2010 Essential Reading List – Update on the Best Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, and Strength and Conditioning Books


One of the most popular posts over the lifetime of this website has been my “essential reading list.”  For those that haven’t a had chance to read it, I polled many experts in a variety of rehab, sports medicine, manual therapy, and fitness fields to find out what books that they feel make a lasting impact on their clinical development.  Together, these became the Essential Reading List.  I envisioned this as a huge resource for students, new grads, and experienced clinicians looking to learn new things.  There are so many resources out there, these are the ones that the experts in the field recommend!

I want to do my best to keep this current and would like to add two new books that came out this year to my Essential Reading List for 2010.  The two new books are below followed by the original list.

UPDATE: I am working on an update for this that will be out soon with some changes and additions!

New Additions for 2010

  • image Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance:The Janda Approach – Page, Frank, Lardner. I really enjoyed this book and thought that the literature needed a good resource to summarize the teachings of Vladimir Janda by 3 disciples.  The book is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to learn more about muscle imbalances and their impact on structure and function.  This is an extremely important concept and one that I have always felt is not taught well in programs and takes the longest to firmly grasp in clinical practice.
  • Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, Corrective StrategiesimageCook.  The long awaited follow up Gray Cook’s Athletic Body in Balance (also on the Essential List below).  This book explains the concepts of the Functional Movement Screen and the Selective Functional Movement Assessments.  This is another great resource in the realm of understanding movement patterns and corrective exercise strategies.

Best Physical Therapy Books

The following section of books provide overviews on a broad range of topics and, as you can see, build from general musculoskeletal rehab to more advanced orthopedic and sports medicine topics.  These should be of interest to all, not just physical therapists, as they provide a great amount of information regarding injuries and treatment that may not otherwise be covered in athletic training or strength and conditioning books:

  • image Pathology and Intervention in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation – Magee, Zachazewski, Quillen.  A very detailed book for such a general topic, a good place to start when learning musculoskeletal rehabilitation.
  • Clinical Orthopedic Rehabilitation – Brotzman and Wilk.  A little more specific to orthopedics than the Magee book above, this book does well at covering a lot of topics.
  • Physical Rehabilitation of the Injured Athlete – Andrews, Harrelson, Wilk. Good overview book that is now getting more specific to athletes (see the progression of the book so far?).
  • Sports Medicine (Orthopaedic Surgery Essentials Series) – Schepsis, Busconi.  A general overview of many topics related specifically to sports medicine.  This series of books does a good job reviewing the broad topics from the perspective of the entire sports medicine team including physicians and rehabilitation specialists.
  • Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques – Kisner & Colby.  This is a classic that continues to be revised frequently.  Reviews a significant amount of exercise techniques commonly used in rehabilitation.  This is one of the first books often included in physical therapy curriculums so may be of benefit to those not in the PT field.

Best Rehabilitation Books – Extremities

After tackling the general rehabilitation topics, many people are then interested in specializing in specific joints.  While excellent overviews, the books above are not designed to go into great detail.  Consider the list below the next step in becoming more specific and advancing your knowledge with individual joints.

  • image The Athlete’s Shoulder – Wilk, Reinold, Andrews.  I hate to include my own book, but this truly is the most current and comprehensive resource of the treatment of the shoulder.  Covers every imaginable topic related to the shoulder with an excellent list of expert contributors.  You won’t be disappointed.
  • Postsurgical Orthopaedic Sports Rehab Knee & Shoulder – Manske.  Dedicated specifically to postoperative treatment, which is often minimized and even overlooked in some books.
  • Noyes’ Knee Disorders: Surgery, Rehabilitation, Clinical Outcomes – Noyes.  This one is about to be hot off the press and released this month.  A long overdo book by one of the leading experts in the care of the Knee.  This books is going to be a classic.  I was fortunate to contribute a chapter and be involved.
  • Knee Ligament Rehabilitation – Ellenbecker.  A great book but I would actually say that the title is a little misleading, I think the book applies to the knee in general as there are chapters dedicated to anatomy, biomechanics, and even patellofemoral that are not specific to “knee ligaments.”
  • image The Athlete’s Elbow – Altchek, Andrews.  Discusses the elbow in great detail, however is lacking in rehabilitation
  • The Elbow in Sport – Ellenbecker.  Amazingly, this is one of the few elbow rehabilitation books available.  Compliments The Athlete’s Elbow well.
  • The Elbow and It’s Disorders – Morrey.  The authority on the elbow.  Very detailed but very dry.  Probably only for people truly wanting to specialize in the elbow.  That being said, the anatomy and biomechanics chapters are outstanding.
  • The Shoulder – Rockwood.  Similar to above, Rockwood’s classic has been recently updated and can be considered the gold standard in general shoulder books, fantastic but contains information that goes well beyond the needs of a rehabilitation specialist.


