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The Best Fitness Books of All Time for Losing Weight & Getting in Shape

Passionate about fitness and weight-lifting, and sharing what I know.

Books to help you get back in shape

Books to help you get back in shape

Best Workout Books

If your New Year's resolution was to finally lose weight, get fit, or get in shape once and for all, then here is a list of some of the best books ever on the subject that will educate you and get you on the right track to success.

How many of these kinds of resolutions are made annually that peter out by March? I don't have an exact number, but I'll tell you this: If you only go to the gym twice this year, go on the first Monday of the new year and then go again on a Monday night in March. It'll look like a ghost town in there!

So this list is in no particular order but what I will tell you is I've read each one thoroughly and followed the programs listed. Each one of these books has helped me reach goals, improve strength, pack on some muscle, alter body composition, and increase aerobic and anaerobic work capacity. Each one.

If you only buy just one of these books and follow it, you'll finish the year way better off than when you started. I guarantee you that!

1. Body for Life by Bill Phillips

This is more than a book. This is a challenge. I took it back in 1998-1999; 12 weeks from the end of '98 to early '99. It was one of those times where you simply dial into a program, commit to it 110% and do the work and get it done.

What I took away from that 12 Week Challenge was the reality that in 12 weeks you can not only make some pretty dramatic and obvious physical changes, but you can also do a lot for your heart and soul.

Proving to yourself that you can hunker down and then ultimately develop a lifestyle based on the principles learned from the book is what becomes the real challenge.

The best part about Body for Life I think is that anyone can accept Bill Phillips' challenge. The exercise routines laid out in the book are customizable to your unique level of strength and conditioning.

This doesn't have to be done by would be bodybuilders and you don't need to try to look like or behave like "The Situation" to succeed.

Success with Body for Life is measured by a few simple accomplishments. Did you finish the 12 weeks? Are you better off for it? What kind of person are you now?

Take a look at the success stories of some of these amazing individuals who not only transformed their bodies but transformed their spirits as well.

As far as the nitty-gritty of the book, as I said, this is customizable to your unique fitness level. The exercise protocols will focus on weight training and cardio. Both routines are centered on your level of perceived exertion. On a scale of 1-10, ten being maximum effort and one being the couch, you'll start your workouts in the three to five range and start building towards a nine or ten. Assuming you're eating and sleeping right, you should be able to make minor improvements with each workout. This gives you the ability to judge your workouts and adjust. It also allows you to track progress and observe how well your body can change. By the end of the 12 weeks, you'll be amazed at what has happened to you.

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2. The 4-Hour Body

Self-proclaimed guinea pig and life hacker Tim Ferriss delves into the depths of rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman . . . all in one book! Normally these topics each get their own book but Tim has plugged it all into one valuable slab of data. Once you open this book you'll soon find it laden with page folds, pencil marks, highlights, bookmarks and the likes of that because if you've never experienced true information overload then you need to read this book and start sifting through it.

Some of the main topics in The 4-Hour Body include but are not limited to the following:

  • The Slow-Carb Diet: How to lose 20 pounds in 30 days.
  • Damage Control: Preventing Fat Gain While You Binge
  • Ice Age: Managing Temperature to Manipulate Weight
  • Building the Perfect Posterior (or Losing 100+ pounds)
  • From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 pounds in 28 days
  • The 15-Minute Female Orgasm
  • Sex Machine: Tripling Testosterone and Doubling Sperm Count
  • Engineering the Perfect Night's Sleep
  • Pre-Hab: Injury-Proofing the Body
  • Ultra-endurance: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks
  • How to Add 100 pounds to Your Bench Press

Intrigued? Skeptical? Curious? I was all of these. Until I read the book. I'm still intrigued and curious but not skeptical.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "in a nutshell?" Tim's best skill is taking information that you really want to have but normally would bore you to death because it was written for a scientific community and making it accessible and easy to understand.

Tim's also a minimalist, extreme researcher and fairly entertaining. What he did here was summarize and exemplify what experts and talents do naturally, reverse engineer it and make it highly accessible to the average Joe/Jane.

Before my fitness journey began

Before my fitness journey began



3. Perfect Weight America

How would you like an easy-to-follow recipe for losing weight? Well, here it is. This book actually was given to me for free at the Vitamin Shoppe because I bought an enzyme supplement. So I took it home, put it in the bathroom (where I do a substantial amount of reading, The 4-Hour Body is in there right now), and started flipping through it one Sunday morning.

It was mid-2007 and I was coming out of a rough patch in my life. I combined the information in this book with the Russian Kettlebell (see below) and subsequently dropped 30 pounds in about 4 months.

I lost track of a lot of things in my life and allowed myself to go. When you look back it's hard to figure out how you can let that happen. A lot of times you'll hear someone talk about an overweight person and ask the question, "how did they let themselves get like that?" Well at some point I struggled with just tying my shoe because my belly was getting in the way and obstructing my reach. It still didn't click. I kept seeing the guy in the pictures above and not the guy who was eating too much ice cream and drinking too much Jack Daniels.

Eventually I woke up.

The bottom line here is that once I woke up, and with the support of friends and family, I was able to not only remove myself from the fog but was able to relieve myself of some unnecessary fat.

Perfect Weight America came along at the perfect time and my initial impression was, "Holy Crap, there's a way to do this, and look how simple it is" As it turned out I was not required to go on some strict nightmare program where you're starving half the time and craving better-tasting food the other half.

Again, the success of this book is that it's not a "diet" but, like Body For Life, a lifestyle that you can approach and customize to fit within your lifestyle.

Yes, there will be discipline involved and some tough choices, but you're making a lifestyle change here, not a quick fix.

