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Thread: Pavel Tsatsouline's 10 Commandments for BodyBuilders

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    Pavel Tsatsouline's 10 Commandments for BodyBuilders

    The 10 Commandments of Free-Style Bodybuilding Periodization

    1. Vary your volume and intensity every workout. Make sudden jumps rather than gradual changes. If you do not mind the math, employ the 60 percent rule to your volume planning.

    2. Change your exercises every four to six weeks.

    3. High-Intensity training should be employed infrequently. It is only marginally effective for hypertrophy, and primarily causes short-lived strength gains. Frequent use of heavy weights and training to failure are also detrimental to future gains.

    4. High volume is the key to bodybuilding success. An advanced bodybuilder's high-load workout should include up to 150- repetitions per body part.

    5. Generally there is an inverse relationship between the loading volume and intensity, but it's meant to be occasionally broken by elite bodybuilders.

    6. Limit each workout to a narrow rep range: 1-3, 4-7, 8-12, and 12+. Limit your use of pyramids.

    7. Vary the intensity (both the poundage and the priximity to muscle failure) within each workout while staying in the specified rep range. For example: 275x3, 300x3RM, 285x2, 250x3, 295x2 and 315x1RM instead of 285x5x3.

    8. Four to 12 reptitioons are the meat of a scientific bodybuilding regimen. No more than one out of three workouts should be dedicated to very low (one to three) or high (12 and over) reps.

    9. Relatively easy sessions are more effective than complete rest. Active recovery workouts may be planned or taken instinctively.

    10. Controlled short-term volume over-training followed by low-volume/low-intensity taper is a very powerful training anabolic. you may plan for concentrated loading or simply take advantage of accidental over-training every ambitious trainer is prone to.

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    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    I'd like to know what this is based on.

    Very misleading, if you ask me.
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
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    Yeah, it's kind of taken out of context, sorry if I mislead anyone.

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    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    Not you - him.

    If the context os the 0.0000000000001% of the population that have the genetics to be professional bodybuilders, it may not be so bad.

    For the rest, well:

    1. Vary your volume and intensity every workout. Make sudden jumps rather than gradual changes. If you do not mind the math, employ the 60 percent rule to your volume planning.

    ** This doesn't make much sence, but seems pointless, unless workouts are VERY frequent.

    2. Change your exercises every four to six weeks.

    ** or 8, or 12, or 15, or 52, or whenever your progression stops.

    3. High-Intensity training should be employed infrequently. It is only marginally effective for hypertrophy, and primarily causes short-lived strength gains. Frequent use of heavy weights and training to failure are also detrimental to future gains.

    ** HIT can result in strenght and size gains, or nothing... depends. Goodness knows we wouldn't want to use the heavy weights. (?)

    4. High volume is the key to bodybuilding success. An advanced bodybuilder's high-load workout should include up to 150- repetitions per body part.

    ** This assumes genetic freak or drugs or both.

    5. Generally there is an inverse relationship between the loading volume and intensity, but it's meant to be occasionally broken by elite bodybuilders.

    ** I don't even understand this. Does this mean that it's possible train very intensely AND do lots of volume sometimes?

    6. Limit each workout to a narrow rep range: 1-3, 4-7, 8-12, and 12+. Limit your use of pyramids.

    ** Why? Based on what? (I'm not saying it's a bad idea)

    7. Vary the intensity (both the poundage and the priximity to muscle failure) within each workout while staying in the specified rep range. For example: 275x3, 300x3RM, 285x2, 250x3, 295x2 and 315x1RM instead of 285x5x3.

    ** This, too, makes no sence to me. Why is this better?

    8. Four to 12 reptitioons are the meat of a scientific bodybuilding regimen. No more than one out of three workouts should be dedicated to very low (one to three) or high (12 and over) reps.

    ** I'd pretty much agree with this, and I'd make it one out of 12 or more.

    9. Relatively easy sessions are more effective than complete rest. Active recovery workouts may be planned or taken instinctively.

