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Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press Guidelines for Women…

Woman Deadlifting

In my last video blog on Westside and CrossFit, I mentioned the 300/400/500 Bench Press/Squat/Deadlift numbers Stuart McRobert advocates as a guideline for male athletes. At the time, I wasn’t sure what the numbers were for WOMEN. So, I did a little digging and came up with some answers. (Oh, BTW, by “Squat” I mean the Back Squat :-))

As Stuart says on page 88 of “Beyond Brawn:”

“The 300-400-500 figures are based on the prototypical, experienced and successful [drug-free male athlete] who weighs about 190 pounds and is around age 30, at about 5ft 9in height.”

I think that 300/400/500 is about right for any natural (not using steroids) male athlete with reasonable work and life commitments outside the gym. I know mostly CrossFitters (as opposed to Powerlifters) and can’t think of any off the top of my head who greatly exceed those numbers.

So, what does all this mean for women?

Stuart goes on to say that women should expect to achieve around 55-70% of these numbers depending on age and body weight. He also says that women tend to be weaker in the bench press relative to the Squat and Deadlift, in general. That might indicate that the Bench Press number below needs to be adjusted down even a bit further.

Here are the lower and upper limits for the three Powerlifts – for women – based on Stuart’s suggestions:

Bench Press: 165-210 pounds

Squat: 220-280 pounds

Deadlift: 275-350 pounds

These numbers are just a guideline…

I’d be very curious to hear what all the women who read this blog and follow Strong is the New Skinny on Facebook have to say about the numbers above.

  • Are they accurate in your experience?
  • How far away from or above them are you?
  • Are you working toward them as goals?

Either way, hopefully these numbers give you something to think about and – possibly – a reasonable standard to keep in mind as you work toward your training goals.

ttys

Adam

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About Adam

Adam Farrah has been studying and experimenting with Paleo approaches to health, eating, living and moving since 2005. Connect with Adam on Google+

Comments

  1. erika m says:

    I think those are very reasonable given that body frame for a non powerlifter… if your a powerlifter you better get your ass back in the gym instead of reading this blog.

  2. I don’t think you will find 300/400/500 in many crossfit men weighing 190…unless they did a solid 6 months to a year of strength biased work. Now among a drug free, raw powerlifter at 190 those are pretty good but fairly attainable numbers.

  3. I don’t know if they’re super reasonable. Crossfit is always this constant balance between building muscle and being lean and fast. I guess those are good goals for about the heavier lifting girls in the gym. I’m one of our heavier lifter in my gym. I’m striving to break my 300# deadlift, 200# backsquat (my weakness) and 145# bench. I have by a good bit the highest deadlift and bench in a gym with a good majority women. When I start running more though and doing more cardio related WODs these numbers plummet!

  4. And when I say a solid 6 months to a year, I don’t mean where it is 80% crossfit, I mean pretty much drop crossfit except for maybe a couple of short wods a week to retain GPP and do Starting Strength for 3 months and then transition to Westside when you stall.
    But it all depends on ones goals, do you want to be more ‘fit’ or do you want to be really ‘strong’? To think doing crossfit will make one a competitive power lifter, is insane…just like thinking doing crossfit will make one an elite marathon runner. Crossfit is a great GPP program and in my view for making one very fit. But it isn’t for specialization in a particular area.

  5. How many reps at that weight

  6. sara goodson says:

    I believe those are perfect. To someone who truly commits themselves. I have a 155 bench and 265 squat and a 320 dead. And I weigh 123. So….

  7. I’m 5’5″, 145 lb. Deadlift 300, back squat 195 (although haven’t tried a pr in over a year), bench 130 (but we do it maybe once a year). I would be one of the stronger girls in our gym – I would say for the most part, our good female lifters would have a 250 deadlift, 175 back squat, 120 bench maybe. As others have said though, CrossFit isn’t specifically a lifting program – a lot of these numbers are for lifts that are only done once every few months or less – sometimes due to how often they come up & rest days, etc. I don’t think those numbers would be out of line for someone who focused more on lifting.

