Jan
7
2011

A Workout By Any Other Name…

27 comments written by Gus Diamantopoulos

A common question I receive by some prospective clients is:

“I’d like to come in for just a few sessions so you can show me how to do the exercises and apply what I’ve learned in another gym, studio, or at home; is this possible?”

My answer to this is:

“I cannot teach you to perform Renaissance Exercise outside of this studio any more than I can teach you to play guitar on a trumpet”.

An alternative answer might be:

“Yes, I can most definitely teach you how to do non-machine exercises. I’ll require about six months just to get you started…”

We stand by a policy that expresses that three key components must be present in Renaissance Exercise:

1. Environment

2. Proper Equipment

3. Protocol (under the supervision of a qualified instructor.)

As Ken Hutchins has stated, the three components are of equal importance and interlocked. Without all three components, a Renaissance Exercise program is really nonexistent. The components form a system and any system must be viewed with gestalt.

In almost every case where this protocol seems to have failed the subject’s expectations an omission of at least one of these parts has occurred. Sometimes it’s perfectly obvious that the environment was inconsistent with our requirements. Other times the problem was that the equipment was tragically unsuitable for the protocol. And often, (especially among instructors who should know better) the protocol is butchered and bastardized repeatedly and insidiously until it’s virtually worthless.

In any of the foregoing cases and beyond, it is the protocol/philosophy that is wrongly blamed with a failure to deliver – when, in fact, it is a careless instructor who has misrepresented the incomplete package as a whole system. This misrepresentation has effectively made former iterations of controlled, high intensity strength training, almost impotent and justly subject to criticism.

Within the paradigm of the three components, a program of Renaissance Exercise offers the most effective and efficient program for everything from general fitness to rehabilitation. The neophyte subject can quickly become proficient at performing the protocol as the skill requirements of the exercises are significantly lower than those required when using conventional equipment. As a beginner moves to proper intermediate levels of exercise, benefits abound. Finally at the advanced level, the Renaissance Exercise subject can fully realize his muscular potential and experience the broadest spectrum of improvements and adaptations.

We require such draconian measures to help us answer the all-important question :  “How little exercise does one require?”

Without these standards of rigor, without this level of technology, it is a daunting task to usher the lay public into a high intensity program where we insist that 20-40 minutes of exercise per week can produce better results than the 3-5 days of weekly activity commonly practiced.

Going back to our prospective client who wishes to practice a semblance of the protocol outside of the ideal environment, it is important to remember that one cannot experience Renaissance Exercise outside a proper studio.

Having said this, once a subject has truly reached advanced levels performing Renaissance Exercise, such a subject can be taught to perform select exercises in less than ideal environments and using the body as resistance and/or with lesser equipment. Make no mistake however, that such a workout is NOT a Renaissance Exercise workout and represents only a modest substitute.

It should also be made perfectly clear that such practice represents the highest order of difficulty and requires the utmost in skill and proficiency. In other words, a skilled and experienced individual may be able to perform such a workout but beginners and intermediates will have a much harder time making such a workout worthwhile. The reason for this is that the major exercises that allow for any semblance of substitution are actually the most difficult to perform of all exercises.

Push-ups, chin-ups, free squats and basic free weight activities require a foundation of great strength and tremendous skill and practice to be performed well. They are unlike the machines at our studios which reduce necessary skill to extremely low levels.

For example, it takes an enormous degree of study and practice to properly perform a push-up where it requires only a few basic workouts to learn to chest press on a well designed machine.

This will strike most readers as outrageous and extreme but I must submit that in all my years as a professional instructor, I have never seen someone perform a proper push-up (this applies equally to chins and squats).

Again, I suspect this will sound absurd, particularly to strength training enthusiasts but as I’ve said many times before, this is all quite elusive.

Moral fortitude, positive thinking, and even high levels of willpower are not substitutes for proper technique and I hasten to say that strength training requires some serious technique. And unfortunately such technique requires skill and practice…or more appropriately, ‘perfect’ practice.

Additionally, with body weight exercises, the subject is mostly at the mercy of a level of starting resistance often far ahead of his initial strength levels. (I’ll concede that it is possible to reduce starting resistance in bodyweight exercises by manipulating pivot points in the body etc. but such technique requires skill, also).

I feel confident in summarizing my contention that proper chin-ups, push-ups, and the like are at the most difficult end of the scale of complexity and difficulty in strength training activity and require study, practice, motivation, and patience.