Not only that but this program, along with the others I'm suggesting you look into and/or try are designed for you to succeed. How would like a whole day once a week to eat whatever you want?

Body for Life has it, 4-Hour Body's got it, and so does Perfect Weight America.

Why a day of gluttony? Seems contradictory, right? You will find the answer to that question and see how it makes perfect sense and will actually help you in your quest to shed unwanted pounds.

4. Enter the Kettlebell

Earlier I said these books are in no order of importance. That being said if you do one thing; if you make one investment in your overall health, strength and conditioning make it this book—Enter the Kettlebell. When you accept the Russian Kettlebell Challenge from Pavel Tsatsouline, you will springboard yourself into a new you, literally.

Kettlebells have been quite literally a blessing in my life and why the teachings of Pavel have made me stronger not only in body but in mind and spirit as well.

Nothing has come along yet that can solve and unravel so much in such a short and effective time. Strength training, in general, is first and foremost a competition with yourself. Your goal quite simply is to improve. Finish stronger than you started. Kettlebell training will help you get there.

Do you participate in a sport? Would you like to jump higher, swing harder, kick with even more power, punch with dynamic force? From Martial Artists to Tennis players all the way to golfers, Kettlebell training will make you more powerful, leaner, stronger and more vibrant.

Why not just get any Kettlebell Training book? What makes this one so special? Quite simply, if it wasn't for this man Pavel Tsatsouline and another fine gentleman John DuCane, Kettlebell training would still be some obscure niche in the physical culture world. When you can get the straight shot right from the source, why would you bother with anything less?

The RKC and Pavel remind me in a way of Santa Claus. When I asked my mom as a kid why there are so many Santas, the answer was, this one's Santa's helper. That's Pavel and the RKC in a nutshell. There are not a lot of Fitness Certifications around that actually FAIL students who can't cut the mustard. The Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor Program (RKC) holds the highest standards for training and technique. All of which can be found in this book. You may also think of some other Kettlebell gurus out there here in the States that have gone on to make their own unique impact and brand, training, and even offer certifications. I think that's great, as the value of Kettlebell Training spreads and continues to bleed out weakness in the American body, but keep in mind, most of those guys were all trained by, you guessed it, Pavel Tsatsouline.

Like I said, go to the source whenever possible.

5. Power to the People

This book is for boys and girls alike!

What are some of the themes that keep popping up? Minimalism. Simplicity. Effectiveness. Customizable to your current level.

Bring on Power to the People. This book takes two basic compound lifts and delivers a workout routine that you can adjust to meet whatever goal you have. Want to get Lean and Strong? That's in here. Want to get "yolked" out like a Russian Bear? That's in here too. Musculature like a brick you-know-what? It's in here.

How about getting strong as an Ox? That's the main point of this book. Strength before anything. Pure, unadulterated strength. Strength that will carry over into any weight lifting or physical endeavor you embark on. Strength that will give you the physical might but the means to conquer and overcome inner demons that may have held you back for years.

You see good people there's more to this whole fitness thing than just how good you look naked. As far as I'm concerned that's a fringe benefit. A very nice benefit, but for me, what looks back at me in the mirror is not nearly as important as what I see when I look in the mirror and how I feel about myself.

Power to the People will arm with the tools and techniques to generate strength without having to put on a bunch of muscle. The muscles you already have are perfectly capable of lifting more than they can now. You simply need to teach them how to do it. Strength is a skill. The idea that you either got it or you don't got it is bogus. You can learn to be strong and then train to be strong and when you hit a PR (personal record) your confidence grows and that confidence will spill into the rest of your life.

To Sum It All Up

You now have some choices here. The 4-Hour Body alone could keep you busy all year. If you're out of shape, really out of shape, I'd suggest Body for Life and Perfect Weight America to start your journey. If you've been in shape before and just need to get back on track, go get yourself a Kettlebell. You might hate me during a training session or two but as Pavel likes to say, "Enjoy the pain." And you will thank me later.

The most important part about getting in shape as your New Years Resolution or whenever you decide to do it are a few key elements that I call "The Three C's"

  • Commitment. You must make the commitment to change.
  • Consistency. You must be consistent in your efforts.
  • Courage. You must summon the courage to change, be consistent and not allow anything to stand in your way.

If any of these three C's are absent, you very well may find success to be just out of reach. This is not meant to discourage you, but hopefully, inspire you to find the things in your life currently that are important enough to warrant the commitment to change. Once the commitment is solid and in place, what will it take to motivate you to be consistent? And of course, how will you summon the courage to push on when things get uncomfortable? You will find two kinds of discomfort here. Physical and emotional.

For the physical, I will suggest that you know your body well enough to gauge the difference between "this sucks" and "I'm about to hurt myself." Push past the discomfort. The Marines say, "Pain is weakness leaving the body." Master RKC, David Whitley says, "Push yourself, but don't be stupid." Use your judgment and finish stronger.

For the emotional. Your ego or inner child or whatever you want to call the little voice in your head may try to talk you out of it or crap you out. Don't fight it. Fighting makes it worse. Acknowledge the little voice. Thank it for its input and keep moving forward. For example, your little voice says, "It's too late to go to the gym. You should have gone this morning. Forget about it and just go home and eat a half-gallon of ice cream instead." Your reply should be something like this, "I hear what you're saying and I understand that that does sound like a good idea but I'm going to go to the gym anyway because I choose to make myself better today than I was yesterday." And then go workout.

As a human being, you have the ability to override instinct and desire. Know what desires are healthy and which ones are not. Give yourself the permission you need to love yourself just a little more and take care of the vessel you have to live this one life with.

Now get to work!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Micah on October 12, 2012:

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