How To Train around a Bad Knee

How to burn fat while hampered by a knee injury.

Disclaimer: This post is about how I trained around a knee injury. What you’re dealing with may be different. Please check with your doctor(s) before doing any activity that may put your knee at risk.

If you’ve ever experienced it, you know that knee pain sucks. It can hold you back from achieving your fitness goals. I remember a time when I was battling knee pain as a result of hyperextending my knee. I think not being able to train the way I wanted hurt more than the knee pain. I had to adjust the way I trained in order to keep making progress while avoiding damage to my knee.

It was a challenge at first but over time, I figured out a way that worked for me. Some of the biggest challenges when dealing with an injury is losing muscle, losing strength, and gaining fat. I had to train in a way that protected my knee but still helped me maintain my physical abilities as much as possible.

Build Your Upper Body

A bad knee shouldn’t stop you from being able to build your upper body. If you want to burn fat then building muscle will be very valuable. Your body has to use a lot of energy in order to maintain muscle. That energy usage leads to calories being burned. Even with a bad knee, you can still do movements like the bench press, bent-over row, and pullup. If you’re worried about looking like Johnny Bravo, there are still ways to train your legs depending on severity of injury.

Train Legs Differently

Depending on the severity of your knee issues, you can still train your legs. You just have to be selective about the exercises you choose. One of the keys to choosing the right exercises is to find movements that don’t cause pain. Choosing the right exercises can also help you recover from your injury since movement is a big part of recovery.

Some examples of doing movements differently are replacing back squats with box squats since the box squat focused more on the posterior chain. Another example is replacing lunges with Bulgarian split squats. These are some of the variations that helped me when I was dealing with my knee injury.

Something else that worked for me was adding rehab and prehab exercises to my leg routines. I did a lot of exercises that targeted the VMO ( vastus medial oblique) and hamstring muscles since these are the main knee stabilizing muscles. I also trained my balance as a form of injury prevention.

Cardio Exercises

If you think you can’t do cardio because you’re dealing with knee issues, think again. There are other forms of cardio besides running and jumping. When I was dealing with knee issues, my go to form of cardio was the swing. This is a hip dominate movement so you shouldn’t feel anything in your knees if you do it correctly. The kettlebell swing is one of the most effective fat burning exercises I know. It also builds muscle, which is beneficial for fat loss. It’s basically sprints minus the joint impact.

Aside from kettlebell swings, I benefited tremendously from walking in a fasted state. I think that’s one of the simplest fat burning exercises. The reason it works is your body typically uses carbs as a fuel source when doing cardio. By walking in a fasted state, your body only has fat as a source of fuel to use up.

If you’ve been battling knee pain, don’t give up .There’s always a solution. I hope these tips have been helpful. Please let me know what other ways to train around a knee injury that have worked for you.

Nutrition

I don’t talk frequently about nutrition but it has to be mentioned since the food you eat is a huge fuel source for your body. When I was dealing with the knee issue, the two main supplements I took were Vitamin D tablets and Glucosamine Chondroitin. Vitamin D supports bone health and Glucosamine Chondroitin supports cartilage health. Aside from tablets, you can get Vitamin D from sunlight exposure, dairy products, and eggs. Over time, I’ve also learned that Vitamin C and ginger are good for joint health since they have anti-inflammatory properties.

Glucosamine Chondroitin and Arthritis: https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/arthritis-supplements

Vitamin C and D and inflammation: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/inflammation-fighting-vitamins

Ginger and inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

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Try This One Two Punch Combo For a Strength Boost

(Short read) Get great results by doing a workout combo of the farmers walk and the leopard crawl.

Strength is awesome. Being strong gives you a sense of power. It can even save your life. There are many ways to gain strength. During my fitness journey I’ve tried a number of strength training exercises and there are a few exercises that stand out. For the purpose of this post, I’m choosing two specific exercises that boost general strength. The strength gained from these movements are transferable to a number of strength training exercises and even athletic movements. The two exercises are the leopard crawl and the farmer walk. These two exercises are great individually but are also great as a combo.

