10 Best Books for Bodybuilders To Get Your Muscle On

best bodybuilding books

Best bodybuilding books to get your muscle on

There’s a misconception about bodybuilding – that it’s for thoughtless brutes who aren’t smart. That’s simply not true. There’s a science to bodybuilding and strength training that goes beyond the weight room, beyond the supplement aisle at the health store.

Insightful philosophies, eye-opening personal stories, and groundbreaking techniques can be found in bodybuilding books. Here are the Top 10 Books about bodybuilding.

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1. You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises 

Mark Lauren made a name for himself by training US Special Forces, competing in Muay Thai kickboxing and holding the DOD’s record for swimming underwater for 133 meters on just one breath. He’s the unofficial expert on bodyweight exercises and his book You Are Your Own Gym is a must-have for bodybuilders.

This book contains 125 bodyweight exercises that you can do without a gym fee. Some people might doubt that you can have big gains with bodyweight exercises, but this book clarifies the purpose of bodyweight strength-training and takes you beyond simple push-ups and chin-ups.

One of the best things about You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises is that every skill level can find useful information inside. The exercises are broken down in categories: Basic, 1st Class, Master Class and Chief Class.

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2. Strength Training: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to a Stronger, Sculpted Body

This step-by-step guide to building strength was a joint effort by experts with the British Weight Lifting Association (BWLA). You benefit from getting multiple viewpoints, techniques and strategies all in the same volume. There are 256 pages of thorough exercise demonstrations with full color illustrations throughout.

They don’t just show you exercises, the experts who compiled this manual give you tips, tricks, and adaptations to take your strength training regimen even further. Strength Training is a book you can take with you to the gym because most of the exercises are on a single page and the entire book opens flat, so you can see every detail clearly.

There is a special emphasis on building an aesthetic physique, as well. So, if you want 8-pack abs or high-arching lats, then this is the bodybuilding book for you.

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3. Building the Classic Physique: The Natural Way

Before there was Arnold, there was Steve Reeves. Steve Reeves is the old school bodybuilder that set the standard for what a strong, natural, masculine physique should look like. His physical measurements were the gold standard for decades. His book is aptly titled – Building the Classic Physique – The Natural Way.

Beginners will find this book interesting, but it’s better served in the hands of someone who has been bodybuilding for at least a full year. There is a wealth of advice in this book that has become common knowledge among contemporary bodybuilders, but you must consider the fact that Steve Reeves originated many of these concepts – like the amount of repetitions and sets, the amount of weight you should lift to max out, and nutritional guides specific for lifters.

This isn’t much of a manual for individual exercise, but a wonderful reference, confidence builder, and show piece.

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4. Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach

This is not a book for novice bodybuilders. Even professional bodybuilders might need the help of a medical professional or a highly-proficient personal trainer to decipher all the scientific knowledge that is contained in this text.

Dr. Frederick C. Hatfield was a world champion powerlifter and held his PHD in sport science. He was also the co-founder of the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) – the governing body that certifies personal trainers. This book is nearly 400 pages and has detailed charts for exercises, anatomy, nutrition, scheduling, the whole works. This is the book you reach for when that pesky guy at the gym thinks he knows everything about squats.

Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach can help you as the definitive reference guide for bodybuilding. Find out why you’re hitting a plateau, compare free weights to machines, find the best sources for more natural protein, all backed up by scientific research.

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5. Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength

You wanna gain muscle mass? Then, this is the book for you. You wanna learn every variation of the bench press. Then, get your hands on this book. Jim Stoppani is covered in tattoos, but he also holds a doctorate in exercise physiology, he’s a celebrity personal trainer and he’s responsible for most of the actionable content from Muscle & Fitness and STACK magazines.

His Encyclopaedia of Muscle & Strength is a bodybuilder’s best friend. Stoppani’s book shows you how to use literally every single piece of equipment in a standard weight training gym and empowers you to customize your own training regimen based on your specific bodybuilding goals.

There’re over 115 training programs inside this book that you can remix and tweak on your own.  Dr. Stoppani is an expert in nutrition and supplements so there’s an entire section of this book dedicated to burning fat and building muscle through the nutrients you take into your body.

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6. The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding

If you’re looking to build a collection of bodybuilding books, then Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding simply must become a part of your library. It’s the most popular book about bodybuilding, and it’s actually quite insightful to the sport of bodybuilding.