For example, in a proper push-up, one needs to be able to start the exercise at the stretch, maintain head and neck neutrality, torso and leg rigidity, and perform with uniformly slow speed without distorting, wiggling squirming, thrusting or lunging. The hips must not dip, the shoulder blades must not collapse, the knees must not bend, the elbows not sway, the arms must not ratchet, the body must not rock, the head must not move, and this list goes on and on. And of course, discrepancies escalate as fatigue sets in which also breeds a strange type of claustrophobia at the stretch which precludes any meaningful inroading.

I highlight all this to evidence that the seemingly innocuous push-up is, in fact, a high-skill exercise that is not to be underestimated. The same goes for a proper chin, squat, barbell curl, etc…

When you ask an instructor to show you how to push-up or squat, you’re asking him to show you how to perform upper level martial arts, or how to play music on a new instrument, or how to ride a motorcycle. These are not activities that one can learn quickly. They require study, theory, and ongoing, repeated practice. This will be sobering and perhaps even disheartening to some but to suggest otherwise is not only overly optimistic, it’s downright irresponsible.

Having said this, I do believe that the burden of such skills is not insurmountable, especially for the truly motivated and disciplined subject. My suggestion for anyone who wishes to apply our most general principles to basic and conventional movements is to practice a small number of basic exercises well and often. Research proper performance of these basics in books and online. Make every effort to execute your movements with focused precision and intent. Record your performances using video and watch for every possible discrepancy and continue to practice. Practice in the early stages should trump ambitions for intensity (i.e., muscular failure and deep inroad).

Only when you’ve practiced sufficiently and over-learned these activities can a program of free squats, push-ups and chin-ups be productive and effective. With the eventual inclusion of some TSC exercises it is possible to experience a semblance of a Renaissance Exercise workout at home.

As always, please leave us your thoughts and comments below and we will be happy to personally address them!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Chris January 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm

It would be really helpful if you were to provide an outline of what you considered proper form to be for a pusup, squat and chin or body row.

How would we add TSC exercises? Could you expand on this in a future blog?

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 8, 2011 at 12:51 am

Yes sir.

layin’ the groundwork.

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avatar Chris January 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Thanks.

I look forward to future articles. WIth respect to proper form for these basic calisthenics there seems to be a wide spectrum.

In general terms I like BillDeSimone’s analyses but I’ve not seen anything from him on the pushup

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avatar Erik January 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm

HI Gus

I had that question too.
I have been reading about high Intensity training I just finished reading the book of Body By Science and I am conviced on the principles described there and in your website. The thing is; I live in Mexico and I can´t leave my job for a year in order to go and train at your site or a BBS site, even as a turist, I cant stay over 128 days in the US. I have found a gym full of Nautilus equipment, which si recomended on the book. in my case. What would be your recomendation?

regards,

Erik

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 8, 2011 at 12:53 am

I’m not sure I understand the question.

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avatar Erik January 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Hi Joshua,
what I was trying to say…. I f you guys think its ok for me to start training at this Gym that has Nautilus equipment, I think it is the best I can get for now, the most expensive gyms in the city have life fitness equipment and some other trademark with a red M on the side. I am planning a visit to a site in the us to learn more, but I am planning to start training this friday.

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avatar Scott Springston January 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

==Scott==
I have to say the beginning remarks in this section are very discouraging……………….
1. Environment

2. Proper Equipment

3. Protocol (under the supervision of a qualified instructor.)

As Ken Hutchins has stated, the three components are of equal importance and interlocked. Without all three components, a Renaissance Exercise program is really nonexistent. The components form a system and any system must be viewed with gestalt.

….. It sounds like the message here is that with out everything being perfect and being there with trainers and ideal machines and a perfect environment we would be wasting our time trying to learn or do Renaissance training?
Nothing is perfect in life. Very few of us are going to be able to be in a position that is stated in this article. I think we can all appreciate that there are conditions that could make for a ideal training situation where Renaissance training would be at it’s best but that’s very unlikely for most of us. That being said is it worth my time and effort to delve into this knowing from the get go that in no way will I ever be in this ideal situation stated above? Again, I think most of us would like to think that there is a way to incorporate the good of Renaissance training into our life with the tools we have. If that’s not possible then I am wasting my time here!

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avatar Al Coleman January 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Scott,

Thanks for your question. I’m sorry you found the article discouraging as that was not its intent in anyway(if anything it was to spur the intellectually curious).

