12 Best Workout Books in 2018

If you want to get in shape, there is no shortage of options available to consumers these days. From fitness centers to home-based equipment, there is a system and routine for everyone. That includes folks that prefer to work out the old fashioned way – through books.

Before the rise of digital media and the internet, you had to stroll down to a bookstore or library to score the best workout books. Now they are just a click away although finding the right one for your needs is easier said than done. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help speed up your buying decision and including books that run the gambit from weight training to cardio and flexibility.

Top 12 Workout Books Comparison Table

DesignName# of ExercisesPage LengthRating (1-5)
  1. Strength Training Anatomy Workout II 60 352 4.8
  2. Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength-2nd Edition 381 584 4.7
  3. The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises: Four Weeks to a Leaner, Sexier, Healthier You! 100+ 560 4.7
  4. Calisthenics: The “Simple-Six” Body Workout NA 50 4.6
  5. The Pilates Body: The Ultimate At-Home Guide to Strengthening, Lengthening and Toning Your Body- Without Machines NA 208 4.6
6. The Men’s Fitness Exercise Bible: 101 Best Workouts to Build Muscle, Burn Fat, and Sculpt Your Best Body Ever! 100+ 368 4.5
7. 100 No-Equipment Workouts Vol. 1: Fitness Routines you can do anywhere, Any Time 100 210 4.5
8. You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises 125 192 4.5
  9. Cross Training WOD Bible: 555 Workouts from Beginner to Ballistic 555 158 4.3
  10. High-Intensity Interval Training for Women: Burn More Fat in Less Time with HIIT Workouts You Can Do Anywhere 80+ 224 4.3
  11. Men’s Health Ultimate Dumbbell Guide: More Than 21,000 Moves Designed to Build Muscle, Increase Strength, and Burn Fat NA 288 4.2
  12. Bodyweight Cross Training WOD Bible: 220 Travel Friendly Home Workouts 220 110 4.1

The Name Says It All

Some products can have tricky monikers while others just spell it out. That’s the case more often than not when it comes to the best workout books or any periodical dealing with fitness. Want a book on Pilates or do you prefer Cross-Fit? Usually, it’s all in the title, so you don’t have to look far to find something in your wheelhouse.

For our list, we decided to focus on books that involved free weights and exercise routines. While important, there are no books that revolve around your eating habits or equipment although we did include one for dumbbell aficionados. There are hundreds of different ways to get in shape, and we covered all the basics and threw in a few interesting options like HIT training and calisthenics as well.

Exercises and Length

Anyone who has ever purchased an exercise book knows one thing – you can’t rely on the cover photo. Having a muscle-bound model on the front is a sure way to move some pulp, but not ideal for consumers if the inside is sparse. That’s why we listed the number of exercises included in our table, so you’ll know what to expect going in. Photos are still important, however, but just the ones on the inside which are critical for consumers who are visual learners.

Just like with the cover shot, the thickness of fitness books can also be troublesome. Just because a book has 500 pages doesn’t mean it’s full of useful material that will benefit your routine. That said, when you combine the amount of pages with the number of exercises included, you can get a good idea of what to expect. If you prefer to learn through photos rather than text, look for workout books that include plenty of pics and illustrations.


While it’s great to have someone bark instructions through your earbuds or home sound system, there is no substitute for paper. Being able to take in information the old fashioned way has some obvious drawbacks, but there are some nice perks as well. A major one would be the ability to upgrade, as you can trade-in your fitness book for new ones; something you can’t do with digital media.

Another overlooked thing to consider with books is the format itself. Fitness books can come in three varieties with paperbacks, hardback, and spiral bound books. If you need something mobile and affordable, go with paperbacks although spiral editions tend to hold up better over time due to the design. Hardback books are going to be bulky to lug around, but look great on a shelf and hold their trade-in value better than other types of material.

Top 5 Best Workout Books Reviews

1. Strength Training Anatomy Workout II

Frederic Delavier and Michael Gundill are responsible for our top option called Strength Training Anatomy Workout II. It’s the updated version of the popular book carrying the same name and packed to the brim with useful information that will get you ripped in no time.

