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The High Performance Handbook Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before...
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 to shoot the breeze. 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. Some great ones include:
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, CDs, DVDs, 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.
Warp Speed Fat Loss – This great e-book from Alwyn Cosgrove and Mike Roussell features over 350 pages of specific meal plans for those of different body weights. It does an excellent job of outlining the synergy of diet and exercise – and has gotten people lean FAST!
The Truth About Abs – I love that fact that in this book, Mike Geary emphasizes eating for health first and foremost – and if you follow this advice (and his training recommendations), you’ll definitely burn fat fast. It’s very affordable as well – and likely the best option for my beginner and intermediate exercisers looking to burn fat.
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.
Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better – This is my most recent product release and 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 – Show and Go also includes a 175-video exercise database. Customers have used it to gain muscle, lose fat, get strong, and improve athleticism; it’s that versatile.
Maximum Strength – The 16-week program isn’t quite as versatile as Show and Go, but it does have a little bit of everything I do all rolled into one. 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. Show and Go makes an excellent “sequel” to Maximum Strength, too.
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.
Starting Strength – This is a solid teaching resource for several compound lifts and a basic, yet effective program.
Muscle Building Products
Accelerated Muscular Development – This product from Jim Smith features some innovative exercises masterfully assembled in an overall program that has yielded fantastic results for a lot of “Smitty’s” followers.
No-Nonsense Muscle Building – This product is about as “bodybuilder-ish” as I’m comfortable endorsing, but I can do so because Vince Delmonte goes to great lengths to emphasize structural balance in his programs, comprehensive warm-ups, and excellent nutrition tips. And, results speak for themselves; he’s gotten a lot of guys to put on weight.
Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better – 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.
Lean Hybrid Muscle – This product could probably be listed under fat loss or muscle building, but I’ll put it here because I personally used it to put on weight. Be sure to read about how I used it to break out of a training rut.
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.
Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD Set- I’ve become known as a “shoulder guy” in light of a lot of my articles on the topic, and I teamed up with Boston Red Sox Head Athletic Trainer Mike Reinold to create this resource that effective bridges the gap between rehabilitation and high performance. You’ll not only pick up a bunch of great exercises; you’ll also learn how to effectively structure a warm-up AND understand why you need to incorporate various movements.
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.
Assess and Correct DVD Set – Shameless plug, huh? You’ve got to address mobility and activation needs, and we feel that our product does this better than any other on the market – but with a “road map” that you uncover during your self-assessment. If you are looking for a lower-priced alternative (fewer exercises and without the assessment component), check out our Magnificent Mobility DVD.
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.
Functional Stability Training of the Core – I co-created this with physical therapist Mike Reinold, and it goes into great detail on both the clinical and performance training sides of core stability preparation.
Bulletproof Knees - This guide from Mike Robertson is an excellent manual for the layman who is interested in keeping his knees health – or getting them there in the first place. It’s very comprehensive and well written.
Muscle Imbalances Revealed – This product is a collection of webinars from several corrective exercise experts. It’s great because they cover several different topics, so you get a comprehensive “dose” of continuing education.
Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab – This two-day Charlie Weingroff seminar DVD does an excellent job of educating folks how high performance training and rehabilitation aren’t so mutually exclusive. I reviewed the product here and here.
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 (especially Secrets of the Hip and Knee).
Performance Training for Athletes
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.
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!
Total Football Training – Created by Duane Carlisle of the San Francisco 49ers/Purdue University, this resource covers all aspects of football development – from the off-season, to the pre-season, to the in-season.
Vertical Jump Development Bible – Kelly Baggett is a brilliant guy, and this goes into more detail than the title implies; you’ll learn a lot about a lot of stuff.
The Truth about Quickness – Also from Kelly, this resource outlines some excellent progressions for plyometrics and an overall unique perspective on how to improve quickness and agility.
Miscellaneous Continuing Education for Fitness/Strength and Conditioning Professionals
There are loads of resources you’ll want to watch just so that you have the background necessary to write effective programs.
Strength and Conditioning Webinars – With this resource, Anthony Renna introduced a great way to get educated more affordably. You can watch hour-long webinars 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. I reviewed it here.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – This is a solid overall resource that is complemented nicely by reading more from the “in the trenches” literary community. It is more research-backed than anecdotally supported – but you still need to read it.
Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance: 6th Ed. – The updated version of the classic from McArdle, Katch, and Katch; it’s stuff you should probably know, even if you don’t use most of it.
Science and Practice of Strength Training: 2nd Ed. – This is the updated version of a classic from Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky, now with contributions from Dr. William Kraemer.
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.
Functional Strength Coach DVD Set Volumes (1-3) – Mike Boyle covers a ton of material in these three DVD sets. These are excellent resources that’ll really make you think.
Strength and Power in Sport (Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine) – This is an incredibly thorough textbook with some excellent contributors.
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 CDs are all extremely helpful if you look to the right sources. As my career has progressed, I’ve read a TON more business 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:
55 Business Strategies for Success – This e-book from Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove could easily have been called “55 Mistakes They Made That YOU Better Not Make!” It’s a quick read, but all the suggestions can be easily applied to your fitness business. Their Evolution of Personal Training DVD is also a good purchase, while you’re at it.
Fitness Profit Formula – This is excellent stuff from Pat Rigsby, Nick Berry, and Jim Labadie. These guys do a great job of showing how relationship building is the foundation of a successful fitness business.
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.
The Business of Fitness: Understanding the Financial Side of Owning a Fitness Business - Thomas Plummer is one of the most respected names in the business aspect of this industry; definitely check this book out.
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.
Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance – Dr. John Eliot debunks several of the most common myths of high performance – and provides an awesome resource for those who would rather be exceptional than just good.
Selling the Invisible – From Harry Beckwith, this is a quick read with some great information.
Hug Your Customers – One that a lot of people recommended to me, and with good reason; Jack Mitchell really “gets it.”
Every time I read a Brian Tracy book or article, I think to myself “I should have thought of that already!” Here are a few good ones:
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.
Raving Fans – This is a look at how customer service should be.
Please keep in mind that this is a “running” list; that is, I’m generally reading/viewing/hearing 2-3 books/DVD/CDs 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.”