Perhaps because it’s written by Arnold Schwarzenegger (a huge celebrity), this book has a polarizing effect on the strength-training community. You either love it or you hate it.

Some people find the training routines to be specifically for steroid abusers and of little use to natural lifters. Controversy aside, Schwarzenegger’s bible of bodybuilding contains useful information about competitive bodybuilding, sculpting the ideal physique and mitigating sport-related injuries.

You also get Arnold’s tips, tricks and motivational monologues peppered throughout the entire volume of this massive 800-page tome.

Beginners who are interested in learning more about weightlifting history and veterans who want a point of comparison will find this book useful, and it certainly makes for a great conversation starter near the plate rack.

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7. The Poliquin Principles: Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development

This book is aimed at bodybuilding athletes who want to take their strength training to the next level and bulk up to beast mode. It was written by Charles Poliquin, who was a Canadian trainer for the nation’s Olympic powerlifting team and several NHL teams.

The Poliquin Principles focuses specifically on muscular hypertrophy, a form of training that produces massive muscle growth, not necessarily muscular strength.

If physique is your main bodybuilding goal, then the information in this book will be of significant use to you. This book was first written in 1997 and some of the information and the layout of the exercise illustrations are understandably a bit dated.

However, the knowledge is sound. It’s just specifically geared to a certain type of weightlifter – one who is willing to train with intense exercise variations, vein-popping super sets and delve into near-madness to achieve godlike gains.

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8. High-Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way

Considered the antithesis of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding book, Mike Mentzer’s training guide is all about high intensity interval training or HIT. The Mike Mentzer Way burns more calories, burns more fat, and boosts oxygen levels in a shorter amount of time than traditional weight lifting techniques. Mike Mentzer might be on to something here.

After all, he was the first man to receive a perfect score in the Mr. Universe competition. The techniques in this book are certainly different. Mentzer encourages you to take shorter, more intense repetitions and longer periods of rest. One highlight of the book is that Mentzer provides alternate exercises if the one he has prescribed is beyond your skill level.

This book mainly contains philosophies and exercise routines for the advanced bodybuilder who wants maximum size and strength in the least amount of time, someone who is willing to thumb their nose at conventional wisdom and try something different.

Mike Mentzer might owe most of his gains to phenomenal genetics, but his HIT method is worth trying out if you want to break through a plateau or push yourself to the limits.

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bodybuilding books

9. Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body

The cover of this book might already be grafted onto your subconscious because it’s the number one best-selling bodybuilding books on the market. The goal of Bigger, Leaner, Stronger is to eliminate misconceptions and unnecessary techniques that surround your strength-training and fitness goals. Michael Matthews is anti-super set, anti-supplement, and anti-cardio.

This book focuses on a handful of bodybuilding exercises that when done properly will show phenomenal results in record time. It talks about self-discipline yet doesn’t believe in restricting your diet. Matthews encourages you to throw away your supplements, only to offer you his own brand of supplements in the last chapter of the book.

In fact, this book is all about the sale. Bigger, Leaner, Stronger promises that you can have it all for less than you think, but rarely rises above the general bodybuilding knowledge that can be found in other books.

The saving grace of this book is that it takes away all the guesswork of bodybuilding and streamlines every aspect of the process.

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10. Strength Training Anatomy, 3rd Edition

Here’s a bodybuilding best-seller that combines 600+ amazing illustrations, timeless strength-building advice, and tons of gym exercises, all in the same place.

If this book had more bodybuilding information, then it would be a university textbook. Strength Training Anatomy is for the thinking weightlifter who wants to delve into the mechanics of bodybuilding in order to pluck out some true gems of strength-building knowledge. There is an emphasis on free weight exercises in this book.

So, if you were looking for Smith machine techniques, then you’ll be disappointed. That’s the only reason this book doesn’t rank higher on the list of the 10 best bodybuilding books. Delavier’s writing style is clear and concise.

The book is laid out and arranged according to body part. So, if you have a special desire to get that rounded curve on the short head bicep muscle, you can easily find that muscle group and plenty of exercises that will help you receive the desired result.

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About Freddy Blackmon 107 Articles
Freddy Blackmon is a freelance writer and journalist who has a passion for cars, technology, and fitness. Look for articles on these topics and more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.