How to Perform the Kettlebell Swing for Optimal Power,

Kettlebell swings are one of my favorite exercises for a full-body workout

Here’s a detailed look at all the muscles worked in kettlebell swings and some pro tips for doing them correctly

Kettlebell swings are a beast of an exercise!

They’re an amazing addition to any workout routine because not only does swinging those kettlebells works a lot of muscles (it’s no exaggeration to say pretty much all of them), but they’re also seriously kickass cardio and a movement guaranteed to increase mobility

Below, I’ll take a deep dive into this epic resistance training movement, looking at the muscles worked, how to do it correctly, even answering some of the most common questions about kettlebell swings

By the end of this post, you’ll know everything necessary to work them into your routines and reap the MASSIVE benefits that kettlebell swings can offer

Whether you’ve got a competition kettlebell or an adjustable kettlebell, you’re ready to get working this exercise that leads to serious muscular growth

The best thing about kettlebell swings is that they work A LOT of muscles

Seriously, you’ll find few full-body movements that can engage as many muscles as kettlebell swings

Every time you transition through the swinging/squatting/raising movement, you work:

These create the swinging motion, keeping the kettlebell moving upward and downward

These engage to raise the weight to your chest (or, in the case of overhead kettlebell swings, above your head), and to lower the weight under controlYour core, including your abs, spinal erectors (in the lower back), and the obliques

These work to keep your balance and provide a brace for your upper body muscles to swing the weightYour legs, including your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves

These do the work of squatting and standing with each swingYour grip muscles, including your forearms

Working all these muscles can lead to serious strength gains in virtually your entire body

(Really, the only muscles not being worked are your triceps and chest )

Kettlebell swings do so much more than just work on your strength, though!

Kettlebell swings improve the muscles that help with good posture

Because you’re training the muscles that keep you upright and support your spine, they will help you stand/sit straighter, avoiding the hunch/slouch that is the cause of so many back, shoulder, and neck problems

One of the sneaky benefits of kettlebell swings is that they’re also an excellent exercise to help improve other lifts and movements

Because they’re so dynamic (constantly moving, never taking a break), you have to pay close attention to every stage in the swinging process—the squat, the stand, the swing, the overhead raise, and the controlled descent

The more you work on your form, the more you’ll come to understand the mechanics of your body and how it moves most efficiently

Kettlebell swings help you strengthen your core

It’s also an amazing core strengthening and stabilization workout

Your lower back and abs have to brace your body through the swing, and your obliques help to keep your balance

But your balance will also improve, too, because you’re training your body to stay stable through the entire swing movement

People with mobility issues will find that their movement both improves and increases thanks to kettlebell swings

The exercise trains your upper and lower body to move in synchronicity, to squat and swing and raise smoothly

As a result, all of the joints involved—elbows, shoulders, knees, hips, ankles, and wrists—will move more efficiently

Kettlebell swings work the forearms and grip

Last, but certainly not least, kettlebell swings train your grip strength

You’ve got to hold on tightly to the kettlebell (otherwise, it could fly away and smack someone/something else! ), so your forearm muscles do a lot of the work

Training your grip strength will help you in virtually every other exercise that involves holding something heavy—either your bodyweight (like in pull-ups) or heavy weights (like when you are pulling the barbell in deadlifts or rows)

Tips for Doing Kettlebell Swings Properly

The kettlebell swing is a beginner-level exercise, one that takes minimal experience and can be adapted to any strength level

However, it’s an exercise you absolutely want to get RIGHT—if you have the wrong form, you run the risk of injuring yourself as you swing

Here are our best tips to help you master the technique so you activate the right muscles and avoid injuries:

Your spine is the joint most likely to get injured during this exercise, so make sure to use the proper posture to protect your spine

Any rounding in the shoulders, lower back, or neck could cause a misalignment and back pain

Make sure your back stays flat and your neck stays straight throughout the entire movement

? Tip #2: Swing to chest height

Overhead kettlebell swings are an amazing movement to build powerful shoulders, but for the sake of simplicity, focus on the standard kettlebell swing until you master the movement

If you try to swing higher, it engages the shoulder muscles and joints in a way that could risk injury for those who haven’t yet mastered the form

