The Book List That Will Change the Way You Think - Mark Fisher Fitness

The Book List That Will Change the Way You Think

by Ninja Master Mark Fisher

Hi! Welcome back for a second installment of my book recommendations! If you missed part one, clicky clicky. In today’s installment, we’ll go over my favorite books on training for regular folks, training for fitness professionals, nutrition, and general business.

Before we dive in, I’d love to share some of my tips for kicking the shit out of education. Since 1% better is sort of “a thing” at MFF, I’m pretty relentless with education. Here are my favorite continuing education hacks… (TWEET THAT SHIT!)

Fuck yeah.

I’m a big fan of what Brian Tracy calls the 3 Plus 1 method: read books, listen to audiobooks, and go to workshops, then F*CKING DO SHIT. The last part means take action with the information. I also think it’s valuable to figure out which of the above three learning opportunities suit your personal learning preferences best (do you learn best by seeing, hearing, or doing?).

I keep a notebook with me at all times, and I’m constantly making notes when I come up with an actionable idea. If it’s something that only requires a quick purchase, or email, or text, or setting up a meeting, I do it IMMEDIATELY. If it’s something that will take more than five minutes, I schedule it into my notebook on whatever day in the next two weeks I have morning work time scheduled.

Speaking of lists, I also keep a list of book recommendations. When you’re reading books, listening to books, and taking workshops (as well as always reading blogs and magazines), you’ll hear a lot of ideas. I keep a list and slowly work my way through everything. I pay careful attention when something is recommended multiple times by sources I really trust.

I’m also very regimented about getting my education in. I don’t think you can save education for one day a week. (TWEET THAT SHIT!) I personally can only handle about 30 to 60 minutes per book per day (I’m usually reading several books at a time).  I think you’re better off religiously getting in 60 minutes every day than spending an entire day binge reading.

The key is to schedule that shit in. Put in your calendar, get away from your computer and phone, and make it happen! Try to discover when you learn best, and if you can, create your schedule accordingly. You will generally learn and retain best earlier in the day when you’re fresher.

Many folks should also take advantage of Automobile University. This classic personal development tip asks you to use your commute to listen to audiobooks. Although this is a great idea and worked great for years, I live upstairs from the Clubhouse, so I no longer have a commute. That said, I do take part in what I call Chef University. Whenever I’m cooking, I’m listening to an audiobook. I don’t have a lot of “autopilot” things in my life, but food prep is one time I use to get more learning into my day.

Lastly, sleep is key for learning and for retention. If you’re serious about learning, you need to be serious about getting your sleep in. To improve sleep quality, check out some tips here

Before we dive in, one quick caveat: Many great training nutrition books are PDF only, so I’ve excluded them from this round-up, but may include them in a future installment if you’re interested! Drop a comment and let a brotha know.

Training (for regular civilians)

The New Rules of Lifting Series by Lou Schuler, Alywn Cosgrove, et al– This series has been my go-to recommendation when folks want to learn about effective training but can’t work with a trainer. All of the book in the series are great (there are six I think), but if you’re gonna pick one, you can go with the most recent, New Rules of Lifting Supercharged.

Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett – Admittedly, this book may be a bit of a stretch for a non-experienced trainee; nonetheless, there’s a lot of great information in here about how to take care of your body. You won’t find “programs” per se, but you’ll find a lot of useful info about how the body works. (Trainers should also make CERTAIN to check K Star’s seminar. I can’t say I’m 100% onboard with everything K Star says, but you can’t deny this is an important and thought-provoking voice in the fitness industry.)

Never Let Go by Dan John – Dan John is perhaps the single most universally beloved figure in an industry filled with infighting. There’s a reason for this. Never Let Go is full of great training wisdom and insight from an examined life. You’ll benefit from decades of practical experience and a respect for the history of physical culture in America. If you like Dan’s work, check out his other books Mass Made Simple for a sensible approach to packing on muscle, and Intervention, a hodgepodge of intelligent thoughts on sensible training.

Brawn by Stu McRobert – Stu McRobert’s classic book Brawn challenges conventional bodybuilding dogma and endorses a more minimalist approach to training. You can see his thought process in many of today’s best muscle-gain strength coaches (Jason Ferrugia and Martin Berkhan before he left the internet). If you’ve been reading lots of FLEX magazine, this should help provide another viewpoint for the less-than-gifted guy who is not using steroids.

Simple and Sinister by Pavel Tsautsoline – The “Evil Russian’s” latest book brings us up to speed on his current best practices for starting your love affair with kettlebells. Although I’ve read virtually everything Pavel has written (which is a LOT, he has over 10 books out there), this is a good first read if you’re looking to learn about kettlebells from the man who brought kettlebells and personal branding to the fitness industry.

