Have you heard about exercise resistance bands before but not sure how to use them and what are the best workouts for them?
Are they really as effective and good as weights are?
Can you use resistance bands to build muscle and lose weight?
What are the different types and how are they different?
Finally, should you be even using them? And what are the best bands?
LET ME BEGIN WITH THE END:
I think that Resistance Bands are the best most versatile most efficient cost effective, travel friendly training tool there is, at least as of writing this article in 2017.
Oh, and that's true for both women and men, for getting leaner, stronger or to help lose weight. It's also a great tool for rehab.
That may sounds exaggerated? Ok, let me make it clear:
I am not saying that Resistance Bands are the best thing since the invention of the wheel.
But, if there was just one exercise tool that I would be allowed to train with, I would choose Resistance Bands.
Sorry, my sweet beloved kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells, you still rock, but if there was just one piece of equipment to take me with on a deserted island, no offense but I wouldn't choose any of you.
Oh, and by the way, you may also hear people refer to them as rubber bands, resistance tubes, workout bands, strength bands, stretch bands and training bands to name just a few variations all meaning the same.
TIP You can use the table of contents to jump to a specific section of this article or just read through it in chronological order.
First I want to debunk a huge misconception:
Resistance bands are not just for beginners, and they are not just for ladies.
Resistance bands are good for advanced fitness enthusiasts just as good as they are for beginners. They are good for men just as they are good for women.
If you are a beginner start with light resistance, if you are an athlete or a bodybuilder use more heavy duty resistance bands, it's that simple.
I have to confess I was guilty myself of not giving them chance up until rather late in the game. I wish I had used them some years back, but I always thought,
My resistance bands kit is now my favorite exercise equipment when I travel or on a holiday far away from home.
I no longer need to waste a lot of time finding local gyms wherever I travel to, getting to know the local gym's equipment and positionings, paying single entry fees etc. I just use my resistance bands kit to get one hell of a workout at my hotel room, for a fraction of the time! This leaves me more time to enjoy my holidays with my family.
But I digress, I guess I couldn't hide my enthusiasm.
Let's get down to business.
What are Resistance Bands?
Resistance bands are sheets or tubes of elastic material, typically made out of natural or synthetic latex rubber. Resistance bands can come straight, with attached handles, or formed into a loop.
They are used specifically to perform various exercises to develop muscular strength and endurance. They are an efficient and effective, portable and lightweight method of strength training, toning, and bodybuilding.
How Resistance Bands are Made
Resistance bands are manufactured in the same factories that provide latex rubber tubing for the medical and food industries.
Liquid latex rubber is extruded into a tube mold or rolled into a sheet, hardened into a solid, then dyed the appropriate color for its degree of resistance to stretching, which is also referred to as its level of tension.
Two kinds of latex rubber are used in the manufacture of resistance bands. There is natural latex which is harvested from the rubber trees of Southeast Asia and is found underneath the bark of the tree. Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is created from petroleum oil.
Both types of latex have similar properties, and both will create an effective and long lasting resistance band.
You can do any exercise with resistance bands, even deadlifts.
What Resistance Bands Do
Resistance bands create resistance to movement in an extremely similar manner to lifting weights. Instead of working against the force of gravity, resistance bands allow you to work against the tension of the stretched elastic material.
As you stretch the resistance band during exercise, it will become increasingly difficult to move. This creates the muscular tension required to stimulate the development of greater strength, and build muscle.
Since your muscles do not know if they are trying to move an actual weight against gravity, or moving against the resistance of a rubber band being stretched, the effects on your fitness are the same.
Your muscle will respond identically to any force it is asked to overcome, whether it is a 50lb dumbbell or a resistance band rated to 50lbs of force.
There is a very important difference between the resistance created by a weight and that created by resistance bands, it's called variable resistance.
Variable resistance refers to the fact that as the elastic band stretches, the degree of tension increases. This is a good thing.
We are all stronger near the end of a movement than at the beginning. If you were to only have to bench press a weight for the last inch of the movement, you could lift much more than by working through the full range of motion.
Resistance bands vary the resistance your muscles work against; they are easier at the beginning when you are weakest but become progressively harder to move toward the end. Your muscles experience effective stimulation throughout the full range of motion!
