Blood Rayne: Training with Sickle Cell Anemia

How many times have you woken up in the morning with aches and pains after a heavy bench or squat session? If you've been lifting for over a decade like me, you know the deal—warm shower, foam roller, and no quick movements. Well, imagine if you woke up every morning in pain not because of a training session but because you suffered from a disease called sickle cell anemia.

For those of you who aren't familiar with sickle cell anemia, it's a blood disease where the red blood cells are shaped like a sickle that a farmer uses to harvest crops instead of round or oval shaped. This can cause them to bunch up and form clots in the veins and around the joints—a very painful situation to say the least.


Well, at Synergy Strength Systems, we have a kid named Jordan who has this condition, and he comes in three days a week to train. When Jordan came in, he didn’t have a clue what to do. I watched him come in day after day and struggle with his routine. One day I offered him a few tips on his lower body training and, surprisingly, he listened. Once I knew that he was open to getting better and stronger, we used a slightly modified version of 5/3/1 (I hope Jim Wendler doesn’t come and crush me for doing that). Instead of using the protocol where you progress from week to week, I had him stick with three sets of five for the squat and deadlift for five weeks. We also made sure to use the assistance exercises that are prescribed. The reason I did this was because he informed me that if he goes too hard on the training, it may induce an attack, which would leave him bedridden for a few days, something we both wanted to avoid.


After implementing this, Jordan's lifts started to go up seemingly overnight. I asked him if he had ever played sports, and he said no. I asked him why, and he said, “I have sickle cell anemia and when you have that, they don’t let you play sports. I wanted to do something active, so I chose weightlifting."

I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. Jordan told me all the things that he has to do to keep attacks to a minimum. Let me tell you—it's an extensive list. He has to monitor everything from how he eats to how he trains in order to not overstress his system (hence the modified 5/3/1 programming).

No Excuses

Jordan is one of those rare breeds of individuals who doesn’t use his illness as an excuse to be lazy and not do anything. Instead, he's in the process of starting an organization to raise awareness of the disease at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). He's also a biology major and wants to be a doctor. Below are a few videos of Jordan training. Check them out. This kid is strong and getting stronger thanks to determination and the will not to quit or be held back! Oh, he's only 130 pounds, too!

Jordan deadlifting

Jordan squatting on the safety squat yoke bar