These books for athletes are personal favorites. Items are listed in five sections: Strength and Conditioning, for general, not sport-specific, athletic development, Exercise Physiology, for anyone interested in metabolism, Mobility, which should be emphasized by all athletes who move for sport (that means everyone), Diet and Nutrition, for obvious reasons, and Dance and Movement, which are personally significant.
Strength and Conditioning
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning is an excellent reference tool for anyone interested in athletic performance. In addition to covering the fundamentals of strength training and conditioning, it also gives a solid overview of other meaningful topics such as body composition testing and sport psychology. This is the NSCA textbook used to prepare for the CSCS exam.
Advances in Functional Training is somewhat unconventional among training books. Michael Boyle is not afraid to challenge traditional beliefs about athletic development. For example, he promotes single-leg versions of exercises like the squat or deadlift in spite of the inevitable backlash from purists. Throughout the book, both anecdotal accounts and research data are provided to support his cutting edge recommendations. There is a great deal of information in this book, so it’s useful for the practitioner interested in exploring new strategies for training as well as the researcher with an interest in applied exercise science.
Challenge Yourself is the 8th book by Clarence Bass, a master of self-experimentation who also examines research evidence as part of his tireless search for outstanding fitness and an ultra-lean body. Challenge Yourself is my favorite of his books. Here he explains his diet, weight training, and aerobic exercise protocols and provides a rationale for each. Now in his 70s, Bass continues to amaze with his sub-3% body fat and athletic ability. Never one to follow fads, Bass adheres to the basics of training and the outcomes speak volumes. This is a fascinating and inspiring book that covers with clarity the fundamental principles of fitness.
The title, “Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great,” suggests that this book will zero in on how to achieve a particular look without wasting time discussing fitness or health. It’s true that lean muscle development is a strong focus of this book, but there is also a great deal of content here on strength, diet, sleep, and exercise psychology. Long a favorite of “hardgainers” everywhere, Stuart McRobert’s “Brawn” series stressed heavy and progressive weight training, using compound exercises, and remaining injury free. BMLFLG continues on the same path.
Ultimate Body Press Dip Stand is an essential piece of equipment for home workouts. If you do body weight exercises for the upper body, chins and dips are undoubtedly part of your program. The UBPDS takes up little space, it’s sturdy, and it comes apart easily for storage. To increase the intensity, a weighted vest or a dip belt with attached barbell plates can be used. This product can also be used for inverted rows if pull-ups are too difficult.
The Door Gym for pull-ups is sturdy, affordable, and it won’t damage your door frame. There is no drilling necessary to install it. It fits most door frames and can be taken down easily when it’s not being used. It has wide and close grip options for variety. A weighted vest or weight belt with barbell plates can be used to increase intensity.
Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and Its Applications is outstanding. The authors are highly established researchers in exercise science, and their knowledge of bioenergetics is on full display in this text. The writing is excellent throughout, but it should be noted that the content is presented at a graduate level, which may make it more beneficial for advanced readers. If you intend to understand the science of exercise rather than follow someone else’s paint by numbers approach, purchase this text.
Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance offers a sophisticated coverage of all major topics in exercise physiology. The book is separated into three sections dealing with the physiology of exercise, health and fitness, and performance. Specific topics include bioenergetics, exercise metabolism, circulatory responses and respiration, the training effect, nutrition, and competitive performance. Full color illustrations add to the quality of the text.
In their book, Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence, authors Eric Goodman and Peter Park deliver a system used by professional athletes to maintain back health. It focuses on improving strength and mobility in the posterior chain, the series of muscles in the back of the body that are often neglected by ab-focused athletes. If performed three times a week for 15-20 minutes, this system will bring remarkable improvements in posture and mobility. There are three programs, each tailored to a different level of ability. There are also sections on lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise.
Full Body-Flexibility is based on a three step system that involves a) maximizing the range of motion in stretches, b) minimizing the difference between active and passive flexibility, and c) achieving equivalent flexibilty in the front/back and left/right sides of the body. Movements for all regions of the body are shown in photos and guidelines are provided for full body stretches, time saving approaches, and sports flexibility.
