The 10 Best Weightlifting Books of 2021

Learn the basics and beyond with these instructive manuals

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall for Men: "Bigger Leaner Stronger"

"With practical information and motivation, this book aspires to live up to its title, giving you the know-how to become bigger, leaner, and stronger."

Best Overall for Women: "Lift Like a Girl"

"This book provides a refreshing and empowering mindset for women interested in exercise, nutrition, and a healthier body image."

Best for Bodyweight Workouts: "Overcoming Gravity"

"Learn how to use your body weight to get all of the gains you want with this comprehensive guide with workout routines."

Best for Beginners: "Bodybuilding for Beginners"

"This book has information on exercises that target every major muscle group and other essentials that you need to get started."

Best Advanced: "Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy"

"Considered as one of the most comprehensive resources, this book walks you through how to design effective training programs."

Best for Competitive Weightlifting: "10/20/Life"

"Learn what you need to fuel your body for optimal lifting performance, how to gain a mental edge over your competition and more."

Best With Workout Plan: "FULL POWER Powerlifting Program"

"This clear-cut 16-week workout plan strives to increase your maximum strength and is good for both adults and teens."

Best for Workout Methodology: "Practical Programming for Strength Training"

"Understand how your weightlifting routine affects your body and what you can do to lift weights effectively."

Best for Seniors: "Stay Fit for Life"

"Learn how to maintain your mobility and strength as you age with workouts designed to target specific goals and fitness levels."

Best Cookbook for Weightlifters: "The Bodybuilder's Kitchen"

"Nurture your body between workouts with this cookbook that provides healthy and delicious meal options that keep your body fueled."

Lifting weights is one of the best exercise training methods for building and maintaining muscle, which is key for getting stronger, boosting your metabolism, preventing injuries, and aging gracefully. But it’s very important to understand the various components of weightlifting before you reach for a barbell. 

Reading a detailed weightlifting book by a trustworthy author can help virtually anyone learn how this training method impacts the human body and why, how to perform the most effective weightlifting exercises correctly and safely, how to progress your training regimen based on your specific goals, how to support those goals with other lifestyle factors like nutrition, and more.

Here, the best weightlifting books on the market, whether you're a beginner, an expert, or somewhere in between.

Best Overall for Men: “Bigger Leaner Stronger" by Michael Matthews

Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews
Courtesy of Amazon 

International bestseller Michael Matthews does an excellent job of combing through both legitimate research and trendy fitness myths to provide you with the weightlifting and nutrition know-how you need to become—you guessed it—bigger, leaner, and stronger.

The book is practical, easy to read, and motivating to put into practice. Rave reviews abound for this book, sharing how it helped thousands of readers transform their lives and feel empowered to adopt and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Best Overall for Women: “Lift Like a Girl: Be More, Not Less” by Nia Shanks

Lift Like a Girl
Courtesy of Amazon 

So much of the female fitness industry focuses on shrinking in size and remedying “problem areas,” breaking women down and burning them out more than building them up. Nia Shanks does the exact opposite, providing a refreshing and empowering mindset for women interested in exercise, nutrition, and a healthier body image.

Other fitness professionals tout her workout programs as reasonable, sustainable, and highly effective. She is an evidence-based practitioner who takes a no-nonsense approach to health while also being your biggest coach and advocate along your fitness journey.

Best for Bodyweight Workouts: “Overcoming Gravity" by Steven Low

Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low
 Courtesy of Amazon

Not all weightlifting requires serious amounts of heavy gym equipment. In fact, one of the best tools you always have at your disposal is your own body, and this book from Steven Low shows you exactly how to use it to get all the gains you want. The comprehensive guide helps walk you through the process of creating smart, strength-oriented bodyweight workout routines.

It includes everything from health and injury management information to factors that contribute to a successful routine to actual program implementation. It also makes it easy to navigate from beginner to immediate to advanced plans.

Best for Beginners: “Bodybuilding for Beginners" by Kyle Hunt

Bodybuilding for Beginners by Kyle Hunt
 Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re just getting started with a weightlifting practice, it’s all too easy to let feelings of intimidation get the best of you. So, start where you are with Kyle Hunt and his book. Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym before, you can start gaining serious muscle mass in no time.

This book equips you with essential bodybuilding information, detailed explanations of 55 powerful exercises that target every major muscle group in your body, and more. And if you’re really just looking for the “tell me what to do” guide, Hunt gives you 84 days' worth of unique bodybuilding routines to keep you pushing toward your goal.

Best Advanced: “Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy” by Brad Schoenfeld

Science and Development by Brad Schoenfeld
Courtesy of Amazon

Even the weightlifting aficionado can stand to learn a thing or two about their favorite training style. Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, is an internationally renowned expert on muscle hypertrophy, and his book is considered one of the most comprehensive resources on the subject in the world.

Strength and conditioning professionals, personal trainers, sports scientists, researchers, and exercise science instructors swear by this book, which walks you through how the body changes structurally and hormonally when exposed to stress, how to design the most effective training programs, and nutritional guidelines for optimal muscle growth.