Resistance bands are, therefore, a perfect substitute for using weights in order to increase strength, and build muscle.
Are Resistance Bands Any Good?
Absolutely! The American space program at NASA sure thinks they’re worth it! They send astronauts up to the International Space Station for months at a
NASA scientists have studied the problem of maintaining strength in space, without using conventional dumbbells and barbells for decades. NASA’s solution is resistance bands.
According to the article: Your Body in Space, on the nasa.gov website, astronauts and cosmonauts use a resistance band based machine named: the Resistance Exercise Device, also called the RED, to maintain their strength levels for strenuous mission tasks.
Resistance bands on pulleys are used to create the same effect of moving weights in a conventional weight machine on earth. They have replaced the weight stacks of earthbound exercise machines with resistance bands! The RED is used to perform highly effective workouts for the entire body.
If NASA scientists, using years of research studies, think resistance band training is worth it, you can rest assured that it is.
Who Invented Resistance Bands?
A search of Google patents reveals that resistance bands, to be used specifically as an exercise device, were invented by Gustav Gossweiler, who applied to patent his invention in 1896. Making resistance band training over 120 years old!
Gustav Gossweiler was a citizen of the Republic of Switzerland, living in Zurich at that time. He called them a “universal gymnastic apparatus”. He advertised his bands as compact and easy to use pieces of equipment that could be utilized in a wide variety of exercises, and that you can conveniently take with you anywhere.
The exercises used by people then were remarkably similar to those used today; it has always been easy to enjoy a total body workout using resistance bands. The only real improvement has been in the quality and durability of the latex rubber used to manufacture them.
There are 2 illustrations attached to the patent application that show a man using the resistance bands anchored to a wall, performing the same upper body movement exercises used currently by resistance band users. The more times change, the more they stay the same!
Many generations of professional athletes and ordinary people working out to keep
Types of Resistance Bands
How are Resistance Bands Measured and Rated
Resistance bands are customarily measured for weight resistance level by the manufacturer using their preferred type of scale.
The band is anchored to the scale, stretched, and a reading is taken at the beginning of the pull, then again at the farthest safe distance from the anchor point. An average is then calculated from both readings and is used to decide the equivalent pounds of resistance.
For convenience, most resistance band manufacturers will abide by a common system of colors to help people conveniently identify the different tension levels, from easiest to heavy duty.
YELLOW - Commonly denote the easiest resistance bands you can use. The yellow bands are considered ideal for physical therapy or to work small muscles like the rotator cuff in the shoulder, or to help heal a chronic condition such as tennis elbow.
GREEN AND RED - Usually provide light to medium tension. They are commonly used for high repetition (15 or more reps). Some like to train muscles such as the biceps,
DARK BLUE (SOMETIMES GREEN) - These are heavy tension resistance bands. This level of resistance is handy to train compound muscle movements such as bench presses, squats, lunges, shoulder presses, rows, and resistance band push-ups.
PURPLE, BLACK & SILVER - These denote a very high level of tension and are for advanced trainees. These are ideal for developing great strength and building muscle mass. Use these bands to do the basic compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, heavy shoulder presses or other exercises you wish to work for lower reps.
Different Designs for Different Goals
Resistance bands fall into 2 main types:
Flat sheets with no
Rubber tubing that may or may not
Each of the 2 types of resistance bands has different design options that make one or another better for some kinds of training.
Flat resistance bands can be long sheets of rubber that are gripped by the fingers, or wrapped around the hand when used. These types of bands are usually used in physical therapy to rehabilitate certain injuries.
Flat resistance bands that are made into loops, also have no
Tube resistance bands are used more appropriately for conventional bodybuilding and strength training. There is a wide range of different configurations available with the sturdier tube band.
The traditional tube resistance band has handles permanently attached to them. To vary your level of exertion you need to buy multiple resistance bands.
More innovative tube resistance bands have clips and special handles that can accommodate single and multiple bands of varying resistance levels to give a greater range of resistance levels, as well as the convenience of quickly being able to change the amount of weight being used.
Tube resistance bands also come in different configurations that are specific for certain types of training.
There is the bow-tie design, with handles on each end, which is used for chest expander type training, and is looped about the ankles for leg abductor training.
Some people enjoy simply trying to walk in them, trying to push each leg as far forward into the next step as possible, a real strength and conditioning challenge!