How To Use Leopard Crawl and the farmers walk together

I usually do this combo after some weighted chin-ups but this can be done separately as a short and efficient workout. Below is my approach.

  • 3 rounds of heavy farmers walks- Each round will last 15-20 seconds. Rest 2 minutes in between rounds.
  • 3 minutes of rest after the last round of farmers walks
  • 5 minutes of leopard crawls- Set a timer for 5 minutes. Every time you stop crawling you’ll pause the timer. The goal is to get 5 minutes of total work done. You don’t have to do 5 consecutive minutes.

Why This Combo Works

This combo of farmer walks and leopard crawls works because they compliment each other so well. They also fit most of the boxes for gaining functional aesthetics. This combo trains your strength, movement quality, nervous system health, and conditioning. The farmers walk works every muscle in your body but also puts tremendous stress on your nervous system. To counter that nervous system stress, the leopard crawl revitalizes your nervous system. By adding the leopard crawl, you speed up the recovery process of the farmers walk.

Post talking about the numerous benefits of the leopard crawl: The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Post talking about how the Farmer Walk will get you stronger: Get Strong With Farmers Walks!

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How To Get A Body That Looks and Performs It’s Best

How to train if you want to look and feel your best

Should you train for looks or function? Why not get both. You can look good and still perform in and outside of the weight room. The simple answer to how to get functional aesthetics is to train like an athlete. The problem is you see people performing circus tricks in the gym and calling it athletic training.

Even if you’re not training for a sport or an event, you still want to have some athletic ability. There are several keys to making this work.

Efficiency

You want to be as efficient as possible when selecting exercises. If you’re spending 30 minutes doing different curl variations, you’re not being efficient. One of the keys to efficiency is choosing exercises that hit multiple muscles at one. This is important because most of the physical things you do outside of the gym require you to use different muscle groups at once. Isolation exercises have their place too since they’ll address any weak spots. Just don’t make them the main part of your workout program if your goal is functional aesthetics.

Variety

Variety is the spice of life. When it comes to achieving functional aesthetics that variety comes in the different training methods you use. For functional aesthetics, you want to use the different training systems ( strength, speed, mobility, conditioning, and nervous system training). The key to making this work is choosing exercises that compliment each other.

Strength: Strength is a crucial part of having functional aesthetics. Training for strength the type of muscle that turns heads. Even if your goal isn’t to build a large amount of muscle mass, strength training will force your body to develop some muscles. If you do want to gain a large amount of muscle mass, developing strength will make that feat easier to achieve. When doing high volume mass building exercises, the person who can do 10 reps at 225 will most likely have more muscle than the person who can only do 10 reps at 135. The main exercises to maximize strength bench Press, squat, deadlift, and farmers walk.

Speed: Training for speed is a perfect example of form matching function. When you train for speed, your body adapts to allow you to be more efficient at expressing that speed. Your body will do things like build dense muscle fibers and remove unnecessary fat. This will help you with the aesthetic aspect functional aesthetics. For the functional aspect, speed will help you tremendously in most athletic activities. When it comes to training for speed, nothing beats sprints.

Conditioning: Fatigue can make a coward out of anyone. When you’re tired, you don’t perform as well as you should and you have a higher risk of getting hurt. Working on your condition is functional training because it allows you to do more of any activity without getting tired. It helps you with aesthetics as well because conditioning exercises help you burn unnecessary fat. Similar to speed training, your body will burn extra fat so you can be more efficient at the activity you’re doing. Carrying dead weight will tire you out faster. There are different ways to work on your conditioning but the most useful ways are swimming, hill sprints, and punching bag exercises.

Mobility: You need to be able to move if you want to be functional. Everything is easier when you know how to move. Being a good mover allows you to express your speed and strength in a more efficient way. Being a good mover will also improve your posture. A strong posture is visually appealing.

Nervous System Training: The most overlooked type of training in the fitness world is nervous system training. Yes, every form of exercise trains your nervous system. When I talk about nervous system training, I’m talking about exercises with the specific purpose of making the nervous system efficient. By making the nervous system more efficient, you’ll be capable of performing better in the other training methods like strength, speed, and conditioning. This will support your aesthetic goals. Two exercises I use to support my nervous system are the dead hang stretch and the leopard crawl .

