When I first started my business, a mentor of mine at the time told me something about personal trainer books:

“Success is kept on the top shelf and the only way to reach it is by standing on the books you have read”.

This quote has stayed with me and over the last ten years, I have devoured a huge number of books on training concepts, nutrition and rehabilitation but importantly I’ve also built up a library of books on business, management and self improvement. When trainers look for personal trainer books they don’t always gravitate to entrepreneurial titles, but they should.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite personal trainer books below.

I hope these will help you in your business as much as they’ve helped me!

Old principles still apply

1. How to win friends and influence people – Dale Carnegie


This is the classic self help title that
started the self help movement. It’s been in print a long time now. Even so, the principles in this book have helped me create amazing relationships with personal training clients and potential investors over the years.

I’m amazed how many self-help junkies haven’t heard of this title, it’s a book that should be on everyone’s list of must-read personal trainer books.

One of my favourite quotes from the book is:

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

Most trainers forget that they operate in a person-centred business, meaning that it is vital to get them to invest in the relationship by telling you about their lives, Carnegie’s book is great for showing you, step by step, how to do that.

It’s simple and user friendly, and the ideas can be quickly implemented in your life without much work.

I’ve got an old beaten-up copy that I re-read once a year to keep my skills in check. It’ll always have a place on my shelf of personal trainer books at home.

Amazon: How to Win Friends and Influence People

2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini (the most manipulative of personal trainer books)

Whereas Carnegie presents a somewhat jovial and old fashioned account of getting what you want, Cialdini presents a lesson in arch manipulation for modern times. This book is a bit more corrupt than the first title. It is a new classic that every person in sales or marketing (that’s you, personal trainers) should own.

It shows you the dark arts of influence based around 7 key principles (Cialdini ‘Weapons of Influence‘) here’s a summary:

Reciprocity – You get what you give. It’s true.

I always offer a small amount for free in my consultations with clients, it builds goodwill and whatever I give always comes back to me and more. (I talk about this principle a lot in my video guide and post on PT local business marketing)

Commitment and Consistency – you should be peddling the same message in your PT business, it goes without saying that you need show commitment with your clients – turn up on time (which means at least an hour before your PT sessions and never miss a session).

Social Proof – if other people in the demographic you are targeting with your training services are buying from you, and you can prove it in your marketing efforts, then you’ll increase the chances that others will.

Liking – the friendly thief – people buy from people they like, use Carnegie and my book to build up a likeable persona as a PT if you think you struggle in this area.

Authority – you need to be an authority in everything you preach to your clients. This can be tough given the amount of conflicting information available but everything I write on my four pillars blog is internally consistent and based on science not fitness fakery.

Scarcity – the most fascinating principle of all, never be ‘too available’, there is nothing worse than an empty restaurant to tell people not to visit the restaurant.

If you’re already a bit of manipulative b********, this will make you worse. Be warned.

Amazon: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

3. Ego is the enemy – Ryan Holiday

So many trainers put ego first. Leave it at the door.

This book talks about the sheer number of people that have put their ego in the backseat and have achieved success through focussing on higher-order goals. A principle I always stand by. If anything, a new personal training clients comes to you for an ego boost, they don’t want your ego foisted on them at every turn. I’ve seen so many trainers perish by behaving like this.

‘Ego is the enemy’ encourages the reader to take a look at their lives and examine their behaviours from a different angle. The book goes on to mention that even though most of us try to satisfy our ego, we often see nothing wrong in pursuing goals that will ultimately make us feel, and look better. Here is where Holiday comes in and turns everything you thought you knew on its head. Instead of encouraging us to make the world a better place by aiming to achieve what we want, instead he asks us to focus on a higher goal, and begin to work towards the needs of a higher purpose.

Most trainers want to offer people the chance to feel better about themselves, by working on their bodies, and their minds. But as Holiday suggests ego can play a part in the work that we do. We want to be seen as the best trainer around, but in the midst of achieving that goal, we become blinded by our ego, and fail to see our faults.

