Books are wonderful creations, as we get to literally peer into the minds of great coaches and sports performance professionals, explains @spikesonly. Click To Tweet
Every year around January, coaches seem to want to get back in the saddle with reading, and this year I made a list that holds its own. Books are wonderful creations, as we get to literally peer into the minds of great coaches and sports performance professionals. Sometimes books are written by a collection of experts, so the value transcends more than cost per page, since it taps into years of research and experience.
For 2020, I created what I think is a list that will satisfy a lot of different professionals besides strength and conditioning coaches, but I am sure that this also hits the nail on the head for those in the iron game. Last year, I barely had time to do the reading I felt was necessary to learn, but this year it’s about reading less and being more selective. Let’s face it, reading is key, but we can’t read everything, so we need to set priorities. If you want to take your training to the next level, I recommend these 10 titles. The list also includes alternatives, as a few are not inexpensive, and some are hard to find.
How I Made the Book List for 2020
I want to make sure coaches know that I tried to get the right 10 books for the majority of coaches, not just the ones that are new or popular. The list I created does not include books I have previously mentioned or listed, as I want fresh resources that will be read over and over. Sometimes books that are worth sharing don’t get the attention they should, such as Kurt Hester’s work, but I hope that mentioning the text here will sneak in another title. Johnny Parker, Al Miller, and Rob Panariello launched an amazing text, The System: Soviet Periodization Adapted for the American Strength Coach last year, but I assume everyone already purchased it, so I didn’t include it on this year’s list.
I am already working on the list for 2021, as I anticipate that a handful of books to be published in the summer will be worth reviewing, specifically on motor skill acquisition. Obviously, we all should read the research and check out manuals from fellow coaches, but a good book certainly helps the cause.
Finally, I realize that I’ve left out a lot of good books, as well as plenty of career development resources. I do believe coaches should read other books outside of the craft, but many of those are personal interest books and many leadership books don’t age well. To me, a few books read over and over keep us honest, as it’s likely we know what to do but lack the fortitude to stick to what is right. Again, what I think are great books for leadership or business may not resonate with others, and it’s more likely I will be able to identify general training and coaching books that help us all do a better job.
1. The Mechanics of Sprinting and Hurdling – Ralph Mann
For years I have thought about the constraints and models proposed by Mann because they are very accessible data points. Often research and information on speed is too abstract and complex, leaving coaches wondering how to connect the dots. In this book Ralph Mann and his co-author, Amber Murphy, present a complete list of what is known and what needs to be known for elite sport. Obviously, hurdles are not as relevant to those in a team sport, but honestly, it’s important to know how all areas of speed require doing your homework. The data presented in this softcover book is indispensable, and I recommend reading it each year to ensure you ingrain the constants into your analysis of speed.
2. The Triple Jump Encyclopedia – Ernie Bullard and Larry Knuth
The Triple Jump Encyclopedia mainly provides illustrations that are useful for exercise options, but it also outlines some seasonal programming ideas as well as a few tidbits of wisdom. The other benefit of The Triple Jump Encyclopedia is that it was inspired by a time when sport science was weak. It forced the coaches and support staff to think about the demands of the event rather than just do typical performance analysis. A few other books could replace this recommendation, but due to the longevity of the information, it really teaches us to know what is important versus just know more.
3. Pacing: Individual Strategies for Optimal Performance – Kevin Thompson
One topic that many in performance strangely ignore is pacing. Pacing is a vital element in sports, and it seldom gets enough coverage in science and practice, says @spikesonly. Click To Tweet
What I love about this book is that it’s written cleanly, meaning it uses no ornamental language and it’s beautifully straightforward. The models and diagrams are easy to understand, and the length and depth are perfect for those trying to upgrade their knowledge over a weekend. Out of all of the books, I recommend this the most frequently because I just see such a large gap in the profession.
Kevin Thompson is from Australia, so it would be great if more North American experts could dive into baseball, basketball, and American football to assist us in seeing the small details of how tactical and physiological interactions occur during competition. With a relatively inexpensive price tag, I think this text is a no-brainer to order for your collection.
4. Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training: Solutions to the Programming Puzzle – Paul Laursen and Martin Buchheit
Even if you are a track, swimming, or cycling coach, seeing how they solve the riddle of fitness is really useful for becoming a better programmer. If you have read my articles, I do mention Martin Buchheit frequently, but it was nice to learn from Paul Laursen as well. He is known as an endurance or aerobic fitness specialist but is clearly also a knowledgeable scientist in all areas of conditioning. If you want to prescribe training with a clear purpose and standard, this seminal work is a great start. Again, this blog article is for all performance coaches, and it can be read by team coaches so they understand the process of program design for fitness in sports.
5. Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training – Scientific Basics and Practical Applications – Moritz Schumann and Bent R. Rønnestad (Editors)
One of the reasons I recommend this title is its focus on the molecular science of training, as we are getting closer to understanding how athletes really adapt to workouts. In addition to the balance between neuromuscular enhancements and aerobic conditioning improvements, the book covers nutritional factors and inflammation. Honestly, it’s a wonderful book with a plethora of experts, including Iñigo Mujika, an author I recommended last time I created a list. If you are not in high-performance sport, or don’t work with youth athletes, this text is excellent for understanding the differences and similarities between different age groups and between genders.If you’re a speed and power expert and really want to know your concurrent training obligations, this book is a great investment, says @spikesonly. Click To Tweet
I recommend getting the book and not just buying chapters online unless you are pressed financially and only need a narrow topic. The value of the book is that all of the chapters together are so much less expensive than buying one at a time. If you are serious about endurance sport, this caters more to the conditioning side of things, but if you are a speed and power expert and want to really know your concurrent training obligations, it’s a great investment.
