best fitness booksShare on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

These days, there’s a sea of information available on fitness, workouts, and training. Unfortunately, this overabundance of information can sometimes lead to information (or misinformation) overload.

That’s where fitness books come in. All of the information you need is compiled in one place, so there’s no scrolling through different web pages or trying to locate the Instagram post with the workout you wanted to try.

Fitness books also give you an opportunity to learn about the science behind exercise and training, and why the body and brain work the way they work (and how they work together, too). Plus, taking a deeper dive into these topics can help you learn tips and techniques for working toward your own health and fitness goals.

There are thousands of fitness books out there, so we compiled a list of the best fitness books available on a wide range of subjects. Whether you want to harness your motivation, learn more about running, or start a home-based yoga routine, here are the books that can help you meet your goals.

  • Subject matter: These books cover a variety of fitness subjects, including stretching, yoga, motivation, running, and workout routines.
  • Author credentials: We only selected books written by qualified individuals whose credentials and experience match the subject matter of their books. The authors include a certified strength and conditioning specialist, researchers, former athletes, certified yoga instructors, and a behavior specialist, to name a few.
  • Customer reviews: The books on this list are highly rated and well reviewed.
  • Training principles: We only selected books that follow research-supported training principles that are widely accepted within the exercise science community. No quick fixes, no fads — just real science.
  • Price: While we prioritized the quality and content of the books, we also considered the price and aimed to select books at a range of price points.
  • Vetting: The books on our list have been vetted to ensure they align with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. You can read more about our vetting process.

A note on price

General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher price range.

Pricing guide:

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = $15–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

Note that the prices above reflect the current manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for paperback editions, unless the book is available only in hardcover. Exact prices may vary by retailer.

Best overall

100 No-Equipment Workouts Vol. 1: Fitness Routines You Can Do Anywhere, Any Time

  • Price: $$
  • Author: Neila Rey/Darebee
  • Why we like it: These 100 workouts are simple, straightforward, and accessible for a wide range of fitness levels.

You don’t need weights or fancy gym equipment to stay fit. “100 No-Equipment Workouts” teaches you a variety of exercises using your own body weight. The exercises have three difficulty levels and can be combined into lots of different routines.

Each exercise and its levels are carefully explained. Many don’t even require you to wear workout clothes, so you can take the book to the office for a quick fitness boost between meetings!

This book has received more than 1,600 reviews on Amazon with a total rating of 4.6 stars. Neila Rey lends her name to the books, but they’re actually put together by a team of fitness professionals who work at Darebee, a nonprofit organization Rey started with the goal of making fitness accessible to everyone.

The Darebee website also provides visual examples of each exercise so readers can see what each move is supposed to look like. You can download a PDF version of the book for free from the Darebee website.

Best for motivation

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

  • Price: $
  • Author: Michelle Segar, PhD
  • Why we like it: The research included is focused specifically on fitness and provides real-world solutions for “hacking” your motivation.

Sometimes it’s not the exercising that’s the hard part. It’s keeping yourself motivated to stay consistent that ends up being the real challenge. Despite knowing the health benefits of working out, behavior expert Michelle Segar, PhD, says humans are wired to seek instant gratification. If it doesn’t feel good in the moment, we’re probably not going to keep doing it.

“No Sweat” is based on Segar’s experience researching exercise and motivation for over 20 years. It also includes real-world examples from her coaching practice. The book focuses on the mental part of exercise, teaching you how to find pleasure in a fitness routine and change the way you think about exercise.

This book has 4.4 stars on Amazon. Reviewers agree it’s helped them find a long-term approach to exercise that they enjoy.

Best for performance

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success

  • Price: $$$
  • Author: Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
  • Why we like it: This book takes a broad and diverse look at the science behind human performance (both in the gym and outside of it) and how people can adjust their habits to improve their performance.

High level performance, whether in the gym or in the workplace, requires hard work and a strong understanding of the body’s needs (you can’t focus to the best of your ability if you’re not sleeping enough, you know). But there’s also a mental game at play: Why do some Olympic athletes choke under pressure, whereas others thrive?

“Peak Performance,” written by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, takes a look at the science behind the success of high achievers. Stulberg and Magness are both performance coaches with years of experience helping clients maximize performance and well-being while avoiding burnout.

This book has 4.6 stars on Amazon, and readers can expect to learn tips and tricks to improve their performance in different areas of their lives.

Best for strength training

Glute Lab: The Art & Science of Strength and Physique Training

  • Price: $$$
  • Author: Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, and Glen Cordoza
  • Why we like it: Having strong glutes can help you perform a wide variety of exercises and improve your athletic performance. This book is filled with accurate, scientifically backed information on strength training.

Bret Contreras, PhD, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) known as “the glute guy” due to his years of scientific research on the glutes. But the “Glute Lab” isn’t a book focused (solely) on how to achieve the best-looking glutes of your life.

