I get asked constantly what I feel separates a good personal trainer from a bad personal trainer. It’s a simple answer really: continuing education (AKA….read!!!!!). Having letters next to your name doesn’t really impress me. I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that keeping up-to-date with information is a MUST in order to succeed.
Make it a point to read at least one hour per day in your field of choice. Trust me, the television shows can wait (unless it’s 24 or Lost). Below are some fantastic resources I recommend to anyone who wants to become an “expert” in the fitness industry. As Alwyn Cosgrove has stated on numerous occasions, “read one hour per day and you will be in the top 5% in the field within 2-3 years.”
Books, e-books, manuals, DVDs, CDs, etc are great and there are certainly a plethora of each that I would consider must haves. However, they do get outdated. I first started in this industry just reading articles on various websites and participating in forums- for free. Some of the better ones include:
www.t-muscle.com -In my opinion, the best site for information on anything fitness related from some of the most well known authorities in the industry.
www.greatist.com - one of the best health and wellness sites on the web. Be sure to check out their GWODs (Greatist Workout of the Day), of which I contributed to at the very start along with Dan Trink.
www.elitefts.com – A website dedicated entirely to the topic of lifting heavy things. One of the best weekly newsletters in the industry with TONS of great articles from some of the top names in the industry.
www.thefitcast.com – One of the top weekly training/nutrition podcasts, featuring many of the top names in the industry. A certain someone who’s website you’re currently browsing is often a guest host.
www.examine.com - easily THE best website for any and all information when it comes to supplements. One of the best researched sites on the web.
BLOGS : I have smart friends, you should listen to them.
Honestly, there is a ton of free information out there. I would go so far to say that I probably learned more spending time reading various websites than I did through all four years of college. So even if you’re strapped for cash and can’t afford books and the like, you have no excuse not to better yourself….for free.
A Small Rant Before I Go On:
You want to learn? I can’t stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with like minded individuals. I have had the luxury of working along side some very knowledgable people within the past few years, and I can honestly say that not only am I a completely different trainer because of it- but I am also a different person.
As my good friend Eric Cressey has mentioned on several occasions, it doesn’t take money to network and make professional contacts with people in the industry. It doesn’t take money to write someone an e-mail to ask him or her a question. It doesn’t take money to go and observe the top trainers or strength and conditioning coaches in your area
However, you will have to spend some money. Attending seminars and conferences will only help you. Don’t gripe about the fact that it will cost $250 to attend. I guarantee that you will learn one tip from that seminar that will gross you ten times that amount in clients. In the end, most seminars or conferences pay for themselves. And if not, at least you got the free t-shirt.
Resources: Books, E-books, Manuals, DVD’s, CD’s, etc.
I’ll give a brief synopsis and rationale as to why I am recommending each resource. I’ll sub-divide all of this into a few categories: training, nutrition, anatomy/corrective training, coaching, and miscellaneous.
Science and Practice of Strength Training – Other than Supertraining, written by the late Mel Siff, this book is probably the most referenced strength book ever. A must have for anyone in the industry. You can’t really call yourself a strength coach if you don’t have this book in your personal library.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – Published through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and a fantastic resource for any coach or personal trainer.
Advances in Functional Training – Arguably one of the best books by Mike Boyle that gives an inside look at many of his current philosophies with regards to training athletes/clients. If you’re a trainer or strength coach, this is a MUST have.
Post Rehab Essentials 2.0 – Most sequels suck. This one does not. Dean Somerset covers everything from assessment to corrective exercise to program design, and everything in between.
Lift Weights Faster – Jen Sinkler’s flagship program with TONS of cool, innovative ways up the ante with regards to your conditioning and metabolic training.
The Superhero Workout 2.0 – Written by John Romaniello and Matt McGorry – two guys who love themselves some comic books – this is THE program to follow if you’re interested in looking like a a superhero.
Easy Strength – Written by Dan John and Pavel, this book will melt your face it’s so chock full of useful information.
Intervention – Just listen to Dan John. Nuff said.
Modern Women’s Guide to Strength Training – You can consider this the anti-Tracy Anderson approach to fitness. Published by the crew over at Girls Gone Strong, this is one of my GO TO resources to recommend to women looking to start a fitness program.