  8. I’m in my mid fifties,weigh 145,bench pressed 95,back squat 145,deadlift 205 and I’m working on getting more,i’ve been doing cf less than a year

  9. I think the squat and dead are reasonable numbers for a woman to hit within 3 years of training, perhaps slightly on the high side. I believe in Olympic lifting the top-level women are generally lifting about 75% of their male counterparts at the same weight, so you may want to adjust those numbers slightly down. Especially the bench–a 210 bench is no joke for females.

    However, I think the reason we don’t see more women approaching those numbers is not due to lack of capability but lack of focus on strength training. A lot of women would probably find their Crossfit performance would be enhanced by working strictly on their strength numbers for a bit, since that is generally a particular weakness for them.

  10. Allison says:

    I started CrossFit in March 2010… I think the bench might be high, or maybe that’s just a weakness of mine! I’m 5’9″, 165 and hit 125/205/310… but when do we ever bench press in CrossFit? Our box usually does shoulder press instead, and on my best day I hit 105. Still, good goals to strive for!

  11. I think those numbers are right on for both men and women.

    My husband weighs about 210 and is 6′ 2″ and can hit all three of those numbers. He’s been Crossfitting for about 2 years now to build up to those awesome numbers. His crossfit total number is 995 (shoulder press instead of bench press).

    I’m 135# and 5′ 6″ and have only been doing CF for about 6 months, but I came in with a torn muscle in my shoulder, which is now healed. So, I’m just now starting to get into heavier weights. My dead is only 155#, but my goal is 300. Haven’t found my ME Bench, but I have a feeling it’s around 125#, and my back is 125#.

    I have a ways to go, but I know the top female CF athletes numbers are all in the numbers you have listed.

  12. jesus. . .i’m only at about 70/175/175. . .got a long way to go ;-(

    • Don’t get too discouraged, Rachel. Just keep at it!

      BTW, if nothing else, at least take away the idea that your deadlift probably has some more gains in it relative to your squats. You could probably get 20-50 pounds on the deadlift pretty quickly with some extra work :-)

      Adam

  13. I’m not a fan of a set of one-size fits all numbers. My 180 back squat doesn’t sound like much unless you know I weight 106. I’ll be thrilled when I get to a 100 bench and 200 deadlift, so these numbers don’t mean anything for me. I go by the CrossFit strength standards for my goal setting. http://www.crossfit.com/cf-journal/WLSTANDARDS.pdf. My overall goal is 500 pounds combined all three lifts.

  14. Christine M. says:

    I think those numbers are reasonable. I’ve been Crossfitting for a little over a year and I’ve got a 70 shoulder press (not sure on bench), 145 back squat, and 225 deadlift. I think in another couple of years, I could hit your suggested numbers, especially if I worked on bench & shoulder press more. I’m 5′ 7″, 165#.

  15. I agree with the person who says that your numbers plummet depending on the kind of training you’re doing. I seem to be reversed from the people who have posted, in that my max bench right now is 195 (about 10 years ago I got 235 in a contest), DL is 215, and back squat is 215. But to get back up to these numbers I had to stop marathon training–when I was doing that, my max bench was 165, DL and squat around 185. As soon as my mileage goes below 25 miles/week my strength goes back up, but anything over that and I have no explosive power. So if you’re doing CF endurance the numbers would be lower, and with regular CF, depending on how your box emphasizes the WODs, it would be higher or lower. It makes a huge difference how much endurance training you are doing in my experience.

  16. Liftingkid says:

    I’m 14 and just got 145 on my bench on call. I’ve been lifting since i was 12 and I want to know what a realistic goal might be for my bench to increase. I weigh 123. Any help please? I don’t train in squat and dead due to injuries. I just train support work for my back, legs, and shoulders.

  17. Love this! I think these numbers are very reasonable as a general guideline for women in the sense that they are attainable, but you do have to be dedicated towards working to achieve them. I’m 5′ 0.5″, weigh 130 lbs, and hit a 225# squat and 315# deadlift in about a year and a half of starting CF with no prior weight training experience . My bench is a bit behind (135#) most likely because I didn’t start training it until recently.

  18. Those numbers are completely too high for general crossfitters. I agree with Dana, Rippetoe knows what he is talking about http://www.crossfit.com/cf-journal/WLSTANDARDS.pdf
    Unless you are doing a powerlifting program don’t beat yourself up if you can’t hit these numbers, just focus on your form.