Best Rehabilitation Books – Spine

Good spine books are actually hard to come by, which makes the following books even more essential.  The first group of books are general overviews, but excellent additions to your library.

  • image Low Back Disorders: Evidence based prevention and rehab – McGill.  This one was popular with the other expert’s as well.  This is a must have book in the care of the spine.  McGill is one of the leading experts in spine rehabilitation.  His approach is simple, effective, and backed by evidence.
  • Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance – McGill.  Eric Cressey summed this book up well – “With the prevalence of lower back problems in the general population, all of Dr. McGill’s works are must-reads. I tend to favor this one over Low Back Disorders because it’s updated more frequently (third edition, now), and places a big emphasis on prevention and not just treatment.”
  • Rehabilitation of the Spine: A practitioner’s Manual – Liebenson.  Another popular book among the other contributors.  As Leon Chaitow describes – “As a young chiropractic student, Craig Liebenson, was responsible for bringing Janda, Lewit, and others (including David Simons, Irvin Korr, and extraordinarily for me, myself) to run courses at Los Angeles College of Chiropractic in the 1980’s. He (Liebenson) is now a leader of chiropractic rehabilitation and his  book Rehabilitation of the Spine incorporates much that he has synthesized from these sources.”

The next section of spine books are based on popular treatment methods, the names you have heard before like Maitland and McKenzie.  I myself am not a subscriber to one specific theory so I actually own all of these books and use what I feel is the best from each.  My thought is that an integrated approach is always better than sticking to just one approach, but I am sure that others would disagree.

  • image Manual Therapy – NAGS, SNAGS and MWMS – Mulligan. The book that describes the popular Mulligan techniques.  Sue Falsone explains “An easy read that is entertaining and amazingly informative all at the same time.  A fantastic manual technique to have in your tool box.”  A very simple book and something you can easily integrate into your clinical skill set.
  • Cervical and Thoracic Spine: Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy – McKenzie.  The McKenize approach is explained in great detail in this 2-volume set.  A very common method of treating that is explained well in this book.
  • Lumbar Spine: Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy – McKenzie.  Another 2-volume set on the McKenzie approach specifically on the lumbar spine.  Together this and the previous entry make up a useful series of books on the evaluation and treatment of the spine using the McKenzie method.
  • Maitland’s Vertebral Manipulation – Maitland.  I think this is another misleading title as this book does a great job reviewing the Maitland approach to spine evaluation and treatment.  I like this book a lot, very clear and easy to follow and probably one of the better overall books on how to evaluate and treat the spine.
  • Manual Mobilization of the Joints: The Spine – Kaltenborn.  A classic on mobilization of the spine.

Best Clinical Examination Books

Clinical examination books are important tools when attempting to diagnosis an injury.  These are often times the most popular books lying around rehabilitation clinics and training rooms.

  • image Orthopaedic Physical Assessment – Magee. George Davies summed this one up well “Still probably the most comprehensive exam book, although not all evidence-based supported.”  I couldn’t agree more.  There is an overwhelming amount of examination techniques.  Still the leader but needs to be evidence-based on the next version.
  • Orthopedic Physical Examination Tests: An Evidence-Based Approach – Cook.  Another good examination book.  Not as detailed as Magee, but this may be a good thing.  Obviously the evidence-based approach is a nice touch as well.
  • Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain – Kendall.   Eric Cressey sums this up well “This is just a true classic that everyone needs to own – whether you’re working with healthy or injured people (or both). It is one of those books that I continually refer back to when my brain gets rolling and I want to confirm or refute an idea I have.”  Sue Falsone adds “A classic.  Everyone should own it.  Enough said.”

Best Athletic Training Books

The concepts behind the following athletic training based books are probably simplistic at best for an athletic trainer, but for physical therapists and strength and conditioning specialists, these books can come in handy when trying to understand the acute care of athletic injuries.

