To watch someone like Jayden exemplify what Weightlifting can do for functional fitness has been an honor. If you’ve been injured, you can only imagine what a punch in the face it can feel like. Battling injuries physically is one thing. Psychologically, it’s another game. Both his shoulders were injured playing football. Then he tore his ACL playing soccer. For 18 months, he wasn’t able to partake in any type of training.

Every day you wake up facing the pain of sitting on the sidelines. At that point, all you want to do is just be able to move and have fun.

He was mentally blocked from even the thought of squatting. I was in the same position when I herniated a disk in my lower back. Even the thought of deadlifting again gave me sciatica.

To people who have never been injured or are blessed with an unbreakable mind — you won’t fully get it.“Well why didn’t he just do what he could do?”

If you’ve ever tweaked your back pretty bad, you will literally do anything to get rid of it. You’ll go from never mobilizing to stretching endlessly. You’ll go from terrible posture to never slouching again. The pain sucks. What’s even more draining is the psychological impact of not being able to do what you want to do.

JaydenWhat breaks my heart is when athletes have been so destroyed by their injuries on a mental level that they completely give up on certain things. After being beat into ground by their own bodies, one day they’ll write it off as “I can’t do it. It’s just not worth it.” In many cases, that’s perfectly appropriate. In others, it’s usually a mental block that won’t let you move out of the fear zone. It’s embedded in your brain.

That was Jayden. Sometimes as a coach, you can’t make the decisions for your athletes. No matter how much potential you think they have. You just have to patiently sit back and do what you can to support them. I believed in Jayden all along because I knew what he was capable of. All I wanted was a chance to help him get through the rough patch. I waited two years until he finally opened up to the idea.

All the coaches out there get this. Especially those who mainly coach Olympic Weightlifting. It’s so difficult to produce an athlete due to all the variables we face living in the U.S. It’s no excuse, but let’s be real. Most of us are not “professional” Weightlifters and athletes who can devote all day to training and recovery.

There’s the stress of school, work, relationships, sleep, nutrition, etc. Life happens. Sometimes you’re not going to get 8 hours of sleep. Some days you’ll miss the perfect doses of protein to have you in solid shape for the next session. All of that matters when you’re trying to get your body to adapt.

Something else we forget to take into account is that a lot of the lifters we’re getting to work with are mainly CrossFit athletes. Some have no desire to ever step on a platform. Some just want to get stronger because…who doesn’t?

Relapses will happen at times when they don’t even want to look at a barbell. They just want to breathe heavy. It’s inevitable, but as a coach all you can do is respect and support them.

If your programming and coaching is good, they will probably come back to you. They will realize that you can’t cheat the barbell. To move the needle forward, you must continue to get stronger.

My coach, Jon Zajac, always says “Strength is freedom.”


Slowly but surely, we absolutely crushed his pre-injury lifts. Jayden is a great athlete to model after because he’s not just a hard worker, he’s smart about his training. That’s the one advantage I feel like injuries can ingrain deep into your brain. You won’t be stupid. You will be deliberate with your movement and your training.

What concerns did you have before starting my program?

“My concern was that I wouldn’t be able to get a lot of training done in the week because I had school and a part time job. Time was the main problem along with bad shoulder problems (subluxation). I talked to you about my priorities in school and my limited movement in the shoulder, and you quickly programmed the perfect training schedule for me. Each session can be done in 40- 45 minutes and whenever I have the time, I can get in a WOD as well. You also provided me with extra accessory work and strengthening cycles to improve my shoulders.”

Jayden-2Tell us a little bit about your injuries.

“In the past, I injured both of my shoulders while playing football and soccer. I still suffer from subluxation of the shoulders. Subsequently, I tore my ACL while playing soccer, and was out from any training for a year and a half.

After months of physical therapy, I was finally cleared to play sports and train again. I started out simple with interval runs to regain some strength and full range of motion. Then, I found a local CrossFit box, and I was immediately hooked. I learned all of the movements, but was struggling with the Olympic lifts. After about a year into CrossFit, I was sufficient with the lifts enough to perform the workouts. But still had to scale workouts that had Snatches or CJ.”

What exactly were you looking to get out of the program?

“At this point, I wanted to get better. I wanted to lift heavier weights with better technique, and eventually compete at a local competition. When I started Airborne Mind’s programming 6 months ago, my main goal was to get stronger and be faster with the Olympic lifts. Mainly so I could transfer the strength to daily WODs.”

Fast forward 6 months later…how’d we do?