Like the sheet resistance band, tube style bands can also come in hoops. The hoop shape allows all the same exercises as the bow-tie, with the added freedom of being able to further customize how you anchor or wrap them about you to train your muscles.
There are tube resistance bands that are no more than a foot or so long and have Velcro ankle cuffs. These are specifically for lower body training and work the hip, outer and inner thighs and can be used, like the bow-tie and hoop designs, to do super effective walk and lunge training.
How Do Resistance Bands Work Muscles?
Why do resistance bands work so well? Anyone who uses resistance bands regularly knows that this form of training will develop incredible strength, endurance and muscle development. Many people are shocked at how sore they become after their first resistance band workout.
The answer to this question is of course: elastic tension.
Muscles are made to move our bodies against any form of resistance. Muscles don’t care whether it’s heavy weight, strong wind while you’re walking, water when you swim or against someone else’s muscles in a wrestling match.
Your muscles simply don’t know the difference. Your body will respond by becoming stronger, and your muscles will harden and grow.
This is why resistance bands work, and work well! The tension of the stretched elastic bands challenges your body to become stronger, same as any other form of resistance your body may come up against.
Why Resistance Band Training is Good
Resistance bands are unique as a method of training apart from other methods because of a unique quality of the resistance band itself. This quality is why resistance bands are effective in producing quick, lasting improvements in strength and fitness levels.
Let’s consider what happens when you lift a weight against the force of gravity; no matter what the movement it will be most difficult at the beginning, where your muscle is weakest, and easiest just before the end when the muscle is almost fully contracted.
You can lift more weight with your legs slightly bent, than if you were to rise from a full squat. The same is true for almost any movement.
Your strength is weakest at the beginning of the movement, and will limit how much you can lift through your whole range of motion, limiting your strength and size gains.
Let’s see exactly why resistance bands are so effective.
Think about what happens when you stretch a rubber band. It’s easy at the
This is how resistance bands help. Your strength is challenged much more equally from beginning to end. You get bigger and stronger, quicker.
Are resistance bands a good workout tool? Only if you want an extraordinarily effective workout just about anyplace you’ve got room to stand!
Who Uses Resistance Bands?
Professional athletes who need to squeeze every possible benefit from their training, boxers and martial artists are known to favor training with resistance bands.
Even bodybuilders use resistance bands to work their muscles differently than weights as well as to add resistance along with traditional dumbells and barbells.
Resistance bands are also used a lot by athletes who travel and don't have easy access to training facilities.
Middle-aged moms and dads who are trying to stay fit to play with their kids, military, police and firemen who need to be fit for duty and have very little time to train.
Anyone wants to be fitter and stronger for whatever reason will benefit from using resistance bands
Athletes Who Use Resistance Bands
Swimmers like Michael Phelps use resistance bands to simulate swimming motions to build strength as well as endurance.
Soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo use resistance bands to develop leg speed.
Olympic gymnasts, like Max Whitlock, use resistance bands to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and prevent career ending injury.
Celebrities Who Use Resistance Bands
Actors like Gerard Butler and Hugh Jackman use resistance bands to prepare for roles where they must play physically impressive characters.
During training to play the role of Leonidas in 300, he would sprint while attached to an anchored resistance band, until he couldn’t go any further. A powerful cardio workout!
Bodybuilders Who Use Resistance Bands
Bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane would use resistance bands to create eye-popping vascularity before going on the contest stage. Portable and light resistance bands were their go to training aids while traveling to bodybuilding contests around the world.
Resistance bands are the most convenient and effective piece of training equipment for athletes on the go, or who know they need the special kind of muscle-building tension only resistance bands can provide.
How to Choose Resistance Bands
Alright then, you have read the evidence for how effective they are, and you’ve decided to take the plunge and try resistance band training for yourself!
But what resistance bands to get? Which resistance bands to use for a great workout? The answer depends on your goals.
Which Resistance Band is Right for Me?
If you are relatively new to working out, and still somewhat out of shape, you will, of
A fitter, more experienced individual will want to explore medium to heavy resistance bands that will challenge the strength that was already developed using other training methods; such as calisthenics and conventional weightlifting. He’s asking himself: “Which resistance band do I need, which resistance band is right for me?”
