5 Best Books for Personal Trainers

There's no denying that personal trainers are seen as experts in their field. You might even go as far as saying they're the cornerstone of the fitness industry. It's the role you most closely associate with the gym, and rightly so. PTs are instrumental in many things including motivating clients, setting goals, giving effective nutritional advice, and, of course, designing exercise programmes and coaching correct technique.

Now, achieving this status isn't easy, and no one ever pretends it is. For a start, it requires months of training in order to achieve a personal training qualification and even after that's in the bag, getting out there, marketing yourself and generating a client base takes effort. If you were to talk to some of the UK's best personal trainers then they will say that the learning never really stops. It's a myth that you're ever going to be the 'finished article'.

Career development for personal trainers never stops

To fulfil your potential, the development can never stop.

With all that being said, books provide a fantastic wealth of opportunity to not only continue your development as a personal trainer, but also to boost your knowledge and sharpen your skills. You might even learn a valuable life lesson or two along the way. Just like with personal trainers themselves, or anything really, you get the outstanding, good, bad and everything in-between. Not every book aimed at personal trainer is going to be revelatory, so to help you not to waste your time, here are my top picks.

The Back Mechanic

Professor Stuart McGill is the world's foremost authority on matters of the spine and back pain, not to mention he has one of the most impressive moustaches you're ever likely to see. The Back Mechanic is a seminal piece of work and even with just an initial glance through, you'll start to get a feel of why. Contrary to popular belief, Professor McGill believes that all back pain has a cause and labelling it as 'non-specific' doesn't help anyone. In fact, as he outlined in a recent interview with HFE, it can be an incredibly destructive thing to say to a client. If you're a PT and you have clients with back pain, this should be a resource you come back to time and time again.

[Editor's note: Professor McGill's interview with HFE is eye-opening; you can read it here.]

ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription

You just can't have a list about the top books for a personal trainer without mentioning the ASCM, it's just not possible. Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription is now in its tenth edition, and this version brings a couple of new and interesting additions including health screening, HIIT, the risk of sedentary behaviour and much, more. This really is the go-to resource for personal trainers looking to rely on scientifically-based standards.

How to be an Awesome Personal Trainer

You may know Ben Coomber from his number 1 podcast or perhaps his research-driven line of supplements. Regardless of how you may have come across him, it’s clear he really knows his stuff. With over 10 years’ worth of experience as a coach, nutritionist, educator, and writer, Ben is suitably placed to impart knowledge that will you help you develop and further succeed as a personal trainer. This book will help you better manage your time, develop your skills as a leader, hone your customer service skills and so much more.

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning

With a substantial price tag comes an essential resource for those personal trainers looking to specialise in strength and conditioning. Inside you'll find theories, principles and concepts of strength and conditioning and how these then apply to performance. If you're on the hunt for this book, seek out the fourth edition. With it you'll get access to a collection of 61 videos that really bring things to life.

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everything to Take Action

There are a lot of books, resources, TED talks and YouTube videos devoted to the 'why' and how you get 'it' and then what you do with it once you have it. Author Simon Sinek didn't invent the concept of the 'why' but his take on it is certainly one of the more compelling, and his global bestseller is proof of that. Ultimately, as a personal trainer your job is to inspire clients and be seen as a leader, this book absolutely helps you do that, forcing you to drill down into the core of what makes you personally great.

It's also important to give honourable mentions to the following:

  • Ignite the Fire: The Secrets to Building a Successful Personal Training Career
  • Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists
  • Becoming a Supple Leopard
  • The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition
  • Functional Training for Sports

I hope this list was helpful. Let us know in the comments if there's a PT book that didn't make it that you would recommend.