Rather, Contreras and Cordoza, a professional martial artist, take a deep dive into how and why training the glutes can help improve athletic performance and reduce the chances of injury. Strong glutes power just about every movement you do, so learning more about them can pay off with your other fitness goals.

In addition to educational details on the science of glute training, this book also offers 36 weeks’ worth of programming to help you start working toward your better glute goals right away.

The book is incredibly popular. It has more than 4,900 Amazon reviews and a 4.9-star rating. Reviewers agree that while this book is a go-to for building strong glutes, it’s also a great resource for overall training.

Best for running

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and The Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

  • Price: $$
  • Author: Christopher McDougall
  • Why we like it: Rather than simply providing instructions for how to run properly, this book combines storytelling and science to highlight the historic and physiological reasons why people run, and why some people love to run far.

“Born to Run” isn’t a book that’s going to tell you how to start a 5K running program. Instead, it’s a story, a history, and a look at the science of why people run.

It’s a great read for those who are training for endurance events, as author Christopher McDougall takes a deep dive into the culture of ultrarunning and investigates the habits of a tribe in Mexico whose people run hundreds of miles … sometimes just for fun!

With almost 12,000 reviews on Amazon, “Born to Run” maintains an impressive 4.7-star rating. Readers frequently mention that the book is a page-turner and appreciate the mixture of research and storytelling. Some even say the book inspired them to start running (or to start running again).

Best for an anatomy lesson

New Anatomy for Strength & Fitness Training

  • Price: $$
  • Author: Mark Vella
  • Why we like it: It succinctly answers the question, “What muscles am I using when I perform this exercise?”

If you’ve ever wondered which muscles you’re working while lunging, doing a burpee, or holding a Downward Dog pose, “New Anatomy for Strength & Fitness Training” is the book for you.

It provides full illustrations of more than 75 exercises and explains which muscles are being trained and how they’re being used. The book also includes information on the body’s overall movement patterns that can help people who are newer to training develop a stronger understanding of how their bodies work. (And if you’ve been training for years, it can help you fine-tune your fitness routine.)

Readers agree this book is an excellent resource to have on hand. Several mention it’s even helped them study for personal training certification exams. It has 4.7 stars on Amazon.

Best for stretching

Stretching to Stay Young

  • Price: $
  • Author: Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT-500
  • Why we like it: This book provides accessible stretches for all ages, ability levels, and body types.

Not every workout needs to be a high intensity workout. Stretching plays an important role in maintaining the body’s mobility and range of motion. Written by Jessica Matthews, MS, a certified yoga instructor (E-RYT-500) and kinesiology professor, “Stretching to Stay Young” is a great place to start if you’re interested in a simple stretching routine.

The book provides illustrations for stretches that target all the major muscle groups along with instructional information on how to build and follow a high quality stretching routine, regardless of your starting point.

With more than 2,400 Amazon reviews, this book has accrued a 4.6-star Amazon rating. Readers appreciate that the book includes both general stretches and routines you can do before or after specific activities, plus plenty of modifications.

Best for yoga

Yoga for Everyone: 50 Poses for Every Type of Body

  • Price: $$
  • Author: Dianne Bondi, E-RYT-500, YACEP
  • Why we like it: This book provides a thorough introduction to yoga in an accessible, nonintimidating format.

Seeing the yoga poses and balances that advanced yogis perform can be inspirational, but it can also be a little intimidating. If you’ve never tried yoga and don’t know where to start, or if you’re wondering whether yoga is a good fit for you, “Yoga for Everyone” is worth the read.

The book is written by Dianne Bondi, a master yoga instructor and the founder of Yoga for All movement, which aims to increase diversity in yoga and make it accessible to everyone. “Yoga for Everyone” features 50 poses and includes modifications and options for people in larger bodies, people who are pregnant, older adults, or those who have physical disabilities.

The 4.7-star rating on Amazon is a testament to the popularity of this book. Reviewers point out that it’s not just good for people who want to take up yoga — it’s great for yoga instructors, too.

Best workout journal

Ultimate Fitness Journal & Gym Workout Log Book

  • Price: $
  • Author: not listed
  • Why we like it: It’s a convenient way to track your workout programs, goals, progress, and how you’re feeling about your training.

It’s easier to stay on track with your workout program and keep tabs on your progress if you’re tracking your workout program. While some people prefer smartphone apps to manage their workouts, other people like using a hard-copy journal.

We love the Unibrands “Ultimate Fitness Journal & Gym Workout Log Book” because it provides plenty of space to track 100 sessions.

Each workout has room for 11 individual exercises (where you can track weights and reps for up to six sets) and additional cardio entries. It also offers a “notes” section where you can keep track of how you felt before, during, or after your workout.

Plus, there’s a section to write down your goals, which you can break down into mini-goals with check-in periods and deadlines. You can also monitor your progress with 12 trackable measurements (weight, body fat percentage, speed, weight lifted, and more) to make sure you’re reaching your goals.