  • image Principles of Athletic Training – Prentice, Arnheim.  This really can be considered the study guide for the NATA board exam.  It covers pretty much every aspect of athletic training, and covers it well.  A great reference for physical therapists interested in sports and strength coaches and personal trainers working with athletes.
  • Athletic Taping and Bracing – Perrin.  This book goes into more detail than Prentice on actual taping techniques.  There are many taping techniques that could be used in the rehabilitation setting as well.

Best Manual Therapy Books

I couldn’t think of the perfect title for this section, so I ended up with just “Manual Therapy.”  This is intended to include books that discuss manual therapy and bodywork techniques.  This is an area that is not covered well in most physical therapy, athletic training, and strength and conditioning education programs, so to me this is one of the most important sections.  I always admit that this was an area that I did not pay attention to early in my career and I regret this.  Expand your mind and enhance your clinical skills with the following.

  • image Anatomy Trains – Myers.  This book was hand down the most popular among the expert contributors and almost unanimous.  I couldn’t agree more.  Eric Cressey writes “We all spent a lot of time in school learning all about muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, and nerves, but nobody ever spent much time talking about how all these structures interact with the fascia system.”  Sue Falsone writes “Takes basic anatomy and puts it together in a way that makes you appreciate the unbelievable direct anatomical connection between the foot and the head, along with everything in between.” and Leon Chaitow writes “In the early to mid-1990s I became familiar with the research suggesting a far more active role for fascia than had been previously believed. A leader in that field was Rolfer Tom Myers, who wrote several important articles on the subject for the journal I edit (Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies) which were subsequently expanded into his groundbreaking book Anatomy Trains.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes Sarhmann.  Both Ken Crenshaw and Eric Cressey recommended this one.  Cressey writes “I love Sahrmann’s work because she really makes folks think about movement inefficiencies and not just what the MRI or x-ray says. This book probably influenced my overall thought process more than any other that I’ve read, and is quite possibly the most comprehensive resource available for spotting musculoskeletal dysfunction.”
  • imageClinical Applications of Neuromuscular Techniques: Volume 1 Upper Body – Chaitow, DeLany. I was first introduced to this work of Leon Chaitow by Ken Crenshaw.  He was always talking so optimistically about the results he was getting from these techniques so i had to try them out.  This is one of my “must haves.”  Leon Chaitow describes how the book came about “All these influences – Goldthwait, Korr, Janda, Lewit, Simons, Myers and many others have found there way into my work and writing – with the double volume Clinical Applications of Neuromuscular Techniques : Vol.1 Upper Body and Vol.2 Lower Body, coauthored with Judith Delany; containing a practical synthesis of what I’ve learned from these giants.”
  • Clinical Applications of Neuromuscular Techniques: Volume 2 Lower BodyChaitow, DeLany.  Volume 2 of this set focuses on the lower body.  See above.
  • Muscle Energy Techniques – Chaitow.  One of my favorites from Chaitow.  His series of books do such a good job discussing his thoughts and the science behind his techniques.  Start with the 2 volume set above and then expand to this book and the next
  • Positional Release Techniques – Chaitow. Similar to the Muscle Energy book by Chaitow, an excellent job discussing positional release techniques in great detail.
  • image Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The trigger point manual – Travell, Simmons.  The definitive resource of trigger points.  This is an area that we can apply immediately and see noticeable improvements with our patients and clients.  Leon Chaitow writes “David Simons collaborative masterpiece with the late Janet Travell was for me, as it is for many people, a resource that continues to amaze and enlighten.
  • The Sensitive Nervous System – Butler.  David Butler’s work in the area of the nervous system has been outstanding.  This is to me one of his better books regarding the evaluation of the nervous system and his neurodynamic techniques such as nerve flossing.  Leon Chaitow writes “Somewhere in the 90s I became familiar with David Butler’s important research into neural restriction (neurodynamics). His book is a masterpiece of writing about a hugely complex topic in a comprehensible way.”


Best Strength and Conditioning Books

The following books are intended mainly for the strength and conditioning specialists, but as a physical therapist and an athletic trainer, I think these books should be read by all.  These are the thoughts that can take your clinical skills to the next level, especially if you want to work with athletes.

