Every now and again we all run into problems -- ill health, injuries, time constraints. Rather than allowing these times to discourage you, however, you can take the opportunity to rest, recuperate, and re-evaluate where you are going with your training. For me, this is often a signal that I need to return to basics, weed out all the extraneous exercises, bring down the poundages, and focus on the my key, foundational exercises.
For me, these are multi-joint exercises that are both functional and provide the solid foundations for my physique. I have described my 6 choice exercises in great detail in Foundations for a Better Physique, and I still maintain these exercises (or variations of them) should underpin any serious weight training program, whether your goal is improved body composition, strength, power, or performance.
In recent years I was diagnosed with radiculopathy stemming from about the C6 vertebra. This progressively impeded my training of upper body, particularly anything involving the left shoulder. I developed pain in the biceps insertion, reduced range of motion in the deltoid, and later developed mild carpal tunnel syndrome. Over time the weakness extended to my left hip and knee, making it impossible to train heavy. It was a real challenge to train at all, psychologically as well as physically.
Finally, once I'd set up a new home gym, I decided to return to basics. I began by using very low poundages, high reps, and super strict form. I kept the number of exercises to a minimum, which is when I found myself returning to the exercise prescriptions in Foundations for a Better Physique. By focusing on correct positioning of shoulders, lower back etc, controlled movements and ever-improving form I was able to build up gradually over a period of about three months to the point that I am back to my original poundages, yet with far more control and a much better mind-muscle connection.
All my deadlifting has been done without straps. This has placed a natural limit on my poundages, but I am now lifting the same weights with an overhand grip that I'd previously used hooks or straps for.
I've recently started adding in extra exercises to prioritise weak points (I'm doing a lot of shoulder work right now to bring my delta up to proportion with my back and chest). I'm still just using the basics for chest, back, and legs: dead lifts, squats, bench press, close grip bench press, cable/dumbbell row, lat pull down.
It's been an interesting experiment in listening to my body rather than being enslaved by ever-increasing poundages or prescriptive set/rep/time under tension routines. I control each movement, especially the negative portion, but I'm not fussing about how many seconds on the concentric and eccentric portions. I have a much broader rep range (rather than, say, 8-12 reps I might use something like 10-20). This is giving me a great feel for the exercise, pump, and (so far) good gains. I still mix things up (I throw in the odd superset, use pre and post exhaust), but in the main my workouts follow basic moves such as squats, dead lifts, overhead presses. I improve by increments each workout, and make sure I don't increase the weight too soon. A few years back I was obsessed with personal bests on dead lift and squat. Now I don't increase the weight until I can comfortably complete the requisite reps with full range of motion, and then I only increase the weight a little. For dead lifts, currently, I perform 6 reps per set, and for squats it's 10-20 reps.
Now there training is back under control and proving productive, it's back to nutritional discipline. In a few more months I aim to be in better shape than ever before.