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Best Exercise Books


Updated January 15, 2009

There are tons of exercise books out there...how do you choose? If you're looking for books that cover every aspect of exercise and fitness, from cardio to strength training, you'll like these books. They include pictures and easy-to-follow info without a lot of jargon. Whether you're a professional athlete or a beginner, you'll find the perfect book to meet your exercise needs.

1. ACSM Fitness Book (3rd Edition)

No one knows exercise better than the American College of Sports Medicine. This book offers easy-to-understand instructions on setting up a program and customizing it to fit your goals and schedule. Photos show proper form for strength training and flexibility exercises and you'll even learn how to assess your fitness level and track progress. Includes a blank workout log to record your workouts.
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2. Core Performance Essentials

Mark Verstegen is all about building a strong body with a focus on short workouts to improve strength, flexibility and health. With his focus on quality of life (and not just weight loss) Mark has created a program that's innovative, fun, progressive and effective. What I love about this book is how innovative and unusual the exercises are. These dynamic, whole-body moves will challenge you in a different way than you may be used to.

3. Fitness for Dummies

Exercise is confusing enough without adding the quackery of fat-burning pills and mysterious exercise gadgets. This book addresses the hype surrounding all the quick-fix products and teaches you how to test your fitness level, design a complete program that fits your needs, join a health club, manage your diet and more. It also covers how to build a home gym and hire a personal trainer.
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4. Body Sculpting Bible for Men & Women

This well-organized book is great for anyone who wants a straightforward strength training program for fitness, health and weight loss. Each version (for men and women) includes a variety of 14-day training programs with detailed exercise descriptions and photos. There are also sections that cover myths and misconceptions, how to be successful, the building blocks of a quality program and nutrition, all specific to each gender. A nice book for all levels of exercisers.
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5. Strength for Life by Shawn Phillips

Shawn Phillips, brother of Bill Phillips who wrote Body for Life (recommended below), offers a 12-week plan to "shape your body, sharpen your mind and energize your life." Shawn focuses on going beyond aesthetic goals, like weight loss, and honing in improving your quality of life. What I love about this book is that it helps you dig deeper into what you want for yourself besides just looking better. Shawn's enthusiasm is contagious and you'll find inspiration throughout the book to get serious about taking care of your body.

6. Body for Life

This 12-week program by Bill Phillips has been a popular one for years. One reason is it's simplicity -- the workout includes traditional exercises (such as bench presses and lat pulldowns) that you may already be familiar with, but uses a high intensity method of training by having you work to failure. The cardio is also short and intense, just 20 minutes, 3 times a week at a very high intensity. The nutritional advice is a bit iffy, but the workout is a nice challenge for regular exercisers.
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7. Body for Life for Women

This is an excellent book for women, whether you want to lose weight or not. The focus is not just on weight loss, but on creating a healthy, balanced life based on what is realistic for your body and your lifestyle. Dr. Peeke provides great information about the different stages women experience, how we change over time and how to change our eating and exercise programs to fit where we are in life.

8. Beginning Runner's Handbook

This book is for beginning exercisers who want to make the switch from walking to running but don't know how. These realistic programs detail exactly how you should train every day to become a consistent runner for life. The run/walk programs are easy to follow and you'll improve your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities. In the end, you'll be able to run for 50 minutes.
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9. The Pocket Food and Exercise Diary

Food diaries are proven to help you lose weight. By writing down everything you eat, you can finally keep track of what you're really putting in your mouth, which is key when it comes to weight loss. This 10-week food and exercise diary is non-dated, so you can start anytime. The columns separate food calories and exercise calories that you total up to figure out what you've eaten and what you've burned.
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10. Intuitive Eating

If you're a chronic dieter, you'll love this book. The authors, dieticians and recognized experts, provide realistic information for anyone struggling with food issues. They teach you how to how to eat without fear and get rid of the diet mentality that leads to so much craziness. I love that this is a 'non-diet' kind of diet book. Too often, we see food as the enemy rather than something we can enjoy in a healthy way. This book helps you get past those thoughts and learn how to take control of your eating.
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