I get asked constantly what I feel separates a good trainer or coach from a bad trainer and coach. It’s a simple answer really:
not having breath that smells like old lady fart passing through an onion continuing education.
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.
Stealing a often used quote from Alwyn Cosgrove: “you should read at least ONE hour every day material that’s related to your field.”
Do the math: 1 hour per day x 364 days per year (you can take your birthday off) = 364 hours per year. Get off Instagram and read!
Photo Credit: David Melchor Diaz
Books, e-books, manuals, DVDs, CDs, etc are great and there are certainly a plethora of each that I would consider must haves (see below).
However, they do get outdated.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:
T-Nation -In my opinion, the best site for information on anything fitness related from some of the most well known authorities in the industry.
Greatist – 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.
EliteFts – 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.
The Fitcast – 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.
Examine – easily THE best website for any and all information when it comes to supplements. One of the best researched sites on the web. Check out their Supplement Goals Reference Guide and/or Stack Guides and you’ll see what I mean.
Juggernaut Training Systems – HARDcore training info from some smart (and strong as shit) people.
A Small Soap Box Rant Before I Go On:
Photo Credit: Monsieur Lui
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 in my career, 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.
It amazes me that fitness professionals will complain about how much “x” conference or product costs, yet not blink an eye when the latest iPhone is available. Priorities!
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. Perfect for any fitness professional who wants to better augment their skills dealing with injured clientele.
Lift Weights Faster – Jen Sinkler’s flagship program with TONS of cool, innovative ways to 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 full of useful information.
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 – Eric Cressey’s sequel to his flagship training program, Show and Go.
Can You Go? – one of 817 things Dan John has written I feel every fitness professional should read. This one takes a deeper look into his assessment process.
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.
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.
Ultimate Athleticism – Max Shank is a freak. He has a 500+ lb deadlift AND can do amazing things with his own bodyweight. Looking for something different to conquer? Try this.
Functional Training for Sports – Mike Boyle’s first book, and you should read it.
Intervention – written by Dan John, and my probably my favorite of his (which is saying a lot).
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.
Training for Warriors – Written by Martin Rooney, and one of the best books dealing with how to approach training mixed martial artists.
Physical Preparation – A 2-day seminar by Mike Robertson where he breaks down his ENTIRE approach to program design and making people into beasts.
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.
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.
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!
Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction – Written by Dr. Evan Osar…he helps to break down many common hip & shoulder dysfunctions. He also touches on the importance of breathing patterns – very important.
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 Diet Fix – I’m normally leery of any physician who writes about nutrition, but Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is one of the best obesity doctors in the world and knows his stuff.
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 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.
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 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth – I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve given this book as a gift. It’s a beautiful book chock full of useful facts and information about a wide variety of foods.
Integrative Corrective Exercise Approach – hands down one of the most comprehensive resources/coureses on corrective exercise by Dr. Evan Osar. Done in chapter format so you can stop/go as you wish.
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.
Elite Athletic Development 2.0 – Another fantastic resource featuring Mike Robertson and Joe Kenn. The section where Coach Kenn breaks down his approach to periodization is worth the price alone.
Functional Stability Training – Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold tackle three separate modalities – core, upper body, and lower body – and discuss everything from assessment to programming strategies.
Assess and Correct – One of the most comprehensive products with regards to assessment and corrective exercise. A definite “must have” for any fitness professional.
Complete Core Training – delve into the mind of Nick Tumminello, one of the industry’s best fitness educators as he discusses his own approach to core training.
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.
Complete Speed Training – Lee Taft is a world renowned speed coach. I love his approach.
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.
Advanced Core Training – a comprehensive seminar filmed by Dean Somerset that covers way more than your typical “how to get a six-pack” mantra.
Complete Program Design – follow Coach Robert dos Remedios – someone with 25+ years of coaching experience – as he breaks down his programming philosophy and insights.
Personal Development/Business Side of Things
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.
Decisive – as a bonafide “Heath brothers” fan, this is arguably my favorite book written by them.
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.
Thinking Fast and Slow – This book won the Nobel Prize in (behavorial) Economics and goes into great detail on how the human mind works and thinks.
The Upside of Irrationality – We’re very biased in how we make decisions. Being irrational with our decision making can have a downside AND upside.
Nudge – Sometimes we just need a little “nudge” to help us make better decisions with regards to our health, wealth, and happiness.
The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty – It’s human nature to lie, just as it’s human nature to cheat and to seek the easy route. We’re programmed to think this is bad…..but is it, really?
Why We Make Mistakes – We all think we’re above average in everything. Why do we make mistakes? This book answers that question.
The Power of Habit – Why do we continue doing the things we do despite knowing better? Want to make better decisions? Want to help your clients make better decisions? Read this book.
The Art of Non-Conformity – Who cares what everyone says you have to do! Set your own rules to live the life you want.
Books on Writing
Photo Credit: Shane Mahen
The War of Art – Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy. Here’s how to drop kick it in the face.
It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences – A writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences.
Still Writing – One of my favorite books on writing written by Dani Shapiro. LOVE this book.
Everybody Writes – you don’t have to be Hemingway or King to consider yourself a writer. This book teaches you what it takes to write stellar content that will get noticed.
The Elements of Style – The seminal book on writing. Don’t when’s the appropriate time to use a semi-colon? This book will help.
The Elements of F*cking Style – The less PC (and vastly more entertaining) book on how to write, and write well.
On Writing Well – Another “must have” book to any writer’s shelf.
Bird by Bird – written by Anne Lamott, this is another one of my favorite books on the “process” of writing.
Elements of Eloquence – ever wonder what an alliteration is or what hyperbole actually means? Better yet…how do you use both (amongst many other terms of rhetoric) in your writing?
The Forest for the Trees – An editor’s advice to writers.
On Writing – Kind of hard to include a list on writing without this classic by Stephen King.