One of my favorite ways to get information is through reading.
I like it because you can go at your own speed and digest information at whatever rate works for you.
With a book, you will have it forever as long as you take care of it.
You can read it again and again despite paying for it only once.
Often times you will have to read a book several times to fully grasp all the information it contains.
I’ve been reading bodybuilding books since I was a young teenager and they have helped me a ton.
I remember my dad giving me his old beat up copies of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Education Of A Bodybuilder” and “Coming On Strong” By Franco Columbu.
I cherished those books.
The covers were falling apart, but the important parts were still together, and I excitedly tore through every page of them as quickly as I could trying to learn everything there was to know about bodybuilding.
Those were the first non-fiction books I think I ever read.
While those were the first two bodybuilding books I read, they certainly weren’t the last.
I’ve bought and read many bodybuilding books over the years. I still buy them to this day. I guess it’s an obsession at this point that I’m not even ashamed of.
While there are a lot of great books out there, I’m going to give you the 10 best bodybuilding books to read to help you save time and money.
Only an insane person would buy and read as many bodybuilding books as I do.
There are a few out there that will tell you 99 % of the information you need to know in order to pack on lean muscle and build an impressive physique.
These are the books that I’ve gotten the most value out of over the years in no particular order.
# 1- The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding, Fully Updated and Revised By Arnold Schwarzenegger
While this list isn’t in any particular order, if I had to choose only one book to buy off of this list, it would be this one.
This book is a massive volume of bodybuilding exercises and information.
It tells you literally everything you could want to know about bodybuilding from the king of bodybuilding.
I wish I had this book when I first started lifting.
I actually bought it about 6 months ago after hearing Rich Piana talk about it in on one of his videos and it’s awesome.
When I got it, I was blow away by all the information inside of it. It really is the size of an actual encyclopedia.
One thing that most people don’t realize is how business savvy Arnold really was.
Arnold brought bodybuilding mainstream during the 1970s and was smart enough to profit off of it however he could.
That included writing several books and selling his own work out pamphlets in the mail amongst other things, which is why his books get more than one spot on this
This book is an autobiography about Arnold that gives some great insight into his formative years as a bodybuilder.
Aside from telling his story, it also contains timeless bodybuilding advice and information that is still very relevant today.
Despite many of these books being older, the rules to building a strong and muscular body have not changed much.
While not as well-known as Arnold, Franco Columbu was one of the major bodybuilders during the 1970s and Arnold’s best friend and training partner.
If you have ever seen Pumping Iron, then you will know Franco Columbu, as he was heavily involved in the movie.
While this doesn’t go super into depth on things like diet and exercise, it does discuss the artistic element of bodybuilding.
It’s a great book on the sport and gives a lot of practical advice.
It also has a lot of great pictures of Franco in it during his peak as well, which is impressive.
Franco was known as the strongest bodybuilder in the world at the time that he wrote this.
Anyone who loves the sport of bodybuilding will enjoy this book thoroughly.
Another book by Franco, this one goes into depth about the nutrition and diet aspect of bodybuilding.
This book is also a recent addition to my library, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot.
Although it has a lot of the typical diet advice we hear today, it definitely has an old-school flare to it.
It’s funny to see some of the foods that bodybuilders ate thirty years ago that are rarely eaten by bodybuilders today such as bread.
Franco actually became a doctor after he retired from bodybuilding and was an expert on nutrition.
This book tells you exactly what you need to eat to build a killer physique.
It’s a simple read and contains a lot of practical advice.
Fred Hatfield was a champion powerlifter better known by his nickname of “Dr. Squat”.
Hatfield was probably best known for his world record squat of 1,014 pounds at the age of 45.
While he wasn’t a competitive bodybuilder, Hatfield definitely knew a lot about weightlifting and nutrition.
Fred wrote a lot of books and all of them go into depth about the scientific research behind his ideas.
