Sunday, October 16, 2022

Roger Estep Q & A - Part Two (1984)

Thank You to Robert Wildes.
Thanks, Bob! 

Q: What is the best diet for me to drop a weight class and still maintain most of my strength? 

A: I would assume that you are talking about dropping 10-12 pounds. More than that could cost you a lot of strength. If it is 15-20 pounds you desire to lose, then use the same principle described below, spread over a longer period of time.

To drop 10 pounds with minimal loss of strength must be planned out and include: 

1) A realistic time frame,
2) Proper diet, and
3) A training program that is very closely monitored. 

A realistic time for a decrease of 10 pounds of body fat would be 3 months. That's 3-1/3 pounds a month. I know this doesn't sound like much but any more than that could cause not only a lack of strength, but also have a negative effect on your all important mental confidence. 

The training program should be your basic power movements with some assistance work. Because your diet will be changing you must be able to analyze the difference between overtraining and the lack of energy for your workout. If your lifts start to fall behind the poundages you have planned for your workout, check your diet and make sure you have enough carbohydrates that day to get you through the workout. If your diet is okay and you have dropped bodyweight on schedule then maybe you should stay at this bodyweight for a few weeks before continuing on the weight loss diet. You might adjust your time frame from 3 months to 4 months and let your body and mind adjust to the new bodyweight. 

In addition to the weight training you will have to add 40 minutes of bicycling to your workout. I would recommend 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after the weight training session. Do this cycling 5 times a week and you can knock out 1/3 to 1/2 pounds of fat a week, which adds up over a period of time.

Your diet should be lowered by 500 calories a day compared to your present calorie intake. This doesn't sound like much, but if one pound equals 3500 calories you can see you will be able to lose at least 1 pound a week in this way. This 500 calorie adjustment should be made by reducing fats and some carbohydrate. Keep in mind as I have mentioned earlier that if your workout energy becomes too low you might want to increase some of your carbohydrates. [while keeping within the lowered (500) calorie range]. 

Follow this program for 3 months and you'll be in a lower weight class with the same level of power that you had in the heavier class. 

Q: What is your general opinion on cycling? I know some people cycle for 8 or 10 or even 12 weeks. Do you have a specific number of weeks in a cycle? 

A: What cycling means to me may be different from what it means to other people. Just a few weeks ago a lifter called my long distance from Michigan and asked almost the same question. It seems this person had a meet coming up in 10 weeks and had a goal of a 345 pound bench press. His best in previous competition was 325. 

He was told by his coach that on the first week of the 10 week cycle he should do 100 pounds less than his goal and increase by 10 pounds a week and he would be ready for his 345 at meet time. Now this cycle might make sense to some people but to me it sounds foolish.

The lifter told me that in the first two weeks of the cycle he didn't feel like he was getting much work. Well I guess a 245 and 255 bench press for someone who has done 325 would not be much work. Anyone who trains in this fashion is taking a chance of deconditioning his body and by meet time could be fighting to get 300 with any consistency. 

The key to cycling is for you to control the cycle -- not let the cycle control you. By this I mean you should always train heavy and never take a step backward unless to adjust for overtraining (my overtraining program was published in a previous issue of PLUSA). It's been much too hard to make progress in your lifts for you to drop 100 pounds in your training and start over again.

When I train heavy all year I become much more consistent with the heavy weights. Let's say that I've been doing 525 in the bench on a good day. This tells me on a good day in a meet I can do 525 but I should be able to make 500, 95% of the time in a meet. For me to handle that 525 in a practice I probably had 6-8 weeks of benching 500 or better. With 6 weeks of 500 pound benches I would have to have a real bad day in a meet not to make it.

The bottom line here is that if the lifter from Michigan would stay with the heavy training he might be able to get a 365 or 375 before meet time, but he should easily be consistent with his original goal of 345. So train heavy and only back up to prevent overtraining. 

Q: Referring to an earlier question, the question pertaining to overtraining the bench press . . . 

I would like to know how long I should stick with this routine. I have been stuck between 310 and 320 for 1-1/2 years. 

A: To answer your question with the utmost of accuracy, I would have to know more about you, such as bodyweight, height, number of years you have trained . . . but I'll give it a try.

