There are a lot of books out there that would benefit you as a garage or basement gym owner. There are also a lot of books that are mediocre at best and misleading at worst. I know because I’ve read a couple hundred of them. And out of all of those, there are shockingly few that I would say everyone should own, read, and keep around for reference.
In this article, I’ll outline 14 books I think all of you should read at least once. I highly recommend owning them. But for those of you not up for 14 new books, I’ll start with the 5 must-haves. These are 5 books that no home gym owner should be without!
The Five Books that belong in every home gym
- The New Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Rebuilding Milo by Dr. Aaron Horschig
- Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
- The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
- The Roll Model: A Step-By-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body by Jill Miller
With those 5 books, you cover the majority of what you need to know to live a healthy life and get the most out of your training in your garage or basement gym. I’ve included a closer look at each of them below along with the other books I own, love, and consistently refer back to when it comes to fitness, health, longevity, and training at home.
How a book makes this list
Typically, lists like this are made up of someone going on Amazon and searching for books that look like they might be a good idea. The problem with that is that if the publishers are doing their jobs, ALL of them look like they might be good. The stark reality is that a lot of books suck.
It’s not until you start to read them that you find this out. And I’ve been in that boat hundreds of times. Health, longevity, and fitness are some of my favorite topics to read about so I’m constantly checking out the newest books along with the time-tested classics.
When I look through my library and Audible playlist, there is a select group of books that I’ve found great value in. These are books that I’ve read multiple times and tend to refer back to on a regular basis. Those are the books on this list. I own and have read or listened to each and every one of them. Out of the hundreds of books I’ve owned and read, these are the best and most worthwhile.
Under each book, I’ve linked you to the best deal on Amazon. I’ve also tried to make sure to link you to the newest and most updated version.
Some books should be purchased as a physical copy as you’ll want to refer to them and their illustrations regularly. Other books are better owned via Audible. They are perfect to listen to while training. I’ve provided Audible links where available too.
And if you aren’t an Audible member, you are missing out! Try it out for free, you’ll love it.
The Best Books on How to Use Your Home Gym
It’s one thing to own a home gym. It’s another to know and be able to understand and safely perform the vast array of possible movements. Knowing how to use your gear will not only keep you safe, but it will provide the very important ability to mix things up when needed.
Training can get boring fast, and these books can prevent that. They also come in handy if you are working on a program that calls for a movement you haven’t heard of before.
The classic that all weightlifters should own.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding was first published in 1985, and it became an instant classic. It’s the reference book for all things resistance training.
It’s been updated many times since then and is as useful today as it was when it came out. Need a substitute exercise because you don’t have the right equipment? Need an exercise to bring some novelty and life into your programming? Need some ideas on how to address individual body parts? This book has it all.
If you were only to own one book on this list, this should be the one you own!
Every exercise ever?
Probably not, but it’s close! You don’t need this book and the Arnold book above, but I’m listing this one as an alternative. I’d actually rank the images and some of the explanations in this book above Arnold’s book.
If you like the classics, stick with the Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. If you like a more modern feel, look, and approach, then go with this book by Men’s Health.
You can’t go wrong with either one, and if you train with weights, you should have at least one of them on hand in your garage or basement gym!
There’s also a women’s version which I’ll link below by Women’s Health. I don’t own that one, but wanted to include it for my female readers.
The Best Books on Programming for your home gym
I’m a huge advocate of paying for quality programming. Even the best, most knowledgeable coaches in the world pay someone else to write their programs for them. It wasn’t until I started doing this myself that I began to see real results from training in my garage gym. You can see my recommended programs page here.
All that said, I know that most of you program for yourself. If you’re going to do that, then it makes a lot of sense to at least learn about what goes into quality and effective programming.
These books are excellent guides on your journey. They include premade programs and teach you how to modify and write strength training programs for yourself.
Over 500,000 copies sold.
With over half a million copies sold and 10,000+ 5 star reviews, you simply can’t go wrong with Bigger, Leaner, Stronger by Mike Matthews. This book is hands down the best book at explaining in detail what it takes to get the physique you want.
Mike covers nutrition, supplements, and training in a way that is useful and relatable. You could easily follow this book for years and get all the results you desire and more.
Inside you’ll also find specific programs and programming instruction that will allow you to create the perfect resistance training program for your goals.
The best training & programming advice for women.
Despite what some people would say, men’s and women’s bodies are different. They have different hormone profiles. They have different bone structures. They have different muscle types and amounts.
For that reason, women who are resistance training can get better results following information and programming geared specifically for them. That’s where Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Mike Matthews comes in.
With over 300,000 copies sold and a massive number of 5-star reviews, this is the book to follow for women who want to make the most out of their resistance training.
Train your core the RIGHT way.
One of the most important areas to train when working out in your garage or basement is your core. It stabilizes your spine. It protects your posture. It’s critical to athletic performance as well as simply moving through life.
Unfortunately, most people “train” their core by doing crunches or leg raises. That’s not just the wrong way to do things; it’s a quick route to injury as well!
Mark Verstegen has trained countless professional athletes and regular folks alike. He made his name by being a master of core training. This is one of those books that you don’t realize how important it is until you have it. For that reason, it should be in everyone’s library!
Life is a sport, train like it.
Whether it’s reaching quickly to keep one of your children from harm or just catching a glass that’s headed for the kitchen floor, you never know when life will ask you to move like an athlete.
