Of all that has ever been written on the topic of weight training, perhaps the most practical training programs for the the vast majority of the population are to be found in Stuart McRobert's book.
His two major works are "Brawn" and "Beyond Brawn", both of which are essential primers in the basics of weight training, detailing everything you need to know about gaining slabs of solid muscle using minimalist training routines.
His ideas focus on abbreviated training using basic compound exercises using a few sets per exercise to promote muscle growth!
The principles found in Brawn and Beyond Brawn are not a fad or gimmick and don't pretend to be an easy quick-fix "get ripped in 6 weeks".
Those who believe that the old maxim "less is more" holds true when it comes to weight training (as with many other things), will love the simplicity of the bare-bones minimalist routines laid out in his books as "frameworks".
The reasoning here, is that one seldom needs more than one exercise per bodypart and when using heavy compounds - squat, bench, rows, deadlifts, cleans, press etc.
Using these types of movements you actually get the most efficient workout by hitting several muscle groups with one exercise.
McRobert's approach aims at using the most productive movements, using them as the core or your workout routine. The typical routine of his uses 2-3 compounds per workout, along with some "accessory" movements, few overall work sets, and sufficient rest between sessions - fortified with proper rest, nutrition and lifestyle management.
The approach presented by McRobert is contrary to the conventional wisdom promoted by routines in the major muscle magazines on shelves today: the obligatory 6 day per week muscle building workout.
The training reality for the vast majority of the public is about as far as you can get from these sorts of workout routines.
Sadly, go into any gym and you can see the vast majority of trainers who never progress from year to year, all because they are to afraid to go against this conventional thinking of the "bodypart-a-day" 5-6-7 day a week routines.
They are slowly running their growth potential into the ground by following the advice of steroid or growth hormone enhanced, genetically gifted bodybuilders.
Sure, there are those who might benefit from a high volume, high frequency routine for a limited period of time - everything works for a while. And these routines might initially look like they work for a beginner, for whom, everything works due to their disuse atrophy, but even this progress will be short lived as the body eventually adapts to the stress.
Too many trainers have succumbed to the "more is better" propaganda that typifies so much of our culture today.
What Experts Have To Say About Brawn!
"Brawn" and "Beyond Brawn" are the most honest books on the subject you will find. And don't take it from me, listen to what some of the most knowledgeable experts in the field have to say about McRoberts books:
"BEYOND BRAWN is, without a doubt, THE most comprehensive book ever written on the topic of strength training and bodybuilding for the genetically average individual." And, again, keep in mind that that statement comes from a guy who's read several hundred books on the topic of strength training in the past ten years. So my endorsement does not come lightly."
Lyle McDonald - Bodyrecomposition
"BEYOND BRAWN is an encyclopedia of information, detail upon detail, of all of the subtopics related to weight training. It is not a powerlifting or weightlifting "book." This is the book that remains on the floor next to the bed or on the night table which can and should be looked at nightly. It should be brought into the gym and reviewed prior to training, as a reminder to do things correctly and well, and for motivation. This is a book that can serve as a reference for those who seek factual, useable, effective, practical and applicable training information that can make a difference in one's quest for muscular size and strength. It is information upon information about how to train properly and effectively if you believe in the concept of "basics first" training. I obviously liked it a lot and recommend it highly."
Dr. Ken E. Leistner
Brawn - An Abbreviated, Minimalist Training Routine
The base structure of the routine involves setting the priority exercises using compound movements.
The Core Compound Exercises
Seated Shoulder Press
Deadlift or Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Add in Accessory/Assistance Work
Putting It Together:
Back or Front Squat 3 sets x 5 reps
Bench Press 3 sets x 5 reps
Weighted Chin-Ups - 3 sets x 8-10 reps
Standing Calf Raises - 2-3 sets x 10-12 reps
Planks - 2 sets x 60 second holds
Crunches - 2 sets x 15 reps
Neck plate raises and bridges
Seated Shoulder Press or Military Press - 3 sets x 5 reps
Deadlift or Romanian Deadlift or Leg Press - 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Weighted Dips - 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Barbell Curls - 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Rotator Cuff Work
Note: add 2 days a week of cardio (skipping, sprints, running stairs etc), dynamic mobility, static stretching to this and you will be on your way becoming the total package!