In the digital age, where there's an answer to almost every question possible at the click of a smartphone screen, books are still going strong, literally, with new fitness publications hitting shelves and Kindles every week.
When looking for a new challenge or a way to mix up our training routine, many of us do the same thing – we fall down a Google hole, browsing social media for ideas and reading endless sub-Reddits on how exactly we should chase our goals. Sometimes the thing that's needed is a good book to answer our questions.
Why buy a book?
If you're after an in-depth, well-researched, all-round guide to the area you're interested in, splashing out on a workout book may be your best shout. Over the last few years there's been an explosion in the number of fitness-focused books out there, and we've done the leg work (eye work?) in sifting through and finding you the best ones so all you have to do is grab a copy and get reading.
Whether you're after a training plan you can adapt for your next race, a guide to a new area of fitness or just a hefty dose of inspiration, we've found the best books for you. Choose one that appeals, flick through and get ready to dominate your training routine.
Best for workout nutrition
Fuelling The Functional Athlete by Jack Braniff
Buy now: Amazon | From $11.05
If you find yourself flummoxed by the constant contradictory articles about nutrition in the media then this book could be for you. Written by sports nutritionist Jack Braniff, it outlines the basic science behind nutrition and how to fuel functional workouts – which Braniff defines broadly as those including weight lifting, bodyweight moves, metabolic conditioning and gymnastic movements.
The book breaks down how your body's energy systems actually work, from aerobic (which we've all heard of) to anaerobic glycolysis. After the nerdy stuff is out the way, you'll learn how to work out your energy expenditure and how to balance your macros to hit your goals. Once that's sorted, there are a range of meal plans and recipes to get you well on your way to a true athlete's diet.
Best for detailed advice
The World's Fittest Book by Ross Edgley
Buy now: Amazon | From $16.74
You may have heard of Ross Edgley from his wild fitness challenges, such as running a marathon pulling a Mini Cooper behind him, doing an Olympic distance triathlon carrying a tree or swimming around Great Britain in 157 days.
Don't worry – this book doesn't expect you to do the same. Ross explains his fitness philosophy: he wonders why so many of us try to define our area of 'fitness' into a small category like 'running', 'weight lifting' or similar and neglect everything else, when we could work in a broader way to constantly change and adapt our bodies.
He shares the result of ten years of fitness research, his Pyramid of Priority – a framework of five steps that can be applied to any sport and which, if successfully completed, he says will allow you to master the discipline and perform at your absolute best.
A blend of sport science, psychology and philosophy, this is a fascinating read for anyone who's looking to achieve big goals.
Best for motivation
Lift Yourself: A Training Guide To Getting Fit And Feeling Strong For Life by Laura Hoggins
Buy now: Amazon | From $17.22
After years of fad diets, mind-numbing cardio and chasing an arbitrary number on the scale, Laura Hoggins discovered CrossFit and transformed her training – and her life. Now a PT and Master Trainer at Ministry of Sound Fitness (or as Laura herself calls the role, Head of Gains), she's put together the ultimate training bible for women looking to find true empowerment through fitness.
Lift Yourself busts myths about strength training, explaining the benefits in a clear cut, accessible way as well as how to get started – perfect for anyone who suffers from a touch of "gymtimidation". Laura shares her ten commandments for lifting (and life), including essentials like 'thou shalt not train for a thigh gap' and 'thou shalt respect the process'.
The book wraps up with a guide to ten essential strength training moves to leave you equipped to tackle the weights room with confidence. Lift Yourself is a frank, funny and smart read that will power up your confidence and leave you feeling like you can achieve anything.
Best for holistic health
Running Life: Mindset, Fitness And Nutrition For Positive Wellbeing by Dame Kelly Holmes
Buy now: Amazon | From $7.26
Taking double gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, middle distance runner Dame Kelly Holmes secured her place in the British history books and in the public eye as a true athletics hero. Running Life isn't so much a plain 'how to run' guide as an overall healthy lifestyle guide divided into three key sections: Mindset, Fitness and Nutrition.
Having spoken openly about her mental health struggles throughout her career and having lost her mother in 2017, Kelly understands the impact psychological problems can have on your physical body and vice versa.
The 'Mindset' section details the key symptoms of issues like anxiety and stress, and provides constructive advice on how to manage them healthily. 'Fitness' moves on to outline running technique, essential bodyweight training moves and how to recover, while 'Nutrition' shares Kelly's top healthy recipes to refuel and reward your body.
Interspersed with Kelly's back story and personal anecdotes, this is an all-round feel-good read that's ideal for anyone looking to overhaul their fitness and running routine.