Training For Fitness Pros and Folks Who LOVE Training

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe – If I were to make one book a MUST READ for all trainers, this might be it. Although it’s ostensibly written for regular folks looking to learn how to barbell lift, I have to concede it’s so dense I’ve seen even good trainers struggle with it. That said, it’s probably the single best introduction to barbell technique out there.

Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle – Mike Boyle is one of the most influential guys in the industry, and with good reason. Although this book is perhaps slightly out-of-date in relation to what he’s doing now, it’s still a great read for trainers looking to learn more about the training strategies of one of the best in the field. Complement this with his Functional Strength Coach DVD series.

Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Shoulder and Hip Dysfunction by Evan Osar – While this may not be the first thing new trainers should read as it will go over their heads, once one has a basic understanding of anatomy, Osar does an incredible job of really explaining how the hips and shoulders function, as well as pulling apart the most common dysfunctions. I’m such a nerd this was a f*cking page-turner for me.

Movement by Gray Cook – Gray Cook’s text Movement is the bible of the Functional Movement Systems (which includes the Functional Movement Screen and it’s clinical counterpart, the Selective Functional Movement Assessment). I think the first couple of chapters are especially important and readable for all trainers, as they lay out Gray’s underlying philosophy of movement.

Training = Rehab by Charlie Weingroff – I’m totally fucking cheating here, as this is a DVD, but it’s my list, so I can do what I want! This may be the only DVD I’ve watched three times, and it’s a three-day long seminar, so that’s saying something. Charlie has some unique street cred, as a former NBA strength coach, doctor of physical therapy, and accomplished powerlifter. Although the second part of the seminar is great as it has some more practical coaching/hands-on stuff, my favorite is the first DVD where he illuminates how he’s come to his own training and rehab philosophy. (It also serves as a nice introduction to a number of the better modalities and practitioners out there.)

Results Fitness Fat Loss Program Design Manual by Results Fitness – One of the most successful gyms in the country, Results Fitness has set the industry standard for scaling progressive training in the general population setting. Lots of great info in here, and particularly useful for the vast majority of trainers who don’t actually strength coach sports teams.


Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – Michael Pollan’s book takes you deep inside the process of making food in the modern world. Thought provoking for sure.

Why Calories Count by Marion Nestle – Marion Nestle is one of my absolute favorite authors on nutrition. She is evidence based, measured, and reasonable. This very reader friendly book explains just what a calorie is, and provides lots of interesting and digestible historical and scientific info for the non-professional.

Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink – This book marries two of my loves; cognition and nutrition. Wansink explores how you’re constantly being affected by things outside your conscious awareness; from plate size to word choice on the menu, this is an eye opening exploration of why we all eat so damn much.

The End of Overeating by David Kessler – Turns out sugar, salt, and fat is a pretty powerful knockout punch for the brain. This book provides another piece to the puzzle when looking to understand how and why so much of our society has found ourselves overweight.

Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto­ ­– The only traditional “diet book” on this list, Venuto is a well known and reputable natural bodybuilder. Although his approach isn’t necessarily for everyone, if you’re looking for a book to learn about the basics of eating for hotness and information about how many calories to consume, this is one of the best mainstream options you’ll find. (In full disclosure, I haven’t read the physical print edition, but since I know it’s an updating of the excellent e-book and Tom is someone who stays up to date with new information, it’s still my first recommendation for a readable diet book with legit recommendations.)

General Business

Good To Great by Jim Collins – There’s a reason this is considered one of the seminal business books of all time. I also enjoyed his Great By Choice, but this one is a must for those looking to build an institution that has long-term success (says the guy with the dildo in his FB profile pic).

Good Business­ – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ­ – I swear I am not f*cking with you, that is actually his f*cking name!! Although his book Flow is one of my favorites of all time, Good Business was very influential to me as it applied a lot of the concepts of Flow to a business setting.

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk – My favorite Gary Vee book. I loved Crush It and I thought Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook was fine, but this book sums up a lot of what I believe about winning in the new economy (which he explains is really a throwback to our grandparents generation). You f*cking HUSTLE and you build relationships and you treat people right.

Peak by Chip Conley – Awesome book about creating a great business using Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Customers don’t just want a great product or great experiences, they want an identity.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink – One of my favorite business books ever. Pink’s theory is that in the new economy, the left brain tasks can be automated and outsourced, so creativity and artistry (empathy, design, relationships, storytelling, etc.) are now the hottest commodity. Very Seth Godin-esque. If you dig this book, check out Pink’s To Sell Is Human and Drive.

In Pursuit of Wow by Tom Peters– Peters is one of my favorite business writers, and he’s relentless in his assault on traditional business metrics. Data matters and all, but the soft skills of customer interaction and business culture probably matter more. They may be harder to quantify, but ignoring them is a fatal mistake.

Now it’s your turn! What books have you been reading? Any other books in these categories you’d recommend? What about education hacking tips? Drop a comment!

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