“Surprisingly, I can proudly say that I have achieved my goal and more. Not only am I stronger than ever before, but I am mentally tough as well. Throughout the program, all different kinds of rep schemes and different weights trained me to calculate the number of reps I can perform during a WOD so that I can move as efficiently as possible. I can now hold on to the barbell much longer, cycle through the barbell complexes, and hold on to the pullup bar longer. Those extra reps of pullups or TTB come much easier. The programming really helped me to become smarter in attacking the workouts. Not only physically, but mentally as well. After the programming, my strength definitely improved so I can complete more workouts at prescribed weights (Rx).”

Where are you now compared to where you expected?

“I am well beyond where I expected to be. All of my lifts are sharper, faster, technically sound, and more aggressive.”

Before Airborne Mind (lbs) After Airborne Mind (lbs) Gains (lbs)
Snatch 125 195 70
Clean + Jerk 175 235 60
Clean 195 255 60
Back Squat 305 335 30
Front Squat 255 315 60
Deadlift 275 345 70

“The numbers shown in the table is pretty significant. When I first started to Snatch, it wasn’t about the weight, but more about the technique. Once I improved the technique, the strength naturally transferred over and now, I max out at 195lb Snatch (with bad shoulders). Just by keeping up with the program, all of my other lifts such as push presses, strict press or thrusters improved drastically. I have never felt the strong drive that I have in my legs, and I feel confident to attack any WOD.”

How My Athletes Help Me

Jayden has helped me develop my templates immensely by being one of the first test subjects. It’s harder than you think to make a name for yourself and your programming. At first, you have to find people who will take a chance on you and your philosophies. It doesn’t just end there. Now you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And hopefully…things work. When they don’t, you’ve got to figure out why.

Results speak for themselves, and that’s what we’re ultimately after. After a lot of testing and experimenting, I’ve molded my approach. Initially, every new athlete would get a special program designed specifically for them. It allowed me to test different assumptions at once. As interest grew, athletes would get grouped into a certain template based off their characteristics and goals. If I needed to tweak things for the individual, I would.

Once you have a volume of people, you can start to see trends. In reality, you need at least 100 athletes to have anything that’s statistically significant. But once you have 1 athlete, then 5, then 10, you can start to see the trends.

Some things I’ve learned from working with functional fitness athletes:

  1. Address muscular imbalances, weaknesses, and deficiencies.
  2. Do not overwhelm the athlete. Accept their time constraints, and do the best you can to accommodate that. Be clear with what is ideal, but give the option to manipulate based off their lifestyle.
  3. Log everything. Stress levels, energy levels, mood, sleep, recovery, WODs, and all lifts.
  4. Communicate the concept of adaptation clearly. This will avoid hissy fits. You don’t want the athlete to feel lost when they’re not making lifts they think they should be.
  5. This one is the hardest to accept, but it’s necessary. Make sure you understand their goals. If they’re CrossFitters, do they want to hit certain numbers? Do they want to improve their WOD times?
  6. EMOMs are amazing due to the volume you can achieve in such a short period of time. It also allows the athlete to breathe a little heavier and think less. CrossFitters seem to love timed pressure.
  7. Be careful with Touch and Go (TnG) lifts. Most of the time, due to the concept of learning motor recruitment, it’s more beneficial to reset every lift. Leave the TnG for WODs. Or just use them wisely.
  8. Leave room for playing around. Athletes like variability. Meaning if they have an 1 hour to get in barbell work, give them 45 minutes of work. You leave them with 15 minutes to practice a gymnastics skill of their choice. Or work some finishers for weaknesses. Give some direction. But have room to play around. This is something I’m still testing — so far so good.

What’s next for Jayden?

Well, he’s doing his first fitness competition in August with a team of AirborneMind athletes. He’s leaving for Korea this weekend for the whole summer. Don’t worry, he found a gym and is going to continue to follow the programming. When he gets back, he’s going to be starting his Dentistry program at the University of Pennsylvania. At that point, we’ll see where he’s at. Maybe we’ll test another Time Crunch cycle. Who knows. But as always, I’ll be here patiently waiting.


About Mishab Haque

Misbah Haque is the owner of The heart of his blog is centered around strengthening the bridge between Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit. He coaches at CF Royalty and competes as a 62kg lifter. Misbah strongly believes that if you can understand the variables of your training on a fundamental level, you can manipulate them so you’re not losing out on the potential training effects of your program. If you are looking to structure your training, Misbah has built TakeOff Barbell Training Templates with two hours of video along with PDF downloads, walking you through the process step by step. He is a USAW-SPC, CF-L1 Trainer and is studying Kinesiology.

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