Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength


From the Fitness Shelves
Posted By Scott Bird



This is the second part of this month’s series on books; a collaboration with Run to Win‘s Blaine Moore.

My ever-growing library contains a number of books on strength, health and fitness in general. Whilst there are a number available in these three areas, here are a few which have stood the test of time and never stray too far away :

The Home Workout Bible
Lou Schuler

I picked this up shortly after I started lifting free weights at home; largely as a reference for various exercises. Although it can quickly be put on the ‘introductory‘ shelf, I occasionally refer to it for less common variations of well know moves such as the Towel Fly (a great one for anyone with polished wooden floors) and Prone Scarecrow.

Light on Yoga
BKS Iyengar

As with the Home Workout Bible, Light on Yoga serves as a great reference. At just under 500 pages this definitely classes as comprehensive, and explains in great detail more than 200 Asanas, or postures.

This book also covers the history of this fascinating practise, several routines for working towards specific health and fitness goals, and the oft-maligned area of breathing. Fascinating stuff.

Mastery of hand strength
John Brookfield

This is essential reading for anyone looking to increase their hand or forearm strength; no matter what their goals are. John Brookfield is truly a master of his craft, and this timeless volume clearly demonstrates why.

If hand strength is important to you, make sure you’ve got a copy of this on the shelf.

Steven Pratt M.D. and Kathy Matthews

I first came across the concept of Superfoods in the T-Nation article Power Foods, and quickly made my way to the nearest bookstore. At first I wondered why this book – which tells the story of 14 nutrient-dense foods – would list each of them on the back cover; but reading it I quickly discovered that there is much more to the story than a simple list.
This book details the reasons for including each of these foods in your diet (including discussions of research on the various nutrients contained within), common sources of each food type and ways in which to incorporate them.

A few small changes to your diet can make an enormous difference.

The Bodybuilder’s nutrition book
Dr Franco Columbu

Franco Columbu is perhaps best known as a bodybuilder with extraordinary strength. When it comes to the subject of nutrition, however, it’s clear that he didn’t achieve his infamy by accident; this book outlines the thinking he used to work his way up to Mr Olympia.

Although there are a few paragraphs that remind you that this book is more than 20 years old, the bulk of it contains sound, timeless nutritional advice that is relevant to anyone who enjoys the iron.

For a slightly more detailed review of this fascinating book, look no further than The Bodybuilder’s Nutrition Book.

Biomechanical basis of human movement
Joseph Hamill and Kathleen M. Knutzen

Sit in a quiet corner and put on your thinking caps for this one. This book details exactly how we move; whether lifting weights, playing sports or simply going though our daily activities. Although it is clearly intended as a textbook for students of biomechanics, I use it largely as a reference during periods of injury.
If you’ve ever wondered why it hurts here when you injured yourself there, this book has the answer.

Stretching Scientifically
Thomas Kurz

As you can see from the cover, when it comes to stretching Thomas Kurz knows his stuff. This superb book goes into great detail on the various types of stretching, working towards various flexibility goals, and potential injuries arising from improper technique.



Harry Andrews

This book is a reprint of the 1911 volume by Harry Andrews, Training for Athletics and General Health. Harry Andrews was a running coach who clearly understood his trade. This book – although nearly a century old – contains some fascinating information which is still relevant to training techniques today.


Sportscape details the history of sports photography over the past 100 years. Although it definitely performs well as a simple coffee table book – there are some superb images in there – it also helps to illustrate how our perceptions of sport have changed in that time.

If you’ve ever tried your hand at sports photography, or just admire the work of others, this is a very worthy addition to your collection.

Bruce Lee – Fighting spirit
Bruce Thomas

I initially picked this up simply as something to read on a lengthy bus trip. However, although there are many Bruce Lee biographies around, this one clearly stands out.

Written by martial artist Bruce Thomas, this book explores Lee’s life in detail, giving a great insight into the thinking of this truly amazing individual.

The Optimum Nutrition Bible
Patrick Holford

This book is exactly what the title suggests – a comprehensive reference for the world of Optimum Nutrition. If you haven’t already been exposed to this great area, Optimum Nutrition entails the consumption of sufficient foods and supplements to not simply meet the minimum Government-advised guidelines, but to ensure the greatest health benefits.

As suggested above, this book serves as a great reference whenever specific nutritional questions arise; not only covering the exact functions of various vitamins and minerals, but also outlining the treatment of many common medical complaints.

The Art of Expressing the Human Body
Bruce Lee and John Little

This book outlines Bruce Lee’s training like no other. Based on Lee’s own notes, The Art of Expressing the Human Body discusses his bodyweight, cardiovascular and strength training during the many phases of his brief career.

If you’ve ever seen an exercise being performed and thought to yourself ‘I’m sure I’ve seen that somewhere before’, chances are that it’s in this book. Superb.

The Art of Expressing the Human Body is covered in more detail here.

Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
Arnold Schwarzenegger

I must admit, I use this one mainly as a reference to the Golden Age of bodybuilding. Not only are there some great photos in there, but as a resource on some of the biggest names from the ’70s it’s second to none.

Overcome neck and back pain
Kit Laughlin

As the title suggests, this is a great resource for anyone who’s ever experienced back or neck pain. Whilst this does not purport to be a cure-all for any variety of neck or back pain, there are some great ideas in there.

Well worth a look.

Incidentally, if this has got you thinking about grabbing one for yourself, swing by the SttB Strength Store. Massive range.

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



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Straight to the Bar is the online home of fitness enthusiast Scott Bird, and looks at the many training approaches, essential techniques, uncommon exercises and superb equipment to help you become as strong as humanly possible. In short, this site is the home of all things strength.

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Written By Scott Bird
Scott is a long-time fitness enthusiast (Jan 2004!), writer and photographer living in Sydney, Australia. If you share the passion for spending a bit of time under a bar, welcome. Love hearing how everyone else trains. You can connect via Twitter, Facebook and the various networks listed in the sidebar.
Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift. Artwork by Vince Palko.