If you’re trying to find new and interesting ways to train or need a good option for exercising at home or on the road, a medium to
If you are an old hand at working out, maybe nursing injuries from the fixed pattern of most weightlifting movements, or from the odd accident, you will love the heavy duty resistance bands!
A powerful lifter will benefit from the change in resistance, which provides novel stimulation for strength and size gains. You can finally train, free from the risk of losing control as the weight is lifted up or brought down. Train heavy without a spotter! Prevent possibly catastrophic injuries, because resistance bands are always low impact on your precious joints, and won’t fall on you.
Resistance Bands For Building Muscle
Resistance bands are great for strength training and building muscle. They provide a form of resistance training that works efficiently with the natural way that the muscles and joints of the human body function.
Your muscles are weaker at the beginning of any
This automatically reduces the total amount of conventional weight you can lift over the whole exercise. You are limited because you can only use an amount of weight that you are able to lift from the weakest part of your range of motion.
Enter the resistance band! This simple device creates a variable resistance over the range of any exercise. In other words; the resistance band is lighter at the weakest point in your range of motion and much heavier at the end when your muscles are at their strongest. The weight you’re working against increases as you naturally get stronger near the end.
The perfect resistance device to build muscle!
This same principle of variable resistance will help even the most experienced powerlifter to explode past his old sticking points.
By being able to load your muscles with a high degree of tension through the entire range of motion, rather than just at the beginning, you will stimulate your body to develop much greater strength.
Are They Good For Weight Loss and Toning?
Resistance bands are ideal for weightloss. Lighter tension resistance bands can be used for high repetition compound movements; such as squats and lunges.
These movements are guaranteed fat burners. Using heavier tension resistance bands will help build muscle, and muscle burns fat! All that fat just sits there, until you build up some muscle mass. That new muscle will be absolutely starving for any energy it can find.
That fat doesn’t stand a chance.
What about toning? Are they also effective for toning arms, hips or thighs?
There are an incredible variety of exercises to choose from. Pick a level of tension that will enable you to do at least 15 reps of each exercise, and tone your body as tight as a drum! A trained muscle is a toned and attractive muscle.
Popular Uses of Resistance Bands
While the use of resistance bands are limited only by your imagination, there are some common and basic exercises that are particularly popular.
Are Resistance Bands Good for Biceps?
Resistance bands are like nuclear bombs for biceps. They will blow them and oh boy you will feel the burn!
The unique, variable resistance nature of resistance band training is ideal for maximizing your bicep development.
You can forget piling on tons of weight on an Olympic bar and risking your tendons! Use the power of variable resistance provided by resistance bands to maximize muscle growth and even develop mind blowing vascularity!
Biceps curls with resistance bands
Use medium tension bands for 15 to 20 reps at a time, over 3 to 5 sets and experience an incredible pump in your biceps like you’ve never gotten using weights.
Use heavy duty resistance bands to grind out 5 to 6 mass building repetitions for 3 or 4 sets. You’ll see increased size and strength that will amaze you.
Which Resistance Bands For Pull-Ups?
Resistance bands are a fantastic aid for those who are trying to maximize their pull-up training! Whether you’re an old pro at the pull-up or a struggling newbie, the resistance band can add an amazing new dimension to your workout!
But what resistance bands to use for pull-ups?
The best type of resistance band for supercharging your pull-up training is the old fashioned surgical tube style with handles (clipping handles are best, for quick weight changes).
Loop that bad boy over the bar and carefully plant a foot in each handle. Now drop to
The more experienced athlete will use the assist from the resistance band to train past his previous personal best and prepare his body to push past it to new heights of strength and endurance!
Assisted Pull-ups with resistance bands demonstrated
Why Use Resistance Bands on Bench Press?
Resistance bands are a safe and effective way to add a whole new dimension of power to your bench press training.
The unique nature of the type of resistance provided by the
Anchor the bands to the floor and loop handles over bar ends, now let loose! Guaranteed strength and muscle gains will follow.
There are many ways to do bench press with resistance bands. You could lay down on the floor or use a bench. The advantage of laying on the floor is you can do it everywhere.
