10 Best Bodybuilding Books (2024) From Beginner to Pro

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 30, 2024
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Starting a bodybuilding journey can feel overwhelming, with countless questions about techniques, nutrition, and routines.

Wouldn't it be great to have a set of guides written by experts to help you achieve your fitness goals?

As more of my clients and readers take a research-based approach to bodybuilding, I've compiled a list of top-notch books that offer evidence-based insights.

Keep reading to discover these resources and take your bodybuilding journey to the next level.

The Best Bodybuilding Books

Editor's Choice
Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy
Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy
Expertise
5.0
Quality
5.0
Readability
4.9
Overall Score 5.0
5.0
Check Current Price
2nd Best Choice
The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
Expertise
4.9
Quality
4.9
Readability
5.0
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Check Current Price
3rd Best Choice
Becoming a Supple Leopard
Becoming a Supple Leopard
Expertise
4.9
Quality
4.9
Readability
4.9
Overall Score 4.9
4.9
Check Current Price

Our 10 Best Bodybuilding Books (April 2024)

1 - Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy (Best Overall)

Rated 5.0/5
5.0
Expertise
5.0
Quality
4.9
Readability
Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy
  • Author : Brad J. Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS
  • Pages : 312

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Might be a bit technical for beginners

I remember when I first picked up “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” by Brad J. Schoenfeld. It was a game-changer for me, blending rigorous muscle-building science with actionable weight training strategies.

Schoenfeld is an expert on muscle hypertrophy who regularly publishes scientific articles on muscle growth on websites like ResearchGate, and this work is a giant research review on the same subject [1].

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.

Quick Facts:

“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 (Best Classic)

Rated 4.9/5
4.9
Expertise
4.9
Quality
5.0
Readability
The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
  • Author : Arnold Schwarzenneger
  • Pages : 800

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • May lack up-to-date information since it was first published in 1985

When I started my bodybuilding journey, “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” by Arnold Schwarzenegger was my go-to. It's not just a book; it's a treasure trove of insights from a legend, covering everything from muscle growth strategies to fat loss techniques.

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.

According to Sporting News, Arnold is a seven-time Mr. Olympia winner, making him the third on the list of most Mr. Olympia awards won, lending massive credibility to his work [2].

You can also check out our article about Arnold Schwarzenegger's Workout & Diet here.

Quick Facts:

“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 (Best for Injury Prevention)

Rated 4.9/5
4.9
Expertise
4.9
Quality
4.9
Readability
Becoming a Supple Leopard
  • Authors : Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza
  • Pages : 432

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Information is geared towards athletes; not too relevant for pro bodybuilders.

In my early days of training, I faced a few injuries that set me back. That’s when a fellow bodybuilder recommended “Becoming a Supple Leopard”. This book isn’t just about lifting weights; it’s a holistic guide to mobility, ensuring you train safely and effectively.

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.

Quick Facts:

4 - Bodybuilding: The Complete Contest Preparation Handbook (Best for Competition Preparation)

Rated 4.9/5
4.9
Expertise
4.9
Quality
4.8
Readability
Bodybuilding The Complete Contest Preparation Handbook
  • Authors : Cliff Wilson and Peter J. Fitschen
  • Pages : 290

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Not too relevant for readers not interested in competitions

“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.

Quick Facts:

5 - Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength (Best Comprehensive)

Rated 4.8/5
4.8
Expertise
4.9
Quality
4.8
Readability
Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle _ Strength
  • Author : Jim Stoppani
  • Pages : 578

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • The emphasis on science and research won’t appeal to all readers

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.

Quick Facts:

6 - Strength Training Anatomy (Best Muscle-Focused)

Rated 4.8/5
4.7
Expertise
4.9
Quality
4.8
Readability
Strength Training Anatomy
  • Author : Frederic Delavier
  • Pages : 256

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide much information on training and nutrition as other bodybuilding books

“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.

Quick Facts:

7 - Men’s Health Natural Bodybuilding Bible (Best for Natural Bodybuilding)

Rated 4.8/5
4.7
Expertise
4.8
Quality
4.8
Readability
Men’s Health Natural Bodybuilding Bible
  • Author : Tyler English
  • Pages : 352

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Not inclusive to female readers

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.

Quick Facts:

8 - Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding (Suitable for All Levels)

Rated 4.7/5
4.7
Expertise
4.8
Quality
4.7
Readability
Pumping Iron The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding
  • Author : Charles Gaines
  • Pages : 221

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Lacks sufficient information on training and nutrition

“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.

