According to Brian Tracy: “One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.”
As such, I’ve dedicated myself heavily to continuing education, and these investments of both time and financial resources have paid off exponentially for me. Eventually, I began receiving more and more questions about what tips I had for those looking to develop professionally in the field of health, fitness, and human performance. Likewise, given the significant readership I have in the general fitness and sports training communities, I also receive inquiries about the best products to help individuals reach specific goals.
With these questions in mind, I created this page to help point people in the right directions. I’ve divided my recommendations into several categories. Current and aspiring fitness professionals would be wise to check out this general overview first: How to Attack Continuing Education in the Fitness Industry.
This category is extremely broad. The single most valuable free resource you have is your network: friends, colleagues, professors, and training partners. You simply need to interact with as many people as humanly possible; everyone has something to teach. This may come in the form of conferences or just calling or emailing someone with your questions. Remember, the end-goal should always be to incorporate bits and pieces from a variety of different coaches and schools of thought in creating your own unique philosophy – one that is constantly changing as you encounter new things.
Second, there are a myriad of free resources available on the internet to help you build your knowledge base. I visit countless blogs around the 'net each week to stay on top of training, rehabilitation, nutrition, and business information. Each week, I highlight the best of the best in my "Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read" feature.
Third, if you’re interested in a career in this “biz,” remember that internships don’t cost a penny. You might need to start small at a local gym, and eventually progress to helping out with a high school, collegiate, or professional team.
Fourth, for these same individuals, get your name out there locally, regionally, and nationally; all will facilitate your success. Easier said than done, right? Well, you’re going to have to write free articles, chat with parents and coaches, and just walk the walk. If you work hard and are genuinely passionate about what you do, it comes easier than you might think. The internet has made marketing free, conversations don’t cost a penny, and good will never runs out; time will be your only expense in trying to get exposure.
Fifth, regardless of who you are, find a mentor – someone who is where you want to be – and hope that they’re willing to look out for you. I’ve been fortunate to have several people in the industry give me great advice over the years, and I make a point of reciprocating to as many up-and-comers as I possibly can. Down the road, when a young coach or trainer looks to you for advice, remember that there were others that took you under their wing when you were in the same position; it’s your responsibility to give something back.
Resources: Books, Manuals, DVDs, Webinars, etc.
Okay, now to the meat and potatoes – what people seem to inquire about the most. I’m going to subdivide these as much as possible and give you a brief rationale for my inclusion of each.
Turbulence Training – The success of this e-book speaks for itself; Craig Ballantyne has sold a lot of copies not only because he’s a really bright buy, but because the programs in this e-book deliver fantastic results – and they do so conveniently. You can actually do the program with absolutely no equipment; it’s a great body weight training program for those who prefer to work out at home.
Final Phase Fat Loss – For the die-hards out there who are struggling to lose that last little bit of stubborn body fat, John Romaniello offers this innovative (and challenging!) training and nutrition resource.
Precision Nutrition - When John Berardi came out with Precision Nutrition, he changed the entire nutrition world with the most comprehensive set of resources – DVDs, books, tech support – for which one could ever hope. I can’t say enough great things about it.
Anabolic Cooking and Metabolic Cooking – I put these two products together because they both come from author Dave Ruel – and because both are absolutely fantastic. Both feature over 250 healthy recipes; my wife and I cook with their recommendations extensively. Anabolic Cooking is more geared toward those looking to put on weight, whereas Metabolic Cooking is geared toward those looking to burn fat. In reality, though, as long as you take care of portion control, either book could be used for either objective. I did a thorough review (with pictures) of Metabolic Cooking here.
The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide - This is the most exhaustive and up-to-date resource on supplements you'll find anywhere on the 'net or in print. The guys at Examine.com pulled it together and did a tremendous job, breaking it down both by supplement name and by the intended health/physique/performance goal. It's 100% transparent in nature - meaning that they aren't trying to sell you supplements, and don't endorse any specific companies. It's about getting the facts and learning what the research says. I wrote a bit about it here.