If I were you, I would rest your upper body for one week and don't train it at all. This includes not only your pecs, but also your shoulders and triceps. Then, try this program. 

Monday, 1st Week
135 x 8-10, warmup
185 x 5-6
215 x 1
235 x 1
255 x 1
275 x 1
215 x 1

Thursday, 1st Week
135 x 8-10, warmup
185 x 6
215 x 3

Monday, 2nd Week
135 x 8-10, warmup
185 x 5-6
225 x 1
245 x 1
265 x 1
285 x 1
225 x 1

Thursday, 2nd Week
135 x 8-10, warmup
185 x 5
225 x 3

Increase 10 pounds per week until you jump to 375, then write me again. You should also work you biceps, lats, and triceps. If you feel bad, don't push yourself too hard. You need to understand the difference between being tired and being lazy. 

Q: I am a 16 year old powerlifting seeking your advice. I have been training for about two years and am very serious about it, but, there are drawbacks. My pediatrician told me that full squatting can be bad for my knees, particularly the cartilage that is in my knees (since I have not stopped growing yet). How great a problem could this be? How serious is it? How could it affect me later in life? If I changed my squatting style would it help? Will wrapping my knees help? 

I use a medium stance (bar medium way down on my shoulders). 

At 160 pounds I do up to 320 for 5 reps. Is this too much (this is at the end of my 8 week cycle of 5 sets of 5, strict form to parallel. 

Please help me. Others have refused, and any help would be greatly appreciated. 

A: First of all, I cannot offer medical advice, but, I can offer my experiences and possibly another way to look at your problem. You also may consult another physician who specializes in sports medicine. 

Personally, I don't really see any problem with your squatting as long as you do it correctly. By this I mean don't crash with the weight to the low position. You should be under control both down and up. Stay away from weights that are so heavy you can't do at least a 3/4 squat with because anything above 3/4 squatting can put a strain on your lower back and you'll end up with problems. Most of the lifters I know started at the age of 14-18, and knee problems don't seem to be a major injury in our sport.

It really surprises me how so many people still criticize squatting, but say nothing about little league, junior and senior high school football programs which have a history of knee injuries. I know that until the mid-70s pro football players didn't train much with weights because their doctors and trainers told them it would cause injuries and make them slow. Now you are hard pressed to find anyone in the NFL who doesn't train with weights to increase their speed and help prevent injury. The Russian physicians and trainers start their athletes out before they reach the teens. 

I think most lifters would tell you basically the same thing I did, but as I said we speak from experience and don't pretend to be practicing medicine. 

P.S. Wear your wraps, they will help, but keep them snug and not too tight; this will also keep your knees warm.   

Q: I have read many articles concerning your training and there appears to be a great emphasis on singles. Training in this manner would be, I feel, counterproductive for novice and intermediate lifters. What, then, would you suggest as a good off-season training routine for lifters not in the advanced class/ 

A: Your question brings a smile to my face. I guess I do address my answers to the more advanced lifter. Although, I do believe that the intermediate lifter will also benefit from my theories. If a lifter is a beginner then the heavy reps would be counterproductive. My definition of a beginner is the same as John Kuc's . . . someone who has less than one year of good training. 

The basis to my theory is to make your gains slowly, don't get strength crazy. If you plan on a 400 pound bench press in a workout and it goes easy don't jump to 440 or 450 because this could cause you to become overtrained, so the word is CAUTION.

An alternative to singles for the lifter is sets of 5 or triples. There are many great lifters that use 5's. But on the other hand you have just as many who prefer singles. 

The bottom line to power is heavy weight and low reps. The number of reps is up to the lifter and is many times determined by who you train with or who you see make progress, but, heavy weights must be used even for intermediate lifters. 

Q: I have been bodybuilding for 2 years now and made terrific gains. My partner and I have been thinking about training exclusively for power. In the primary lifts we do triples on day and singles the next. Can you please give me a day to day training program I can follow, consisting of the primary and secondary exercises. 

A: Your program sounds pretty good but it also sounds like a lot of heavy work which could lead to overtraining. On the program you described you may go several months without overtraining but if you become stale and the weights that you normally do fairly easy become heavy then I would recommend only one heavy day of training a week. 

As for the secondary or assistance training; extra bicep, tricep and lat work are most important for the bench press. Good mornings, power cleans, legs curls and calf work will help your deadlift and squat. Twice a week on this program should give you good results. 

