Brazil’s Bits – Best of Exercise Books

Gino Brazil works with a client at Atlas Fitness Center in Espanola. Brazil has owned and operated Atlas Fitness Center for over thirty years. Courtesy photo

Brazil’s Bits – Best of Exercise Books

Column By Gino T. Brazil

Looking for a new exercise routine, perhaps some motivation or the newest nutrition trend?  No sweat;  that  information is now available 24-7 and only a few search pecks away on most laptops and smart phones.

It wasn’t always so easy.  Prior to the mid-1990‘s and the internet boom, bookstores and libraries were the go-to sites for health and exercise information.  Newspapers also provided occasional fitness related articles and columns.

For many, that era never existed.

exercise and gym lover Angelina Vigil, who grew up with technology and smart phones says she hadn’t thought much about “how books – not computers and phones- helped people learn about the ins and outs of exercise. “

While I appreciate having an electronic fitness library at my fingertips, I  love and prefer books.  It’s no surprise I turned to a book for guidance when I transitioned from running to weight training in the early 1980’s.  The book that inspired me to launch thousands of repetitions was entitled Complete Weight Training by Bill Reynolds.  Reynolds was a prolific fitness writer who published a number of books and was the editor for Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines.  Complete Weight Training featured  black and white photos of fit models demonstrating only the most fundamental exercises.  Descriptions of the movements and routines were easy to follow.  Just what I needed at that time!

Since then,  I have read and studied hundreds of fitness and nutrition articles, books and writers.   I’ve narrowed down my favorites and will share that list with you.  Most of these titles should be available online.  Both men and women will benefit greatly from the information found in these books!

Nutrition:  Nancy Clark’s “Sports Nutrition Guidebook” is a must have for any fitness enthusiast!  Weekend warriors or hard-core six day a week runners or weight trainers – anyone who trains or exercises will benefit from this book.  The book features chapters on losing or gaining weight and breaks down the importance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the athlete’s diet.  Clark is one of the country’s top sports nutritionists!

Weight Training: Douglas Brook’s “Effective Weight Training.”  I have yet to see an instructional weight training book that is as detailed and helpful as this one.  After 40 years in the gym, I have witnessed every imaginable contortion, misalignment of the body and injury resulting from poor form and lack of common sense.  What I most appreciate about this book is Brook’s attention to proper lifting form, safety and technique.    This book, while a bit on the technical side, should be a must read for any person who lifts weights!

Weight Training #2:  Bill Pearl’s “Getting Stronger .”  I love this book, published in 1986 because it features a variety of exercises for each body part.  In the chest section, for example, there are over 40 different exercises for the upper, lower and middle chest.  Pearl, a champion bodybuilder  in the 1950’s-70’s, also includes specific exercise routines for different sports.  This  book by Pearl is a real treasure!

Core:   Mark Verstegen’s “Core Performance.”  Verstegen’s book introduces exercise enthusiasts to a new concept of training.  The book features exercises and movements designed to improve explosiveness, flexibility and functionality.  Many athletes (competitive or non-competitive) fail  to work the core.  This book will motivate you to consider adding core movements to your traditional training.  Adding core training to your regimen should result in a progress spike with a decrease in injury probability

Anatomy:  Unless you are pursuing a career in the health industry,  enrolling in an Anatomy and Physiology isn’t a priority.  However, if you are an athlete or participate in weight training, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the muscular system.  Here are a couple of options to consider: 1) buy a used college anatomy book and study the muscular system chapter;  or 2) Frédéric  Delavier has a series of “Strength Training Anatomy” books that I give a thumbs up.  The books feature artwork of the human figure performing exercises.  Descriptions of the exercises are a bonus and help the reader understand the complexity and beauty of movement.

Overall health and fitness, motivation, cardio, training as we age:  For this category, I am going to recommend the writings of author Clarence Bass.  Bass, an Albuquerque entrepreneur and longtime columnist for Muscle and Fitness magazine, has written a number of exercise and fitness books and articles, including the best seller from the 1980’s RIPPED.  Bass, now in his late 70’s, still trains and writes about health and fitness.  His website,, features his informative and well-written articles.  I was fortunate to meet – and interview – Clarence in the mid-1980’s.  I was inspired by his professionalism and dedication to his work, family and the world of fitness.  Check out his site – you will be impressed!

In closing, I encourage you to learn all you can about fitness and nutrition – through the medium of your choice, the internet, blogs, newsletters, magazines, books, etc.  Always focus on the safety of your movements and activities!  I wish you the best in your personal journey towards improved health and strength.

Gino Brazil is a certified AFAA personal trainer and has been the owner of Gino’s Gym in Española since 1983.  Gino’s Gym is one of the longest running gyms in New Mexico.