  19. I’ve concentrated on strength training instead of CF for the last 18 months and at 5’4 145lbs have a 165# bp, 235# back squat, and 235# deadlift. I’m planning on starting CF and focusing on that for awhile. Do you feel it’s more of an advantage to start CF with more strength or endurance (running) experience?

  20. 5’8″ 160 here. Only been doing Crossfit for a short time, but weight trained for years so I may have some advantage. Bench is 165, back squat is 225 and DL is 275. I just started DL’ing on any regular basis. I am not currently practicing any strength programs but am looking to start one soon.
    I am probably one of, if not the strongest women in my box. I’d say those numbers are on the high side for most Crossfit women unless they have a background in strength or use Crossfit as an accesory to weight training.

    My .02.

  21. As the strongest female lifter in my gym (5’7″, 170 pounds), I have a 200 pound bench press, a 265 pound squat and a 340 pound deadlift. I know that I am an anomaly at my gym, particuarly on the bench press. I think the most I’ve seen another woman do is 155# on BP, but we really don’t test it as a max lift. We have one other woman who has broken 300# on the deadlift (the same one with the 155# bp). After that, the vast majority of our female lifters are camping out in the 200-250 range on their deadlifts and between 175 and 200 on their back squats.

    That said, many of these women are stronger than their numbers; they just get scared of maximal loads.

  22. I am 5′ 1″, 61 years old and weight 120 lbs…started CrossFit in September 2009 …My Bench Press is 95, Back Squat 140, Deadlift 200 lbs…have been active all my life … I will continue to try for new PR’s …

  23. Those aren’t too bad of standards, but like it was mentioned, these are guidelines based on someone who is not gym obsessed and has other commitments. Right now, my bench press is sitting a little under the minimum, my squat is almost out of the max, and my deadlift is near the lower side. But only for now. I don’t see those numbers as my goal. For the way I am, that would be cutting myself short. I don’t have a specific goal, I just see myself wanting to constantly improve. I’m sitting at a 155 bench, 275 squat, and a 285 deadlift, and I’m not going to stop if I hit the maxes that are set. I want to blow those maxes out of the water.

  24. I have to say I agree with Dana in that I prefer a scale based on body weight. I’m sure this is because I am outside of the “average” range. For me at 5’4″ 135# a 500# DL would be almost 4 times body weight. If I achieve this it would feel pretty extraordinary not “within average guidelines”.
    As for reasonable guidelines for women, I don’t feel qualified to say but, I imagine we have to figure “relative to body weight” into the formula somehow.

  25. Michelle says:

    I think the key is to keep the ratio in mind where ever you are in your pursuit. Being a powerlifter it is good to see these numbers as confirmation. So many i have trained with think the squat should be more than the DL but i have always disagreed. This ratio fits well with my numbers though i am above them all it is still a good guidline.

  26. I just started Crossfit three weeks ago. Last night we worked on our 1RM and I got 245 lbs. I would say that’s pretty darn good for just starting.

    I would love to get over 300 and my goal for 2012 is to do a power lifting competition or an Olympic lifting competition.

  27. I agree with Lauren- I think the amounts listed are certainly attainable for some (few), -and- you have to be training specifically for lifting. I’ve been CrossFitting for 3 years now, having breaks of 3-5 months here and there because of school and am at DL: 190 (though doing 1RM tomorrow), squat: 165 and press 75 or 80. I’m a woman, 28 years old, 125# and 5’7″. Granted, my box does 1RM sporadically, but I think you have to balance the “heavy” with staying quick for the metcons. Kudos if you can reach those #s, but I think it’s not realistic for most.

  28. I started CrossFit about 3 months ago. 2 months in, I was at 145 bench, 210 squat and 245 deadlift, (I think my deadlift is actually a lot higher. I could have done that 245 many times more, but I had already jumped 60lb and got scared of somehow hurting my back. Hoping for 300+ next time.)

    I would love to reach 200/300/400

  29. Those numbers are not reasonable for a woman. At least the bench press, unless they weigh close to 200 pounds(Steroid and other performance enhancing drug free), they’re not going to bench 210.

    The 300/400/500 standard for males is reasonable if they weigh around 190 pounds and are 5’9.