Q: Should a lifter cycle the three power lifts in training to get stronger or lift heavy all the time to make gains? 

A: There are so many opinions on cycles that a young lifter can become confused very easily. Personally I don't like the word cycle because it implies that my training is going around in circles and if you apply some people's advice on cycling you'll end up going around in circles. Today most every major powerlifter uses the term cycle and even people who are into sports research are using this term.

I believe that a lifter should train to be as strong as possible all year long and you only decrease the intensity of your workout to prevent overtraining. Now this means that sometimes you will decrease your bench press intensity while you continue to make progress in your squat and deadlift and vice-versa. As you near a contest, let's say 8-12 weeks before the contest, this is usually the time frame that people say they are on their final cycle. To me this is the time when I zero in on the contest and make sure all things are right in my training, that my nutrition is perfect, I get plenty of rest, and block out anything that is negative. So I guess you could say that my cycling is more mental and paying attention to the small details. 

Q: I have a problem concerning my deadlift. I'm able to pull a lot more weight from the floor to mid-shin than I'm able to finish, almost 100 pounds more. I've been doing lockouts from various positions on the power rack and hitting my traps with heavy shrugs. I haven't seen any dramatic change in about 5 months except from the floor to mid-knee. Do you have any suggestions? 

A: I would guess that you are using the conventional style of deadlifting and not sumo. The problem of a difficult lockout is common among conventional style deadlifters. To solve this problem many lifters go to power rack work, but, let's analyze the difference between the rack work and the finish of the deadlift. In the deadlift, the main reason for failure at the top is that the back is out of position. Either the back is rounded or the bar has gotten away from your center of gravity. When a person starts to train on the power rack he will place the bar at a position near his sticking point. Then he will climb in the rack, put a perfect arch in his back, make sure that the bar is against his thighs, and pull. 

Before you know it, you are locking out 150 pounds more than you can deadlift. When you start your deadlift training again you find that you still stick at the same place. Why is this? Was all the rack work useless? 

In a word, yes. 

The problem with rack work is that you have placed your back in perfect anatomical position to finish the deadlift. In real life your back is nowhere near that position at the finish of a heavy deadlift. 

What I would recommend is stiff leg deadlifts with the bar in a bad anatomical position at the finish, but you must be careful with the deadlift because it is the easiest of all lifts to overtrain. If you still desire to do rack work be aware of your back position.  

Q: In essence, my question is a request for some refinement and integration of previously discussed topics.

First, how are deadlifts scheduled with squat training. Because of personal responsibilities, I am limited to three training days per week. Thus, I am wondering how previously given advice on squat training may be adapted to a three day training regimen. That is, in response to an earlier question regarding the "best exercise for improving the squat," you advocated full squats for heavy singles to be followed by box squats three days later. 

Thus, if squats are done on Monday and box squats on Thursday, when are deadlifts to be scheduled? 

Also, does one's technique in the deadlift (conventional or sumo) affect the scheduling? What about proximity to a contest? How should bench presses be worked into this schedule? 

Second [the guy can't count so better], is there an optimum number of sets that should be performed in squats, box squats, deadlifts and bench presses? That is, I am not sure how to incorporate singles training in a safe manner. Of course, I am presuming that singles are geared to percentages of either a previous or anticipated best. But where do you start and how do you proceed? 

For instance, if one's top squat is 300 pounds, should one start with 255 (85%) and add 5 or more pounds a week? If so, is one to presume that the box squats will provide the impetus to break beyond the top of 300? [this guy would make out just fine online a couple decades later . . . Question number 374 . . . ]  

What set and rep sequence should be utilized to hit the target weight or top set of the day and how many sets should be performed with the target weight. Should I eat a sandwich AND have a glass of milk, or just the sandwich? Is a back off set of 5 or so reps advisable? Should the same set and rep scheme applied to squats be applied to deadlifts? 

I am sorry to have "hit" you with this for I have taken a straightforward response and turned it into a mess, but, in all honesty I and several training buddies do not understand how heavy singles can increase one's best. Obviously it can, for you have employed and advocate such training. We just do not grasp the "nuances" of the training philosophy. [The guy doesn't know how to count to one?] 