When you use resistance bands on
Or you can try going hardcore, and old school: assume the push-up position, loop the resistance band across your back and secure each handle in a hand. Now push-up against the tension of the bands, hold for a few seconds at the top and slowly come back down. The only down-side will
How to Use Resistance Bands with a Door
The door is an ideal anchor point for fantastic home workouts!
Many resistance bands already come with a funny little loop with a big lump on one end. The idea is to close the door on the lumpy bit and create an anchor point from which you can perform any number of incredibly effective exercises.
If that bit of kit is missing get yourself to a hardware store and buy a simple d-clip or carabiner clip and attach it to the resistance band. Now you have a lumpy
Once anchored, you can perform triceps extensions, press-downs and different types of curls for your arms.
How to attach the resistance bands to the door
You can do great standing and seated rows and pull-downs for your back.
Chest presses and flying movements will effectively train your chest.
Chest Presses, Flys, Triceps Extensions, Triceps Push Downs and Lat Pull Downs demonstrated
Holding both handles at arm's length practice squats and lunges to strengthen your legs
You’ve got your resistance bands and a door, now get training!
Are Resistance Bands Better than Weights?
Whether resistance bands are better than weights, or not depends on your circumstances, goals and situation.
Do you have access to a fully equipped gym whenever you have the time to workout? Can you afford the membership fees?
Can you either afford, or find room in your home, for a full weight set if you can’t afford, or find time to visit a gym?
Resistance bands are cheap, light, and portable. They provide the
Even more importantly, you can use resistance bands just about anywhere the opportunity to exercise presents itself, whether you’re at the park or in your living room. Resistance bands will provide you with a top quality workout just about anywhere.
I'm not saying yes resistance bands are always superior and that you should ditch all dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells away.
Every piece of equipment has advantages and disadvantages and what's important is to use the right tool for the right mission.
If someone is in tight financial circumstances, or simply prefers to save their money for other purposes, resistance bands are definitely a great way to save you money.
If someone values their time too much to waste it in traffic, or on mass transportation going back and forth from the gym, resistance bands are better, and more time efficient.
I've talked about it before, resistance bands are awesome for
It saves me the hassle of looking for local gyms on my vacations away from home. I just pack my resistance bands into my suitcase, which literally takes no space and weight nothing, and off I go, working out everywhere I want without the constant stress of thinking, will I find a good local gym or not.
Are Resistance Bands Safe?
Compared to free weights resistance bands are extraordinarily safe! A quick internet search will produce many stories of people who have been killed, crippled and paralyzed in weight lifting accidents.
Free weights and machines can force you to move in ways that will create, or exacerbate an injury over a period of months or, or even years. There are very few weight lifting athletes who are not suffering from the pain of chronic injuries to major joints.
Resistance bands will always allow you to move over a natural range of motion. Moving over your natural range of motion is best for the health of your joints and tendons.
Resistance band training is one of the safest forms of training you can find. Safer even than calisthenic training, where the more advanced movements (like clapping push-ups) and even some of the basic movements (like jumping jacks) will put your joints at risk. Resistance
You’re not forced into a potentially joint damaging position by the design of the machine or the way you hold a bar during an exercise. You also won’t be forced to move past a safe range of motion under a heavy weight.
With resistance band training your body will move over a safe and natural range of motion. You won’t have the risk of a weight becoming unbalanced so much that a joint or tendon is damaged.
The safe, easily controlled tension of resistance bands will guarantee that you’ll never put your joints at risk of damage.
One caveat: resistance bands are essentially enormous rubber bands. If you are anchoring them to a door, pole, or anything else: make sure the resistance band is secure! You don't want to get them into your face.
So like everything, you can hurt yourself if you are not careful. Use your common sense, and make sure your resistance band is securely held and anchored. If you are always careful that your resistance band is properly secured during your training, you will be fine.
Resistance Bands for Home Workouts
The techniques and methods you can use to maximize your training with resistance bands are limited by your imagination. But let’s take a look at some popular home fitness programs and the resistance bands that might be best used with them!
What resistance bands do you need for P90X?
P90X or Power 90 Extreme, is a home fitness training program created by Tony Horton, It’s intended to take 90 days, and utilizes cross training.
Resistance bands figure in several exercises. You will need not only the run of the mill sheet and tubular resistance
P90X exercises demonstrated using bodylastics resistance bands
Which Resistance Bands For Focus T25?
