The best lifters go beyond just hitting the gym; they hit the books for science-based research that’ll take their training to the next level.
And as I find more of my clients and readers taking a research-based approach to their bodybuilding, I thought I’d narrow down the best bodybuilding books that I have read to help them get the most out of their workouts.
So, after extensive research and discussions about these with my colleagues, we put together a definitive list of the best bodybuilding books that skip the “bro science” and stick to the facts.
Prior to creating this list, we spoke to several dieticians, scientists, trainers, and bodybuilders about their favorite books. We also reached out to clients and readers to learn what kind of books they preferred.
Based on their bodybuilding goals, training techniques, and reading preferences, we narrowed down the criteria for the best bodybuilding books:
- Author’s expertise
- Quality of content
Here are ten works that made the cut.
Our 10 Best Bodybuilding Books (September 2023)
1 - Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy (Editor's Choice)
“Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” by Brad J. Schoenfeld combines cold-hard muscle-building facts with practical weight training solutions.
Schoenfeld is an expert on muscle hypertrophy who regularly publishes scientific articles on muscle growth, and this work is a giant research review on the same subject .
We loved the fact that his book catered to a diverse crowd. It features various sections on how to build muscle for people of different training styles.
- Author : Brad J. Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS
- Pages : 312
- Contains scientific studies on muscle hypertrophy
- Presents information in a way that both intermediate and professional bodybuilders can understand
- Content caters to lifters from various training styles
- Written by a leading expert on muscle hypertrophy research
- Might be a bit technical for beginners
“There is no universal ‘best’ training program, just a best program for a given individual. Ultimately, experimentation is required to find out what works best for you.”
- Brad Schonfeld
2 - The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
“The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” by Arnold Schwarzenegger is a comprehensive guide to muscle growth and fat loss.
I love that it covers everything about training, nutrition, and competition preparation, making it a must-read for all bodybuilders. It features illustrations, photographs, and instructions to help readers digest heavy information.
The author’s experience as a professional bodybuilder and seven-time Mr. Olympia winner lends credibility to his methods and advice, making it the Bible for your bodybuilding journey .
You can also check out our article about Arnold Schwarzenegger's Workout & Diet here.
- Author : Arnold Schwarzenneger
- Pages : 800
- Written by Arnold, a bodybuilding icon in the fitness industry
- Covers training, nutrition, and competition preparation
- Includes photographs and illustrations to demonstrate form and technique
- May lack up-to-date information since it was first published in 1985
“Bodybuilding is much like any other sport. To be successful, you must dedicate yourself 100% to your training, diet and mental approach.”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
3 - Becoming a Supple Leopard
“Becoming a Supple Leopard” is among the best-selling bodybuilding books on improving mobility and preventing injury.
The authors break down complex movement patterns into simple, easy-to-understand steps.
This book was a boon to some of our clients whose bodybuilding progress was impeded by serious mobility issues. It broke down exercises and progressions with simple illustrations.
- Authors : Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza
- Pages : 432
- Explains ways to improve flexibility and reduce injury risks
- Includes over 200 illustrations and detailed instructions for proper form and technique
- Breaks down heavy content into easy-to-read language
- Information is geared towards athletes; not too relevant for pro bodybuilders.
4 - Bodybuilding: The Complete Contest Preparation Handbook
“Bodybuilding: The Complete Contest Preparation Handbook” is among the best bodybuilding books for those preparing for competition. It was a favorite among our clients looking to compete in their first bodybuilding competition.
It covers all aspects of contest preparation — training, nutrition, and supplementation — and shares tips on selecting the right bodybuilding show, posing, and dealing with pre-competition nerves.
- Authors : Cliff Wilson and Peter J. Fitschen
- Pages : 290
- Demonstrates how to prepare for a bodybuilding contest through specific exercises, training principles, nutrition tips, and posing
- Includes fitness and training secrets from the authors’ experiences as legendary bodybuilders
- One of the authors, Cliff Wilson, has coached competitors from six continents and 20 countries, adding to his expertise
- Not too relevant for readers not interested in competitions
5 - Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength
Written by renowned fitness expert Jim Stoppani, the book covers all aspects of training, nutrition, and supplementation to help you achieve your fitness goals.
It includes various exercises, workout plans, and detailed information on targeting individual muscle groups.
The book highlights injury prevention and rehabilitation, which made it a valuable resource for some of our clients with past bodybuilding-related injuries.
- Author : Jim Stoppani
- Pages : 578
- Written by Jim Stoppani, a PhD and a leading expert in sports nutrition
- Explains how to build lean muscle, shed body fat, and improve strength
- Includes high-intensity training regimens, nutrition plans, fat-burning recipes, and supplement advice
- The emphasis on science and research won’t appeal to all readers
6 - Strength Training Anatomy
“Strength Training Anatomy” is a comprehensive guide to strength training with over 600 full-color illustrations of exercises, including lifting weights, bench press, and bodyweight training.
It helped our clients understand which muscles they were working during each exercise, allowing them to target specific weak points and improve overall strength.