6. Biomechanics of Training and Testing: Innovative Concepts and Simple Field Methods – Jean-Benoit Morin and Pierre Samozino (Editors)
Other chapters are almost as strong, but I believe the entire book is worth getting because you can use the information for other training needs. For example, the jumping and upper body assessments are very novel and useful. I will say that books like this are part of the evolutionary process, and it’s up to coaches to extract what they see as valuable and accept the limitations of current science. Researchers should be more open to learning from coaches and put more effort into ecological validity and studying training programs. This book is a valuable resource, and I think anyone putting a fair effort into testing can make their training more targeted and effective.
7. IOC Manual of Sports Cardiology 1st Edition – Mathew G. Wilson, Jonathan A. Drezner, and Sanjay Sharma
The purpose of this book isn’t only to reduce sudden athlete death; the information is very important for conditioning and being informed when athletes have complicated backgrounds. Click To Tweet
The purpose of the book is not only to reduce sudden athlete death; the information is very important for conditioning and being informed when athletes have complicated backgrounds. Cristiano Ronaldo had heart surgery as a youth athlete, and several high-profile athletes have died during games or practices. The heart is a responsibility, not a burden, and for the last year I have spent hours learning and trying to understand basic health issues.
If you are involved with your team’s screening process, you also may want to see if you can do echocardiograms for performance, as yearly measurements of the heart wall and chamber can determine if all the “extra training” is really making a difference. The price and length of this book isn’t for the casual recreational athlete; this is for professionals in scholastic performance and elite settings.
8. The Psychology of Sport Injury and Rehabilitation – Monna Arvinen-Barrow and Natalie Walker (Editors)
So many times, an athlete is thrown to the wolves or demons when they are hurt repeatedly, often getting labeled as “injury-prone.” Injuries are part of sports, and this text reviews the more academic side of the issue of regulation in sport. Do I think this title is a workbook? No. Do I think it’s an excellent framework for those in applied settings to have a better indication of what they need to have in place? Yes.With injuries being so common and mental health so important, a book of this nature should be in every sports department’s library, says @spikesonly. Click To Tweet
I know other resources are available, but I firmly believe that sport psychology is so far down on the totem pole that we need something like an anchor text. With injuries being so common and mental health so important, a book of this nature should be in every sports department’s library. The editors did a great job rounding out the contents of the book to be comprehensive, and practitioners can make great strides forward by studying this resource over and over again.
9. Performance Assessment in Strength and Conditioning – Paul Comfort, Paul A. Jones, and John J. McMahon (Editors)
The length of each of this book’s chapters is the perfect amount of information to guide coaches; unlike other books, the chapters aren’t so short that they barely scratch the surface and leave coaches disappointed. This book is not just for advanced coaches, and a hungry young coach should be more than satisfied. I do wish there was more information on weightlifting, specifically doing analysis on the snatch and clean. Otherwise this book is in the “near Bible” category, where a book is so good you just list it and don’t bother recommending other options.
10. Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches – Greg Everett
Seriously, the issue with weightlifting is that the best coaches are not very active with sharing information, and this is still a problem today. True, there are a lot of books available, but they are usually shallow resources that just give a few tips for newbie athletes or coaches. This helped me out a few times, as it will always keep a coach honest with concepts that are important to know. A few coaches who purposely decide not to use weightlifting should check out the book, as it does have general training information that is useful beyond the technical side.
I will suggest, if you have the money, that you read the book Weightlifting Movement Assessment & Optimization: Mobility & Stability for the Snatch and Clean & Jerk by Quinn Henoch, as it’s a well-thought-out reflection on what the movements will require in terms of mobility. Again, we need more here, as the two books won’t be enough to satisfy a career coach, but the work by Everett certainly covers the bases with flying colors.
Balance Your Reading
One last recommendation is to read titles that simply have no connection to strength and conditioning or speed training. It’s not a sin to read for pleasure, as plenty of good books exist that are just great for entertainment. Don’t get trapped by the productivity and knowledge race, as a happy mind is a brain that grows. Feeling unnecessary pressure to read what everyone else is reading is a bad idea. For years I have read what my peers have recommended, and that was instrumental to improving. Now I read books that simply satisfy my curiosity or provide the right next steps to further improving what I think I need to know more of.Don’t get trapped by the productivity and knowledge race and feel pressure to read what everyone else is. There are plenty of books that are just great for entertainment, says @spikesonly. Click To Tweet
The process of selecting books is a humble one, as it’s not about posting the titles you think are important for others to know, but finding the right information you think will close a hole or gap in your knowledge base. Find the right balance for you, as we will always know more than what we can get athletes to do, so don’t stress out. I have found that this past year I really made progress by reading when I wanted to, not chasing a pace that is likely unsustainable. Not only did I feel I retained more, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
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