Bulletproof Knees – A comprehensive manual dealing with everything and anything related to the knees and how to fix them. Written by Mike Robertson, a great resource for trainers and strength coaches, as well as weekend warriors.
2×4 – I LOVE this program written by Bret Contreras. The idea is simple: get STRONG.
Show and Go – the “sequel” to Maximum Strength, and quite honestly one of Eric Cressey’s most thorough products. Four months of programming with an online database to guide you the entire way.
High Performance Handbook – the “sequel” to Show and Go….haha.
Deadlift Dynamite – Saying I have a small place in my heart for deadlifts is just a slight understatement. This text, written by Andy Bolton (1000+ DL) and Pavel, dissects the movement like nothing else.
Accelerated Muscular Development 2.0 – Jim Smith of the Diesel Crew knows how to get people bigger, faster, and stronger. Here, he writes one of the most comprehensive programs I’ve ever read.
Complete Olympic Lifting – When it comes to OLY lifting, there’s only one source I trust – and that’s Wil Fleming.
Starting Strength – Great book for coaches to learn how to teach someone to squat, bench, and deadlift. Without question on my list of Top 5 books I recommend to anyone in the industry.
Practical Programming for Strength Training- Ever wonder what are the differences in program design between a novice, intermediate, and advanced lifter? Here is your answer.
Essentials of Weight Lifting and Strength Training - Very, very comprehensive text on the subject of Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. Great visual aides.
Single Leg Solution - Mike Robertson drops some knowledge bombs on this often overlooked aspect of programming.
Lift Like a Girl – Ladies, put down the pink dumbbells and lift some appreciate weight. Here, my good friend Nia Shanks guides through everything you’ll need to know to take your body from flab to fab (my words, not hers).
Athletic Body in Balance - Learn how to spot and fix asymmetries in the body. Jam packed with programming ideas dealing with corrective exercise from the one and only Gray Cook.
Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination – David Dellanave pulls 3x bodyweight in three different deadlift variations. It stands to reason he knows a thing or two when it comes to dominating the deadlift.
Functional Training for Sports – Mike Boyle’s first book. It should be your mission to read anything by Mike Boyle- starting with this.
Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities – A great look inside the mind of Mike Boyle. Not only how to design sound programs, but also how to design a kick-ass facility.
Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha Male - written by two very smart and very witty dudes (John Romaniello and Adam Bornstein), this book details how to become a man’s man.
The Bulletproof Athlete – the name says it all, and Mike Robertson fills in ALL the gaps when it comes to engineering freaky athletes.
Facts and Fallacies of Fitness - Mel Siff is smarter than you, and here is why. This book will serve as your “ammo” for any nimrod who thinks they know what they’re talking about.
Scrawny to Brawny – Simple, yet affective plan for adding on mass. All you skinny bastards out there need to read this book by authors Mike Meija and John Berardi.
The New Rules of Lifting – Perfect book for anyone new to lifting weights. No foo-foo nonsense. Just factual, sound information to get lean and strong.
The New Rules of Lifting for Women - Not that men and women need to train differently, but this book debunks just about every myth that women have towards strength training and lifting appreciable weights. Hint: pink dumbbells aren’t going to cut it.
Maximum Strength - Seriously, you need to lift heavy stuff. Trust me. If more people followed this program and spent less time doing 15 sets of bicep curls, they might actually look like they lifted weights.
The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual - Is your training taking you to the next level with your athletic performance or general performance in the gym? Are your lifts going up? If not, than this manual is for you. If only I had this manual when I was an athlete in college.
Strong Curves – Another excellent resource for women geared towards building a bootylicious body.
Power Training - Written by strength coach Robert dos Remedios; this book with certifiably kick your ass. Want to look like an athlete, you need to train like an athlete. Go figure!
Cardio Strength Training - Another great book by Coach Dos that will certifiably result in some ass-kickery.
Training for Warriors – Written by Martin Rooney, and one of the best books dealing with how to approach training mixed martial artists.
Books That Make You Sound Really Smart
Muscles: Testing and Function With Posture and Pain – Pretty much the “go to” reference as far as functional anatomy is concerned.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes – Shirley Sahrmann is the shiznit. This book, more than any other, is on everyone who’s anyone’s list of must have books.