Your concerns reflect a common barrier that myself and others in this endeavour have often run up against in promoting this protocol. It comes off sounding elitist, and in a way it is! This is what hooked me and every other person who ever became a Nautilus enthusiast when they first became aware of the existance of Nautilus machines and its corresponding philosophy. While the word elitist often carries a negative connatation, I’d argue that anyone who has became intrigued with a concept and has thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the study of that concept is an elitist. It’s actually a precondition for the study of any endeavour. If I’m going to have brain surgery, you’d better bet your @#$ that I’m going to make sure he thinks he is the best and posseses the best tools.

The point in my little diatribe, is that all of us put ourselves in this position for our sheer love of this subject and the intellectual curiosity that flows from that. When I first came across this protocol I had many of the same thoughts and feelings you have. I’d say to myself, “What is the point if I don’t have access to qualified instruction, the necessary tools, or the money to procur those assesets?” I’d try to blow off the ideas I’d read and instead try to find the next best thing. That lasted for all of about two weeks. Having my interest peaked and knowing that what I was doing wasn’t good enough left me unable to be content. I had to KNOW.

I know when I say these things that I speak not only for myself, but for all those that I have learned(and continue to) from. YOU MUST PAY FOR EDUCATION. Education cannot be forced upon an individual and will never be invested in until one sees the value in it. When that switch is flipped education has no price tag. Sacrifices are made for the sake of knowledge.

The point of Renaissance Exercise is to eventually provide the means to make this technology more readily available. My suggestion to you is that if you wish to truly use and modify the tools you have, then tread the same path we have. Put yourself in the position to learn and you will find your “path” much more rewarding. We can only try to provide the education, we can’t implement it for anyone.

Regards,

Al

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 8, 2011 at 12:44 am

Scott,

The information is not discouraging, but it is a long-awaited well-spring of hope and promise for the future of exercise–particularly for those who need it the most.

Renaissance Exercise is the ideal and the ideal should be known and understood by any serious devotee of exercise, although that ideal is only partially satisfied by environment-equipment-protocol, lest that devotee has no direction and purpose.

Having a clean toilet and modern sewage-treatment plant may not be reasonable to expect in the Australian outback, but awareness of the need for the principles in health that it represents is critical to the making the most of roughing it.

Only the ideal exercise package will deserve the Renaissance Exercise label, but many of its principles remain useful and applicable to a bucket of rocks.

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avatar Calina Ouliaris January 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm

I’m from Australia where most people have not even heard of Nautilus and I have experienced the same sinking feeling reading the past 2 articles (the former especially because I am planning to get certified as an instructor and don’t have access to proper equipment to train on). The above discussion has however, been very enlightening. Erik and Scott, I’m no expert, but I wanted to share my following thoughts with you:

I think what Gus is getting at is that RenX (excuse the abbreviation) is peak performance, it strives for perfection: don’t ask me to show you how to use RenX in your home, because you cannot achieve maximum in-road that way. Similarly, don’t tell me that RenX doesn’t work because you’re using sub-optimal machinery or working out in the wrong conditions.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that you cannot benefit from BBS principles. I’m going to get skinned for this I know, but in my travels when I can’t get to a gym, I do high-intensity sprints and body weight (super) sub-optimal exercises. Pre-enlightenment, I used to run marathons so I would have jogged for a couple of hours and maybe dropped 10 and felt like I had done something amazing. Now, each time I do a push-up, I’m working on breathing, on form, on focus; I’m checking myself, I’m improving, but I’m far from there yet.
When I am not traveling and have access to a gym, I perform BBS protocols on super sub-optimal (friction, ugh, friction, ughhh!) machines, but I’ve made more progress doing that than with aerobics, marathons, bodypump or even GBC. I’m not a bodybuilder or fitness model – I’m just a regular person who likes doing things the efficient way and enjoys intensity.

Point is, if you haven’t yet – just jump in with what you have. Forget perfection, you gotta start somewhere, and keep working, educating yourself, improving. Warning, don’t be surprised if you get hooked: the mind-body challenge, for me at least, is a particularly alluring aspect of RenX.

Perhaps the 80-20 rule applies here: you can get a lot out of applying RenX protocols under sub-optimal conditions. Just don’t call it RenX unless it’s 100 or pretty darn close to it.

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avatar Gus Diamantopoulos January 8, 2011 at 12:49 am

Calina: Well said and thanks for sharing your experience.

g

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avatar Gus Diamantopoulos January 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Vexation abounds now, i am sure. For this i apologize.