On the functional side, making the nervous system more efficient will help your brain function better. A better functioning brain will provide benefits like improved memory and better processing of information. This can come in handy when you’re learning something new. This is functional training at it’s truest form.

One of the main reasons people get into fitness is to improve the overall quality of their life. Getting functional aesthetics will definitely help with that. You don’t have to be obsessed with your appearance to know that you feel better when you like what you see in the mirror. In addition to feeling good about your appearance, developing functional aesthetics will let your brain and body perform optimally in the different activities of your life.

If you’d like a personalized program for developing functional aesthetics, please email me at chrisameto7@gmail.com

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The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Throughout my fitness journey I’ve tried many exercises and exercise variations but there’s one move that really stands out. I’d go as far as saying that learning this exercise was one of the biggest turning points in my fitness journey. The move is called the Leopard Crawl and I learned about it through Tim Anderson’s original strength website.

I say this is the best exercise you’re not doing because I’ve never seen someone in person do this exercise. Maybe it’s because many people haven’t heard of it, it won’t be a social media hit, or crawling like an animal feels weird. Regardless of how you feel about the exercise, it provides many benefits.

Benefits

Core Strength: The Leopard crawl is great for core strength. It teaches you how to use all your core muscles simultaneously. Your core muscles have to stabilize in order to control your movement.

Nervous System Health: The interesting thing about Leopard Crawls is that they’re physically demanding but they’re great for revitalizing your nervous system. The reason why it’s so beneficial to the nervous system is the contralateral aspect of the movement. When you Leopard Crawl, you’re using opposite limbs simultaneously. You use your right hand at the same time as your left leg and vice versa. This forces both hemispheres of your brain to work at the same time.

Back Health: One thing I noticed is that my lower back feels better after doing rounds of leopard crawls. I think this is because of the way the movement is set up, particularly when crawling backwards. Another reason for better back health is the development of core strength cause by Leopard Crawls. A strong, stable core is your back’s best friend.

Fat Loss: Leopard Crawls are great for fat loss due to the metabolic demands it places on your body. It forces you to engage many muscles. The longer you do the crawls, the more cardiovascular energy you have to use. Every time Ive finished a round of Leopard Crawls, my heart rate skyrockets.

Muscle Building: As I mentioned before, Leopard Crawls require you to use multiple muscles at once. You already know about the core muscle engagement but did you know that Leopard Crawls will help you build bulletproof shoulders? They’ll also fire up your chests and triceps. If you don’t have access to a gym and you want to build an impressive upper body, Leopard Crawls will help you tremendously.

How To Do Leopard Crawls

Starting Position: Get down on your hands and knees.

Step 2: Raise your slightly above the ground. Raise your shoulders to a height that it’s above your hips. Tilt your head slightly so you’re looking up at an angle.

Step 3: The Leopard Crawl is a Contralateral movement so you’ll be using opposite limbs simultaneously. As you start crawling, you’ll move your left arm while moving your right leg and vice versa. You can do this forward and backwards. To make this even more difficult, maintain proper tongue posture the way I mentioned in this article.

Regardless of your fitness goal, you can benefit from the leopard crawl. It’s one of the rare exercises that will require a lot of energy but revitalize you after. If you’re not physically ready for the leopard crawl, you prepare yourself with the baby crawl. Give these movements a try!

Original Strength Website: https://originalstrength.net

How To Gain Confidence in any Lift

How to gain confidence in any gym exercise.

One of the biggest keys to performing well in the weight room is confidence. When you’re confident you’re less likely to be affected by limiting beliefs.When it comes to gaining confidence when performing a lift, the best solution is to do that lift more frequently. If you don’t want to do the lift multiple times per week, you can try a high set, low rep workout. This is the closest thing to training frequently.

The key to making the high set, low rep approach work is by choosing a weight you’re comfortable doing. I’ve had good experience with this approach when using it for speed squats. You can use a normal tempo when doing this. The concept is simple. The more you do something, the more confident you are in doing it. The more confident you are in doing it, the more competent you’ll be. This is why many have gotten good results using Pavel Tsatsouline’s grease the groove technique.