? Tip #3: Use your lower body and arms, not your shoulders

To do that, keep the shoulder muscles engaged but keep them lowered, consciously pulled down away from your ears

Use your momentum and the thrust of your hips to facilitate movement without using your elbow or wrist joints

Throughout the swinging/squatting movement, pay attention to your abs, lower back, and glutes

Keep these core muscles engaged and use them to brace your upper and lower body

When you stand upright, thrust/snap your hips forward to help generate forward motion in the kettlebell and facilitate the swing

Most of the power should come from your hips, not your arms or shoulders

When you’re coming up from the squat, drive your heels into the ground and use that to explode upward

With your foundation solid, you’ll have a lot more strength for the swinging action

? Tip #8: Keep your movement natural

There is a certain “pace” to the kettlebell swing, a natural rhythm your body settles into as you squat/stand/swing

Try to find that pace, letting your body and the kettlebell dictate the speed

You’ll quickly settle into the rhythm and feel the momentum of the swinging weight help you to move more easily

If you swing wildly or jerk, you run the risk of injuring your back, shoulders, elbows, knees, or hips

If a weight feels too heavy or you have to jerk to lift it, choose a lighter kettlebell

The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen your muscles, not win a title of “Heaviest Kettlebell Swinger”

Stick with a weight that feels right, and gradually increase as you grow stronger

Inhale as you lower into the squat, then exhale as you explode upward into the swing

Kettlebell Swings Muscle Worked – FAQs

Is the kettlebell swing good for abs?

The kettlebell swing focuses more on the posterior chain muscles (including your lower back and glutes), but your abs do have to engage to maintain your balance and brace your upper body through the swinging movement

While there are other exercises better-suited to developing powerful abs, the kettlebell swing will be a great addition to any core-centric workout

Can you build muscle doing kettlebell swings?

The combination of swing/squat/stand/raise will engage all of the muscles I listed above

How heavy should a kettlebell be to build muscle?

Let’s be honest: some people can just naturally lift more weight than others, and that’s totally fine

A 250-pound linebacker will swing a much heavier kettlebell than a 100-pound Yoga instructor

The weight itself isn’t what matters, but how hard it works your muscles

You should aim for 60 to 70% of your total 1-Rep Max weight for a 10-rep set of kettlebell swings

That’s how heavy your kettlebell should be to build muscle

Kettlebell swings are an absolute game-changer for anyone trying to build strength, mobility, and agility

Because it combines a squat with a swing, it works pretty much the entire body—from shoulders to calves, and everything in between

The exercise is also a lot of fun, improves your ability to move/squat smoothly, and develops explosive power

Follow the tips I shared above to master the kettlebell swing form, and you’ll have everything you need to shred muscle and build serious power thanks to this amazing dynamic movement

Kettlebells are a proven way to dominate your workouts

Here’s a breakdown of the best kettlebells for athletes and gymgoers

10 Benefits of Kettlebell Swings (And Should You Do Them Every Day? )

Kettlebell swings are a simple exercise that pack a huge punch

Here are ten benefits of kettlebell swings, from improving your posture to burning belly fat

Kettlebells vs Dumbbells: Pros, Cons, and Differences

Kettlebells and dumbbells are two of the most popular tools for resistance training

In this guide, we’ll look at the key differences between kettlebells and dumbbells so you can choose the right tool for your training

Kettlebells are a fantastic tool that had a resurgence in the lifting world over the last 20 years, after well over a century of use around the world

They’re versatile and can be used to get stronger, put on size, improve athletic performance, and even develop iron-clad conditioning

The kettlebell swing is likely the most well-known kettlebell exercise — and for a good reason

It is an excellent movement to improve power; it’s an efficient way to build endurance and burn fat; and it’s a great teaching tool to learn the hip hinge pattern (strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back)

Here’s how to perform a perfect kettlebell swing and everything you need to know about this exercise

Kettlebell Swing Tutorial Video

Coach Justin Lind shares an extremely detailed explanation and demonstration of the kettlebell swing

Watch the video in its entirety before, or after, reading the full article to see the movement put into action and highlight the details of its performance