Focus T25 is a DVD workout series created by Shaun T, the mastermind behind the Insanity workout series. Focus T25 is based on the idea of squeezing an hour worth of exercise into 25 minutes.
The T25 program is a high-intensity total body routine that is reminiscent of P90X, but much more concentrated. Don’t have an hour or 45 minutes to exercise? The Focus T25 program is designed to give you an hour’s worth of work in 25 minutes!
There are 10 different
The concentrated nature of the training requires the simplest resistance bands; men will choose a moderate tension tubular resistance band and the ladies will do
The intense and time efficient nature of the workout means that you won’t even need to bother with clipping handles. You will not have time to switch resistance bands once you start.
What resistance bands for 21 Day Fix
21 Day Fix is a diet and workout system that caters specifically toward women. It involves a diet plan combined with half hour workouts. The bulk of the program is dedicated to following a relatively strict diet plan, which is the path to weight loss that they follow.
The workouts aren’t anywhere near as intense as either P90X or Force T25. A simple low to medium tension sheet resistance band will be sufficient to follow the prescribed workout plan. Although someone who is feeling particularly motivated could benefit from using a light tension tubular resistance band for a more intense toning workout and the reward of quicker and more noticeable improvement.
Resistance bands used for the 21 Day Fix program
What Resistance Bands for TapouT XT
TapouT XT brings us back to the rocking, rolling land of extremely intense fitness programs.
The TapouT XT system was created by Mike Karpenko who has used his experience training MMA fighters and professional athletes to design a kick ass home training program that will leave you on the floor, and make you look damn good lying there!
Resistance bands for this program should be medium to high tension tubular with switchable handles.
You need to be quick on the changes to keep up with the sometimes anarchic workout program. You want to ensure that you’re not making it too easy on yourself by going too light during movements you know you should be screaming through!
Which Resistance Bands are The Best
This is a piece of equipment that needs to last through untold abuse without fraying or snapping unexpectedly.
So who makes the best ones?
Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set is one of the best resistance bands on the market and is also a best seller on Amazon.
The company is respected and well known for
The set is comprised of five resistance bands that range from 2lbs of tension all the way up to 30lbs. The handles and bands are both switchable (utilizing high quality metal clips) and stackable ( you can attach multiple bands to the handles for more weight options) making for endless variations in your training.
For physical therapy or any kind of rehab we have Best Exercise brand, Resistance Loop Bands. The loop bands come in a set of 4
Finally, Bodylastics Anti-Snap Resistance Exercise Bands Set features metal clipped resistance bands, handles and various handy attachments for a variety of workout options. They sell a Max Tension Resistance Bands Set that is good for up to 142lbs of resistance and is actually a great piece of kit for the P90X and TapouT XT workout programs.
Why are Resistance Bands So Expensive?
Ok, you caught
Some people are mixing the TRX suspension system with resistance bands. The TRX are not resistance bands. The TRX system is rather expensive but all the resistance bands covered in this article are quite cheap and affordable for everyone.
In fact, resistance bands are the cheapest yet,
These are simple rubber bands, yet like the magic beans in the story about Jack and the Bean Stalk, don’t let their simple appearance fool you.
They are the most valuable strength and muscle building tool in your arsenal, and like the beans that Jack planted, these resistance bands will take you to the land of the giants!
Some Final Words
Resistance bands are the greatest training tool bar none. A simple rubber band has almost magic strength and bodybuilding properties.
Arthur Jones, the creator of the infamous Nautilus exercise machine empire spent millions to develop a series of multi-hundred pounds, ungainly masterpieces of exercise expertise to provide the exercising public with variable weight resistance training. People paid hundreds of dollars a year to join gyms using his amazing devices.
All he invented already existed and was available to anyone with a couple of dollars and the desire to work hard to improve themselves through honest effort. All they needed was a resistance band, some imagination, and place to stand. That's one of the most efficient ways to train your body and you don’t need more than a few dollars to start.
If you haven’t used resistance bands before, start now.
Try to do a workout with them as soon as you can. Feel the incredible pump and power in your muscles as you battle that ever increasing tension to the end of an exercise, as you battle to control the release of that spring-like force back to where you started.
I hope you will fall in love with resistance bands the same way I did a couple of years back.
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