The Top Recommended Books Personal Trainers Should Read

Information has become abundant. This is a good thing but it makes finding the best personal trainer books to grow your personal training career more difficult.

I believe that all personal trainers should read a minimum of one hour a day, Monday-Friday (and make up for lost time on the weekend). Not only that, trainers should split their time 50/50 between fitness and business books.

Below are two lists. In no particular order they are my top 10 recommendations for upping your fitness knowledge and business acumen. Every one of these books has had a significant impact on me, my business, and the people around me.


Coach Jon

On Business Systems and Marketing

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahnamen

As a psychologist, Kahnamen won the Nobel Prize in economics for the establishment of behavioral economics. You will not read a more important book on the human condition and its relation to business. I omitted half a dozen other books from this list because they are simply reworkings of Kahnamen’s book. Go to the source. Take your time with this one.

Stumbling on Happiness – Dan Gilbert

Perhaps the most notable thing that makes us human is our ability to predict the future. And, even though it constantly preoccupies us, we’re terrible at it. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It went a long way to help me understand my clients better and learning to tell the difference between what they said and what they were going to do.

Linchpin – Seth Godin

A major influence on me. I’ve gifted Linchpin to more people than any other book. The reason? Godin taught me how to get noticed and set myself apart from the crowd. In a World where it takes a weekend to become a personal trainer, becoming indispensable in your client’s minds is imperative.

Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

Everything that’s worth having in this World takes time. “Trust the process” is often repeated but never was it fully understood until Gladwell’s iconic work was released. I can tell you from my experience that when something tips, things are good. Very good.

48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

Everything relationship is a power struggle. Your relationships with your clients are no different. These laws became my guide when I was a trainer and they still serve me well as an entrepreneur. Follow them unabashedly.

On Writing Well – William Zinsser

The most important skill set is to be able to influence with the written word. Something as simple as an email to a client can have tremendous benefit. If you really want to make a go at this industry, learn how to communicate through your writing even if it’s just for promotional material.

The Wiki Man – Rory Sutherland

The only book that I’ve ever read 4 times. Make sure to buy the physical book and enjoy. Sutherland is as brilliant as he is funny. Wiki Man covers a multitude of subjects, but I suggest it particularly if you’re interested in behavioral economics and advertising.

How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie

You’re in the relationship business. At the core of it, we’re all the same with the same desires — perhaps that’s why Carnegie’s classic has been in print for over 75 years. These lessons will serve you well in your career, and life.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – Al Ries and Jack Trout

I’ve gained a lot from reading many of Ries books. While Positioning was the most influential for me, I decided to list this one instead as it’s a succinct overview of the major lessons in all of his works.

The Ultimate Sales Machine – Chet Holmes

I know, I was skeptical when I first read the title too. Holmes has written the best book on time management, business organization, and sales that I’ve ever come across.

On Fitness

The News Rules of Lifting for Women – Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove

The New Rules series is iconic as a collection but no book has had more of a wide-spread effect than this one. Often credited with ushering in the female weightlifting movement, this book has helped more trainers and exercisers understand the benefits of lifting weights for women.

Never Let Go – Dan John

This is my favorite fitness book of all time. At times almost poetic, Dan breaks down myths and simplifies fitness and health seemingly effortlessly. His insight into the mindset is also notable. You’ll enjoy this one.

Strong Curves – Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis

Bret and Kellie absolutely crushed it with this book. The programming is impressive and depth of explanation and information is second-to-none. I believe that this book should be a go-to resource for any trainer that works with females.

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle – Tom Venuto

I’m glad to finally see this in print. After spending years in digital format, Rodale purchased the rights and turned Venuto’s ageless masterpiece into a mass-distributed physical book. For anybody interested in physique transformation, this is a must-have.

Low back Disorders – Dr. Stuart McGill

Funny story: I didn’t get the job at my first personal training interview because I hadn’t heard of Dr. McGill. I went home that night and bought this text book and it propelled my career for years to come. Your clients will have back pain. It will be chronic. They will have seen countless others who couldn’t help them. You can help them with this book.

The Max Muscle Plan – Dr. Brad Schoenfeld

If there’s anybody on this planet that knows more about the mechanisms of hypertrophy, I haven’t met him or her. You should already be following Dr. Schoenfeld’s work. This book will simultaneously teach you about the science behind muscle gain while providing some killer programming.

Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? – Alex Hutchinson

Get this book if you want to have scientific evidence and succinct answers to the 101 most common questions that your clients will ask you. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier.

Maximum Strength – Eric Cressey

This book taught me how to rest more than it taught me how to train. It was so influential in my own development that I even asked Eric permission to use it in the trailer for Ignite the Fire (Link here: you’ll see it at 0:30)

Strength Training for Fat Loss – Nick Tumminello

Boasting a huge exercise database, Tumminello brings his no gimmick attitude to this book. It’s staight-forward, it’s sensible, and it works. For those looking to up their programming game, this is a must-have.

Ignite the Fire – Jonathan Goodman (me)

I wrote Ignite because I felt it necessary for a book that teaches how to actually thrive as a trainer. Obviously I’m biased, but I feel like it should be in every trainers library to help trainers have more successful, well-rounded careers.

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