Kettlebell Swing TutorialWatch this video on YouTube

The kettlebell swing is a dynamic movement that develops lower body power

Because it requires explosive output, you should always pay attention to proper technique to avoid injuries and reap the intended benefits

Place a kettlebell on the ground and stand in front of it with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width stance

Hinge at the hips while keeping your knees slightly bent

Keep your hips relatively high without dropping into a squatting position

Grab the top handle of the kettlebell firmly with both hands in a palms-down grip

Form tip: When you’re hinging at the hips, the kettlebell should be almost directly beneath your eyes

If it’s too close to your body’s centerline, you won’t be able to get it moving efficiently to begin the first repetition

Step 2 — Pull the Weight Behind Your Legs

Credit: baranq / Shutterstock

Flex your lats (back muscles) and forcefully pull the kettlebell back between your legs in a dynamic fashion while keeping your elbows slightly bent

Try to feel tension in your hamstrings and glutes as they stretch in the hinged position

At its farthest position, the weight should be under or past your glutes

Form tip: The kettlebell swing is a hinge, not a squat

Done properly, the exercise recruits your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back) for maximal power

Simultaneously contract your glutes while extending your hips and knees to drive the weight forward and up

Maintain straight or slightly bent arms throughout the rep

In the top position, your body should be straight and tall, with the weight stopping naturally around shoulder-level or slightly below

Grip the weight hard, brace your core, and flex your quads to maintain balance and control at the top of the movement

Don’t allow the weight to pull you forward

Form tip: The weight should be lifted by the driving force of your glutes and hips, not by actively lifting with your arms

Think of your arms as “ropes” holding the kettlebell — they are mainly used to guide the weight on its path upwards, not to assist the lift

Step 4 — Allow the Weight to “Fall” Under Control

Let gravity do the work and allow the kettlebell to return to its position behind your legs

Maintain a neutral spine as you hinge forward while the weight is falling

The weight should end up near your glutes

From this stretched position, you can transition into the next repetition by repeating step three and using the momentum accumulated during the fall of the kettlebell

Form tip: Be sure to hinge with a neutral spine as the weight returns to the bottom position, as this will properly load the powerful target muscles

Do not squat down because stress will shift to your shoulders, arms, and quadriceps

Kettlebell Swing Mistakes to Avoid

Kettlebell Swing Mistakes to Avoid

This movement requires a cocktail of speed, balance, and coordination, so it’s easy to make a mistake

Whether you’re experienced with swings or you’re a complete beginner, review these common problems to make sure you’re not doing them

When lifters’ hips move up and down rather than front to back, it negatively affects muscle recruitment

Credit: nelic / Shutterstock

Credit: nelic / Shutterstock

Credit: nelic / Shutterstock

This is a problem because “squatty swings” will not only shift the workload away from the hamstrings and glutes, but will also result in lifters using their relatively weaker arms and shoulders to elevate the kettlebell

Avoid it: Do not be afraid of bending forward while keeping a neutral spine

Keep a slight bend in your knees and think of your hips moving horizontally and not vertically, like you’re trying to touch the wall behind you with your butt

The swing naturally involves the lower back muscles because they help extend the hips, especially to achieve an upright standing position

Credit: Bojan656 / Shutterstock

However, overextending at the top of the movement (leaning too far backwards when standing) puts a lot of unnecessary stress on your lower back

Avoid it: Squeeze your glutes as much as possible at the top of the movement

They are the prime moving muscle and focusing on their activation will prevent you from shifting the workload onto the lower back

When people pay too much attention to “lifting the kettlebell,” they sometimes start using their arms and shoulders before their hips have fully extended

This is a problem because it sacrifices lower body power

It also puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint by relying on smaller shoulder stabilizers instead of much stronger glute muscles

Credit: SOK Studio / Shutterstock

This issue can also occur when using lighter kettlebells which are “easier” to lift incorrectly (with the arms) or when people perform swings slowly, which defeats the purpose of the exercise because it’s always meant to be done explosively

Avoid it: Make sure you are correctly performing an explosive hip hinge and properly engaging your glutes and hamstrings

Don’t over-focus on making sure the kettlebell reaches shoulder-level, let it occur naturally

Benefits of the Kettlebell Swing

Benefits of the Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing looks basic, maybe even “easy,” but this straight-forward movement packs a lot of benefits no matter what your goal is