Movement – Gray Cook’s long awaited “geek” book. Goes into awesome detail on the Functional Movement Screen and so much more.
Kinetic Anatomy – A great “introductory” book to functional anatomy. Highly recommended for those who need a quick and easy to use reference book.
Form and Function – I like to recommend this book to those who don’t have the attention span to read thick text books. A really great reference in regards to functional training and performance enhancement.
Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunctions – Dr. Evan Osar’s latest book (2012) which provides a nuclear blast worth of knowledge bombs as it relates to corrective exercise and the importance of breathing patterns.
Muscle Mechanics - A great “introductory” book to biomechanics and muscle movement.
Low Back Disorders – Dr. Stuart McGill’s fantastic first book. A bit more clinical in nature, but a must read for anyone who deals with patients or clients with a history of chronic lower back pain.
Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance – Written by the world’s ninja of lower back mechanics and function, Dr. Stuart McGill, learn how to assess and correct low back dysfunction through proper programming. I think it’s in it’s 3rd edition already!
I like to consider myself somewhat of a “nutrition guy.” Simply put, no matter how often you’re in the gym, you can’t out train a poor diet. If your goal is fat loss, I would go as far to say that 80% of results will come from your nutrition. If your goal is to put on some lean muscle mass- again, your nutrition is going to play an integral role. Below are many of the books and manuals I highly recommend.
The Supplement Goals Reference Guide – I generally take more of a minimalist approach to supplements, but if you’re going to steer people in the right direction, THIS is the definitive resource. 700+ pages, over 20,000 references and absolutely NO biases or agenda other than to inform people.
Precision Nutrition - Bar none…THE best nutritional resource out there. Everything you need to know to help you get started setting up your own nutritional plan. You have no excuse not to succeed with this resource.
Alan Aragon’s Research Review – I hate reading research papers. Here, Alan does it for you. Alan has a knack for cutting through the crap and telling it like it is. For $10 per month, you can’t go wrong.
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism - If you’re a geek, you need this book. Great reference point for anything related to nutrition.
Sane and Simple Nutrition - written and designed by Nia Shanks, this is an EXCELLENT resource for women (and for that matter men) to help weed through the BS
Gourmet Nutrition – The only cookbook I own. Well worth the cost for the protein bar recipes alone. PS: the meatloaf is to die for.
The TNT Diet - As far as “commercialized” diet books go, this is one of the best. Written by Jeff Volek and Adam Campbell, it dispells many of the common myths that still plague the industry (ie: there is no direct link between saturated fat and risk for heart disease).
The Omnivore’s Dilemma – I would rank this book on my list of Top 5 books to own as well. A truly eye-opening read that will make you think twice about what you put down your pie hole. To summarize; corn……is……in……everything.
In Defense of Food – Another brilliant book by Michael Pollan, and the follow-up to his other “must read” book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
The Perfect Body Diet - A diet book (and much more) written for women by a woman. Cassandra Forsythe goes out of her way to debunk many common myths concerning women and dieting. For instance, you actually need to eat something more than a carrot stick and lift weights!
The Fat Loss Troubleshoot - I love Leigh’s no bull-shit approach. Backed by tons of research, Leigh does a fantastic job and rationalizing why you’re not losing fat. Huh, weird…..total calories do count.
Food, Inc - this is the companion guide to the documentary of the same name (see below in the DVD section), and goes into great detail at just how FUBAR our food industry is.
The Metabolism Advantage – Do you think because you’re over 30 your metabolism is doomed to slow down? Think again. Another great book by Dr. John Berardi.
Nutrient Timing – I wish more registered dietitians would read this book – learn how to optimize results by manipuluating what you eat (and when).
Ultrametabolism - Another practical book with lots of useful information pertaining to the topic of your metabolism and how to boost it through simple tweaks in your diet.
The Whole Soy Story - Think soy is a “healthy” food? Think again.
The Abs Diet - I hate diet books, but this one I actually like because it focuses on habits and not quick fixes.
The Cheat to Lose Diet – Authored by Joel Marion. A very effective “diet” which allows you to eat pizza no less. With over 300 scientific references, a must have if all other diets have failed you.