Best for Competitive Weightlifting: “10/20/Life" by Brian Carroll

10/20/Life by Brian Carroll
 Courtesy of Amazon

Ready to take your weightlifting career to the next level? Consider this philosophy from Brian Carroll, a world-class powerlifter with more than two decades of elite lifting under his belt. His book suggests that training methodically for 10 and 20 weeks at a time is critical for a lifetime of positive momentum—both in and outside of the gym.

He delves deeply into what is required to gain a mental edge over your competition, how to fuel your body for optimal lifting performance, the best ways to design your combination days, and more. If you prefer simple and straightforward communications, this no-frills book is worth perusing.

Best With Workout Plan: “FULL POWER Powerlifting Program” by Ryan J. Mathias

Full Power by Ryan J Mathias
Courtesy of Amazon 

If you’re looking for a weightlifting book that’s keenly focused on providing you with a clear-cut workout plan, consider this option from competitive powerlifter and former personal trainer Ryan J. Mathias. He guarantees that you can increase your maximum strength with his 16-week program that prioritizes squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

Even better, the program is suitable for both men and women, and even teens can use it safely. Mathias and his team personally use the program to prep for their powerlifting meets—proof that it really does work when put into practice!

Best for Exercise Methodology: “Practical Programming for Strength Training” by Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker

Practical Programming for Strength Training
 Courtesy of Amazon

In order to lift weights effectively, you must understand how your body works, why certain training protocols produce certain results, and how to use those factors to your advantage to earn the results you want. This book, the most comprehensive book on the theory and practice of programming for strength training, helps you do just that.

The authors provide an analysis of the human body’s response to exercise as it moves through a varied training history. Employing human physiology, sports psychology, and common sense, it’s a must-read if you really want to understand how your weightlifting routine is working within your body.

Best for Seniors: “Stay Fit for Life” by Joshua Kozak

Stay Fit For Life
 Courtesy of Amazon

Aging doesn’t have to keep you from an active, healthy lifestyle. This book from Joshua Kozak reveals the many ways you can use functional training principles to not only lift weights but also to maintain your mobility and strength for years to come.

It includes more than 60 compound exercises with step-by-step instructions, 20 prescriptive workout routines designed to target specific goals, and three four-week fitness programs designed to match every fitness level. It even includes modifications for every exercise to make it easier or more challenging depending on your needs.

Best Cookbook for Weightlifters: “The Bodybuilder's Kitchen” by Erin Stern

Body Builder's Kitchen
 Courtesy of Amazon

You can’t just build muscle in the gym—you have to nurture it in the kitchen as well. This cookbook from Erin Stern will help ensure that you never run out of healthy, delicious, and artfully-planned meal options to keep your body fueled and ready for your next weightlifting session.

What’s more, the book helps you craft customized bodybuilding meal plans that will support the specific goals you’re working to achieve by providing specific nutrients at precise time intervals. The best part? Readers say that the recipes are easy to follow, quick to cook, and never boring to eat.

What to Look for in a Weightlifting Book

Approach

Weightlifting is about motivation and dedication. You should look for a book that will work alongside your brain, not against it. Think about how you would approach weightlifting. Some people want to push themselves as hard as possible, while others prefer to build confidence and take things more slowly. Certain training regimes are more intense than others.

Also, some books are very analytical and informative, while others just tell you what you need to do. Find a book with the right approach for you by looking at the intensity of the workouts and the language the book uses.

Niche

Most weightlifting books have a niche: age group, sex, experience level, and so on. Think about whether you would prefer a generalized training program, or maybe one more suited to you. A book that caters to a certain population will have different workouts and explanations than one for a general audience, providing a better and more personalized experience.

Nutrition

Your body requires nutrients to function properly, and many weightlifting books include recipes. Depending on your dietary restrictions and preferences, most of these recipes can be modified to suit your needs.

Think about whether you would like to try a new diet or some supplementary nutrition. If so, you may want to seek out a book with recipes. There are even books completely dedicated to recipes, intended to help support your body for a better weightlifting experience.

Duration

There is a large variety in weightlifting regimes. Some are repetitive, and others are more diversified. Some programs are intended to last only a few weeks, while others are lifelong practices. What type of training are you looking for? You might want a program with a definite end date. Or, you might prefer advice on developing a routine that you will use every day.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of weightlifting books?

    Weightlifting books can help you study the details of weightlifting, including proper form, safety, and how weightlifting affects your body. A book might help you mix up your strength training workouts for more variety or learn what it would take to reach a new goal.

  • Can weightlifting books take the place of a personal trainer?

    Weightlifting books are generalized and cannot take the place of a personal trainer. But they can help supplement what you learn from a trainer.

  • How do you know if the advice in a weightlifting book is right for you?

    Proper form and safety is standard. Advice, however, is about what works for you. You will only know by trying. With experience, you will learn what motivates you and how best to progress.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

As a seasoned health writer, Alena Hall understands the importance of not just staying active but doing so in a safe and smart way. Over the years, she has reviewed dozens of products, from athletic recovery aids to condition-specific products to homeopathic essential oils, to help readers like you discover products that can help you live your best life.

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  1. Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012;11(4):209-216. doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8