  • image Essentials of Strength & Conditioning – NSCA. This provides many excellent concepts of the title which oftentimes physical therapists do not have a real strong back ground.  This is the resource our industry uses as the study guide for its “gold standard” certification (CSCS).  The book is not without it’s flaws, but is a starting point.  Eric Cressey writes “I completely refute a lot of it (particularly the nutrition and periodization stuff, which are grossly outdated, conservative, and lacking in real-world efficacy), but appreciate the fact that it is the minimum someone needs to learn before they even think about train athletes.”
  • Functional Training for Sport – Boyle.  A gem from elite strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle.  A good glimpse inside Michael’s mind when designing programs for athletes.
  • Core Performance – Verstegen:  This books is written more for the general population, which made me hesitate to even include it, but the concepts behind the Athlete’s Performance approach led by Mark Verstegen are worth including.  Sue Falsone writes “Sets the foundation for the Athletes’ Performance methodology with professional athletes and how it can be applied to everyone’s life.  Focus is on Mindset, Nutrition, Movement and Recovery…a truly integrated system.”
  • image Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance:The Janda Approach – Page, Frank, Lardner. I really enjoyed this book and thought that the literature needed a good resource to summarize the teachings of Vladimir Janda by 3 disciples.  The book is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to learn more about muscle imbalances and their impact on structure and function.  This is an extremely important concept and one that I have always felt is not taught well in programs and takes the longest to firmly grasp in clinical practice.
  • image Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies – Cook. The long awaited follow up Gray Cook’s Athletic Body in Balance (also on the Essential List below).  This book explains the concepts of the Functional Movement Screen and the Selective Functional Movement Assessments.  This is another great resource in the realm of understanding movement patterns and corrective exercise strategies.
  • Athletic body in balance – Cook.  A popular book by Gray Cook on understanding human movement during sport and functional activities.  This book describes his popular functional movement screen that can be useful in evaluating your patients, athletes, and clients.  I don’t use the functional movement screen as described but do use some the concepts within.  For the strength coaches, I would recommend this to develop your sense of evaluation.


Best Clinical Research Books

I believe that we should all participate in clinical research.  We do not have to leave the research to the PhD’s in a lab somewhere, your patients, athletes, and clients are perfect “specimens” to study the efficacy behind many of our techniques.  Getting started in research isn’t as hard as it seems, you just need a little direction.  Try these books to begin.

What do you think?  Did I leave out one of your favorites?  Reply to this post and let me know, maybe it will make the next edition of this list in the future!



Photo by jamespaullong

24 replies
    • Kris
      Kris says:

      The Sueki book is an absolutely incredible must have book for quick reference of all the major pathologies one might encounter. It’s not for reading, but for referencing. I definetely recommend it for the clinical shelf.

  1. Jeff Cubos
    Jeff Cubos says:

    Some other good books:

    Functional Soft Tissue Examination and Treatment by Manual Methods (Warren Hammer)

    Athletic Injuries and Rehabilitation (Zachazewski, Magee, Quillen) – This one is really old but one of the most comprehensive sport injury texts I've read. They recently followed this up with a 3 volume series that is catered more to the everyday practice. Much of the content is the same but again more current and less specific to sport. Here's an example (http://www.jeffcubos.com/2010/01/16/scientific-foundations-and-principles-of-practice-in-musculoskeletal-rehabilitation/)

    The Shoulder in Sport (Fusco, Foglia, Mussarra & Testa) – This one is great as well.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I know that this book doesn't fit in any of your categories and that it's not a clinical book but i think the way Neumann explains, analizes and really dissects human movement, makes it a must have for any kinesiologyst, physiotherapist or physical therapist no matter how many years you have practicing.
    Best regards,

    E. Nicolás Sepúlveda

  3. Ken Zelez
    Ken Zelez says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you so much for posting this. I think it is great you are so willing to take the time to share. I will be sure to promote your information (as always). Thanks again.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:


    Do you and the other excellent folks who read your website have any suggestions as to which books outside of the Strength and Conditioning category would be most appropriate for a personal trainer who doesn't double in a role as therapist/in any sort of formal clinical capacity?

    In an ideal world, I'd have the funds to purchase all the books and the brain capacity to download all of said gems into my brain, even if a lot of it would simply be in the interest of being fully fluent when speaking with allied professionals in a total care network setup. Basically I am most interested in which books from the other lists might provide the greatest bang for your buck, so that I can end up sampling the best/most appropriate choices and expand beyond just the books directly in my realm.

    Thanks for sharing this list!

    -Bart Stupchek

  5. Mike Hopper
    Mike Hopper says:

    Mike, thanks for the list. I've read a few of the books mentioned and own a few of them as well. I was wondering, though, what the best general athletic rehab book would be? That is the main book I do not have in my library at this time. I've got eval books, modalities, strength and conditioning, etc. But I don't have a rehab book. I'd like to have a good reference for rehabilitation for launching my career with.. Any suggestions from anybody?