Performance Training for Athletes
The High Performance Handbook – This constitutes a good look into my training philosophy and overall program structure. Featuring 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week training option – each with four months of programming – The High Performance Handbook also includes a 200+ video exercise database. Customers have used it to gain muscle, lose fat, get strong, and improve athleticism; it’s that versatile.
Show and Go – This 16-week program isn’t quite as up-to-date as Show and Go, but it does have a little bit of everything I do all rolled into one, and as a slightly older product, it's priced a bit lower. It includes everything from foam rolling, to mobility, to lifting heavy stuff, to deloading, to energy systems recommendations. The results reported by those who have done the 16-week program have been excellent.
The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual – I wrote this manual because I saw a pressing need for DIRECTION in athletes who knew they were ready for specialization, but didn’t understand how to do it correctly. When I was finished, I realized that I had actually created a resource that benefits all athletes and weekend warriors alike, regardless of whether you’re competitive or not.
Bulletproof Athlete - I firmly believe that Mike Robertson created the single-best resource for beginners to use as they start up a strength and conditioning program. It's a professionally organized, well written presentation of the right way to start people up with a comprehensive fitness program, from strength training, to mobility work, to energy systems development, to recovery/regeneration and nutrition.
High-Tensile Strength - Dean Somerset's newest resource introduces some innovative exercises are part of a comprehensive overall plan to help you feel and move better.
The Specialization Success Guide - I co-created this resource with Cressey Sports Performance coach Greg Robins. It's a good fit for the powerlifters in the crowd, as it offers specialization programs for the squat, bench press, and deadlift - along with detailed technique tutorials on all three. This has been a hit with lifters who want to follow up a more general strength program (like The High Performance Handbook) with something more focused on one lift.
2x4: Maximum Strength - Bret Contreras's popular program has become a big hit with folks who've completed The High Performance Handbook. I reviewed it HERE.
The Art of the Deload - I wrote this brief e-book because I feel that a lot of people fail to appreciate the importance of incorporating downtime, or planned regeneration periods, into their training programs. At $12.99, you can’t go wrong.
Muscle Building Products
The High Performance Handbook – As noted earlier, many folks have used Show and Go to put on weight, not just get strong.
Muscle Gaining Secrets – Jason Ferruggia offers some excellent “minimalist” training advice for those looking to put on weight. He cuts through the B.S. when it comes to ineffective training, nutrition, and supplementation strategies and tells it like it is – which is something a lot of “hardgainers” need to hear.
Everything begins with a fundamental knowledge of anatomy; you need to have it down cold. Start with a basic anatomy and physiology text (I like Marieb’s) and complement it with the following (in this order; it’s a progression):
Manual of Structural Kinesiology – A good entry level text for those who need to learn anatomy.
Kinetic Anatomy – Takes anatomy and makes it more “functional.”
Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set – Mike Robertson and I created this DVD set because we saw a great need for up-and-coming fitness professionals and strength and conditioning coaches to go beyond the classroom. This 8-DVD set covers everything from functional anatomy, to structural balance, to corrective exercise, to static and dynamic assessments, to exercise troubleshooting.
Basic Biomechanics – You need to understand biomechanics to be a good coach, so this is a definite must. I’ve seen a few different editions of Susan Hall’s classic, and they’ve all been quite good.
Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain, 5th Ed. – a true classic that everyone needs to own.
Anatomy Trains – If you understand the muscles and nervous system, you need to start looking into the myofascial system.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes – This is quite possibly the most comprehensive resource available for spotting musculoskeletal dysfunction – an incredible resource. The follow-up book, Movement Impairment Syndroms of the Extremities, Cervical, and Thoracic Spine, was quite good, although definitely more specific.
Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance – With the prevalence of lower back problems in the general population, all of Dr. Stuart McGill’s works are must-reads.