- Author : Frederic Delavier
- Pages : 256
- Provides illustrations for technique
- Includes information on the primary muscles worked by each exercise and tips for optimizing muscle development
- Covers both bodyweight and equipment-based training
- Doesn’t provide much information on training and nutrition as other bodybuilding books
7 - Men’s Health Natural Bodybuilding Bible
This book covers all aspects of training, nutrition, and all-natural supplementations.
Many of our clients found the book’s emphasis on natural means of bodybuilding helpful in achieving their goals without performance-enhancing drugs.
Men’s Health Natural Bodybuilding Bible is an excellent resource for anyone looking to build muscle, lose fat, and achieve their physique goals naturally.
- Author : Tyler English
- Pages : 352
- Written by Tyler English, a fitness nutrition specialist
- Describes efficient ways of losing fat and building muscle without steroids
- Includes tips for training and supplement use, providing a comprehensive approach to bodybuilding
- Not inclusive to female readers
8 - Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding
“Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding” is one of the classic bodybuilding books on the history and culture of the sport.
The book documents the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition and offers an inside look into the world of professional bodybuilding, including the training, competition, and personalities of the era.
It helped our clients understand the dedication and discipline required to burn fat and build muscle.
- Author : Charles Gaines
- Pages : 221
- Covers bodybuilding’s history and gives an inside look into the sport’s biggest stars
- Describes the unique mental and emotional aspects of bodybuilding sports psychology
- Easy to read for all levels of lifters
- Lacks sufficient information on training and nutrition
9 - Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder
“Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder” is Schwarzenegger’s memoir that covers his early years in Austria, his rise to fame, and his transition to Hollywood.
It gave our clients insight into his mind as one of the greatest bodybuilders and covers his workouts, diet regimen, and attitude behind the sport.
The photographs from Arnold’s career in this work made it a visual treat for readers.
- Author : Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Pages : 256
- Written by Arnold Schwarzenegger, a legendary bodybuilder
- Delves into Arnold's journey from humble beginnings
- Describes training, nutrition, competition strategies, and philosophies of Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Doesn’t provide much information on general training and nutrition
10 - Delavier’s Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts
“Delavier’s Women’s Strength Training Anatomy Workouts” is a comprehensive bodybuilding book for women, containing workout plans and exercise science tailored for female bodybuilders.
The detailed illustrations of exercises and muscle groups helped our female clients target specific focus areas.
The emphasis on natural, bodyweight and equipment-based exercises can aid in sustainable fat loss and achieving fitness goals.
- Author : Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill
- Pages : 290
- Specifically tailored for women
- Detailed illustrations demonstrate strength training exercises
- Includes information on the muscle groups worked by each exercise
- May not provide as much information on training programs and nutrition as other bodybuilding nutrition books
Other Noteworthy Mentions
Other noteworthy mentions include works from Mark Rippetoe, Michael Matthews, and Joe Weider.
- Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training: This is one of the best books for beginner powerlifters.
- Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body: Michael Matthews brings together the world of strength training and human body aesthetics with this work.
- Joe Weider’s Ultimate Bodybuilding: The Master Blaster’s Principles of Training and Nutrition: Joe Weider (aka The Master Blaster) offers amazing advice for all levels of bodybuilders in this book. The book follows the “Joe Weider” training principles .
There are a few key factors to consider before purchasing bodybuilding books.
1. Your Personal Fitness Goals
The best bodybuilding books should be tailored to your specific goals. Do you want to build lean muscle, increase strength, improve fitness, or prepare for a competition?
Once you understand your goals, you can narrow your choices down to bodybuilding books that provide you with what you need.
2. Author Credentials
The author’s credentials provide the foundation for the book’s content and reflect the level of expertise you can expect.
Look for bodybuilding books written by certified trainers, scientists, and bodybuilders with a successful track record. Avoid books written by people with little experience in the field.
The readability of a bodybuilding book is like your workout form. It’s essential to understand and follow the information provided.
Look for well-written and easy-to-follow books with clear illustrations. Avoid bodybuilding books that are overly technical or use unfamiliar jargon.
4. Theory vs. Proven
Theory and proven methods are like hip mobility and squats . They’re both important, but one is incomplete without the other.
Understanding muscle growth science and knowing what works in the real world are equally important. Avoid bodybuilding books that rely heavily on theory and lack practical advice.
Related Article: Best Bodybuilding & Fitness Documentaries
What Is the Best Book on Building Muscle?
The best book for building muscle is “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” by Brad Schoenfeld. It uses scientific data to back its claims and is written by a well-reputed author.
What Is the Best Bodybuilding Book for Beginners?
The best bodybuilding book for beginners is “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It covers training, nutrition, and competition preparation and includes illustrations to demonstrate the proper technique.
Getting the Right Book For Your Bodybuilding Goals
Buying the right bodybuilding books is an investment in your fitness journey. Look for easy-to-read books written by credible authors that provide a balance of theory and proven methods.
For this reason, we chose Brad Schoenfeld’s “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” as the best on our list. Not only does it cut right to the chase and dive straight into the facts, but it’s also written by a foremost figure in bodybuilding science.
We highly recommend getting a copy today to take your bodybuilding to the next level and achieve the physique you’ve always wanted.
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