I wanted to work these principles in a recent squat workout I had. I have decent competency with the squat but I wanted to take it to another level. Below is a simple squat workout I did which follows the high rep, low set training approach. The reps were at a regular tempo.

Squat Workout

  • Back Squat: 20 sets of 2 at 225 pounds. 1 minute of rest in between sets.

I chose 225 pounds because that’s a weight I can do easily. In context, my squat max is currently 385 pounds, beltless. You can adjust the weight to fit your strength levels.

  • Suitcase Carry: 4 sets of 30 second carries. 2 sets for each arm. Rest 1 minute in between each carry

I added the suitcase carry because it’s a great exercise to build core strength. It also teaches you how to brace your abs, which is crucial when squatting.

  • Extreme Supported Squat: In order to do this find something to hold onto. Once you do, you’ll sit yourself in a bodyweight squat slightly below parallel. Set a timer for 5 minutes and hold yourself up as much as possible. During the 5 minutes you will slowly lower yourself in the squat. You can drop once time runs out.

I learned about this through Sports Chiropractor Dr. Tommy John. The benefit of this is that it builds strength endurance, which will lower your risk of injuries. I notice that my knees feel great every time I finish the slow eccentric squats.

*Warning: The extreme supported squats feel miserable while doing them.

Closing Thoughts

The workout above is something I did for my squats but you can apply the same principle to any lift. Beyond lifting, you can apply it to any movement or life skill you want to gain confidence in.

Video link to Extreme Supported Squat demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67hA3uLnYIM

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Quote of The Week- Lifting is Safe

Why lifting weights is one of the best tools to protect yourself.

“ If you think lifting is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous”. – Brent Contreras

What is danger? Danger is something that can cause you harm. For the purpose of this post, I’m talking about physical harm. When you’re strong, you’re less likely to experience physical harm from outside forces. Any harm you do experience will be minimized due to your physical strength.

I can speak from experience from having injuries in the past that those injuries would have been worse if I hadn’t develop a strength base. This is why Brent. Contreras says being weak is dangerous.

Weak is a relative term but the idea behind his quote is to take your strength seriously because it’ll minimize your risk of physical harm. One of the best ways to develop your strength is through lifting weights.

Being strong will also reduce your risk of danger in regular life. If you ever get in a physical confrontation, being strong will make it easier for you to defend yourself even if you don’t know how to fight. If you’re strong and you look strong as well, people are less likely to want to get in a physical confrontation with you in the first place.

Being strong will reduce your risk of hurting yourself when moving furniture. Being strong will reduce the impact of a fall. It can help you in many areas of your life. In addition to lifting weights, I recommend learning how to move. Doing this will help you maximize the full use of your strength.

Ps. I meant to post earlier in the week. Sorry for the delay!

Applying Martial Arts To Strength Training

What you can take from martial arts to help you achieve your strength goals.

I’ve always been a fan of martial arts since I was a kid. I went from watching Jackie Chan movies to watching UFC fights. The more I understand martial arts, the more I see how it’s principles can be applied to other sports and activities for maximum results. One activity that can benefit from being approached from a martial art standpoint is strength training. This post I’ll share some martial art principles that can be applied to strength training.

Technique

The key to moving heavy weight is generating enough power. In order to do that you need to have good technique in your lifts. Martial artists are able to generate a ton of power in their punches and kicks because they spend time working on their technique. It often looks effortless in how they do it. That’s how you want your lifts to be.

Having good technique makes your nervous system efficient at the move you’re working on. The nervous system is the source of power for any movement.

Repetition

I mentioned this in my Bruce Lee article but you need to get your reps in for any movement you want to get good at. This goes hand in hand with technique. The only way to master your technique is to get a ton of high quality reps.

One of the easiest ways to get more reps in is applying Pavel Tsatsouline’s grease the groove technique. The method of this technique is to do an exercise as often as possible without fatiguing yourself.

White Belt For Life

The idea behind this phrase to always see yourself as a beginner. When you’re a beginner, you’re not satisfied. You always have that hunger to get better.

