My TOP 10 Strength and Conditioning Books | Next Level Athletics

My TOP 10 Strength and Conditioning Books



Earl Nightingale said many years ago that one hour of dedicated study per day will put you at the top of your field within three years.

Within five years you’ll be a national authority.

In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.

It never ceases to amaze me how little people are willing to invest in continuing education in their chosen profession.

Nobody bats an eye at shelling out 600 bucks for the newest iGadget but tell them to fork over a couple tenners for a book that contains information they can instantly put to good use and become better at what they do, and you'd think you had told them to scratch an eyeball with a hacksaw by all the whining and excuses as to why they can't do it coming outta their mouths.

When adding up the cost of all the training-related books and DVDs purchased, seminars attended, and the two internships I did overseas (including travel, food and lodging), I put myself in the hole with a sum reaching well into five figures in 2014 alone.

A few strength and conditioning books in my training library

A few strength and conditioning books in my training library


Ever since posting an article on studying for and passing the CSCS exam (pretty damn amazing read, if I say so myself), I've been getting emails from young, aspiring coaches and trainers seeking advice on getting into the fitness industry and how to take their careers to the next level.

I have no intention of producing a massive heap of keyboard-vomit disguised as professional career advancement advice for all you new strength and conditioning coaches out there, putting a spin on every possible scenario imaginable, so I will hack away the superfluous and boil down my thoughts to one sentence:

Never stop learning.

Dedicating one hour each day to continued learning will fast-forward your career track miles ahead of your peers over the next few years.

This is the badass study hat I wear when reading my favorite strength and conditioning books

This is the badass study hat I wear when reading my favorite strength and conditioning books

And if you insist you don't have a spare hour to invest in your continuing education because "you're too busy", I'll do two things...

First, I'm gonna call you out as the sad sack of lies that you are.

Second, I'll drop by your place to pick up that fresh 70" Sony 4K Ultra HD TV you spend your evenings with before taking a page out of John McClane's playbook on my way out, setting fire to a trail of petrol which blows up a Boeing 747 any electronic device within a 300-meter radius, cutting off all access to internet for the foreseeable future.

There... Time problem solved.

Over the past five years, I've followed this one-hour-per-day rule religiously. I no longer keep track of the exact number but I must have read/watched over 200 books and DVDs on strength training, nutrition and overall fitness by now.

There are probably thousands of books written on training, fitness and health, and new ones keep coming out almost on a weekly basis. Most of them are simply a rehash of the same old same old - eat 5 or 6 meals a day, perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, jog for fat loss.

Save your money and stay away from that crap.

Mind you, I've compiled and keep updating a pretty comprehensive list of recommended training resources - from strength and conditioning books and DVD's to membership sites and equipment - that you should definitely check out.

But If I could recommend only 10 strength and conditioning books for an up-and-coming coach working with athletic populations, here are my top picks:

My TOP 10 Strength and Conditioning Books

1. Science and Practice of Strength Training - Vladimir Zatsiorsky

Arguably one of the best science-based strength and conditioning books ever published (Siff's Supertraining is right up there as well). Buy your own copy and highlight the shit out of it as you'll be coming back to Science & Practice frequently over the years.

2. The Strongest Shall Survive - Bill Starr

Published originally 40 years ago, The Strongest Shall Survive was so far ahead of its time, it's not even funny.

While the practices and methods for improving athletic performance in the gym have evolved over the past few decades and will continue to do so as we speak, the basics - heavy, compound movements performed frequently with progressive overloading in mind - will never fail to produce results.

3. Practical Programming for Strength Training - Mark Rippetoe

Judging by countless athletes and gym-goers I've witnessed performing the most asinine things in training with my own eyes, smart, results-driven program design seems like a lost art form to most trainers.

Programming for the newbie lifter, while often overlooked and even more often misunderstood by the majority, is perhaps the most important assignment a strength coach can be tasked with as that sets the course for a lifetime of positive training adaptations - or a lack thereof.

Furthermore, possessing the skills to write results-producing training programs from the novice to the elite and everyone in between is something not many trainers have. But it's what sets the great coaches apart from the mediocre ones.

4. Triphasic Training - Cal Dietz

Great read for any S&C coach, especially those working with collegiate or other intermediate to advanced athletes. You won’t find a better resource aimed at team sports athletes seeking greater strength, speed and power.

5. Advances in Functional Training - Mike Boyle

Don't let the title fool you - you won't find squats performed on a bosu ball or other circus acts in this book.

Quite to the contrary, you will find straightforward info on developing better athletes in the weight room, from injury prevention methods to practical principles on how to make guys stronger and faster for their sport.

6. The Black Book of Training Secrets - Christian Thibaudeau

This could very well be the best training book written in the new millennium on gaining athletic strength, size and power.

Improving neural drive, maximizing intramuscular tension, utilizing post-activation potentiation... you will never see that stuff mentioned in an issue of Muscle & Fitness. But for a strength coach or trainer, understanding those aspects of training can mean the difference between great and mediocre results for your trainees.

7. Ultimate Hockey Training - Kevin Neeld

The #1 book on strength training for hockey players.

However, the principles and methods Neeld discusses here can easily be applied to the physical preparation of any team sport athlete.

8. 5/3/1 - Jim Wendler

If you're training for powerlifting or otherwise are after massive improvements in the big 3 lifts - squat, bench and deadlift - you need to have this resource in your training library.

Looking for scientific references to research studies in 5/3/1 would be akin to seeking visually appealing cinematography and beautifully flowing dialogue in a Jenna Jameson flick, but for progressive strength gains in the gym this program is brutally effective.

9. Ultimate MMA Conditioning - Joel Jamieson

Another book where the title doesn't do the content justice.

The best resource on energy systems development for pretty much any athlete.

10. Olympic Weightlifting for Sports - Greg Everett

Most products on training the Olympic lifts out there are aimed at those looking to or already competing in the sport of weightlifting.

Fortunately, Everett's Olympic Weightlifting for Sports bridges the gap between training advice for competitive lifters and athletes training for a non-lifting sport.

If you plan on including the Oly lifts in your own or your clients' training, you need to get your hands on this manual.

Pour Conclure

By diving into the books listed above while applying the one-hour-per-day rule I discussed at the beginning of this article, you'd finish a book in a week and breeze through them all over the course of the next ten weeks.

In 10 weeks you could be significantly more knowledgeable and versatile in all aspects of developing athletic qualities - i.e. strength, speed, hypertrophy, power, conditioning - and as a result, a coach generating better results for your athletes/clients.

Or you can use that daily hour on mundane drivel, watching re-runs of The Simpsons and living vicariously through semi-famous people on social media by "liking" their recent vacation pic in Maui or retweeting a random "motivational quote" that's nothing more than candy-wrapped bullshit.

Your choice.

Make the most out of it.

If you enjoyed this article, please do a brother a favor by liking, commenting and sharing it with others who might dig it as well.


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Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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