We would be nothing without the paying customers who set foot on our gym floor every day, and ‘Ego is the Enemy’ can help us to realign our focus, and realise that reaching for our own goals can make failures worse. If instead we focus on those who come to us to build a better body, and a healthier lifestyle, we can be free of our own desires.

Holiday also points out that by focusing on others you will “..be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.” Let this book be one that you add to your must read personal trainer books list and leave your ego at the door.

Amazon: Ego is the Enemy: The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent

4. Your money or your life – Vicki Robin

Robin takes a look at the impact of money and economic uncertainty, and applies it to how we live our lives. Robin claims that many people concentrate on making a living, rather than making a life for ourselves.

These days everyone has concerns about money, and how they spend it. However, this book goes into great detail about how you can get yourself out of debt, resolve the conflicts you have between values, and the lifestyle you lead.

Trainers, you could impart your new knowledge learned from this book onto your clients (remember it is not just about training), helping them to become more focused about what is important to them. Show them how to change their lives for the better by leading by example. Tell them what you have learned, and how changing your priorities has made your life better.

Amazon: Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century

Experts rate this top of the list of personal trainer books 😉

5. The Trusted Trainer – David Osgathorp

Released in July 2017, this modern classic has already sold over 16 million copies and is available in 15 languages. 😉

All joking aside:

This is my account of the trials and tribulations of growing my personal training business in London over a 16-year period. I talk about how to win new clients in a saturated marketplace, how to create a positive team culture and more.

Most importantly I talk about my flaws and the huge mistakes that I’ve made along the journey. Success is the problem but failure is the formula.

If you want to get a flavour of what the book is like, check out 9 fatal mistakes that kill your PT business.

Oh and if you want a free copy of the book, send me an email: david@davidosgathorp.com and I’ll send it to you while stocks last!

Amazon: The Trusted Trainer: How to attract, amaze and keep your personal training clients for life

6. Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Most companies know what they do, some of them know how they do it but only the truly great companies know WHY they do what they do. Sinek’s book focuses on why natural born leaders seem to be so successful, before getting the reader to understand that they can learn to be as successful as the leaders they admire.

Sinek asks us to think about why people do what they do, rather than focusing on how they do it. Of course, in some instances you do need to know what it is that you do, and how you go about doing it, but you ultimately need to focus on why you’re doing it in the first place. Sinek explains that all of the great business leaders, and leaders in other fields at one time or another asked themselves why they were doing what they were doing.

Sinek then goes on to explain how we can take a look at the work we do, and apply these principles to it. Trainers, why do your train? Why do you do what you, rather than anything else? Why is what you do so important to you? If you keep asking “Why?” Sinek suggests that you could potentially become as successful as the business leaders you admire. Add this book to your pile of personal trainer books.

Amazon: Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

7. The E-Myth – Michael Gerber

Most of you will reach the stage where you need to make the big decision to move from the operative of the business to the owner of your business. You have built a business on the fact that you are great at what you do. but the entrepreneurial myth is that all people who start businesses are entrepreneurs. There is a huge difference between someone who understands the technical aspects of their business can successfully run a business that does technical work.

This is the reason why 80% of businesses will fail within 10 years. I urge any personal trainer at any stage in their business development to devour the priceless advice held within this fantastic book.

Amazon: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

8. The Go Giver – Bob Burg

In ‘The Go Giver’ Burg explains that most people refuse to believe that being successful is not down to taking what you can, instead it is down to giving.

This ground-breaking books tells the story of a man who is desperate for success, and despite all of his hard work, he seems to be further away from his goal than ever before.

One day the man decides to seek advice from a consultant known as ‘The Chairman’ who introduces him to open himself up to the possibility of giving.

This revolutionary book teaches the reader to put other peoples’ interests first, while also adding value to their lived. It’s this that is thought to lead to some unexpected results. In addition to offering the reader a new way of looking at life, the book also includes a question and answer section where Burg addresses some of the questions that readers have asked him, offering everyone a chance to benefit from his wisdom.