    However females only have about 55%(Roughly) the upper body strength a male has. So a female that weighs 190 pounds that’s as advanced as her male counterpart weightlifter is only going to lift 165 pounds on the bench press. A female’s lower body is roughly 70% as strong as a males. That same 190 pound female should squat 280 and deadlift 350. With that being said, here’s what I think would be reasonable.

    A 5’5 woman that weighs 135 pounds should aim for 135 to 145 on the bench press.
    She should aim for 180-190 on the squat. She should deadlift 240 to 260.

    If you’re smaller or bigger with the same amount of training then your standards should change accordingly. Please remember those were just guidelines and if you exceed them, that’s great. But if you don’t hit them, no big deal; no one is a great athlete without years of dedication.

  30. 5’5″ 135# 41 yrs old, Xfitting for 2.5 yrs with not much of an athletic backgrnd beforehand. My numbrs: 115/170/275. We have been working on a Wendler program since the beginning of the year and I think it’s rlly going to improve my max’s, which I am excited about since my BP hasn’t budged in about 2 yrs and my DL hasnt changed for 1 yr. Rehardless of what the article says, I am happy with current #s, and even happier to PR.

  31. Angela Blake says:

    I like the numbers. I started to get into power lifting awhile back but stopped due to well no good excuse. My bench was 160, dead lift was 400 and squat 200 (needed some work)…this could be a great goal to get back into!

  32. Denise Hughes says:

    5’7″, 160,46. CF for 18 months before benching myself w a shoulder/ bicep injury that wasn’t healing. Started lifting in March, now at 245, 185. I don’t bench but my press is 90. Started back w CF in Nov and continue to lift…I think those numbers are very reasonable.

  33. I have been doing Crossfit for just over two years. I am age 52, 5’6″ and 130 lbs. My current numbers are 115/ 180/235. We did a 8 week round of strength conditioning at my Crossfit the end of last year with push press/ squat/ deadlift. I increased 5 lbs. to 95 lbs. on push press. I actually went backwards on deadlift. I am currently doing strength on my own to improve bench/ squat / deadlift. About 8 years ago when I focused on bench press, I was able to get to 155lbs. I weighed about the same. I also have very long limbs for my height. I would hope to be able to attain higher 1RM in the future with diligent effort.

  34. Are these figures supposed to be achieved after years of training, because as somebody who weighs under 114lbs, I find them more than a little demotivating. I can deadlift over double my bodyweight, but that apparently doesn’t come close to the minimum amount a woman should lift. (The minimum squat suggestion is my 1RP, so I don’t mind that too much). Does bodyweight not matter?

    • Hey Emma,

      Yes, these are considered “upper limits” for what a drug-free person can achieve with hard and intelligent training. They’re sort of an “end goal” or there about. I think the usual rule of thumb regarding body weight – at least for men – is a deadlift of 2.5 times body weight. Can anyone confirm or deny that number? I can’t find a reference, though I think it’s in one of McRobert’s books.

      But yes, body weight, bone structure, age, training experience, etc. all matter. If nothing else, maybe these numbers indicate you have more room for improvement on your deadlift relative to the squat?

      Adam

  35. I did my first real bench press tonight and wasn’t sure if I was on the right track.
    I benched 75 lbs – 3 sets of 12 reps
    Should I be aiming higher? I didn’t try single max, so not quite sure how to compare.

    • Hey Rachel,

      In Beyond Brawn, McRobert has a table that allows you to correlate higher reps to a hypothetical single. Your 75bs for 12 reps is equivalent to 1.4*75lbs = 105lbs. Since you did three sets, I’d say you’re good for at least that for a max single. That’s a ballpark, but it might give you an idea of where that 12 rep “max” sits relative to what you might do for a single.

      Adam

  36. I have a really basic question here: do these numbers take into account the weight of the barbell itself, or are they strictly the plates?

    I know that this is so rudimentary, but I’ve been wondering – it would really change how I am judging my progress!

  37. Thank you! This is great to know.

  38. I started power lifting last week. I started with my squats and did 235 lbs the first time. I benched 120 and deadlifted 245. I really appreciated the information in this blog as it helped me figure out where I place myself.
    Is there any other good litterature on women’s powerlifting, I really want to educate myself as I find this sport really exciting and want to continue exploring it.