Best for clear training guides
The Triathlon Training Book: How To Be Faster, Smarter, Stronger by James Beckinsale MSc
Buy now: Amazon | From $12.39
With over 20 years of triathlon coaching experience and ten Ironmans under his belt, James Beckinsale is a powerful authority on all things multi-sport. The Triathlon Training Book is a detailed guide to all things swim, bike and run, suitable for those training for their very first event right up to experienced triathletes.
Split into five sections, the book begins by explaining the essential techniques for swimming, including how to move efficiently through the water, how an arm stroke should be done and how to tackle open water. It then moves on to cycling and running, with explanations of how to assess your fitness, what to wear and how to practise drills for each discipline.
The book goes into how to manage the all-important transition phases too – there's a real art to getting through them smoothly – before outlining the basics of triathlon nutrition, hydration and conditioning. It wraps up with a series of training programmes for distances from sprint to middle-distance (also known as 70.3 or half-Iron distance), giving you a full intro to the sport and how to prepare.
Whether you're a total tri rookie or have done a few events and want to up your game, The Triathlon Training Book is a brilliant guide.
Best for fixing your body
Moving Stretch: Work Your Fascia To Free Your Body by Suzanne Wylde
Buy now: Amazon | From $12.37
When it comes to what sets Moving Stretch apart from other stretches, the clue is in the name. Rather than static stretching, where you hold one position at the end of your range of motion, Moving Stretch requires you to stretch but resist the movement at the same time – a bit like when you wake up, yawn and stretch in the mornings.
It's that, but for your full body, with the aim of relaxing tight fascia and counteracting acquired postural problems. This book, written by the method's creator Suzanne Wylde, breaks down how resistance stretching works, what fascia is and how stretching can benefit your training and day-to-day life. It then moves on to guide you through FAQs and all the essential moving stretches, plus routines for problem areas like the hips and chest.
If you struggle with mobility or find yourself unable to de-hunch after a day at your desk, Moving Stretch provides a gentle yet effective way to tackle your body problems.
Best for yoga guidance
Yoga – Your Home Practice Companion: A Complete Practice And Lifestyle Guide by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center
Buy now: Amazon | From $3.50
If the only exposure you've had to yoga has been seeing people contort themselves into impossible shapes on Instagram and your colleague's glam yoga retreat somewhere sunny and expensive-looking, we're happy to tell you two things.
Firstly, it's not all about being bendy, and secondly, you don't have to spend a fortune to get started. Yoga – Your Home Practice Companion explains everything you need to know about yoga – from its development in ancient India and the disciplines it entails (it's more than just asanas, the postures which are most widely known in the western world).
After a brief history and discussion of the benefits, the book moves on to cover all the essential asanas you'll practise, plus routines you can try out at home. It also introduces yogic breathing methods, relaxation and meditation, plus yogic diet with a range of recipes. A fully encompassing guide for anyone new to yoga or who wants to explore it further.
Best for those that love the scientific detail
Strength Training Anatomy by Frédéric Delavier
Buy now: Amazon | From $11.55
Whether you're into strength training, a committed bodybuilder or just an anatomy nerd, this book is the ultimate training resource. Split into chapters dedicated to arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, buttocks and abs, it breaks down all the strength training moves you typically see in the gym and how to do them.
It illustrates exactly which muscles they hit and how that relates to your anatomy on a wider scale, meaning you can make informed training choices to get the most out of each move.
Strength Training Anatomy is a brilliant educational guide to how the body works, perfect if you feel like the info available in your gym or online only skims the surface of this complex topic.
Best for workout ideas
Cross Training WOD Bible: 555 Workouts From Beginner To Ballistic by P Selter
Buy now: Amazon | From $6.48
If you're in need of serious metcon or strength training inspiration and want to take your gym workouts to an epic new level, this is the book for you. The WOD (workout of the day) Bible gives a brief intro to the benefits of Crossfit-style training before listing quite possibly every WOD under the sun – or, at least, 555 of them.
WODs on offer include the Girls, a series of fitness benchmarking workouts such as Fran (21-15-9 reps for time of thrusters and pull ups) and Cindy (a 20-minute bodyweight AMRAP), and Hero WODs, named after soldiers who've died in the line of duty (such as the infamous Murph workout).
- Essential reading: The 14 CrossFit WODs you need to know
Also covered are equipment-specific WODs using rowing machines, kettlebells and Olympic lifts, plus bi-element and tri-element WODs with a blend of disciplines. As the title suggests, the workouts in this book range from beginner-friendly to mind-blowingly hard, so it's best to use it if you're already a competent CrossFitter or happy to take time to adapt.