Vintage Bodybuilding Books [11 Ranked]

vintage bodybuilding books

Looking for vintage bodybuilding books to add to your collection?

Lindy Health has you covered!

We have compiled a list of the best old-school bodybuilding books to get you pumped up and motivated.

These books are filled with inspiring stories and helpful tips from some of the most legendary bodybuilders.

So, whether you are just starting out on your fitness journey or have been at it for years, these vintage bodybuilding books will help you achieve your goals!

Best Vintage Bodybuilding Books

A wide variety of excellent vintage bodybuilding books are available online on Amazon, eBay, and other small retailers.

So if you are wondering what old-school book should I read for bodybuilding? We have read and reviewed some of the best available.

Lindy Health Pick

Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding

Author: Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • The bible for bodybuilder written by the God Arnold himself
  • In-depth detail on how Arnold was able to win so many Mr. Olympia titles
  • Extensive covering all muscle groups
  • Doesn't include information on supplements or diet
  • Some used copies are slightly warn
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The seven-time Mr. Olympia winner covers training, posing, diet, nutrition, and body-part exercises in addition to basic, advanced, and competitive training programs for all levels of bodybuilders.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is known as the godfather of modern bodybuilding and has been around since the 1970s in American bodybuilding. Arnold wrote one of the most complete books on vintage bodybuilding.

Runner Up

Franco Columbu’s Complete Book of Bodybuilding

Author: Franco Columbu
  • A basic health and fitness program
  • Training programs for many programs and methods
  • Bodybuilding guide for women
  • Bodybuilding guides for other sports
  • The paperback and hardcover have better formatting than the Kindle version
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Franco Columbu’s the Complete Book of Bodybuilding is a vintage gem.

The book covers everything from beginner bodybuilding routines to more advanced techniques like Franco’s own “Super Squats” routine.

It also has a lot of vintage photos of Franco and other bodybuilders from the era.

Being one of the most classic bodybuilding books, Franco Columbu’s writings are an excellent buy for any golden-era bodybuilding enthusiast.

Other Choices

The Fundamentals of Bodybuilding and Physique Sculpting

$ 49.00
Author: Charles Glass
  • Full workout sample training program
  • How-tos for each lifting movement with video included
  • Information on building your own workout program
  • Ebook Only
  • No Kindle version
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Charles Glass is one of the most well-known vintage bodybuilding coaches. His book The Fundamentals of Bodybuilding and Physique Sculpting is a superb read for anyone looking to get into vintage bodybuilding.

The book covers everything from training programs to diet and nutrition and even has a section on posing.

Charles Glass is a great instructor, and this book pairs perfectly with his training style.

Other Choices

Lee Haney's Ultimate Bodybuilding Book: The 8-time Mr. Olympia's Revolutionary Program for Building Mass, Strength and Power

Author: Lee Haney
  • Each section has information for beginners, intermediate, and advanced bodybuilders
  • Learn how to lift properly from the start
  • Well written and easy to digest
  • Expensive due to being a rare vintage bodybuilding book
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Lee Haney’s book Ultimate Bodybuilding is another vintage bodybuilding book that is a must-have for any fan of the sport.

Lee Haney was a Mr. Olympia winner in the 1980s, and his book covers everything from beginner to advanced training routines.

Lee breaks down each aspect of build building, from posing and lifting techniques to dieting, for all levels of readers.

Other Choices

Boys Book of Boxing and Body Building

$ 750.00
Author: Rocky Marciano
  • Very rare and collectible
  • 50+ vintage black and white photos
  • Massive resale value down the road
  • Expensive
  • Hard to obtain
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Rock Marciano was a world-renowned boxer in the 1950s, and his book Rocky Marciano’s Book of Boxing and Body Building is a fantastic old-school and collectible read.

The book covers everything from boxing techniques to bodybuilding routines and dieting tips. Marciano was ahead of his time in many ways, and this book is an exploratory reflection of that.

This book is quite hard to obtain but used, and vintage copies pop up on eBay occasionally.

If you are lucky enough to score a copy, you will have quite the statement piece to add to your bodybuilding book collection.

Other Choices

Weider Book of Bodybuilding for Women

Author: Joe and Betty Weider
  • Looks great in the bookcase collection
  • Great Q and A section
  • Detailed illustrations of all weightlifting movements
  • Fairly beginner information
  • Information is dated as it was published in the 1980s
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Bodybuilding for Women by Rachel McLish is a vintage bodybuilding book perfect for any woman looking to get into the sport.

