Strength and Conditioning (S&C) is traditionally an approach to maximizing the potential and performance of elite athletes. S&C coaches typically work in organisations like sports institutes and professional sporting teams to provide training that encompasses the complete development of athletes to improve their physical performances. In short, they show athletes how to train in order to perform at their best. They also help athletes to prevent injuries and ensure proper mechanics (correct movements of limbs and joints) during their sporting performances.
Based on this it may seem like strength and conditioning knowledge is not really applicable for those who exercise at home and are not elite athletes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. At its core, strength and conditioning is about training in the most effective way to achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself. Do you want to have a nice physique? That’s a goal, and there are good and bad ways of training to achieve it. Do you want to be more competitive in your social basketball competition? Again, there are things that will help you and things that will hinder you in achieving that goal.
As a home exerciser, whatever your health and fitness goals may be, taking an educated approach to achieving them will set you apart from the rest. Armed with the right knowledge, you can be your own strength and conditioning coach and make sure you train in the right way to perform at your best. And because reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body, we’ve compiled 6 of the best strength and conditioning books you can use at home to help you discover the most effective ways to train to achieve your goals.
Many S&C books are written for students and practitioners of professional Strength and Conditioning (i.e., those who do it for a living or are learning to do it for a living). This book is not one of those, which is exactly why its at the top of this list. The Strength and Conditioning Bible takes the theory, principles, and methods that underpin S&C and makes them accessible to the general population. Don’t get me wrong, professionals will almost certainly find this book useful, but that is not who the author, Nick Grantham, is addressing in his writing. He is talking to people like you and me, showing us that with a bit of know-how and determination, we can coach ourselves to become stronger, faster, better.
The book is nicely laid out into four easy-to-follow sections. First, Grantham takes the reader through established strength and conditioning training concepts. Next, he explores the most effective training practices. The third section delves into the best way to design your own effective training programs. Grantham finishes off the book with a clear and concise breakdown of the major exercises he discusses, including pictures, variations, progressions and regressions. These are extremely useful in allowing you to customise the exercises to suit your own training. Also included at the very end is a 16-week, 4 stage program that demonstrate how all of the principles and methods come together in a practical way. Throughout the book, Grantham discusses the science that supports his information, ensuring that you are taking an evidence-based approach to achieving your fitness goals.
We highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to take their training up a notch by incorporating effective S&C principles and practices.
If you are looking for a more ‘pure’ S&C book, then this may be the one for you. John Cissik, author of the book and a prolific voice in the S&C arena, does a really good job of bringing together the philosophy, theory, application and scientific foundation of strength and conditioning. He explores the various aspects of traditional strength and conditioning in practice, covering the training tools and approaches that are widely used in the field.
The book is broken into 12 sections which cover:
- Adaptations from training
- Components of a training session
- Principles of training
- Needs analysis
- Program design
- Periodization of training
- Age and training
- Level of competition and training
- Putting it all together>
This is a great introduction to the field of strength and conditioning for those who want a book that is both sophisticated and accessible.
Starting Strength is very much geared toward the ‘strength’ aspect of S&C (well, duh!). Nevertheless, this is arguably one the best books you will read on strength training, and possibly even on health, fitness and exercise in general. It is commonly called “the Bible of strength training” and once you get into it, it’s not hard to see why.
Mark Rippetoe takes a no-nonsense approach to training with barbells, focussing almost entirely on 5 key exercises: The squat, press, deadlift, benchpress, and power clean. He goes into an immense level of detail on how to perform the exercises with correct technique, and clearly and consistently explains why he is teaching the lifts in that way. While he goes into a lot of detail on the technical aspects of the exercises, the concepts he lays out and programs he recommends are almost unrivalled in their effectiveness in building strength. Also, although much of the discussion is on performance of these exercises at the gym, Rippetoe acknowledges that all of the exercises in the book can be done with minimal equipment at home, and even provides guidelines on building your own basic strength training gym.