Reviewers like the layout of this journal and say it’s a super convenient way to track their progress.

Best for older adults

Strength Training Over 40: A 6-Week Program to Build Muscle & Agility

  • Price: $
  • Author: Alana Collins
  • Why we like it: If you’re not sure where to start with strength training as you get older, this book helps you do so safely.

Strength training is important at every age, but muscle mass begins decreasing more rapidly once you hit your 40s, especially if you find that you’re not as active as you used to be. This muscle loss can lead to reduced performance and mobility, and it can also contribute to injuries.

Alana Collins, a fitness coach and former competitive figure skater, wrote “Strength Training Over 40” to provide an accessible plan for strength training and muscle development for middle-aged (and older) adults.

The book includes a full 6-week program with illustrated exercise guides and workout plans. Each routine can be customized and modified based on your own starting point.

Reviewers appreciate that the workouts require minimal equipment and are easy to do at home. The book has 4.5 stars on Amazon.

Best for quick workouts

The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter

  • Price: $$$
  • Author: Martin Gibala, PhD, with Christopher Shulgan
  • Why we like it: This book provides a scientific breakdown of how to effectively improve your fitness even when you don’t have much time.

Early in his research career, Martin Gibala, PhD, found himself in an ironic position. He was a researcher in the field of exercise physiology who didn’t have much time to exercise. He began to develop a passion for high intensity interval training (HIIT) because it allowed him to get the health benefits of exercise without investing a lot of time.

“The One-Minute Workout” outlines Gibala’s research on HIIT and explains how you can get results from short, high intensity exercise. There are also interval workouts included.

The book has 4.2 stars on Amazon. Readers love that the workouts are easy to fit into their existing routines.

With so much information available these days, sometimes the best thing a person can do while trying to start or change a fitness routine is to focus on a single subject or style of exercise for a while.

When choosing a fitness book, here are a few factors to keep in mind.

Author credentials

It’s important to choose a book written by someone qualified in the field.

If you’re choosing a book on yoga, the author should have certifications as a yoga instructor.

If you’re choosing a book on fitness, the author will ideally have a highly recognized personal training certification and at least a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, physiology, or a related field. They may also have experience as an athlete, coach, researcher, etc.

Personal goals

It’s important to choose a book that aligns with your goals and needs. If you don’t plan to do heavy strength training in a gym, you don’t need a strength training book focused on workouts that require a lot of equipment.

Likewise, if you don’t want to exercise at home, choosing a book focused on home-based workouts or equipment-free workouts may not be ideal.

Programming vs. education

Some fitness books provide exercises, workouts, and training programs, while others focus more on the science of exercise. Know which one you want or need before purchasing a book.

What are the best fitness books of all time?

The best fitness books of all time are typically those that have sold the most copies and are highly rated and reviewed by customers. Some of those books, like “Born to Run,” are included on this list.

Other books didn’t make it onto this list due to the credentials of the authors. Does that make them “bad” books or indicate they weren’t well researched? No, of course not. But it does mean that some of the information may not be as well accepted within the field of exercise science.

There are still other books that were simply too specific for this list.

Ultimately, the best fitness books are those that you will read, reference, and incorporate into your ongoing fitness program. In this manner, “best” is subjective and variable. So, think carefully before buying a new book, and make sure you buy it because it’s about something you are interested in.

What are things you should consider when planning a fitness program?

When planning a fitness program, you need to think about:

  • your short- and long-term goals
  • the types of exercise you like
  • how much time you have to exercise
  • where you plan to exercise
  • your budget (for gym memberships, books, equipment, or trainers)
  • what equipment you have access to

You may also want to think carefully about your own barriers to fitness. For instance, do you feel intimidated or anxious when exercising at a gym? Will your kids interrupt you when exercising at home?

It’s helpful to come up with a plan for how to reduce the impact these factors could have on your fitness routine. A coach or trainer can also help you develop a routine that takes these elements into account.

What is a good workout plan?

First and foremost, a good workout plan is one you’ll actually follow.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how “correct” and well designed a workout plan is if it includes activities you don’t enjoy, uses equipment you don’t have access to, or requires too much time. A good workout plan must work for you, your goals, your time, and your ability level.

Assuming a plan fits your needs and parameters, a good plan will help you meet the national guidelines for physical activity.

This means the plan should outline a way for you to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise each week, along with at least two full-body strength training sessions that also help you work on balance and coordination (1).

Most plans written and implemented by certified personal trainers will help you reach these goals, regardless of the type of training or exercises you’re focused on.

Expanding your fitness library is a good way to expand your fitness knowledge, try new activities, and boost your motivation to stay active. However, just as not every workout will appeal to every person, not every fitness book will resonate with every reader.

It’s important to choose books aligned with your goals and interests, and to make sure the books you’re reading are written by qualified individuals.