I've been training regularly for about 15 years and have tried every system known to man. I've mostly utilized movement-based strength programs like 5/3/1 but have also used body part splits that included "calves and traps day" etc. Almost anything will work and variety is key -- but not at the expense of consistency.
I recently started training at a warehouse gym where a lot of high school athletes and young bodybuilders train. Naturally, these kids have a lot of questions. Back in 1995 questions were all we had since there were fewer resources like T-Nation and EliteFTS. Specifically they want to know what program I'm following right now and I'm always glad to offer advice. I try to emphasize a focus on the basics like heavy compound lifting.
Whether you're trying to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter you can't go wrong with basic heavy lifting, especially when you're first starting out. Pick a program, stick with it, and watch yourself grow. This doesn't mean that they should avoid isolation movements for different muscle groups -- it just means that you should learn to bench before you add in cable crossover drop-sets.
As you might imagine, this advice falls largely on deaf ears.
So I came up with an experiment, using myself as the guinea pig. I want to teach the young bucks under my tutelage that it is both possible and effective to use a minimalist approach to exercise selection (so long as the volume, frequency, and intensity are where they need to be).
The experiment will go as follows:
1) EXERCISE SELECTION:
I will only perform 4 exercises for the duration of this experiment (TBD probably 2 months) I will include 1 upper body push, 1 lower body push, 1 upper body pull, and 1 lower body pull. I have selected INCLINE BENCH PRESS, SQUAT, PULLUP, & CONVENTIONAL DEADLIFT as my 4 exercises. My personal favorite exercise is the Military Press, but Incline Bench Press is a better catch-all upper body push.
The only variations on these exercises will be different grip widths on incline press and pullups. All squatting will be olympic and all deadlifting will be conventional w/o straps.
3) ASSISTANCE WORK:
There won't be any. The only exercises I am permitted to perform are the ones listed above.
My plan is to post a regular training log along w/ some photos to chart my progress. My goal is not to disprove the benefits of isolation exercises, bodypart splits, etc. because I've used them to success in the past. Rather my goal is to demonstrate that sticking to the basics can yield great results in strength and physique if implemented effectively.