  6. cruz
    cruz says:

    Hi, I am Alexander Cruz, joined the blog. I would love to hear from anyone who has had success networking in a blog. Thanks……
    stretching exercises

  7. David
    David says:

    A very good collection of books from rehab to anatomy to assessment and many more. Many of the books used in physical therapy are now transitioning to evidence-based concepts.

  8. Andy
    Andy says:

    Mike, are there any pocket ortho and pocket differential diagnosis guides you would recommend? Also, I think recommendations for any standout pathophysiology and comprehensive differential diagnosis textbooks here would greatly benefit students, if possible.

  9. nick
    nick says:

    Hi mike,

    thanks for the reading list :). I was wondering if I could get your insight into my career and future. Name is nick I am 21 years old and am currently filling prerequisites for entrance into an exercise science program. I was thinking that I would get an exercise science degree and then get a doctorate in physical therapy. I would like to work as a strength coach and physical therapist for a sports team. I currently am certified by NASM as a cpt and am currently working as a personal trainer. Do you have any insight for me? Any certifcations or books that would help along on my journey (other than these books :) ). Are these books something I can dive right into or do I need the structure of being in a physical therapy program?

    thanks mike,

  10. Cameron Reid
    Cameron Reid says:

    Dear Mike,
    This was an excellent thing to do. I have several of these already but this list will be a great help to me and to other followers of this blog, thanks Cameron Reid

  11. Nick
    Nick says:

    Great repost, Mike. Always good to come back and review this list. I’d add Explain Pain and The Sensitive Nervous System by David Butler.

  12. Steven D. Goostree
    Steven D. Goostree says:

    A few of my favorites:

    Netter’s Orthopaedic Clinical Exam: An Evidence-Based Approach by Josh Cleland.

    Primary Care for the Physical Therapist: Examination and Triage by William Boissonnault.

    Orthopedic Manual Therapy: An Evidence-Based Approach By Chad Cook.

    Effective Functional Progressions in Sport Rehabilitation by Ellenbecker, De Carlo & DeRosa.

    Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation: An Evidence-Based Approach by Brotzman & Manske

    Steve G, PTA, SPT

  13. ben
    ben says:

    Great post Mike. i bought Kendall’s book which you mentioned and gives very valuable insights…

    For general anatomy, I like Andrew Biel’s Trail Guide to the Body (comes with dvd) – artwork and video using live humans (not cadavers) + superimposed images of muscles make this a very practical book. As a chiro freshie, I find this book very helpful.

    Joe Muscolino also has good anatomy book and a giant flipchart book re Trigger Points.

    RT Floyd’s Manual of Structural Kinesiology is also a gem re exercises that can be done.

    Re more bang for your buck, I find Dr Evan Osar’s books and dvds does a very good job of summarising main concepts (centration, etc) and sane advice for rehab… I didn’t understand very much at first, but after one semester of anatomy class, I can understand 80% of the anatomy and why we should/not do certain exercises, how to modify.

  14. Tom Fletcher PT COMT
    Tom Fletcher PT COMT says:

    A favorite of mine is Clinical Reasoning for Manual Therapists by Mark Jones. Its basically a case study book with each case authored by some of the biggest names in physical therapy. I like it because it gets you inside the heads of some very bright thinkers in how they make treatment decisions regarding their patients. The “why” behind what they are doing.

  15. Steven Kenny
    Steven Kenny says:

    Great Mike, thanks for this, I am happy to say I own 6 of the above books mentioned and I am currently reading two. I will also now be adding:
    Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance:The Janda Approach – Page, Frank, Lardne


    The Athlete’s Shoulder – Wilk, Reinold, Andrews



  16. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I’m helping my daughter find a book for required reading in her language arts class. The requirements of the novel are fairly straightforward: the text must be 150 pages or more, printed after 2008, and is a non-fiction text that explores a potential career they are interested in. She is planning to pursue a career in physical therapy and/or sports medicine/athletic training. Any suggestions for something that might appeal to a 16 year old? Maybe a story of triumph over a devastating injury? Thanks in advance!

  17. Allan Wetzel
    Allan Wetzel says:

    I would also reccomend Therapeutic Neuroscience Education by Adriaan Louw, especially as it is more recent than The Sensitive Nervous System.


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