This book is one of the large ones on our list, and it’s not just full of text either. Strength Training Anatomy Workout II is 352 pages in length but has 485 color illustrations to show you the ropes. That includes 9 workout routines, 19 stretches, and around 60 exercises. As the name implies, this book focuses on specific muscle groups from your upper body to your core, and not exactly what you’ll want to pick up if you’re interested in cross-training or becoming more limber. It is the best way to go if you’re interested in putting on mass or toning up, however.

If you are a gym rat, you may find some of the exercises in this book a little basic although we feel it’s an excellent choice for beginners and experienced fitness freaks alike. It’s a little sparse when it comes to the legs in comparison to other books of this nature but a great all-around manual nonetheless.

2. Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Strength Training

Jim Stoppani’s Encyclopedia of Strength Training is another periodical that deals with mass and tone. It takes the honor of being the largest book on our list as well at a whopping 584 pages. You could get a workout carrying around this book alone, but we think you’ll be impressed by what’s inside as well.

Do you plan on picking up some equipment for your routine or are you just looking for a guide to give you a boost at the gym? Well, this book can lend a hand in both departments as there are hundreds of exercises to choose from that cover all the major groups. That includes everything from your chest and calves to your trapezius. Everything is broken down in easy to read chapters, and there are several other sections of interest as well. Nutrition, variables, and equipment are all covered along with things like metric equivalents which is handy for free weights and supplements alike.

Jim’s Encyclopedia is arguably the best option when it comes to books that can get you in shape while teaching you about the muscle groups and the importance of nutrition. We also like the fact there are lengthy sections for different types of training included mass, strength, and fat loss.

3. Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises

While our first two books will work for both genders, they are certainly geared more towards men than women. If you are a lady in need of a fantastic workout book, look no further as The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises promises to whip you into shape in just four weeks.

Women’s Health has produced a fitness book with 20 workouts featuring 100 exercises. That includes activities for folks that want to slim down as well as consumers looking to increase their cardio. Nutrition also has its own section, as it should in all the best workout books. Everyone needs fuel for your routines, and it’s all for naught if you don’t eat properly. The areas targeted in this book include the chest, arms, quads, core, calves, back and shoulders. It’s the size of a small novel at over 500 pages, but we assure you there’s more than text to take in.

If you like photos, you’ll like this book considering there are over 1,300 of them included. It’s a great book for beginners looking to get their routine started, but not the best choice for consumers with plenty of experience under their belts.

4. Calisthenics: The Simple-Six Body Workout

As much as we love free weights and cool fitness machines, they are not everyone’s cup of tea. They can take up a lot of room in your home, and some machines cost thousands of dollars. If you are tight on space or want to try the natural route, the Simple-Six Body Workout may be the right book for you.

Even if you’re not sure what calisthenics are, you’ve done them at some point in your life. In a nutshell, it’s a form of working out where you use your body weight instead of free weights or machines. Jumping jacks and sit ups qualify and you can use things around you including objects found in your home. The Simple-Six book breaks down the basics of using your body weight for good and gives you simple exercises to perform complete with photos. While informative, it will not take you long to work your way through this particular periodical.

Calisthenics is a great way to go when you want to get in shape but aren’t sure which way to turn. They are the type of exercises you can do anywhere, and at any fitness level. That said, there is a drawback with this one as it’s only 50 pages which is considerably shorter than many workout books.

5. The Pilates Body: Ultimate At-Home Guide

Pilates can be difficult to describe if you are unfamiliar with the concept, but it’s all about your core. The Pilates Body: Ultimate At-Home Guide is not the type of workout book that will help you bulk up although it can help you tone up while improving your endurance and strengthening your core.

Regarding the fitness routines, Pilates is similar to calisthenics as you can do them with or without additional assistance. There are Pilates machines and stretchy rings aplenty, but this book’s built to show you the ropes without any equipment – you just need a comfy mat. Brooke Siler put this one together to be simple to use, and it guides you through a series of illustrations and photos spanning a length of 208 pages. We don’t have an exact number on the exercise count, but it covers the basic principles while providing you with simple routines for home use.

Pilates is another natural way to work out, and something people of all ages and genders can do. It will improve your flexibility and balance, but you’re not going to get ripped or massive with this book. It’s available in two paper-based formats with paperback and a spiral-bound edition.