Like Franco, Hatfield was also a doctor so many of his books are written like textbooks.
This book goes into depth about a lot of things.
It gives you guidance about topics such as technique, nutrition, programming and supplements.
If you are an information nerd, then you will love this book as everything is explained completely.
If you don’t care much for the science behind bodybuilding, this might not be the best choice for you.
It’s very heavy on the science side and might be a little dry if you’re not into it.
# 6- Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness-Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength by Paul Wade
I’ve been recommending this book for years to anyone that will listen.
This is the best book I’ve ever read about building muscle and strength with calisthenics.
A lot of people, particularly bodybuilders, don’t think that there is much value in calisthenics when it comes to building muscle.
I strongly disagree with that.
While they don’t build muscle as well as weights, calisthenics are excellent for building raw strength and strengthening your joints.
I always talk about the value of maintaining strong joints if you lift a lot of weights.
Once your joints weaken, you are going to have issues so it’s best to keep them strong.
Calisthenics are the best way I’ve found to maintain superhuman joints and fight off common injuries.
This book is designed for people on all fitness levels. It breaks the movements down into six main movements which the author calls “the big six”.
You are given a series of progressions for each movement. Each progression builds on the last one and increases in difficulty as you go on.
There is an ultimate last step progression for each of the movements known as “the master step”.
I’ve never made it to the master step for any of the movements and I consider myself a strong guy.
This is a fun book that I use often.
Delavier has authored a great series of bodybuilding books that focus on various aspects such as training the abdominals and building bigger arms.
This is a cool book. It’s like one big anatomy chart with colorful pictures throughout it showing exactly how common exercises work the muscles.
It’s one thing to see pictures or videos of someone working out, but it’s another thing to see an x-ray view of the muscles actually working.
A lot of people don’t know or understand how certain exercises work their muscles. They just do them because they’ve seen other people do them.
With this book, you can create an individual program for yourself based upon the muscle groups that you are trying to grow and improve.
I find it very helpful and it’s different than many of the other books out there.
Another great book by Delavier, this book focuses on building bigger arms.
This is the only book I know of focused solely on arms and to be honest, the only book you will ever need on it.
Even though arms are a relatively small muscle, the book goes into depth on what you need to do to grow a powerful pair.
It goes into depth about the best exercises for biceps and triceps with detailed, colored photographs demonstrating the proper form for each.
Tim Ferris is the popular author of the “4 hour” series books.
A lot of people hear the title and are misled about the book.
Tim is all about finding the best way to do things.
He’s not saying that you can build a great body in only four hours because you can’t.
What he gives you in this book are “hacks” to building a great body that he has experimented with personally.
I found this book interesting and I think that it does have a lot of great advice in it for building a stronger and more defined body, particularly when it comes to dieting.
It’s a fun read that has gotten great reviews and feedback from readers over the years.
# 10- Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body by Michael Matthews
I’ve talked about his book more than a few times on this blog.
Michael Matthews is the creator behind one of my favorite supplement companies, Legion Athletics.
This book gives you one of the most effective bodybuilding programs I’ve ever seen in any book.
It gives you a straightforward plan to build the body you want.
It goes over everything. Nutrition, what exercises to do, rep schemes. All of it.
I have seen people consistently get results with this book, myself included.
If you are looking for a book that will tell you exactly what to do to get the body you want, this is going to be the one.
You won’t be disappointed with this book.
Build your library
There you have it. My list of the 10 best bodybuilding books to read.
I know that not everyone will agree with me, but these are really the only books you could ever need to learn about bodybuilding.
After a while, all the books repeat the same information.
I’ve listed books that I think are different from each other while covering much of the same topics in a clear way.
Whether you decide to buy one or buy them all, your knowledge of weightlifting and bodybuilding will grow with each page you read from them.
A library containing these books is a library that will lead you to bodybuilding success.
P.S. Have you ever read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them below! I’d also love to hear any other recommendations that you have for bodybuilding books!