It’s ok to acknowledge your experience but don’t be attached to that image. When you approach your workouts as a beginner, there’s a different level of excitement. You see endless possibilities for improvement.

Another benefit of seeing yourself as a beginner is humility. The humbleness of a beginner will stop you from being hard on yourself if you miss a lift or have a bad workout. It’ll also stop you from ego lifting because you’ll be so focused on getting better, you won’t have time to try to show off to others. The humbleness of a beginner will remind you that you have time to achieve your goals. You don’t need to have it all now.

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Attack Your Weaknesses!

One of the simplest yet overlooked ways of getting stronger is finding your weaknesses and making them strengths. I love using different training methods but sometimes it pays off to do the simple thing. This is why I place a lot of importance on self-awareness. With self-awareness, you can know what areas you need to work on. This applies to fitness and life in general. The first and simple step is identifying your weakness(es). Once you identify them, you attack them.

How To Identify Your Weaknesses

There are two ways I identify my weaknesses, soreness and sticking points. This why I like to focus on compound lifts. With soreness, I like to see what parts of my body have extra soreness. These extra sore body parts are the ones I need to work on more. For example, if your triceps are extra sore after bench pressing, you can do close grip bench press or skull crushers to address your weak triceps. I always prefer compound lifts but isolation exercises can help you target weak points.

The other way is by looking at my sticking points. The best way to know your sticking points is by lifting heavy. When you’re lifting heavy, you’ll notice what parts of the lift you have the most difficulty, thus you’ll find what’s holding you back from getting stronger.

How To Attack Your Weaknesses

The two ways to attack your weaknesses is strengthening the weak muscles or doing sticking point specific exercises. The first one is a no brainer, if you have a weak muscle group just train it. There are various ways to really target weak points. You can use single limp exercises like the Bulgarian split squat and bent over rows. You can do isolation exercises like the skull crushers, glute bridges, and hamstring curls. Bodyweight exercises are also great for targeting specific weaknesses, especially joint weaknesses. If you’re a lifter without access to weights, you can use this time to do bodyweight exercises that target weak points.

For sticking point issues, paused work and overcoming isometrics will help tremendously. Doing paused squats has helped me improve my ability to get out of the bottom position. You can do pauses at any position that you feel you’re weak at. Overcoming isometrics are specifically done to break through sticking points and can lead you to incredible strength gains. There’s so many ways to use Overcoming Isometrics but the most common way I’ve seen is with a barbell, power rack, and safety pins.

The idea is to push the barbell against the safety pins at various joint angles. You’ll select the joint angles you struggle in the most.Since you won’t be able to move the pins, you’ll be exerting maximum force. Doing this teaches your body to exert a lot of force at that particular position. The more force you apply, the easier it is to move the weight.

How I’m Attacking My current Weaknesses

My two current weak spots are my triceps and my hip flexors. I noticed my tricep weakness from struggling at the lockout point on my bench press. I saw my hip flexor weakness from doing squats. My hip flexors are often sore after I finish doing squats.

For my triceps, I’ve been doing a lot of isolation exercises as well as cross crawl movements that engage the triceps. I’ve definitely noticed improvements in my lockout strength since placing a stronger emphasis on tricep training..

For my hip flexors, I’ve been doing band work. The exercise involves me lying on my back and placing my feet on the bands. Once I’m set up, I bring each knee to my chests , with the band acting as resistance.

I’ve also been doing hurdle jumps at a local track. These automatically engage the hip flexors based on how I have to tuck in my legs to get over the hurdles.I’ve noticed a difference in my power when squatting. I’ve also been able to engage my glutes more when I lift.

Another way I’m targeting my hip flexors is to look at the cause for hip flexor weakness. I’ve made it a point to stand up more each day. Sitting for too long weakens and tightens hip flexors. I’ve also been stretching my hip flexors so they can be strong and mobile.

Below is a link to a Stack article with great information on Overcoming Isometrics:

https://www.stack.com/a/overcoming-isometrics-the-weird-exercises-that-can-instantly-make-you-stronger#:~:text=%20For%20example%2C%20contrast%20training%20for%20the%20upper-body,minutes%20and%20repeat%20for%203-5%20sets%20More%20

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The Most Impactful Weight Lifting Protocols

The three weight lifting methods most responsible for my strength gains.