    ** Good advice.

    10. Controlled short-term volume over-training followed by low-volume/low-intensity taper is a very powerful training anabolic. you may plan for concentrated loading or simply take advantage of accidental over-training every ambitious trainer is prone to.

    ** I'm not so sure this is all *that* powerful.
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
    "You're wrong, and I have a completely irrelevant pubmed abstract that may or may not say so." - Belial
    I has a blog.
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    HomeYield WillKuenzel's Avatar
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    Who is this guy? I'm normally open to different things but some of that doesn't really make much sense to me.
    What is elite?
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    FREAK IN THA' MAKING!!! duque21's Avatar
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    150 per body part????????? Well yo know I think thats kinda high, I usually stay around the 148-149 rep per body aprt range

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    One body part: 3 sets, 6 excersizes, 8 reps/set. I don't know much of that there new-fangled math, but I reckon that adds up to 24 hours/day in the gym.

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    Rockin' the midlife crisis xraygirl's Avatar
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    Who is this guy? I'm normally open to different things but some of that doesn't really make much sense to me.
    Pavel Tsatsuline allegedly used to train the Russian KGB folks. He is a trainer for the US Marines right now and has a regular article section in Muscle Media mag.
    He has an interesting take on weight training, but his manner is very off-putting.
    "I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific." -Lily Tomlin

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    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Paul Stagg
    1. Vary your volume and intensity every workout. Make sudden jumps rather than gradual changes. If you do not mind the math, employ the 60 percent rule to your volume planning.

    ** This doesn't make much sence, but seems pointless, unless workouts are VERY frequent.


    Shock to the system would be my guess. The greater the upset to the status quo, the greater the adaptive response (provided ample nutrients and rest). What I'm getting from it is that he wants some structure applied, even if its at the most basic level.

    2. Change your exercises every four to six weeks.

    ** or 8, or 12, or 15, or 52, or whenever your progression stops.


    I know I've argued for the point of progression before, but these days I'm not entirely sure. For strength purposes, certainly. However, for hypertrophy, where only muscular work is important, not the actual external loading, I'm not 100% sure that rotating the exercises would be either intrinsically good or bad.....just another flexible variable.

    I'm finding that by keeping one exercise per body part consistent for strength gains, then just doing whatever for hypertrophy is working quite nicely.

    3. High-Intensity training should be employed infrequently. It is only marginally effective for hypertrophy, and primarily causes short-lived strength gains. Frequent use of heavy weights and training to failure are also detrimental to future gains.

    ** HIT can result in strenght and size gains, or nothing... depends. Goodness knows we wouldn't want to use the heavy weights. (?)


    Pavel doesn't like failure training. That's where this is coming from. And yeah, he's got a point-- training the way he advocates, failure would be a no-no.

    4. High volume is the key to bodybuilding success. An advanced bodybuilder's high-load workout should include up to 150- repetitions per body part.

    ** This assumes genetic freak or drugs or both.


    Hence his use of "advanced bodybuilder." A workout with NL = 150 is not THAT high of a volume; granted its higher than any of us here need, but it would work out to be 3 sets of 10 across 5 exercises. A lot yes, but not unworkable by a genetic freak on drugs.

    5. Generally there is an inverse relationship between the loading volume and intensity, but it's meant to be occasionally broken by elite bodybuilders.

    ** I don't even understand this. Does this mean that it's possible train very intensely AND do lots of volume sometimes?


    That's exactly what he's saying. Though the "shock mesocycle" should be reserved for 1-2 times a year at most.

    6. Limit each workout to a narrow rep range: 1-3, 4-7, 8-12, and 12+. Limit your use of pyramids.

    ** Why? Based on what? (I'm not saying it's a bad idea)


    I'd hazard a guess at metabolic specificity; but that's only a guess.

    7. Vary the intensity (both the poundage and the priximity to muscle failure) within each workout while staying in the specified rep range. For example: 275x3, 300x3RM, 285x2, 250x3, 295x2 and 315x1RM instead of 285x5x3.