Rachel was a Ms. Olympia winner in the 1980s, and her book covers everything from training programs to diet and nutrition.

She also has a section on posing, which is very helpful for anyone looking to compete.

Women were rare in bodybuilding in the 1980s, making this book a particular pickup.

Other Choices

Molding A Mighty Grip

Author: George F Jowett
  • One of the oldest bodybuilding books
  • 1930s perspective from a bodybuilder of the era
  • Cool and one-of-a-kind photos
  • A bit basic but the history makes up for substance
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This vintage bodybuilding book is an excellent find for anyone looking to get into old-school bodybuilding or weightlifting.

The book covers everything from beginner routines to more advanced techniques through the lens of a 1930s bodybuilder.

The book includes historical photos and is one of the oldest strength training books known to the sport.

Other Choices

Powerlifting – A Scientific Approach

$ 17.99
Author: Frederick C. Hatfield, Phd
  • Exhaustive research
  • Defacto 1980s powerlifting guide
  • Great Illustrations
  • Only available on Ebay
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Powerlifting: A Scientific Approach is a vintage powerlifting book by Dr. Frederick C. Hatfield.

The book covers everything from beginner to advanced powerlifting routines and includes photos and illustrations to help readers understand the concepts.

This book goes in-depth into the powerlifting scene of the mid-1980s with never heard insights and gossip into this sports world.

Powerlifting has grown in popularity, making this book a fantastic piece of early powerlifting history.

Other Choices

Vintage Physique: A Golden Era Bodybuilding Guide to Health and Aesthetics

Author: George Kelly
  • Various perspectives on Bodybuilding during the golden era
  • Sections documenting the history of the sport from its inception
  • Nontechnical
Buy Now
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A Golden Era Bodybuilding Guide is a unique gold standard for reading up on vintage physiques.

The book covers the history, best-known information, and details of the golden era in bodybuilding not often seen today.

This book is an excellent guide for anyone interested in vintage bodybuilding or golden-era strength training. This was when supplements, exercise, and overall aesthetics were very different from what we see on stage today.

Japanese Vintage Bodybuilding Books

Lindy Health #1 Pick

Young Samurai, Bodybuilders of Japan

$ 1000.00
Author: Tamotsu Yato
  • Rare Japanese bodybuilding history
  • Unique perspective of Japan's best bodybuilders
  • Expensive

Young Samurai Bodybuilders of Japan is a rare Japanese bodybuilding book that is quite unique.

The book covers the history and rise of young bodybuilders in Japan during the 1960s. It includes many photos of these young men in various stages of training and competition.

This book is an excellent addition to any vintage bodybuilding collection or anyone interested in the history of the fitness subgenre of Japan.

Other Choices

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories

Author: Yukiko Motoya
  • Rare perspective of many different and varying Japanese bodybuilders
  • Variety of stories to keep most readers engaged
  • Strange and hard to follow for some readers
Buy Now
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The Lonesome Bodybuilder, while a newer book published in 2018, covers the history and sage of Japanese bodybuilding.

The perspective is much different as it is told through the eyes of an outsider.

The book covers the history, rise, and fall of bodybuilding in Japan with many insights from those there.

An exciting and gripping read for those interested.

Vintage vs. Modern Bodybuilding Books

There are many differences between vintage and modern-era bodybuilding books.

The vintage era was a time of experimentation and a lack of sports knowledge.

This led to many different methods being tried, some working and some not.

Modern books are more uniform in their approach as the science of bodybuilding has been better understood.

Vintage books tend to be more creative in their approach and contain fascinating historical photos. These books are more sought after by collectors and anyone who appreciates the deep history of bodybuilding.

The Verdict

If you are looking for the gold standard of vintage bodybuilding books, you may want to go with Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. It is a great and vast book that covers a bit of everything. It is also a solid staple of any collector’s bookshelf.

If you would like a more exotic or unique book covering the sport try one of our recommended classic Japanese bodybuilding books.

Whether you are looking for more information or simply stories of years past, there is definitely a book for you on Lindy Health’s suggested reading list.

Are there any bodybuilding books that are rare, old, or vintage that we left out?

Let us know in the comments below!

Kate Ross
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Kate Ross

Kate Ross is a nutritionist at Lindy Health who lives in Breckenridge, CO. Kate has a wealth of knowledge about food and nutrition, and she competed as a bodybuilder for over 10 years. She is an avid skier and mountain biker, and she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family and friends.

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