Books such as this one can offer you an insight into a new way of working with your clients. Just as ‘Ego is the enemy’ asks you to forget your ego, ‘The Go Giver’ asks you to forget about taking what you want. You may be able to relate to this book if you have previously looked from what you could gain from being a trainer. Although there is nothing wrong with looking at life from this angle, if you concentrate on giving your clients that little bit more, they will be more likely to trust you, and wish to keep working with you.

Giving more can give you more job satisfaction, as you’re likely to see more improvements in all areas of your work, helping you to achieve the level of success that may have previously seemed out of reach.

Amazon: The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea

9. Purple Cow – Seth Godin

In ‘Purple Cow’, Godin states that you could be one of two things, a purple cow, or nothing at all. You can be remarkable, or you can be invisible, it’s up to you to choose what you want to be.

This interestingly titled personal trainer book goes on to list some of the worlds’ most successful businesses, before asking you what the have in common, and how they have achieved growth while leaving other brands fighting for a slice of the pie.

Godin explains that the P’s used by the marketing industry (Pricing, promotion, and publicity) just don’t work any more, instead it is time to add a new P to the equation, the Purple Cow. This original concept asks you to put the Purple Cow into every single thing that you do, so that you become remarkable, rather than invisible.

What Godin might be saying in a ‘round about way is that you need to offer something different. You need to fill a gap in the market, and offer something that your competition doesn’t. If you’re looking for a list of personal trainer books to read, I highly recommend this one. The title of this book is offering something different, it’s asking to be noticed, and chances are it has grabbed your attention. Now it’s your turn to do something similar with your life.

Amazon: Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Develop good habits

10. 7 Habits of highly effective people – Steven Covey

In this book that should be added to your ever-growing stock of personal trainer books, Covey offers a holistic approach for dealing with and solving professional and personal issues. Using anecdotes and insights, Covey shows how every one of us can lead a fairer, honest life that is full of dignity and integrity. The book goes on to explain that the principles Covey has set out can make us more adaptable to change, while grasping the opportunities that change can create.

While many people fail to take risks, and instead lead a life that is almost static or stationary, Covey asks the reader to change the way that they see the world, so that they can become more successful in all areas of our lives.

‘7 Habits of highly effective people’ asks everyone to take a good look at themselves, and slowly introduce a new way of thinking, so that we move from being dependent on our static lives, to being independent, with a view to finally becoming interdependent.

This book ultimately encourages the reader to begin with the end result in mind, for example we trainers may want to run our own gym, but how do we get there? We look at how we can get there, and how we can make those changes ourselves.

I urge any trainers to read this book, and consider the opportunities that change can give you. While change can potentially be disconcerting, it can open the door to a new world of possibilities that could help you become more successful in every aspect of your life.

Amazon: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Good personal trainer books come from all walks of life, including hip hop.

11. 50th law by Robert Greene and 50 cent.

This book really helped me in the earlier days when grinding to create a profitable PT business. Robert Greene is a great writer and 50 cent is a legitimate businessman. Look beyond the frivolous rap persona, there is a real business brain behind 50 cent.

It taught me incredibly useful things about adopting a gritty mindset. If you haven’t already you should also check out Mastery and the 48 laws of power by Greene, which is also fantastic. What did this book do for me as a young PT?

– making the best out of a bad situation (‘turning s**t into sugar’ as Greene and 50 cent call it).

– vindicated my decision to be my own boss and not work for anyone else!

– taught me how to dominate the competition

– how hard work pays off – don’t just do the minimal amount necessary to complete a task (there is an anecdote about 50’s ability to produce masses of mix tapes in this book which was inspiring).

Amazon: The 50th Law (The Robert Greene Collection)

Put this book on your list of personal trainer books to read, as I believe it could help you adopt that gritty mindset that helped me to create my own profitable PT business.

Cheers,

David