Functional Stability Training - This comprehensive series from physical therapist Mike Reinold and me looks at assessment, treatment, and training of the lower body, upper body, and core. The individual components can be purchased separately or as part of a discounted bundle. We created this resource to effectively bridge the gap between rehabilitation and high performance, and it's been a hit with both strength and conditioning professionals and rehabilitation specialists alike.
The Athlete’s Shoulder – This book from Andrews, Wilk, and Reinold outlines the specific issues you’ll encounter when dealing with shoulders in an athletic population. If you train overhead athletes, it’s a must-read.
The Athlete’s Elbow – If you deal with as many elbows as I do (thanks to working with a baseball population), this, too, is a must-read. It does, however, read very clinically – so don’t expect to mow through it in one sitting.
The Truth About Unstable Surface Training – This e-book is based on the results of my master’s thesis, which looked in-depth at the first study to ever examine a chronic unstable surface training intervention in the lower body of healthy, trained athletes. It is an absolute MUST READ for all trainers, coaches, and therapists – particularly because it provides dozens of practical applications and exercise progressions.
Movement – This hardcover book from Gray Cook became an instant classic, in my eyes. It’s tremendously well-written and I highly recommend you check it out, as Gray’s contributions to the field of physical assessment and corrective exercises have been extensive. I’d highly recommend all his other products, too.
Post-Rehab Essentials - Dean Somerset created this excellent resource for fitness professionals to take care of clients in the period after rehabilitation. If you work with folks with an injury history - which is pretty much everyone - then this is an awesome investment. I discussed why this knowledge is so important in my blog, 4 Reasons You MUST Understand Corrective Exercise and Post-Rehab Training.
Miscellaneous Continuing Education for Strength and Conditioning and Rehab Professionals
There are loads of resources you’ll want to watch just so that you have the background necessary to write effective programs.
Elite Training Mentorship - ETM is a fantastic, comprehensive resource for continuing education in the fitness industry. It's updated monthly with in-service presentations, webinars, exercise demonstrations, sample programs, and articles from various industry leaders - including the staff at Cressey Sports Performance. You can watch it all from the comfort of your home and learn everything you’d get at a seminar – but without all the travel expenses and hassles…and you can watch in your pajamas! They cover a wide variety of topics, so there is something for everyone.
Rehab Webinars – If you're looking to stay up-to-date on the latest research and clinical practice in the rehabilitation world, look no further than this monthly subscription service from Mike Reinold.
IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification – I was honored to contribute a chapter to this fantastic resource that I think will help a lot of high school athletes stay healthy and performing at high levels for many years to come. If you work with young athletes, it is a must-read!
Certified Speed and Agility Coach Course - This online certification from Lee Taft is fantastic. If you want to become a better coach for improving quickness, change of direction, and speed, you can't find a better teacher than Lee Taft.
Supertraining – The late Dr. Mel Siff was arguably the most brilliant writer the fitness industry has seen thus far. Read this – and be sure to hang on to it, as you’ll be referring back to it.
Strength and Power in Sport (Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine) – This is an incredibly thorough textbook with some excellent contributors.
Business, Leadership, and Psychology
Not many people know that I spent two years at a strictly business college before I realized that my passion was in Exercise Science. As I entered the fitness industry, it was my hope that I would be able to apply a lot of the principles I learned in those two years at business school to my new career. I couldn’t have been more wrong; almost NONE of it had any carryover.
There is absolutely no substitute for experience in this realm; however, the next best thing is to learn from those who have been successful at what you’re doing. So, in that sense, I would strongly encourage you to find a few business mentors who have been where you want to be. In fact, some of the products below were highly recommended to me by these mentors, so a lot of this is really “hand-me-down” information.