It is expected that there will be a discouraging reaction to what i have posted. What must be understood is that this whole concept of controlled high intensity low force exercise has failed for so many precisely because they have “done what we said” and this is the problem. You cant do what we say unless you have this technology. Period. You CAN adapt and significantly alter the general rules to create a paradigm that somehow works but it will always be on an individual basis and It will never be as efficient (though it may be effective) as what we are proclaiming.

We must not compromise this ideology as so many have done in the past. What we intend to do is (first and foremost) set the record straight about how this technology works, explain why its past iterations have appeared to fail and, in time, do our very best to make it available to as many people as we can.

We realize that we’re dangling a tempting carrot so high that it cannot (at present) be reached but consider that the internet was once a top-secret technological communication tool of the US military….never intended for public use…and now it is utterly ubiquitous.

My best advice is to anyone who is stymied by the dilemma is to do what i suggested in the post: Get your hands on the most technically-oriented written material available and begin a course of learning of the basic exercises and then start the road to becoming a strength training enthusiast. Obviously motivated folks have done this in the past and you can too. You still have access to our articles, suggestions, and general ideas. Our information (philosophic and practical) can help save you much wasted time and injury but when it comes to specifics (exercise type, technique, and style) there are far too many variables involved to make prescriptions.

gus

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avatar Travis Weigand January 8, 2011 at 1:32 am

Due to my lack of proper Renaissance equipment my routine for the last 6 months has consisted of primarily body squat, push up, and chin up.

I feel that is important for anyone who must adopt such a routine to understand that while it may be performed in the spirit of the protocol, it is a “modest substitute” as Gus put it. Ensuring I always view my workouts in their proper context leads them to be less disheartening and more rewarding. I also find the challenge of developing and honing a skill to be more than enough motivation to continue the arduous process of learning these exercises.

The amount of time, study, and dedication necessary to perform what most deem to be “basic exercises” properly (pushup, chin up, etc), showcases the genius of their Renaissance Exercise equipment counterparts (the ventral torso, the pulldown). The learning curves are completely different. Complete and total advantage goes to the equipment.

This was a very important topic to address. Wonderful article.

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avatar Jim Hippard January 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I am working with a trainer who has only Heister (air pressure) machines at his studio. He has always (1 year) worked with me on these machines using the protocol of slow movements to positive failure. He also told me about the BBS book, which brought the whole concept of measured recruitment of the muscle fibers into focus for me; information that has now been significantly enhanced by your blog. Do or can the Heister machines meet the “environmental” requirements necessary for success using the RENX protocol? Thank you for all that you are doing. Please keep it up.

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avatar Dennis January 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Good thought provoking article.
The idea to think in terms of principles is what started me on a different path in terms of exercise long ago.That perspective spilled over into other aspects of life as time went on.I was so passionately (obsessively is more like it ) interested in exercise all else in life took a back seat, so understanding exercise lead me to understand life and exercise took a back seat or at least a more balanced place.
The appeal of Renx, as it has been called, is that it deals with this complex subject in terms of principles. Like peeling an onion, the more I learn and peel away the layers the more I see there is to learn .
All of my available tools can be improved,better tools would be easier but the principles are the real gold.
Train hard,train briefly,train infrequently there are no secrets just more onion skins

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avatar Scott Springston January 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Put yourself in the position to learn and you will find your “path” much more rewarding. We can only try to provide the education, we can’t implement it for anyone.

==Scott==
I have been putting my self in the best position to learn that is possible for me for some time now. I’ve been asking every question I can think of and still some of the basic one’s still haven’t been answered. If you mean that I have to be in the Studio with trainers and perfect equipment and the perfect atmosphere to learn then I guess I won’t be learning much.

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Scott,

See my reply to your original comment.

The previous post by Dennis and his anaolgy regarding peeling back an onion is excellent.

We’re trying to give you something to shoot for, an ideal, and principles to guide you.

See the post by Travis Weigand above.

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avatar Paul Marsland January 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I think Al’s article has been blown way of course here, as has been stated Renaissance Exercise and its underlying principes have been derived from Nautilus principles and these very same principles can and have been very succuesfully applied using free weight and other machines, such books as High Intensity Bodybuilding, Massive Muscles in 10 Weeks, and more apt to this site, B.I.G which applied SuperSlow principles to free weight exercies with tremendous results, BUT and here is the crux of the matter at hand, results from free weights using and applying such principles under your own supervision will pale in comparison to those you will achieve under the supervison of the like of Josh or Al on properly designed machine, yes its and an ideal almost perfect envrioment and if you had access to such facilities there would be no doubt that you would use them, I know I would.

