I often get emails in reference to what books an individual should read if he or she wants to better understand human performance. Most of the time the questions revolved around Russian and Eastern Bloc manuals — everyone has an interest but is unsure what route to take. This is why I've made a list of the strength training books you should read. Understand that these are not the only materials I recommend. You will see in this article that a few of the books I mention are not in this category. I suggest them to people who are interested because they have taken a lot of the translated material and practically applied it. Additionally, I haven’t read every manual out there so if I left something out don’t think it means that I don’t approve of it. This is more so a progression that would go from the easiest reads to the more daunting ones. I also will give a brief synopsis of each book and some pros and cons of each.


Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladimir Zatsiorsky

This book should be considered a must read for anyone interested in developing strength. When I decided to start reading and entering the more academic texts of training, this is the one I popped my cherry with. This features pretty much all the basic information you will need to know about subjects such as muscle physiology, strength development, intensity, strength and its relevance to task/sport, and so on. I own the original edition of this, but the new one has additional information added. I really do not have much negative to say about this book. It focuses on the strength aspect of athletic preparation, so if someone is looking for other information regarding athletics, this book will not cover everything.

supertraining 2.indd

Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky

This book could be seen as an expansion of the principles that are discussed in the first book on this list. I will say that this is one of the most comprehensive books of its kind. It features a great deal of information regarding the application of training and what occurs in the body. As opposed to only discussing strength, principles of adaptation, physiology, rehabilitation, training effects, periodization, and so on are discussed. This book is a great reference for any coach, trainer, or anyone that has a role in preparation of athletes. One thing I will say is this is not the kind of book that many will be able to just sit and read cover to cover. Most will do better using it as a reference and reading the sections when they have a need or interest in the particular subject.


Science of Sports Training by Thomas Kurz

The reason I placed this one at number three is because, while it still covers a pretty vast amount of information, it has sections that are geared toward sport application as well as other information in regards to speed, work capacity, recovery, technical training, and tactical training. However, depending on what you may be interested in, this could easily go as number one or two. What I like about this book is that the focus is not entirely on strength; it also covers a variety of other topics. It presents the information concisely and is a fairly easy read for those who are just getting into the field. The only knock that some may have is that it doesn’t necessarily feature a ton of practical information or show specific programming written out in templates.

From here, what you read next really depends on where you want to focus. In the case of strength development and transfer to sport, I would recommend the following:

SST manual cover

Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches by Verkhoshansky

This has been my go-to book for a lot of information. It takes a lot of what is discussed in Supertraining and places it in more practical terms. Within this book, most of the principles of specialized strength development are presented with reasoning behind why and how they should be applied. In addition to the book providing a wealth of information, it also demonstrates real-life examples of how the principles can be applied into templates of different athletes. However, this same positive of this book could also be a negative to those who are uninformed: some of the templates shown are for very high level athletes and should not be used with intermediates or novices. In reality, the templates may or may not be appropriate for anyone, and this is something that takes an informed coach to understand. One thing I will add is that the section on Verkhoshansky’s Block Training Sequence is very informative and allows one to see how he uses the principles of concentrated loading.


Triphasic Training by Dietz and Patterson

This book is very good and features many of the concepts of not only Supertraining but also in the SST Manual for Coaches. Some coaches and athletes may find this an easier read due to the fact that it was written by American authors and not translated from other texts. Many of the principles of SST are applied here, and working templates are provided. Additionally, listings of the exercises can be found on the author’s website with video displays of how to perform the movements. This gives a very clear picture to what is being discussed and, from a standpoint of practicality, makes Triphasic Training a very informative, valuable resource.


Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport by Verkhoshansky

This falls into the Russian manuals category. I would recommend that Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport be the first manual someone reads. It gives the basis of all of the information of SST, and allows knowledge to proceed into other manuals. In this book, not only the purpose of SST is discussed but also where it is appropriate on the spectrum of Process of Achieving Sports Mastery (PASM). The development of strength is discussed, as well as what either allows or prevents an athlete from being able to display strength in their respective sport. While the information is very good, the problem with this manual is that, at times, the translation makes it a difficult read.


Programming and Organization in Training by Verkhoshansky

This is a book that I had a love/hate relationship with for a period of time. This was the first manual I had purchased, and at times the wording in this gave me a headache. However, to be fair, I did not really have much of an understanding of what was being discussed and was in over my head at the time. Once I became familiar with the information being presented, this became an immediate favorite. In addition to the great details of training effects, the effects of various training loads is discussed extensively. There are sections on transference and the application of specialized physical preparedness (known by its acronym SPP). This is not an easy read but the information makes it worth the time investment.

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Transfer of Training in Sports, Vol. I by Bondarchuk

This book was another eye opener for me about the difference between GPP and SPP and how the shift should occur during the long term development of athletes. Aside from just the information being presented, there are multiple tables presenting information about the transfer of different types of exercises to the competitive outcomes for a number of athletes in different sports. While all of this information is very good, the knock on this book for many coaches is that the information is presented but ideas of application can’t easily be extracted.


Transfer of Training in Sports, Vol. II by Bondarchuk

This book takes much of the information presented in volume one and expands on it. More examples of different programming models are presented, as well as more ideas of practical application for the coach to use. This sort of takes care of the negatives of the first volume. Another very interesting section of this book is the detail that adaptation is discussed as well as ideas of stimulation and inhibition. The only knock I have here is the translation can make this a difficult read for coaches.

From here, some people may be asking where I would place Issurin’s texts on Block Periodization. Really, these could go anywhere on the list as long as someone has a fairly good base of knowledge to understand the principles behind the system. One thing I would suggest is that the second book (Block Periodization II, formerly known as Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training) is read first. This is something that the late Angry Coach often suggested on the Q&A. I took this route and it definitely made understanding Basic Principles 1 much easier to understand.

If you're looking for powerlifting specific recommendations, my recommendations will be a little different. The fact is that out of these types of texts, there aren’t necessarily any true powerlifting books. However, I think what can be applied best would be either The Training of The Weightlifter by Roman or Managing the Training of Weightlifters by Laputin. These are best because of the classification charts and the information on tracking volume and intensity. All lifters should take note of how to apply these principles. The only issue is here is that, because of differences in sports and individuals, the volumes and intensities can’t necessarily be taken as written. For lifters that may be looking for a book of templates and programs, this definitely would not be a good fit.

These are texts that you need to spend serious time devouring before being able to apply their information. Once you are able to understand the information, the knowledge found in these books are as valuable as anything you will find during your career in strength.

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