    Thank you!

    • Hey Marina!

      Awesome you started powerlifting – and those are great numbers to start with!

      I met Laura Phelps-Sweatt a few years ago at CrossFit Relentless. She was there with Louie Simmons and some of the other Westside Barbell guys: http://practicalpaleolithic.com/paleolithic-diet-blog/westside-barbell-in-west-hartford

      I’d say look up Laura and her gym “The Sweatt Shop” and the Westside stuff. Westside is a little complex and Louie’s presentation of it isn’t linear. He’s not a linear thinker, but he’s a freakin’ genius. I only understand Westside because I got to spend a weekend with those guys and ask questions until I got it.

      Also, check out Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. It’s a much simpler and straightforward program. I believe he trained at Westside, so he incorporates some of the Westside methods.

      Good luck, Marina!

      Adam

  39. I am a collegiate track coach, my specialty is the throws. I have been creating the strength training programs for my throwers for years. I feel as though i have been successful at developing strength in the clean, squat and deadlift for my females athletes as most of them can clean, squat, deadlift 145-200lbs., 250-400lbs., 300-425lbs., (clean). However bench press still seems to elude me. My female throwers range in heght from 5-4 – 5-11 with bodyweights ranging 150-190. Avg fat 15-26%. Average bench presses range between 140-180lbs were I beleive they should be more like 180-220 for the amount of work we do on developing shoulder back, arm and chest strength. they all can do a minimum of 5 pull-ups.

    I am Missing something and would like some feedback on how I can train them for bigger bench press numbers and overall upperbody strength. Low reps tend not to be as effective as higher reps reps of 5-8 seem to be the best for developing strength in the legs for the women. (I currently include bands, dumbbell, rotator, pull-ups, rows (back) and shoulder work in every upperbody workout) What Gives?????

    • Hey Steven,

      This isn’t exactly my area of expertise. I can give you some direction and suggestions for resources though.

      First off, if you’re coaching track, are you reading Dan John’s stuff? He’s a collegiate track coach and I believe his specialty is also the throws if I’m not mistaken. He’s also an RKC and a pretty prolific writer with lots of training ideas. Check out his books and DVDs.

      As far as getting your women to bench better and increasing upper body strength in general, I’d say check out Louie Simmons’ stuff (Westside Book of Methods) and the Wendler 5/3/1 program. Westside is complex but genius as hell. Wendler is pretty simple – you could probably implement that program pretty quick. Wendler would be my choice for a powerlifting program to increase their numbers over the next 6 months to a year.

      I’d start there and see what you can come up with. Hope that helped!

      Adam

  40. Just throwing the numbers out there and not putting them into any context has the potential to spread some misinformation, much like the 220 – age to estimate max HR fallacy (look it up.)

    Keep in mind that the male numbers were assuming a 5’9″ 190lb drug-free athlete. Pretty much bang-on Rich Froning territory for height, classic mesomorphic build, weight, muscularity, skeletal geometry, lever-arm lengths and so on. Any deviation from those factors will be likely to be matched by a deviation in the resulting strength numbers. Longer-limbed people at the same weight will be likely to lift less because of their geometrical disadvantages. Lighter people at the same height will be likely to lift less because of lower overall muscle mass. Shorter, muscular people with the same weight may be able to lift more because they are moving the load through a shorter path.

    The take-away is to pay attention to the proportionality, to be aware of how each athlete’s circumstances have gotten them to where they are today and to be realistic about appropriate short- and long-term goals. It is perfectly reasonable to adjust the expected numbers for women as you have done, but it might be more helpful to give some guidelines as to how tall and heavy that “prototypical” female athlete might actually be, and how those numbers might relate to their size. Rips chart takes weight and experience into account as well as including a greater number of lifts. As such I consider it a more complete and useful reference.

    I wrote more on this subject a few years ago: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/23270938/CFNS%20Website/CFNS/Blog/Entries/2011/3/10_As_a_white_guy%2C_Im_into_measuring_things.html

  41. Anna jonsson says:

    1. I think they are accurate for power lifting specialists with years of training – not the average crossfitter, where you need to be allround.