Credit: SeventyFour / Shutterstock

Whether you’re a performance-focused lifter, a competitive athlete, or looking to build your physique, the swing delivers results

Explosive Power and Strength

Many types of athletic movements involve a hip hinge, which is optimized by training the swing

Swings also improve the explosive power of your lower body muscles

The swing has also been shown to be as effective at building strength as other training methods

(2) Sure, you use less weight than with a deadlift or a squat, but the dynamic performance of the swing improves intermuscular connection, continuous muscular recruitment and acceleration, as well as contraction speed

All of those factors help your nervous system become more efficient at using your muscles, so you end up becoming stronger

This exercise can be an efficient tool for improving cardio-respiratory fitness and has been shown to be as effective as other types of cardio exercise

(3) Because the kettlebell swing must be done explosively and cannot be performed at a low intensity, it is best used as part of a training circuit or for HIIT (high-intensity interval training)

Swings are also very low impact and won’t irritate your knees when done properly

The swing is not the first exercise that pops in our head when we think of hypertrophy, but its explosive nature — meaning great muscle recruitment — coupled with the potentially long time under tension make it a good candidate for building muscle mass

If you want to maximize hypertrophy, make sure to gradually increase the weight you use over weeks and months, but don’t go too heavy or you’ll lose the explosive mechanics (4)

The handles of most kettlebells are relatively thick and sometimes smooth, both of which challenge your grip strength as you apply explosive movement to the weight

A good swing workout may leave your forearms sore temporarily, but you will eventually develop a stronger grip and more muscular arms

Muscles Worked By the Kettlebell Swing

Muscles Worked By the Kettlebell Swing

Muscles Worked By the Kettlebell Swing

The swing is a complete exercise that will recruit nearly every muscle in your body in some capacity

Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Proper swings require strong contractions of your glutes, hamstrings, and core throughout each repetition

Like any hip hinge, the glutes are heavily involved in the swing

The gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus are a group of three large muscles that govern hip movement

In the swing, their main role is to extend the hips — bring the body from a bent-over position to an upright posture

Try to squeeze your glutes as much as possible at the top of each repetition

This will shift the workload away from your lower back, promote maximal hypertrophy, and allow maximum power output

Your hamstrings are a series of posterior muscles that flex or bend the knees

The hamstrings also help extend the hips in conjunction with the glutes

In the swing, your hamstrings assist the glutes in driving the weight up from the bottom position by extending the hips

If you have trouble feeling your hamstrings working during the exercise, focus on driving through your heels when raising the weight

This postural muscle helps keep the spine in place and also contributes to hip extension

It will work a lot to stabilize your upper body in the swing

If your back rounds over during the swing, you put the erector spinae into a more active role and increase the risk of injury

The abdominals work together with the erector spinae to form the “core” and provide a stable upper body

During the swing, your abs are highly active to maintain a neutral spine position, particularly in the bottom position when the weight pulls back between your legs

If your abs aren’t fully engaged, you’re more likely to follow the weight back, down, and through your legs

Even though you’re not pulling with your upper body, the other back muscles contribute to the lift

The latissimus dorsi (lats), the biggest back muscle, will be engaged to ensure spinal stability and maintain a strong arm position

Across your upper back, the traps, rhomboids, and rear deltoids all work in conjunction to protect your shoulder joints and guide the kettlebell along its path

Your forearm muscles (wrist flexors and wrist extensors) are responsible for your grip strength, which is a big part of the kettlebell swing

Kettlebells typically have thicker handles than barbells or dumbbells, which challenges the grip more significantly

The explosive nature of the swing also requires a strong grip to control the weight in the top position and prevent the kettlebell from flying away like the “cannonball with a handle” it appears to be

Who Should Do the Kettlebell Swing

Who Should Do the Kettlebell Swing

Who Should Do the Kettlebell Swing

Who Should Do the Kettlebell Swing

Anyone can do this exercise as long as they can perform it correctly — which is the vast majority of lifters

If you want to get stronger, more fit, and more muscular, find room in your program for the swing

Whether you’re a CrossFit athlete or someone that wants to be a jack of all trades, the kettlebell swing is a great addition to build several physical qualities at the same time