The message of Dynamic Stretching is that, prior to activity, movement-based warm-ups are superior to static stretching. Suggestions are given for dynamic warm-up programs for 23 sports. The book also displays examples of modifying exercises to accommodate improvements in flexibility.
Diet and Nutrition
The Mood Cure: How do diet and lifestyle behaviors influence emotional states? The Mood Cure provides excellent examples of strategies for managing mood that don’t involve medication or psychotherapy. Although not specifically directed toward athletes, those who find that emotional instability has a negative impact on athletic performance will benefit from the theories and suggestions in this book.
The Diet Cure: The companion book to The Mood Cure, The Diet Cure, covers much of the same ground. However, as the title suggests, the focus here is on how to incorporate an eating strategy into your life that will help you to avoid dietary problems such as binge eating, fatigue due to undereating, nutritional deficiencies, obesity, emotional eating, and GI distress.
The Body Ecology Diet is a health-oriented diet book that may at first seem out of place in this list. Those who make heavily processed foods a significant part of a training diet are at risk for health problems for two reasons: inadequate levels of essential nutrients in the diet and repeatedly eating foods that are hard on the body. This book is useful for people in heavy training who need to rest. Overtraining is a significant problem for many, and the dietary protocol for treatment should be taken seriously. Donna Gates’ book promotes gently cooked animal protein, vegetables, soups, starchy carbohydrate sources, and fermented foods for recovery.
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook is a great book. Its recommendations are grounded in science yet presented in an accessible way, so athletes of all levels will be able to follow the message. Nancy does a great job of explaining eating for training or competition and her suggestions for following a healthy diet while making performance a priority are right on the money. This is an inexpensive book but it’s rich with information.
Thrive describes triathlete Brendan Brazier’s incredible route to success as an elite vegan athlete. This book provides great help to vegan athletes who face two significant obstacles: 1) Texts on vegan nutrition rarely consider the needs of athletes and 2) those who practice vegan diets may experience gastric distress from eating significant amounts of nuts, seeds, grains, and beans to support the energy demands of training. Brazier’s book takes things in a new direction. High-nutrient foods, such as hemp seeds and powders, “pseudograins,” and fruits, are examined as potential super foods for the athlete.
Dance and Movement
Linda Hamilton’s book, The Dancer’s Way, examines the mental and physical preparation needed for dancers hoping to perform at the highest level. A clinical psychologist, former dancer with the New York City Ballet, and wellness consultant, Hamilton provides clear suggestions for strength and conditioning, diet, and flexibility, while also covering the psychological challenges faced by dancers who wish to maintain a healthy weight in a discipline with intense aesthetic demands.
Inside Ballet Technique: Separating Anatomical Fact from Fiction in the Ballet Class is a book I loved immediately. Although published in 1994, its messages continue to be relevant for dancers in all disciplines, not just ballet. It’s a fantastic read.
Anatomy of Movement begins with the fundamentals, including planes of movement and the skeleton. It moves on to an extremely thorough coverage of all aspects of the body relevant to the dancer. Anyone looking for a reference text with information on anatomical structures and mechanics will appreciate this book. It addresses areas of confusion to many dancers, such as shoulder rotation, breathing, and movement of the hips. I can only imagine the amount of effort that went into writing and illustrating this book. It really is an achievement.
Like Anatomy of Movement, the similarly titled Anatomy of Exercise and Movement is extremely well thought out and high quality. With similar content, it’s difficult to say which book I would recommend for someone to buy. Either or both would serve any dancer well. Buy both if you can.
Dance Anatomy has quality illustrations throughout. This enables the dancer to identify with clarity the parts of the body involved in different movements. I enjoy this book as a reference source. The anatomical descriptions can become quite technical at times, but that may be viewed as a strength for those who want a sophisticated treatment of the topic. Author Jacqui Haas has written a book that I would describe as a “must own” for any serious dancer with an interest in anatomy.
The Sivananda Companion to Yoga is a wonderful yoga text for experienced practitioners and beginners alike. For those who approach yoga as exercise, the full-color illustrations of asanas (postures) are inspiring and educational. For anyone interested in yoga as a spiritual practice, lifestyle, or tool for self-exploration, the information on diet, breathing, meditation, mantras, and philosophy is accessible and fascinating. I consider this book to be an essential text for any practitioner of yoga.