If you’ve been following this page for a while, you’ll know that weight lifting has been a major part of my fitness journey. I’ve used many weight lifting protocols but there’s a few that stand out as having the most impact for me when it comes to gaining strength and transforming my body.It’s important to understand the basics but once you have those mastered, you should look into the different training methods to see what will help you achieve your goal. I plan on sharing the lifting methods that have helped me the most with gaining strength. They’ve all helped me in different ways.

Loaded Carries

Loaded carries have been an absolute game changer. They’ve had so much impact that I still find ways to do them while my gym is closed. Loaded carries can help you with a number of goals like muscle gain, fat loss, and increased work capacity. I’ve noticed the benefit mostly in the strength department. Moving heavy weight just feels easier when loaded carries are part of my program. Maybe that’s why strength coaches like Dan John and Charles Thibadeau reccomend loaded carries to lifters.

Two things that make loaded carries special are core engagement and grip strength. Your core has to be braced when walking around with weight. This high level of core engagement transfers well to squats and deadlifts. Your level of core engagement in these lifts can make the difference between a successful lift and a failed lift. Having your core well braced will also help with injury prevention.

The grip strength I’ve gained from loaded carries have also helped me with my overall strength. Grip strength goes beyond just helping the deadlift. Try any lift, regardless of the target muscles and see how much easier it is to move the weight when you can grip the bar tightly. It’s because squeezing something tightly sends a message to your brain that you’re in danger, causing your body to tense up. Tension is one of the biggest keys to lifting heavy weights. You can benefit from the different variations of loaded carries.

Speed Work

Compensatory acceleration training (CAT) helped me tremendously when I felt stuck in my squat and deadlift. It makes perfect sense that the faster you can move a weight, the easier the lift is. The key to CAT is moving the weight as explosively as possible during the concentric/ upward portion of the lift. By doing this, you learn how to apply more force to your lifts. Force is what moves objects. In order to move 400 pounds, you need to apply more than 400 pounds of force. I’ve only applied it to squats and deadlifts but I’ve noticed great gains from CAT .

Cluster sets

Cluster sets are an awesome way to build strength. They’re a great way to get your body comfortable with heavier weight. Cluster sets allow you to do more reps of a certain weight than you normally would by taking mini breaks in between each set. If you can only do three reps of a weight, clusters will allow you to do more. I go into greater detail about cluster sets in the post dedicated to Strength Coach Charles Poliquin.

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How To Build Incredible Core Strength Using a Dumbbell

The Suitcase Carry is one of the best exercises for building core strength.

You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe ” – Fred Hatfield

Core strength is one of the most important factors in any physical performance. Without it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of power and will be at risk of injury. I know that increasing my core strength will be crucial for me to get back to pre-pandemic form. I recently invested in a 50 pound dumbbell so I can start doing one of the hardest core exercises known to man. It’s called the suitcase carry.

As you know by now, I’m a big fan of loaded carry exercises like the Goblet Carry and Farmers Walks. The Suitcase carry is the hardest loaded carry variation I’ve tried. The movement is just like it’s name. You hold a dumbbell to your side just like you would for a suitcase. Think of a Farmers Walk in which you only have a dumbbell on one side of your body. If you don’t feel your core engaging while doing this exercise then you must be from another planet. The level of core tension when doing suitcase carries is unreal.

If you want to build serious core strength all you need is to grab a dumbbell and start walking. You can also use a kettlebell or an actual suitcase. Just like any lift, the key to making this work is not using too much weight but using enough that it’s a challenge. You’d be surprised with how little weight you can use to make this exercise challenging

How I Incorporate Suitcase Carries To My Routine

I typically do Suitcase Carries after doing short sprints. My rep and set scheme is as follows.

  • Left hand Suitcase Carry for 30 seconds
  • 1 Minute Rest
  • Right Hand Suitcase Carry for 30 seconds
  • 2 Minute Rest
  • Repeat

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