29 Dec The 5 Best Fitness Books of the Year (2014 Edition)

It’s that time where I review the top 5 “fitness” books I’ve read over the last year.

This is my 3rd annual review of the top 5 books of the year.

While it’s never an easy decision, this year was extremely difficult based on the number of great books I’ve read.

I also opted to leave nutrition books off this list because I view them as a separate category and could list a “top 5” there, as well.

There were several nutrition books I would have considered, but this list is mainly focused on training and performance.

And, I shuffled a few books in and out of the top 5, but here’s what I ultimately came up with and what I based my criteria on this year:

  • Overall importance of the message and theme
  • Practicality – what can actually be applied
  • Uniqueness – is the book unique in it’s message
  • Has potential to significantly impact training, performance, and results
  • Generally good reading and ability to be referred back to for reference
  • Impact on the “big picture”
  • All books listed were released in 2014

Just to be clear, these are all outstanding, 5 star books that I’d highly recommend to add to your library.

I’ll provide a brief review of the book and why I like it, as well as a link to the book.

If you have questions or want to know more about any of them, let me know.

After much consideration, here’s my top 5 book for 2014 (and I have a few “honorable mentions” that I had to list, as well).

These are NOT in any particular order.

FreeStyle book


TOPIC: Bodyweight training, movement, and physical performance.

Freestyle by Carl Paoli is an outstanding book on human movement and performance. It’s written as a book about 4 basic bodyweight movements, but it goes way deeper than just 4 movements and it looks, feels, and reads like a college level textbook. What are the 4 basic movements? The pistol squat, the handstand push up, the muscle up, and the burpee. Again, the book goes much further than these 4 movements with progressions and assistance exercises that will help anyone move better and perform better.  The book is over 400 pages and every reader will be able to use and apply the material, at some level. The book is about bodyweight exercise, but it’s essentially a “deep dive” in exploring the dynamics of the human body in motion. Amazing book to be used for continuous reference.

Amazon link here.


Ready To Run


TOPIC: Running, human movement, peak performance, injury prevention.

Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett with T.J. Murphy is an amazing book and this applies whether you’re a runner or not. While the book is written for runners, there are many take-aways about human movement that apply to daily life or sports performance. For the record, I am not a “runner”, but to me this book is about moving better, minimizing risk for injury, and improving performance. If you are a runner, then it’s absolutely essential reading. The bottom line is that every one of us needs to be able to run at some level, at any given time. This book will teach you how to run better and perform better. Yes, the book is about running, but there are key insights that will impact daily function, as well as athletic performance.  In comparison to the previous book by Kelly, Supple Leopard, this is a much “lighter” read, but an impactful book for all. Excellent reading, very visual, and highly practical content for every reader.

Amazon link here.



TOPIC: Strength training and programming.

Practical Programming, 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker is an important update to strength training programming. This edition is a major overhaul with much more specific information about programming to get stronger. Includes programming for all levels, beginners through advanced, special populations, and detailed workout examples. This is the theory and practical application of strength with comprehensive updates to each and every chapter from the previous edition. Lots of programming and at the “why” behind getting stronger. Wonderful book you’ll use and refer to over and over again. Required reading on strength training.

Amazon link here.



TOPIC: Olympic weightlifting, strength training, *psychology.

Olympic Weightlifting by Matt Foreman is a must read, even if you’re not an Olympic lifter. Let me explain why. I’ve come to realize that many people believe they can’t do something or shouldn’t do something maybe because of age or because of a variety of other self-limiting beliefs. This book breaks all barriers because it encourages anyone, regardless of age, to challenge their beliefs about what they are capable of. Yes, the book is about Olympic weightlifting, but it goes a lot deeper than weightlifting, in my opinion.  It’s educational, very inspiring and encouraging, and instructive. Matt Foreman is an outstanding, genuine, and humorous writer (*Matt made my top 5 list last year with his other great book “Bones of Iron“). I think everyone should read this book, regardless of age and regardless of whether or not the reader is currently active in Olympic weightlifting. It’s that good and you’ll be inspired to discover your greatness in some way.

Amazon link here.



TOPIC: Bodybuilding, strength training.

Built to the Hilt by Josh Bryant is an incredible resource on strength and hypertrophy training. The book is over 400 pages with extensive visuals, programs, science, and insight from Josh Bryant who is a highly regarded strength coach. There’s so much in the book from periodization concepts, nutrition, recovery methods, training tips, principles of training, and sports psychology, just to mention a few of  the key topics covered. You’ll learn a lot from Josh’s experience and also get up-to-date information with supporting science (citations and references listed). Very practical and comprehensive manual for muscle building and strength training. All the “bits” of information and tips are excellent for every fitness enthusiast.

Amazon link here.



Yeah, I know, I’m breaking the rules, but I told you it was tough this year.

There are 3 additional, important books I wanted to mention as I wrap this up.

One of them is very new and I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it’s excellent so far.

That book is Fat Loss Happens on Monday by Josh Hillis and Dan John. I just interviewed Josh for episode #99 on the podcast, so you can learn all about this great book on the show. For more information, click here.

The second book I want to mention is Taming the Bent Press by David Whitley. This is a very unique book on one of the most misunderstood exercises in the modern era. Great book that truly reveals everything you need to know about how to maximize one of the greatest lifts of our time – the bent press. For more information, click here.

And finally, What The Foot by Gary Ward is a truly innovative, ground-breaking book on understanding the mechanics of the foot in relation to optimizing performance and getting us out of pain. This book is a lot of things, all of which are great, but I’d say this book is geared towards those who truly want to better understand the complexities of how our bodies operate to fully maximize performance.  Brilliant, comprehensive, and represents an introduction to a new philosophy in human performance. For more information, click here.


(*Note: All authors listed have been guests on The Rdella Training Podcast, with the exceptions of Mark Rippetoe and Matt Foreman.)

Addendum: In an oversight in the writing of this article, there is one other “honorable mention” that could have easily been in the top 5 on this list, as well. As I have many books in my library, another outstanding book is The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning by Zach Even-Esh. What makes this book uniquely awesome is Zach’s personal story and evolution from bodybuilder to strength coach. The book is highly inspirational and educational. Loaded with great content, it’s another powerhouse book that’s easily one of the best I’ve read this year. For more information, click here.

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Scott Iardella writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff!
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  • Danny Evans
    Posted at 13:53h, 02 January Reply

    Taming the Bent Press is a great book, highly recommended!

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