The bottom line is there are so many variables to control that it is IMPOSSIBLE for someone to instruct someone from afar, and you often see open questions on such forums and others where the members what they should do based on the information they have been given. When told it would be best if they attended the facility of a qualified SuperSlow instructor (for example) they often state…”Why do I need to do that? Why can’t you just tell me what I need to do”….

My advice take what you can from this site buy such books as the SuperSlow Technical Manual, Body By Science and the like and then take, learn and apply the information you have learned as best you can..

You could train under Al and Josh’s supervison and but if you don’t put in the effort then your results will be sub under par..bottom line you get out what you put in..regardless of protocol or equipment.

Paul.

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avatar Bert Vila January 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Scott this is Bert Vila a low velocity instructor play close attention to what the Renx guys are saying;they are truly the best within our field.You are miss understanding their points.As long as you are conscious you can learn.It might not be in a clinically controlled environment,you might not have Medx or Super Slow machines & you might not have a certified instructor next to you,but by using descent strength training machines & getting the knowledge from this web page you will be so much more ahead than with any other training method that there will be little comparison.Keep the fire alive for excellence in mind & body.

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avatar Andy January 9, 2011 at 1:59 am

Gus,

you wrote:
” Without these standards of rigor, without this level of technology, it is a daunting task to usher the lay public into a high intensity program where we insist that 20-40 minutes of exercise per week can produce better results than the 3-5 days of weekly activity commonly practiced.”

When not having access to your ideal Renaissance Exercise technology, do you think results concerning muscle growth could be better when a trainee increases the frequency and volume of exercise compared to your Renaissance Exercise prescriptions?

I think that´s an important point, remembering Joshua´s post concerning the Leg Press Illustration.
Joshua wrote:
“2.I do not believe training with a single set done to failure is productive unless it is done this way.”

Is an increase of volume and frequency necessary when not having access to your ideal technology?

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 9, 2011 at 3:52 am

Andy,

Gus may chime in, but I suspect his answer will be the same as the comment that he made above about specific Rx.

“Our information (philosophic and practical) can help save you much wasted time and injury but when it comes to specifics (exercise type, technique, and style) there are far too many variables involved to make prescriptions.”

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avatar Andy January 9, 2011 at 10:43 am

Joshua,

thanks for your answer.
Just one more general question:
I could train at a facility that offers a full line of “standard” MedX machines. By standard I mean they don´t have any superslow retrofits or superslow falloff cams for their MedX machines. Do you think using these standard MedX machines is a better option compared to free weights and machines(gym80) without variable resistance curves which I use now?
Do you think that these standard MedX machines fall far behind the ideal of Renaissance Exercise technology?

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avatar Joshua Trentine January 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I recommend the gym with the MedX machines.

Some MedX machines will work well, but there are some real stinkers in that line too.

Most of the Compound movements are much closer than the single joint movements.

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avatar Andy January 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Thank you very much, Joshua!

avatar Dennis January 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

When it comes to exercise I wish I could say I do not ‘believe’ anything but rather I take in the information and then apply logic and my experience to then experiment with it myself. I can then develope my own perspective and properly filter the new information so I am not suseptable to every different idea.As they say if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.
When I run across information like that posted here and I see that someone really,really knows what they are talking about I am impressed with their technical knowledge but more so with their certainty!
I was Super Slow certified, I bought Medx equipment and put it in my home and train clients after the hours of my real job,I have been at this for decades but I am still learning and do not seem to posses the degree of certainty I would like.As of late I am still questioning the ideal frequency of exercise and just how to apply it.
I come here to learn what I don’t know and to maybe see how others arrived at their perspective on a rational approach to exercise.I am just as interested in how someone knows what they know about exercise as I am interested in what they know.

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avatar Justin Smith January 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Hi all,

In the SuperSlow Technical Manual, Hutchins has a chapter on tái chi chuan, the Chinese martial art, which is practiced slowly with lots of intention.

I was wondering if you could expand on this in a future article.

Many thanks!

Justin Smith

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avatar Al Coleman January 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm

A point clarification on this subject.

It is quite possible to teach a subject a push-up, for instance, in 2 or 3 sessions. Meaning teach them to the best of their ability at that time.

Teaching someone to perform at the level that represents something similar to what we do on the machine would take a very long time and it might not ever completely evolve without learned intensity on the machine.

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