You can help the process along tremendously by finding “virtual mentors;” books, DVDs, and webinars are all extremely helpful if you look to the right sources. As my career has progressed, I’ve read a TON more business and leadership books, and they’ve taught me to work smarter instead of just longer; my overall productivity has really gone through the roof thanks to some of the following products:
Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership - This is hands-down the best leadership book I've ever read. Whether you're a coach or business leader, it's must-read material.
The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber might have the most important book anyone beginning a small business could ever read here.
Under the Bar – This book isn’t specific to business or training, necessarily, but it speaks volumes to just how you should carry yourself if you want to be successful. I think it should be required reading for all up-and-coming lifters; I can’t “over-applaud” the sections on “giving back” to the lifting community and the importance of training partners/environment. Dave Tate did an awesome job with this book.
Scaling Up Excellence - This book taught me a lot of great lessons that have helped with expanding Cressey Sports Performance from one to two locations (FL and MA). There are definite implications for team dynamics and athletic cultures, though.
Give and Take - Adam Grant goes to great lengths to demonstrate that overdelivering instead of "keeping score" and always extracting value is the way to long-term career success.
Never Eat Alone – The title is deceiving; this isn’t a touchy-feely relationship book; it’s an outstanding resource that teaches you how to build strong networks in the business world.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die - Chip and Dan Heath have an awesome read here; it really breaks down successful writing, marketing, and speaking so that anyone can get better at what they do – regardless of industry.
Switch – Also from the Heath brothers, this great book covers the how changes occur. The principles they outline can be applied to improving client adherence to training and nutrition programs, or enhancing potential customers’ perceptions of your fitness business.
Decisive - This might be the best book I've ever read in the business realm. And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of the Heath brothers. It will help you with ever business decision you'll ever have to make.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie – A classic from one of the best businessmen of all time. There’s no reason everyone shouldn’t read this; it costs about $1 used on Amazon.com.
The Virgin Way - Richard Branson wrote this, and I particularly liked his discussion of hiring practices and employee retention.
Mastery - This excellent read from Robert Greene delves deeply into the concept of mentorship, which is paramount to success in the fitness industry.
Extreme Ownership - Co-authored by two Navy Seals, this engaging book teaches a variety of leadership lessons that are true for both the military and business world.
The End of Average - I found myself nodding in agreement as I read this excellent book by Harvard professor, Todd Rose. It'll make you reconsider how you reconsider how we evaluate success.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook - If you need a "bible" for social media efforts, this book from Gary Vaynerchuk is your best bet.
So Good They Can't Ignore You - This outstanding read from Cal Newport offers tremendous insights into the process of building career capital instead of just pursuing one's passion. His message applies to just about every industry.
Please keep in mind that this is a “running” list; that is, I’m generally reading/viewing/hearing 2-3 books/DVDs/webinars each week. When I find some new ones that I really like, I’ll be sure to add them to the list – so check back frequently for updates!
Sir Francis Bacon once wrote, “By far the best proof is experience.” Your best resource will be elbow grease, hard work, and the way that you interpret the results you see. I’ve experimented with new things in my training and nutrition with some things that have yielded tremendous results. Conversely, I’ve done things that proved to be absolutely worthless. The thing that they share in common is that they both made me a better lifter and coach in the long-run.
My experience is that the cost of attending a seminar pays for itself ten-fold in the long-run, as you’re not only picking up new information, but also interacting with old friends and meeting new people to expand your network. I’m actually at the point where I’ll attend seminars just to interact with other coaches who are in attendance; anything I learn from the presenters is pure bonus!
I attend at least 7-8 conferences per year – usually more. Regardless of your experience or financial situation, I would work to set aside the cash to attend at least two per year. For a list of good seminars to attend, check out my frequently updated Schedule.
Additionally, my free newsletter is an awesome information source when it comes to what’s rattling around my brain – whether it’s new training or nutrition concepts, good things I’m reading/watching, or video tutorials. You can sign up with the opt-in form below – and you’ll instantly receive a free deadlift technique video as a “welcome gift.”