Third, should a training suit and wraps be used to perform squats? Should they 'be' deferred to some point just before a contest? If use of the suit is postponed should wraps be utilized? If the wraps are a no, how about a funny hat? 

Any suggestions that can be offered regarding these questions would be greatly appreciated. 

A: You have brought forth several good questions and I will make an attempt to answer them as completely as possible. 

I will give you an example of a couple of routines that have worked well for me and other lifters and also explain some theories behind them.

When I was training with George Frenn in the mid-70s . . . 

 Estep spotting Frenn. 

We trained 3 days a week. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

The TUESDAY workout consisted of bench presses working up to 4 heavy singles. Then we would move to high box squats. The box would be about 2 inches above parallel. The goal for the high box squat is a maximum set of 10 reps with a weight of 50-75 pounds over your best squat. After the high box squat we would move to the low box squat. In the low box squat the box is adjusted to 2" below parallel. After a few warmups, we went to 2 or 3 heavy singles with about 50-75 pounds below our best squat. The workout was completed with either a couple of sets of good mornings or power cleans. 

The THURSDAY workout consisted of rep sets in the squat and the deadlift. Warmups were performed without fatiguing the legs. Then, we attempted our goal for a set of 10 reps in the squat. If you made the goal of 10 reps, the next week you would increase the weight used by 10 pounds. The same was done for the deadlifts. 

The SATURDAY workout was the heavy singles day. We would bench first, working up to 4 heavy singles, then dropping down to a weight that we could do easily for 10 reps. Squats were the next exercise, again working up to 4-5 singles. To finish out the schedule, deadlifts were performed using the same theory of warming up and doing 3-5 singles.

Each week we would try to make improvements on all our lifts. If course, it's impossible to make gains every week, but if you don't try and stay aggressive in your workouts, progress will be very slow. This routine is extremely physical and adequate rest is needed. Lifters have used this program in the past with great success. 

Another program that is popular in the Cleveland/Sandusky area is a TWO DAY A WEEK PROGRAM. The schedule is set up for a light day on Monday and a heavy day on Friday. 

The MONDAY workout starts off with light benches, maybe 100 pounds off your best single for 5-10 reps. The number of reps you do will depend how the weight feels. If you have done 6 reps and the weight starts to feel a little heavy do one more and stop. If you can do 10 reps with ease you should add some weight. Squats are also done on Monday using 2 sets of 5 reps with a weight of 505 of your best singles. No deadlifts or back work are done on Monday. The workout is finished off with some of your favorite bodybuilding exercises. 

Friday's workout is very much like the previous routine. You start with squats and a goal for a heavy triple. Bench pressing follows again with the goal of a heavy triple. The final exercise is again deadlifting for 1-2 sets of 3 reps. I used to train on this program with Steve Wilson and Dave Waddington, and although it worked well for me and the Wilsons and Waddington, success with this program speaks for itself. 

As for your question about the use of a suit and wraps in practice, I would recommend using a suit only when you need a mental boost or when you are getting close to a meet. Wraps should be worn at all times.

The basics behind all powerlifting programs is to lift heavy weights with low reps. As I have stated in previous articles, the number of reps is an individualized thing, but, as Luke Iams once stated, "Anything over six reps is bodybuilding." What Luke was trying to say was the majority of your energy should be directed toward the heavy weight for low reps. 

Q: I am having problems with lying triceps extensions. My rep scheme is 50x10, 65x8, 75x7, 80x4, 90x2. After the first set my elbows become very painful. The pain is in the joints, not the muscle. The pain goes away in a day. I also do close grip benches, but I have no problems with them. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. I started powerlifting training a year ago. My chest was 37 normal. Now it's 42 normal. My arms are 16.5 inches cold, upper thighs around 24 inches, waist 34 inches, 180 pounds. So far my bench is 250, squat 320, deadlift 400. I'm working at it. 

A: Knowing the anatomy of the elbow I would say that you have tendinitis in the joint. First, I would seek medical help. Tell the doctor your problem, and ask if he could give you something to help. I would also stop doing lying triceps extensions. There are many good triceps exercises that you can do that won't put the elbow joint in a position to cause the inflammation and pain to continue. I have a nerve in my left elbow that is loose and every time I do lying triceps extensions, my left hand goes to sleep and I can't bench press for a week. I haven't done lying triceps extensions for years and my triceps are in no way weak. I use standing triceps extensions, behind the head, for 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps along with triceps pushdowns for the same number of sets and reps. 

