It's rarely possible to continue making gains on the same program after five or six weeks. You need to change your program. The question is, How do you manage to create different routines every six weeks if you only train with basic exercises? After all, there are just a few basics, aren't there?
Actually, there are a number of variations of the basic exercises. Also, even if you do the same exercises time and again, you don't have to do them the same way, with the same objective.
Take curls, for instance. Here are the basic curling movements: standard barbell curl, standing or sitting two-dumbbell curls, standing or sitting alternate dumbbell curls, Zottman curls. That's six variations -- enough for six different routines. Nearly every other basic exercise has an equal number of variations, except possibly the squat, which has only two or three.
That's plenty. You can easily set up half a dozen or more different routines that consist entirely of basic exercises. Add to that one or two supplemental exercises -- concentration curls, say, or lateral raises -- if you're an experienced trainee and know you can handle the work.
Her are three top-quality routines that use basics only. Each is different and provides a change in schedule.
Power or flip snatches (warmup) - 2 x 5
Barbell military press - 3 x 6
Bentover barbell row - 3 x 8
Squats - 2 x 15
Barbell curls - 2 x 8
Bench press - 3 x 8
Power cleans - 2 x 6
Dumbbell swings (warmup) - 1 x 10
Press behind neck - 3 x 6
One-arm dumbbell row - 3 x 8
Front squat - 2 x 15
Seated dumbbell curls - 2 x 8
Incline barbell press - 3 x 8
Stiff-legged deadlift - 2 x 10
Repetition clean and press (warmup) - 2 x 5
Seated dumbbell press - 3 x 6
Weighted chins - 3 x 8
Breathing squat - 1 x 20
Alternate dumbbell curl - 2 x 8
Incline dumbbell press - 3 x 8
Deadlift - 3 x 5
If you have the time, energy and enthusiasm, you can add a "little" exercise or two to any or all of the three routines, thus changing each just enough to spice things up for another five to seven week cycle.
You may think that you'll get bored and stale if you stick entirely with one fixed routine, but that's not necessarily true. Consider weightlifters. Those guys train pretty much on the same old movements, Olympic lifters hit the clean and jerks and snatches; powerlifters emphasize squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. They don't whine and snivel, they don't look for a "secret" that will enable them to snatch enormous weights while avoiding the grinding labor of working hard and often on those inevitable snatches.
I'm convinced that if Olympic lifters paid as much attention to their diets as bodybuilders do, their physiques would be superior to bodybuilders' in some ways. Even if you don't like lifting, try to appreciate that simple, hard training really offers you a lot.
The other thing to remember is that the same routine doesn't necessarily require the same workout. You can emphasize a different exercise in a routine or you can change the focus of the routine -- from general all-around development, for instance, to power or endurance conditioning, as the following programs indicate.
Flip snatch (warmup) - 2 x 6
Alternate dumbbell press - 3 x 8
Squat - 3 x 10
Bench press - 3 x 8
Bentover row - 3 x 10
Calf raise - 2 x 15
Deadlift - 3 x 8
Situps - 2 x 40
Flip snatch (warmup) - 3 x 3
Alternate dumbbell press - 4 x 4
Squat - 4 x 8, 6, 3-4, 3-4
Bench press - 3 x 5
Bentover row - 3 x 5
Calf raise - 2 x 15
Deadlift - 4 x 5, 4, 3, 2
Situps - 2 x 20
The power routine incorporates the same movements but lets you handle much heavier weights by reducing the reps.
If it seems to simple, that's the point. We're not dealing with brain surgery or teleportation. Training is hard only in the sense that it requires great determination, discipline, and physical effort. It's not a pronounced intellectual challenge.
Train on the basics. Whether you're an easy gainer or have the worst heredity for building muscle on earth, you'll attain your best possible development.
Stay focuses and stay basic.