectful

If you do not possess these 6 factors, being a personal trainer is going to be a tough career choice for you. You may learn from your mistakes, but you’re going to make a lot of them to get where you are going. Adopt these 6 characteristics and make fewer mistakes and move forward in business with more speed.

Aside from the personal characteristics listed above, you need to know a lot about the human body, human movement, human nutrition, personal motivation, goal setting strategies, selling strategies, fitness training principles and a whole host of other things that surround the personal training job in general.

One of the best ways to gain this knowledge is through reading. And not just any reading, but reading from those who are where you want to be, the revered experts and authorities who have paved the way for you and I to do what we do. I have been a personal trainer for over twenty (20) years and I can honestly tell you that I would have been much more successful if I had a mentor to tell me the things I am writing about in this article. And, if I had been wise enough to take this advice, who knows what I could have accomplished! Either way, I’ve done pretty well in the fitness industry. As you can see, I get to travel the world numerous times each year and I have designed a lifestyle that is pretty awesome and it all comes from the successes I’ve created, earned and been blessed to receive in the personal training industry. Having worked in the business of developing teams of trainers for large commercial health clubs since 2001, I can tell you that there are certain books that you should acquire and read, and then refer back to from time-to-time throughout your career and that those texts will make you better. Not only will they help to make you better, they’ll help you become better than everyone else around you – more well-rounded, more skilled, more approachable, more professional and more successful. People who want to be these things are the people I am writing this article for.

So let’s cut to the chase! I’ve promised you the 20 best books for personal trainers and let’s talk about them now.

The 4 categories that the top personal training books fall under are:

  • Assessment, Screening and Movement Preparation
  • Training Programming and System Development
  • Nutrition Science and Coaching
  • Interviewing and Selling Skill Development

Here is my list of the top 20 books for personal trainers:

Assessment, Screening and Movement Preparation

Most unsuccessful trainers can’t sell and one of the reasons they can’t sell is because they cannot build value in themselves within the course of a single session or opportunity. To be successful a personal trainer must be able to meet with a prospective client and quickly demonstrate their absolute value to that person within a very short period of time. One of the best and most appropriate ways to accomplish this is through a high quality screen or assessment process. This process should not just grade or measure the client in some way, but should also be accompanied by a well-rounded conversation that educates the person, draws their attention to necessary areas of development that have gone unnoticed and helps them conceptualize a logical plan of action that solves all of the issues they are now aware of while also achieving the specific goals they already have in mind. If you can do this for a prospective client, then you can build value in yourself and your training and you can sell more of it. These are the top 5 personal training assessment, screening and movement prep books that will help you gain that level of knowledge and skill.

1. Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain by Kendall

2. Anatomy of Movement by Calais-Germain

3. Becoming a Supple Leopard by Starret

4. Movement by Gray Cook

5. Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers

Training Programming and System Development

Your programming will becoming your calling card and will be the most visible aspect of your work that is on display for every person around you to see, hear and get a feel for. Gym goers and blog readers are like window shoppers and you need them to buy into you and your methods and in order for that to happen, you had better be good and that means principled, dynamic, energetic and professional. Use the top 5 personal training programming and system development books listed here and get better with every turn of the page.

1. Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatsiorsky and Kraemer

2. Supertraining by Mel Siff

3. Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe

4. Easy Strength by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dan John

5. Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle

Nutrition Science and Coaching

Every personal fitness result involves nutrition in some way. The personal trainer who lacks a firm understanding of human nutrition also lacks the ability to effectively train their clients. All performance, all body composition, all mood, all rest and recovery, all aspects of human life are in some way linked to nutrition. Learn nutrition, stay current, develop a fundamentally sound framework of understanding and proficiency so you can impart that information to your clients to help them improve. Know food and the coaching of nutrition as a science better by reading my top 5 books on nutrition science and coaching listed here.

1. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

2. The Metabolism Advantage by John Berardi

3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

4. Eat Meat and Stop Jogging by Mike Sheridan

5. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism by Gropper

Interviewing and Selling Skill Development

If you are a personal trainer, you are a salesperson. Period! If you can’t sell yourself as a personal trainer you are nothing more than a person wandering around the gym with a piece of paper that says “certified personal trainer” on it. That’s not going to pay the bills my friend. Since you are a salesperson first and a fitness trainer second you had better learn how to talk with people, engage them, excite them, build value in you and your methods and close sales. This is a must! There is no way around this. The absolute best way to be a successful, high-earning personal trainer is to become the best salesperson you can be. You can begin to accomplish that by reading my top 5 interviewing and selling skill development books that are provided for you here.

1. Influence by Robert Cialdini

2. Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, et. al.

3. Motivational Interviewing by W. Miller

4. The World’s Best Know Marketing Secret by Mike Macedonio

5. The Little Red Book of Selling, 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer

When it comes to success as a personal trainer, no amount of reading, observing, listening or mentoring will outweigh a person’s personality, professionalism and their own personal level of energy that they bring to their work. You can read all of these books and understand them but be a person who misses everyday social cues in the people you are working with and you’ll fail miserably. If you are not able to pick-up on nonverbal communication from one person to another during your interactions with potential clients, you won’t be very effective and you’ll miss a lot of potential sales. However, if you are rather well adjusted as a person functioning in society you will probably do pretty well. If you aren’t a pretentious, self-absorbed and self-righteous personal trainer you will probably do just fine if you endeavor to improve each and every day. If you read, learn, adopt, act upon and then reevaluate your process upon reading these and other texts, you’ll most likely be very successful. My point here is that your own personality is fundamental to your ability to maximize the implementation of the information found in these books. Don’t just focus on these books and try to retain the information found in them, also work on yourself and your behaviors. Document and recognize how you deal with criticism, take notice of how you interact with people in everyday life and how you respond to people who aren’t in agreement with you or who do not buy-into what you are trying to do. Become highly skilled at avoiding conflict and overcoming conflict when it arises. If you do these things as an exercise in personal development then that great wealth of information you derive from these texts will help to propel you to heights in your personal training business that you did not think possible.

Be well, work hard and do good things my friends.

Best wishes to you as you pursue your personal training career!


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