Warm up the joint before putting any stress on it. Remember, lying triceps extensions are only an assistance exercise, and you don't want your elbows to get so bad that you won't be able to bench. 

Q: Could you please tell your experiences regarding knee and shoulder trouble you may have encountered in your lifting career, and how did you remedy it. 

A: I will guess that 100% of all top powerlifters have had joint problems sometime in their career. Every one of them probably has their own method of treatment, which would depend on the individual and his pain threshold, but there are some basic rules to follow.

If you have an injury that gives you severe pain and limits your range of motion in the joint, I would suggest that you see a physician that specializes in sports medicine. You should explain to him that you are a competitive powerlifter and have a meet coming up in a short time and want to get back to training as soon as possible.

For the general everyday aches and pains of joints you will find that stretching out before the workout will help relieve the discomfort. This will also help prevent any further injury. If you have an injury that is starting to affect your lifting and don't feel it's severe enough to see a doctor, then you might want to try some basic physical therapy. 

There are two major rules to follow. The first applies before the workout. You should warm up the area as much as possible by stretching and using a heating pad, with a moist pad being preferable. Then, warm up the area with light weights. The second rule applies after your workout. At this time you should ice the area. The ice should be used for at least 20 minutes. The reasoning for the use of ice is to prevent swelling and slow any spread of inflammation. On your off days, you should get into a whirlpool or use heating pads again.

Let me give you an example of how the professional athletes are treated. The great basketball player Bill Walton has been hampered with knee problems his whole career. An hour before he was supposed to be on the court he would report to the trainer. The trainer would then start to loosen the knees up. He would use heating pads for 10-15 minutes, and then start moving the knees through their range of motion. This whole process would take on the order of 45 minutes, but it was time well spent, because it was this pregame therapy that allowed Bill to play. As soon as the game was over, he went back to the trainer for ice packs, which were kept on his knees for 30-45 minutes. This may sound like a lot of extra time and work added on to your already lengthy workouts, but if you don't make this time, you might not be able to work out at all. 

Q: I have a training problem with my bench press goal of a 200 max. My age is 62-1/2 and weight is 146, and have been on free weights four years with no previous experience of any kind. I have tried 5 x 5 but there doesn't seem to be much or anything published for my age group. Most younger lifters aren't interested in promoting weight lifting in my age group. Weight training can be done your entire life and I would like to see it encouraged more with more bench pressing meets for the elderly. I don't think older people are as likely to get hurt with bench pressing as they are with squats and deadlifts.

This is my basic program that got me to a 195 max on the bench press. I feel that I probably overtrain but I like to maintain a peak condition but need to know what to do about two weeks before a meet so as not to be overtrained.

This is my schedule for Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and it's rare for me to over two sessions. I am much stronger after a short layoff and this is when i max 190 or 195. 

Bench Press: 
115x8, 145x4, 160x3, 170x2, 85x1, (190 if 185 felt good), 160x3, 145x6
Close Grip:
2 sets
Incline Barbell Press:
115 x 8x3
Lying Triceps Extension:
Side Lateral Raise: 
Triceps Pressdown:
Upright Row:
Front Delt Raise:
Lat Pulldown:
EZ Curl:
Incline DB Curl:
Cable Curl:
Leg Extension:

I do this routine every workout and have become stale. Some of those exercises might be cut back or alternated. On my bench my experience has been that I have to get 180 or 185 single each workout to keep the proper feel of a heavy weight. 

I would like your advice and to hear from any other readers. I've read all types of magazines but yours is the only one I need and subscribe to.

A: Your point is well taken about having more contest for the master lifters. But in the last few years powerlifting has taken great steps forward for masters.

Your routine looks very good as far as sets and reps on the bench press. There are two points to your program that I would like to caution you on nd this advice is for younger lifters as well as for you. 

The first word of caution is that you are training the bench and muscles that help the bench (triceps, anterior deltoids and pectorals) very hard three days a week. I don't know any top lifters that train the bench more than twice a week. Usually the program consists of one heavy day and one light to medium day. 