We’ll finish by saying that in this book, Mark Rippetoe writes one of the best things we’ve ever read and something that beautifully sums up our own philosophy on exercise: “Exercise is not a thing we do to fix a problem – it is a thing we must do anyway, a thing without which there will always be problems. Exercise is the thing we must do to replicate the conditions under which our physiology was – and still is – adapted, the conditions under which we are physically normal. In other words, exercise is substitute cave-man activity, the thing we need to make our bodies, and in fact our minds, normal in the 21st century. And merely normal, for most worthwhile humans, is not good enough.”
Overcoming Gravity is essentially the bodyweight version of Starting Strength. It is one of the most comprehensive and practically useful resources you’ll find on developing immense strength through bodyweight training. Follow the principles in this book and you will discover for yourself that the idea that bodyweight exercises cannot develop true strength and power is an absolute myth.
The author, Steven Low, discusses gymnastics and bodyweight training in great detail in this book, which is arranged into five sections:
- Fundamental knowledge base
- Constructing your routine
- Factors that influence training
- Program implementation
- Injury/Prehabilitation resources and bodyweight exercises
One criticism we have of this book is that it is conceptually dense; Low often goes into minute detail regarding the training and exercise concepts he covers. Unfortunately, some beginners may find that much of the information is just too advanced. Also, there are virtually no recommendations on exercises for the legs, which is a real drawback.
That said, there are many more positives to this book. The way that Low steps the reader through all of the exercises, their variations and progressions is truly amazing. Perhaps the best aspect of this book, and one of the reasons it is an excellent strength and conditioning resource, is that it provides the reader with a deep understanding of how to create their own customized bodyweight routines based on their individual health and fitness goals.
A must read for anyone with a serious interest in gymnastics and bodyweight training.
This is book is not a strength and conditioning book per se, however it is an essential read if you are not already familiar with the principles that underpin S&C. Use this book to build your foundational knowledge of physiologic processes that are occurring in your body when you workout, and which lead your body to grow and develop. This is important because many books written on S&C and exercise in general, promote specific training programs and techniques. Each and every person, however, is different and requires targeted training interventions to help them achieve their goals most effectively. Bruce Lee, a man whose diligent hard work helped him to attain physical abilities that bordered on phenomenal said “absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and develop from there”. Understanding the foundations of sport and exercise physiology will help you to identify the advice, programs and techniques that will be both useful and useless to you.
This book often serves as the required textbook for college and university classes on various topics relating to sport and exercise science. The authors, however, have written the book in such a way that it is accessible by all people. It explains the ideas and concepts in an easily readable and understandable way while still offering an incredible depth and breadth of coverage of sport and exercise physiology.
We don’t recommend you read this book cover-to-cover, but instead refer to the sections that are most relevant to you and the training you are doing at home. Read some or all of the books above, and refer to this book when you come across some physiological principle you don’t fully understand.
If you’ve read our review of Frederic Delavier’s Strength Training Anatomy, you’ll know that we consider this book to be a masterpiece. This book is one of the ultimate resources for anyone interested in understanding the anatomy of strength training exercises. Delavier is a gifted artist who combines beautifully detailed illustrations of the human body as it engages in a huge range of exercises with a wealth effective strength training information, and will be immensely useful for those who wish to know which exercises develop which muscles most strongly.
Although it covers a lot of machine exercises that would normally be done in a commercial gym, it also illustrates most of the exercises people do in their home gyms. We think that it would serve as a great companion to Physiology of Sport and Exercise (above).
Well, there you have it. Six of the best books for strength and conditioning at home. Knowledge is power, and these books will provide you with the knowledge you need to be your own strength and conditioning coach, and take an intelligent, evidence-based, and highly effective approach to achieving your health and fitness goals.
Thanks for reading the article and all the best with achieving your goals with your home workouts. Leave any thoughts or comments you have in the comments section below.
Remember: when it comes to our health and fitness, we can make excuses or we can make the effort, but we can’t make both.
THFF (The Home Fit Freak)