It will improve total-body strength, grip strength, power, conditioning, and build some muscle as well

The swing is a great tool for people that need variety in their training because it can be programmed in many different ways

It can also be done virtually anywhere and any time, so if you just want to squeeze in a quick workout, swings are the perfect fix

Competitive powerlifters and strongmen/strongwomen can benefit from an improved conditioning and recovery, as well as increased power and strength

The swing trains the hip hinge pattern, which carries over to many competitive events and builds stronger, more explosive hips

Strength athletes don’t need to be able to run for miles, but withstanding a minute-long set or having improved conditioning to better recover between sets will certainly help in their training

If you’ve just started your fitness journey, the kettlebell swing is a great tool to practice and master the hip hinge, which carries over to countless exercises

The swing is also an efficient way to pack muscle onto your frame, while increasing your strength, power, conditioning, and coordination — all at the same time

Contrary to popular belief, endurance athletes have to do more than just running, biking, or swimming if they want to perform well and remain injury-free

The swing is a great strength exercise for endurance athletes, like marathon runners or triathletes

The swing requires posterior chain mobility and strength, which is key to being comfortable in power positions on a bike

It is also a great exercise to recruit and develop the glutes for a more balanced physique, as runners and cyclists often have anterior chain (quadriceps) dominance which puts them at risk for knee pain

How to Program the Kettlebell Swing

How to Program the Kettlebell Swing

Because it is a dynamic power movement, you cannot go too heavy with the swing or you change the mechanics of the exercise

Heavy Weight, Moderate Repetitions

This is the best rep range if you want to focus on a balance of strength and size

Three to five sets of five to 10 repetitions, close to technical failure, will do the trick

You still have to be able to accelerate the kettlebell with speed

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetitions

This approach focuses on speed and explosive power

Five to eight sets of five to 10 repetitions is an excellent scheme for power, but you must avoid muscular failure at all costs

You want to be exert maximum speed with each rep — the last rep of the set should feel as quick and snappy as the first

Use relatively lighter weights and keep some gas in the tank

Moderate-to-Light Weight, High Repetitions

This type of plan is for those who really want to improve conditioning

Eventually, get crazy with much higher reps or even train for time instead of repetitions

One effective way to train for time is to use an equal work-to-rest ratio

If you perform reps for one minute, take one minute rest between sets

The 10,000 Swing Workout

If you want a challenge well-beyond your comfort zone, try the 10,000 swing workout

Created by legendary strength and conditioning coach Dan John, this four-week plan will make you leaner, stronger, more muscular, and a generally tougher human

Each training day will have you do 500 swings as well as a basic strength exercise

Every workout, perform a total of 500 swings with this plan:

That’s 100 total swings in a round

Repeat four more times for a total of 500 swings per workout

One strength exercise is performed after each set of swings using low repetitions and relatively heavy weight

Perform three sets using a 1, 2, 3 or 2, 3, 5 repetition scheme with basic, multi-joint exercises like the overhead press, dip, goblet squat, or chin-up

Single-joint exercises like curls or chest flyes are relatively easier and aren’t as effective

Set 3: 25 swings, 3 presses, rest 60 seconds

Set 3: 25 swings, 3 presses, rest 60 seconds

Set 3: 25 swings, 3 presses, rest 60 seconds

Set 4: 50 swings, rest three minutes

For progression, push yourself to complete the workout faster each week instead of adding reps or using heavier weight

Kettlebell Swing Variations

Kettlebell Swing Variations

There are several ways to tweak the swing to focus on certain benefits of the lift

When you feel like the traditional swing has no secrets for you anymore, try one of these variations

Double Kettlebell Swing

This is pretty much a standard swing, except that you hold a kettlebell in each hand

You might need to widen your stance a little bit to remain safe when the weights pass between your legs

If you want to train heavy but don’t have access to heavy kettlebells, this is the way to go

Double Kettlebell SwingsWatch this video on YouTube

This exercise is a great tool for strength development and grip training because you can go twice as heavy

It also requires more core and back bracing power to stabilize each shoulder and arm because the pair of weights are moving independently

Banded Kettlebell Swing

Loop it around the kettlebell and secure the ends under your feet to form a triangle

