Please suggest few books on the topic of muscle building, that are heavily backed by scientific research.

I prefer them to be light on concrete training programs, but heavy on facts and research based advice.

I find that most books on the topic are based more on anecdotal evidence and common knowledge that is not always true.

Is there a seminal book on the topic?

  • This sounds like a biology book, no? Apr 14, 2012 at 13:20
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    I think it would be better if you read a pure exercise physiology based book and then read a book specific to your branch of sports and judge for yourself whether you think it'll work. However, I must warn you, these books aren't easy reads if you have no prior knowledge about physiology or anatomy, because they exclusively use jargon to describe things
    – Ivo Flipse
    Apr 14, 2012 at 14:08
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    @RobinAshe I am not even understanding your argument. Do you claim that anecdote filled book is equally as 'true' as one based on methodical scientific research?
    – Boris
    Jun 27, 2012 at 12:38
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    Also, the nature of scientific research precludes being able to research things in a manner that's representative of real world usage. Did Arnold Schwarzenegger become a powerlifting champion turned bodybuilding champion by only following rigourously tested scientific research? Did Arthur Jones only follow rigourously tested scientific research in training Casey Viator and Sergio Oliva? No and no. The best results come from those who followed intuition, trial and error and scientific research.
    – Robin Ashe
    Jun 27, 2012 at 23:46
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    @RobinAshe, you are really mistaken on what the scientific method is. I realize there isn't enough science-only based advice out there, and one might not be needed since even suboptimal advice seem to work OK-ish. But without any science, how do you know your body matches the one of a young Schwarzenegger?
    – Boris
    Jun 28, 2012 at 15:59

3 Answers 3


So far, of the books I've read, Practical Programming for Strength Training by Dr. Kilgore and Mark Rippetoe seems to be the closest to what you are asking. The biggest challenge you will find, and it's called out by Dr. Kilgore in the first chapters, is that most exercise and fitness research is spent on beginners and basic levels of fitness. There is little or no money spent in most countries on how to build the best athletes. The one country that did spend money on that would be Russia, but the exercise research isn't the best documented.

In the Practical Programming book, Dr. Kilgore breaks out a lot of basic foundational information:

  • Selye's theory on General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)
  • More modern adaptations of that theory in strength training (includes bodybuilding, power lifting, Olympic lifting, etc.)
  • Fatigue, rest, hormonal responses

The second part of the book that has programming tips for people at different levels of training is written by Rippetoe. To be honest, the first foundational part with Dr. Kilgore was more than worth the price of the book, but the second part you could easily find out by looking at different programs targeted for that level of training.

There's quite a few more titles over at http://exrx.net/ that would also bear looking into. Just understand that in the world of strength training, there is more than one valid way to see the types of increases you want.


My favorite science-oriented books on lifting are by Tom Kurz, Mark Rippetoe, and Lon Kilgore. These include Scientific Stretching, Starting Strength, and Practical Programming, the latter of which is probably closest to what you're asking for.

I've also heard very good things about Kurz' book, The Science of Sports Training, as well as what I understand to be a definitive tome, Supertraining. I have not read these, so your mileage may vary.

I would recommend tempering your desire for science in the lifting and exercise science domain. The state of research is so poor, and the results from technically non-scientific (though still empirical) efforts by coaches and lifters so good, that it would be silly to rely solely on published studies. Let a scientific approach and skeptical mind guide your decisions broadly, but don't sway to and fro according to the latest results from a study of 12 untrained males using leg curl machines.


Ironmind: Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies by Randall J. Strossen

The biggest part of succeeding in training, be it for bodybuilding, power lifting, or olympic lifting is the mental aspect (ignoring genetics). There are tons of different plans that deal with the physical aspects of training, and they will all tend to work, but if your mind isn't where it needs to be then you will either fail or not reach your full potential. The mind navigates the body.


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