The second caution is that you seem to be doing a lot of assistance work for the bench press. When I was training with Luke Iams he used to do a lot of triceps work because his lockout in the bench was somewhat weak. The harder he trained his triceps the tougher his became. I told him I thought he was overtraining his triceps and if he would cut back for a while his energy levels would be up for the bench. Luke told me that this extra triceps work had given his bench a big boost in the past. I said maybe at that point in your training you needed the extra work but at this stage you were not only overtraining your triceps but due to the arm fatigue that the bench press was now becoming under-trained. Luke took my advice and in his next meet he made his first 600 pound bench press. Only a handful of people have been able to bench as much as Luke Iams and he made his best lifts by cutting back some of his training so you might want to make sure that you are not overtraining your triceps and anterior delts. As a matter of fact I would cut out your front raises altogether. The bench press will give you all the anterior deltoid size and strength you need. I haven't done anterior delt work in 10 years and if you look at some of my photos my anterior delt just kind of hangs off my shoulders. 

To summarize, cut your training back to two days and be cautious with assistance work. I would guess that within the next six months you'll bench 250 or better. 

Q: I am just getting into powerlifting and am influenced by other people's opinions on how workouts should be done. I have had difficulty obtaining a good beginner's deadlift routine. I would appreciate if you could follow me up on this by supplying me with a good beginner's deadlift routine.

A: A good program for someone just starting to deadlift is, stay with the basics. By this I mean, a basic power routine consists of one heavy day and one light or medium day. Training any more than this can result in overtraining and a possible injury.

On the heavy day I would recommend you do 2 x 5 reps with a weight that works you to fatigue. As you become stronger increase the weight by 10 pounds and keep pushing yourself to do more and more weight. After 5-8 weeks with the sets of 5 reps increase the weight and do 2 sets of 3 reps. When you approach a meet work for 3 heavy singles about 4 weeks before a contest. If you become stale and the weight that was one day easy becomes heavy drop back to your sets of 5 along with a week off of deadlifts.

Your medium day is a day to have some fun. I would recommend you use a combination of power cleans, light deadlifts, good mornings, or high pulls. Don't use a combination of more than 2 of the lifts on any given day. I usually will do power cleans and good mornings one week and light deadlifts for 5-10 reps on the following week.

While following the basic program you will still be subject to overtraining so be sure to stretch out and loosen up good to help prevent injuries. If you notice any abnormal back pain be sure and back off and get some therapy before you start to deadlift again.

I have found that there are no secrets in powerlifting and that basic routines are the most successful. So if you have a good mental approach and stay with the basics outlined here I'm sure you will have success.

Q: I am 15 years old, live in Texas, and am a subscriber to PLUSA. I received my second issue a few days ago and was reading some of the questions people have asked you and I was wondering if you could help me out.

I'm 5-6, 163 pounds, bench 180, squat about 325, and deadlift 205 pretty easily. I was wondering if you could help me out by making me up a beginner's powerlifting routine. The main problem is that I play football and I've been told that it is bad to run, then lift during off season, then lift again later on.

Another thing is that the workouts in off season aren't really very good, because they rush us and the weights on some exercises are heavy and light on others. I haven't gained much strength or size. I've been lifting for about two years. I would really appreciate if if you could help me.

A: Your complaint about the workouts in the off season could be justified, but it also might be a workout that the coach can get the most progress from for the whole group. I would recommend that you talk to the coach and see if he would help you modify the program so you feel more comfortable and show progress in both strength and speed.

Professional athletes in all sports, not just football, are training all year round nowadays. This also includes weight training during their competitive season. I am in the process of writing a year round conditioning program for football. It will be published in the near future so keep your eyes open for it.

As for a beginning power program I would recommend that you train 3 times a week. The basic schedule should be to squat and bench press three times a week and deadlift twice a week. Your reps should be 10, then an increase of 10 pounds and reps of 8, another 10 pound increase and a set of 6. In each workout you should be aggressive and try to increase the poundages each week. Pick out a few assistance exercises you like to do and work on them, but never let your powerlifts suffer so you can make progress in an assistance movement.

This is  basic program, but believe me, all the strong men in powerlifting use only the basics. The major difference between good and great is mental attitude, so stay in a positive frame of mind and believe in yourself. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   




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