The added resistance of the band requires you to drive harder through your hips to build the speed and power needed to get the weight near chest-level

Banded Kettlebell SwingWatch this video on YouTube

It’s also a good way to induce more hypertrophy because the band actually pulls the kettlebell back during the descent, resulting in an accentuated eccentric phase (when the weight comes down)

This eccentric stress can result in more muscular hypertrophy, especially in the hamstrings, which are a muscle group particularly receptive to eccentric contractions

Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

By holding the kettlebell in only one hand, you add a unilateral component to the exercise

This forces the back, shoulder, and arm to work more on the side that is holding the weight

The single weight requires your body to fight against rotation and flexing to the side

Video: One Arm Kettlebell SwingWatch this video on YouTube

This is a great movement for targeting your core and lower back stability

The single-sided challenge also recruits the oblique muscles of your core

Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can still train your explosive hip hinging and work your posterior chain

Dumbbell Swing

Sometimes you really want to swing, but there are no kettlebells

Just grab a solid dumbbell by the head and start swinging

Be careful because the weight distribution of the dumbbell is different and its head is more awkward to grab since you’ll be using your fingers more than your entire hand

Kettlebell Swings with a Dumbbell, How ToWatch this video on YouTube

Instead, tou could use both hands to hold the handle of the dumbbell

The weight will be more evenly balanced, compared to a kettlebell’s center of gravity being farther from your hands, which makes the exercise relatively easier

When you perform this exercise, think about rep quality, not quantity

This leg exercise is a staple for developing size and strength in the glutes, hamstrings, and back

Performing it with heavy-to-moderate weights for low-to moderate repetitions is an excellent substitution for the swing

To take the power-building up another notch, loop a resistance band around the barbell and anchor it with your feet

Perform each repetition with maximal speed and avoid reaching muscular fatigue

This type of band training develops the speed component even more

I worry about the kettlebell hitting between my legs and doing some serious damage

The key is to make sure that your hips are driving the movement

Lifting with your back might cause your spine to be hyperextended, which will cause the kettlebell to end up higher on your thighs

Maintain a neutral back and don’t be afraid of bending forward at the hips to let the weight go behind you

Use this cue to swing safely

What weight should I use?

When learning any new exercise, you should always use a light weight so that you get the feel of the exercise and develop proper technique

As a dynamic exercise, swinging a kettlebell that is too light won’t allow that proper exertion of force and power production

When you feel you have mastered the exercise and can do 15 good repetitions with perfect form, you can try going heavier

Is it normal that my lower back hurts when doing kettlebell swings?

Some back soreness, however, should be expected due to the stretched position and explosive movement

If you’re sure you have pain and not muscle soreness, double-check that your form is pristine and then check with a medical practitioner for any underlying condition

The same is true if you lead with your back coming out of the bottom stretch, which uses your erectors as prime movers instead of as core-bracers

You have to ensure a proper hip hinge by squeezing your glutes as much as possible and keeping a flat back

Think of the lower back as a “bracing” muscle to keep your upper body stable

The kettlebell swing isn’t just one of the most fundamental and generally useful kettlebell exercises

It’s one of the most fundamental and generally useful exercises of all time

You certainly don’t need to be a kettlebell specialist or compete in any strength sport to benefit from the swing, it delivers benefits for any lifter

Find a place in your training plan, program it properly, and start building a powerful posterior

Kettlebell Swing Training Improves Maximal and Explosive Strength, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2012 – Volume 26 – Issue 8 – p 2228-2233doi: 101519/JSC0b013e31825c2c9b

Effects of Kettlebell Swing vs

Explosive Deadlift Training on Strength and Power

Comparison of kettlebell swings and treadmill running at equivalent rating of perceived exertion values

Dissimilar effects of one- and three-set strength training on strength and muscle mass gains in upper and lower body in untrained subjects

PMID: 28486337

PMID: 28486337

PMID: 28486337

Concentric versus enhanced eccentric hamstring strength training: clinical implications

Effectiveness of accommodation and constant resistance training on maximal strength and power in trained athletes

PMID: 25024910; PMCID: PMC4081144

PMID: 25024910; PMCID: PMC4081144

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