    2. My aims are towards % of bodyweight: bench 100 %, squat 150 %, deadlift 200 % – almost there on all.

    3. Would not be motivated at all by a sort of “end-goal”. Goals should be individual and short term. I used this site to help me set goals, I’ve gone from intermediate, through advanced towards elite. http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/StrengthStandards.html

  42. Interesting article.

    Another data point. My wife is a committed cross fitter, and struggles to gain mass given all the metcon demands required to be competitive..

    Having said that, she can bench 150ish, 250 bsq, and 275 DL. She’s looking forward to after the games this year, (she’s the number #1 ranked masters 50-54) when she’s going to slow down and focus on strength wo all the conditioning for several months.

    She’s 51, 6’2″ and 165 and NOT built for strength, but does ok. When she started lifting she struggled to DL 135. Everyone can improve I’d they are committed.

  43. I think your advised goals, esp bench, are on the high side for women. I was advised to use 50% of the women’s world records as a good goal. I also use the ExRx advanced/elite standards as a guide. I’m 5’3″, 125lbs, 46 years old. I keep an eye on the info below with me at all times:

    Women weightlifting standards
    world records:
    123 lbs category
    Squat: 285 (x .5= 142)
    Bench: 248 (x .5= 124)
    Deadlift: 415 (x.5= 207)

    ExRx Advanced/Elite Standards:
    Squat: 160/199
    Bench: 116/142
    Deadlift: 211/263
    Press: 81/104
    Clean: 115/143

  44. I think these numbers are reasonable. I am 5’6″ currently weigh 185. I have a 205 lb bench press, a 250 back squat, and a 315 lb Deadlift. That was awhile ago though…pretty sure I can throw up 215lb on bench now! Thanks for the article, good read!

  45. I think these numbers are ridiculous. I’ve been working with a personal trainer for about a year consistently and these numbers are no where near what I can lift. When these ideas are posted as reality, women think this is what they should be doing. This false dilemma sets women up for failure. I can lift 20 pounds over my head after one year. I can lift 30 pounds up and over but not over my head. That’s no where near 200-300 pounds. It’s 10% of that! Get real people! This is what real women can do after ten months of working with a trainer.

    • Most of the real women (40+, no previous weightlifting experience) that I have seen in my onramp classes can press the 15kg/33 pound bar overhead the first time they try. I worked as a physical therapist for many years and I would expect that to be a minimum functional standard for an uninjured person for that lift. Rippetoe and Kilgore see 30 pounds as the standard weight for a standing press for an untrained but otherwise healthy woman who weighs 97 pounds, regardless of age. If you have no health or orthopedic problems and cannot lift 30 pounds over your head after ten months of working with a trainer I have to wonder if you have been working with Tracy Anderson (or one of her disciples): http://fitandfeminist.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/an-anti-love-letter-to-tracy-anderson/

      • Thanks so much for adding this reply, Daner. I wasn’t quite sure what to tell Kelly or how to approach a reply. Yours nailed it!

        Thanks for the contribution to this thread.

        Adam

        • I am a 36 year old woman who weighs 140# and have lifted with a trainer for two weeks now. I have no prior experience in lifting – EVER.

          My trainer pushes me hard, good, but hard.

          Here are my current stats (not bragging, just trying to show how different women can be) bench – 111.6#, squat 165#, dead lift 245#.

          • I appreciate the comment, Paula. You’ve clearly got a SERIOUS natural strength and ability there. If I could humbly offer you some advice, take that and run with it. If it’s powerlifting you love, do it! If it’s another sport like Strongman or Oly lifting see about those. Even CrossFit might be a fit. What I’m saying is, that you could have a lot of fun with all that natural ability. For CrossFit, the Masters division starts at 40 years old. If you put some years of hard training in and then went to compete as a Master at 40 in a given sport… Damn! :-)

            Adam

  46. I bench 155, deadlift 245 and squat 225. I have been power lifting for 4 months.

  47. I am 44 years old and I have been going to crossfit for about a year. I am 5 ft 3 and weigh 150 lbs. My bench press is 150 lbs about 8 months ago, back squat 285 lbs and deadlift 285 lbs. I tend to have higher numbers than most ladies in the gym. I do think the numbers you have are a fair representation for some with a certain body type. Don’t ask me to run a marathon – not my cup of tea.

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