Girth Control – Probably one of the wittiest titles for a book ever! Alan Aragon is a fantastic “go to” guy in the nutrition world and his book is one of the best resources I have read in a looooong time. TONS of research based information, as well as Alan’s common sense and practical knowledge. If you’re a nutrition geek, this book is for you.
Natural Hormonal Enhancement - One of the very first nutrition related books I ever bought and it still ranks right up there with the best.
Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper Body – My VERY first product, like ever. I’d be remiss not to mention it right off the bat. With other contributions from the likes of Rick Kaselj, Dean Somerset, and Dr. Jeff Cubos, this is pretty much one of the most comprehensive products on upper body assessment and training out there.
Spinal Health and Core Training – This is a weekend seminar that I was involved with alongside Rick Kaselj, Dean Somerset, and Dr. Jeff Cubos, where we cover anything and everything as it relates to spinal health and core training.
Functional Strength Coach 3.0 - As someone who was at the filming of this product (I was the guy who looked extra “gunny” in the background), I can tell you that Mike Boyle has forgotten more than you’ll ever know.
Assess and Correct – One of the most comprehensive products with regards to assessment and corrective exercise. A definite “must have” for any fitness professional.
Building the Efficient Athlete – If I had this dvd set when I was a collegiate athlete, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have had better odds of turning pro. A absolutely great resource for athletes and for those who train them.
Optimal Shoulder Performance – When two guys who, collectively, have worked with over 1 BILLION dollars worth of shoulders in their careers, go into detail on how to assess, manage, and train around shoulder pathologies, you ought to listen.
2008 I-FAST Performance Enhancement Seminar – The first of what will hopefully be an annual event of knowledge bombs given by Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman.
How to Read Fitness Research – The name speaks for itself. If you’re a fitness professional, or more specifically, a fitness professional who has a hard time comprehending how to interpret “sound” research – this product is for you.
Inside-Out - The perfect upper body warm-up. For all of you with bum shoulders, this is a must.
Magnificent Mobility – The perfect lower body warm-up. For all of you with bum hips, knees, and lower backs, this is a must.
Secrets of Primitive Patterns - This dvd takes “going back to the basics” to a whole new level.
Secrets of the Shoulder – Learn why anyone who thinks “shoulder rehab” is all about those cute, little band exercises is completely missing the boat. Gray has an uncanny ability of thinking outside the box, that not only is easily understandable, but instantly applicable as well.
Secrets of Core Training - Not what you think it’s about. While most think of the “core” as what you see on the cover of Men’s Health, Gray explains why it’s so much more than that.
Secrets of the Hip and Knee – Just about every dysfunction in the body can be attributed to the hips. Here, Gray Cook and Brett Jones showcase why they’re smarter than you.
Joint-by-Joint Warm Up and Training - Another classic by Mike Boyle. Some joints need to be trained with mobility in mind, and some need to be trained with stability in mind. Yes, it’s that important.
Functional Strength Coach - So good, I watched the entire set…TWICE.
Functional Strength Coach Vol. 2 – Unlike most sequels, this one doesn’t suck.
Functional Stability Training for the Lower Body – Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold drop some more knowledge bombs, and this time they hit up the lower body.
Business Side of Things
Anyone Can Sell - Fantastic book by Thomas Plummer (AKA, the Godfather of the fitness industry) on the “ins and outs” of how to be an effective seller in this industry. If I had this book when I first stated in this industry, I would be much better off.
The Tipping Point - Not necessarily a business book per se, but a great book nonetheless on the why and how certain ideas take off and others don’t.
Made to Stick – Why do some ideas “stick” and others don’t?
Never Eat Alone – Lots and lots of practical advice and ideas on how to build professional networks and build relationships.
Outliers – Probably my favorite Malcolm Gladwell book which discusses the phenomenon of what actually makes people successful.
Yes! 50 Scientific Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – Kate Beckinsale will be mine. She just doesn’t know it yet.
Switch – Written by the same guys who wrote Made to Stick, this book goes into detail on how to make change when change is hard.
Drive - Gives a really interesting (and entertaining) look into what REALLY drives people to succeed.