And if you’re an athlete, it’s that much more important! I put two books by Mark Verstegen on this list because he’s one of the world’s most widely respected athletic coaches. Every Day is Game Day is a must-have for any athlete training in a home gym.
His ability to break down the importance of movement, core strength, and athletic ability at any age is second to none. Whether you play a sport or not, this training method will help you win at anything life throws your way.
The Best Books on Mindset
No matter what you plan to do in your home gym, actually getting in there to do it consistently is the biggest key to success. And that starts with mindset.
If we don’t have the right mindset, we’ll skip training altogether. We’ll only give it half the effort. We’ll take shortcuts. Those and many other reasons are why getting our mindset right is critical to our success.
While there are a lot of books out there on mindset, I’ve found that there are focus. that I return to again and again and again. Keep these four books close at hand. Reread them regularly. I promise they will keep your head in the game as well as keep you motivated.
If you only read ONE book, make it this one.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller is my all-time favorite and most-read non-fiction book. I read it once a year, every year and it has positively impacted my life more significantly than any other book I own.
While it’s not about training specifically, the concept taught within will enhance your training and results significantly. It will keep you focused on what matters and will produce results beyond anything you’ve ever had before.
Strong words, I know, but I stand behind them. Get this book and you’ll see what I’m talking about!
A different kind of “resistance” training.
Coming in a very close second on the list of books I’ve reread the most is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This is another book that I read once a year minimum.
This book teaches you how to deal with “the resistance”. That’s the voice in your head that tells you not to work out today. The one that tells you to procrastinate. The one that keeps you from doing the things you know you should do.
The method taught in this book will keep you consistent in the gym and in other areas of your life too. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!
Ever wonder how the best of the best do what they do? How they seem to be unstoppable. How they are always at the top of the pack no matter their circumstances?
There are very few people better suited to answer those questions than Tim Grover. In his book “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable”, he dives deep into the mindset of champions.
As Michael Jordan’s personal trainer (Jordan is one of many top-tier athletes Grover coaches), Tim Grover has deep insights into what makes champions tick. This is a fascinating read that will leave you wanting to go into the garage and train harder than ever.
I hear a lot of people today bad mouth motivation. They say it doesn’t last. That you need much more than motivation to attain consistent results. And they are right.
But that doesn’t mean that some days don’t call for some good old-fashioned motivational reading. And that’s where The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation comes in.
I’ve got this one on Audible and listen to it while training quite often. On those days when you just need a little extra kick in the butt to get going, this book is perfect.
The Best Books on Rehab and Recovery
Recovery, injury, and pain management are things we should all be well versed in even if we didn’t train hard. But add in resistance training and results depend on those skills. The good news is that with just a few key books, your rehab and recovery game can be on point.
The following books are references that I use and refer to regularly. They are master-level workbooks to be learned and put into practice. Anyone concerned with their health and fitness should know each one, or at least have it handy for when you need it!
How to use resistance training to work through injury.
At 50 years old, I have my share of accumulated aches and pains. It wasn’t until I started regularly training with weights that I found the best way to deal with them.
Getting stronger in the right ways can do so much for injury and pain. And that’s where “Rebuilding Milo: The Lifter’s Guide to Fixing Common Injuries and Building a Strong Foundation for Enhancing Performance” comes into play.
This is THE playbook to refer to to deal with virtually any type of injury or nagging pain. Of course, always consult a doctor first, but this book belongs on the shelves of anyone who has or might deal with injury and pain.
Do this daily.
Even if you never get injured, if you train hard, you will experience pain. Whether it’s DOMS, a muscle strain, or just tightness due to training hard, pain will rear its ugly head.
The best way to keep it away is regular bodywork. Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other massage implements should be in the toolkit of everyone who works out.
“The Roll Model” by Jill Miller is the absolute best book out there when it comes to this topic. You and ache, pain, or inflamed joint and she’ll show you step-by-step what to do to take care of the problem.
This is one of the books I refer to most often. Not a week goes by that I’m not in there looking for information.
Get serious about your sleep.
“Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matt Walker is probably the most fascinating book I’ve read in the last 5 years. It seemed like every other page I was texting a friend with “did you know that….?!?!?”
We all know sleep is important, but so few of us actually get enough. This book will not only show you why you need to take your sleep more seriously, but after knowing why you need to sleep, you’ll actually do it!
Training at home saves time. Us that time, at least in part, to get more and better sleep. And to read this amazing book!
The Best Book to Give to Your Non-Fitness Focused Friends
We all have friends and loved ones that we would love to see in the gym. We want them to be healthy. We want them to be strong. We want them to be resilient. But for whatever reason, they won’t take up resistance training.
Trying to get those people to start training is harder than nailing jello to a tree. Part of that is imparting to them the importance and benefits of weight training in a way that motivates them to start.
Instead of doing it yourself, give them this book. There’s only one book in this section because you’ll only need this one. And while you are at it, read it yourself. It will give you all the tools and knowledge you need to explain to anyone why you train with weights and why they should too.
Get off that treadmill!!!
It kills me how many people think that getting in shape means running. Or maybe hours on an elliptical, rower, or Stairmaster. So few people think about weight training first.
The sad part about that is that weight training is the single best type of training anyone can do for their health and longevity.
In “The Resistance Training Revolution”, Sal DiStefano breaks it down in a way that will not only correct a lot of false assumptions, but it will motivate just about anyone to give resistance training a try.