By Evan Peikon
One of the questions I get asked most often is what books I recommend for gaining a functional understanding on energy system production, programing, training, anatomy and physiology etc. In an attempt to avoid typing up an additional dozen emails on this topic each month I figured i’d put it all on print for current and future reference.
To start… I predict these questions often stem from the belief that all the knowledge I possess on said topics has been learned strictly through books, certifications and the likes. As such I believe that many coaches are under the assumption that reading said materials will give them a functional understanding of programming, and by gaining said information they will possess a framework for designing programs/ applying knowledge.
Unfortunately this just isn’t the case. Over the past five years i’ve read a minimum of three books per month with the average being closer to four. This equates to 180 books on the low end, with ~240 being a more accurate number. Is this extreme necessary? Absolutely not. The point i’m trying to make is that no single book will teach you how to program. The majority of what I know has come through extrapolating what i’ve read, designing theoretical models around it and applying it with my athletes. ie- Experience, trial, and error.
However, this is not to say that reading is not a necessary component to the learning process. It is absolutely critical as it serves as the base and frame work for further development. Ie- Do not read expecting to find the answers to everything you want to know. Read so you have a sufficient knowledge base which will allow you to figure out the answers yourself.
So without further adieu, here are my recommended reads which i’ll break into categories based on the type of information they contain (note- this list is by no means all inclusive, but if you want to maximize time spent reading then these are the the books i’d tackle first).
As a starting point I usually recommend coaches and athletes purchase an introductory level anatomy and physiology textbook (you can find some used ones cheap on amazon- they are all fairly similar)- Obviously you do not have to read them cover to cover, but you should read the chapters on energy production, cell signaling, and hormonal response to exercise at the very least as they are the most important, and least understood, topics when dealing with program design. That alone will put you ahead of many coaches out there (and it will not be overly technical as the into level books are designed for first year students w/o an established functional understanding on the topics).
Once you get that general base you can start digging into some of the well known strength & conditioning texts-. They’re all fairly technical, and boring, but they do contain tons of great info. Also note that this list is not all inclusive- these are just some of my favorites and cover a wide range of topics(no specific order)
2. Science and Practice of Strength Training
4. The Lore of Running
Tier three contains other books I have found applicable to training, or understanding the hormonal/physiological impacts of training/stress. This list can go on for pages, so to keep it concise I included 10 books I really enjoyed/ found most useful (in no specific order)
1. Adrenal fatigue- a 21st century syndrome
2. the biomechanics of sports performance
3. Food, Nutrition, and Sport Performance II: The International Olympic Committee Consensus on Sports Nutrition.
4. Anatomy Trains
5. Lactate threshold training
6. why zebras dont get ulcers
3. Pain: The Science of suffering
8. The science of running
9. Healthy Intelligent Training
10. Special strength training manual for coaches
Also of note….
Once of the best resources for me has been research journals and databases. A lot of the cutting edge info isn’t in books yet, so these are invaluable. Many of them are pricey, but there are a few free ones of there as well; and if you have any friends/ relatives who are currently in a university you should be able to get access through them.
Current Reading List
As of late the majority of books that have occupied my time are physiology/pharmacology texts, neuroscience books (specifically neuroplasticity as that is an area of interest), Quantum physics, and economics. Currently i’m reading “Fooled by randomness” by Nasim Taleb and “The Mind & Brain: neuroplasticity and the power of mental force”, both of which I highly recommend. Though these books are not technically training related, I’m a strong believer in learning from other fields as there are many parallels and ideas that can be extrapolated to sport. Below i’ve included my top 5 non-training related reads of 2014.
1. Anti-Fragile by Nasim Taleb
2. Black Swan by Nasim Taleb
3. Thinking Fast & Slow
4. The Feynman Lectures on Physics- volume 3.
5. The pharmacological basis of therapeutics