Quick Facts:

9 - Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (Cheapest Option)

Rated 4.7/5
4.7
Expertise
4.7
Quality
4.7
Readability
Arnold The Education of a Bodybuilder
  • Author : Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Pages : 256

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide much information on general training and nutrition

“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.

Quick Facts:

10 - Delavier’s Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts

Rated 4.7/5
4.7
Expertise
4.6
Quality
4.7
Readability
Delavier’s Women_s Strength Training Anatomy Workouts
  • Author : Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill
  • Pages : 290

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Specifically tailored for women
  • Detailed illustrations demonstrate strength training exercises
  • Includes information on the muscle groups worked by each exercise

Cons

  • May not provide as much information on training programs and nutrition as other bodybuilding nutrition books

“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.

Quick Facts:

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 [3].

How We Selected Our Books

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 selected books that met the following criteria.

Author’s Expertise

We prioritized books written by certified trainers, scientists, and renowned bodybuilders with a successful track record in the field.

Their firsthand experience and knowledge ensure that the content is both accurate and practical.

For instance, books like “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” by Brad J. Schoenfeld and “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” by Arnold Schwarzenegger are penned by figures who are authorities in the bodybuilding realm.

Readability

We sought out books that were well-written and easy to follow.

Clear illustrations, organized layouts, and the avoidance of overly technical jargon make the information accessible to readers of all levels. It's essential that readers can easily digest and implement the knowledge shared.

For this reason, books like "Becoming a Supple Leopard," with easy instructions, and "Strength Training Anatomy," with colorful illustrations, made our list.

Quality of Content

The depth, breadth, and relevance of the books' content played a pivotal role.

We favored books that offer a comprehensive approach to bodybuilding, covering various aspects like training techniques, nutrition, and competition preparation.

For example, "Bodybuilding: The Complete Contest Preparation Handbook" uses evidence-based insights, practical tips, and real-world examples, which adds to the content's quality.

Why Is It Important To Understand the Science Behind Muscle Growth?

Understanding the science behind muscle building is important because it can empower bodybuilders to optimize their routines, ensuring maximum gains and efficient recovery.

The fitness realm is rife with myths and misconceptions. From the belief that lifting weights makes women bulky to the idea that spot reduction is achievable, these myths can hinder progress and lead to disappointment.

It's essential to approach bodybuilding with an evidence-based mindset, discerning fact from fiction. By debunking these myths, bodybuilders can set realistic expectations and adopt effective training strategies.

Buyer’s Guide

Browsing through a set of books for the best

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.

Note: While physical training and nutrition goals are crucial, the psychological aspects of bodybuilding are often overlooked. Ensure your book talks about mental resilience, motivation, and the ability to overcome plateaus for bodybuilding success.

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.

3. Theory vs. Proven

Theory and proven methods are like hip mobility and squats [4]. 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.

Why Trust Our Review

As seasoned professionals in the field of bodybuilding, we bring a wealth of experience and insight to our recommendations.

We understand the importance of credible sources, comprehensive knowledge, and real-world applicability when it comes to selecting the best bodybuilding books.

Here are the key criteria we use to ensure our suggestions meet the highest standards.

1. Extensive Research and Expertise

Our team comprises certified trainers, dieticians, scientists, and veteran bodybuilders, all pooling their knowledge to select books that offer the most value.

We prioritize books authored by recognized experts in the field, ensuring that the content is not only scientifically accurate but also backed by practical experience.

This means that books like "Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy" by Brad J. Schoenfeld and "The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding" by Arnold Schwarzenegger, both authored by authorities in bodybuilding, make our list.

2. Readability and Accessibility

We believe that the best bodybuilding books should be accessible to readers of all levels. This is why we look for books that are well-structured, clearly written, and free from overly technical jargon.

Our selection ensures that you can easily understand and apply the concepts and techniques discussed, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned bodybuilder.

3. Quality and Depth of Content

The content of the books we recommend is thoroughly vetted for its depth, breadth, and relevance.

We choose books that cover a wide range of topics pertinent to bodybuilding, from workout routines and nutrition to injury prevention and competition preparation.

Our selections are comprehensive and cater to various interests and goals within the bodybuilding community.

FAQs

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.

Our Verdict on the Best Bodybuilding Book

Buying the right bodybuilding books is an investment in your fitness journey, and speaking from my own experience, it helps you gain invaluable insights that aren't easy to learn otherwise.

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.

Our #1 Recommendation

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy (Best Overall)

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

5.0
Expertise
5.0
Quality
4.9
Readability
Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Might be a bit technical for beginners
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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Our scoring system is the result of objective testing data and subjective expert analysis by a team of fitness coaches and medical experts. Our scoring factors are weighted based on importance. For more information, see our product review guidelines.