    ** This, too, makes no sence to me. Why is this better?


    See above.

    8. Four to 12 reptitioons are the meat of a scientific bodybuilding regimen. No more than one out of three workouts should be dedicated to very low (one to three) or high (12 and over) reps.

    ** I'd pretty much agree with this, and I'd make it one out of 12 or more.


    I dunno about that.....the low reps are useful for effecting strength gains (that beloved progression ) while the high reps are useful for maintaining or enhancing the support functions of the muscle.

    9. Relatively easy sessions are more effective than complete rest. Active recovery workouts may be planned or taken instinctively.

    ** Good advice.


    Aye.

    10. Controlled short-term volume over-training followed by low-volume/low-intensity taper is a very powerful training anabolic. you may plan for concentrated loading or simply take advantage of accidental over-training every ambitious trainer is prone to.

    ** I'm not so sure this is all *that* powerful.


    Ironically, this one is the entire basis of what I'm doing right now, both on a small scale across the given month and on a larger scale across the entire four-month program.

    And consequently, I'm also quite familiar with where he got it-- this is straight from Chapter 6 of Supertraining. The idea of the concentrated loading followed by a restoration period is very well documented in the literature, both in the short-term and across longer periods.

    Anecdotally, I've used it in short-term bursts before with much success; this is my first time trying it over larger training blocks, but *so far* its looking very promising.

    And yeah, its pretty damn powerful.
    Last edited by PowerManDL; 09-25-2002 at 07:32 PM.
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  10. #10
    Baby Seal Clubber ElPietro's Avatar
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    Pavel has a very good reputation amongst the martial arts community. Much of what he preaches is suited for those that aren't ONLY training in the gym. So martial artists, or Soviet KGB as in the past, or currently the US Military.

    I know he has recommended the use of kettlebells quite a bit in some of his martial arts related routines. I haven't taken too close a look now, but know others who swear by his programs.
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    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    The problem is that he's often giving advice to bodybuilders, especially in the magazines (i.e. Muscle Media). And his knowledge of physiology is sometimes lacking.

    "A muscle grows when its pumped with a heavy weight" is a direct quote. (And he means when you use a heavy weight to get the pump.) Maybe not a bad guideline, but does make one raise an eyebrow.
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    Shock Therapist Shocker's Avatar
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    yeah but isn't this `10 commandments written for bodybuilders - I've seen a photo of him, he isn't big, he's a skinny wirey little sh*t

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    i saw him write a few interesting articles tho

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    Actually Belial, I think you're mistaken, and have kind of taken that quote out of context. That quote was in part II of T-Mag's interview with Pavel, and the context, including the quotation, is as follows.

    ": But how are we supposed to build muscle with low rep training?

    Pavel: I shall sum up the energetic theory of muscle hypertrophy without using any big words: If you get a pump with heavy weights you shall grow. You need the volume to really deplete the muscle, but you need the tension to increase the amino acid uptake. Now if you lift really heavy like a powerlifter and rest for five minutes in between sets, you have the tension but donít have enough fatigue. If you start using the little color coded dumbbells and do a hundred reps, you have the fatigue and the pump, but not the tension. You may build some "virtual" muscles, but nothing else.

    But if you set it up like this, if you use a heavy weight and do reps of five (not taken to failure) with only one or two minutes of rest for up to twenty sets, youíre going to be able to use a heavy weight and get a great pump. Every bodybuilder whoís tried this approach has reported sensational gains.

    Just to give you an example, I was in the Muscle Media/EAS compound a couple of months ago. I put David Kennedy, the science editor, through a bench press workout that used this format and the high-tension techniques. Today his bench is going through the roof and his pecs are getting huge. Itís a lot more enjoyable way to train, too.

    Itís almost like youíre posing under the barbell. Ironically, bodybuilding posing is so much more effective for getting definition than any high-rep program people do. Thatís another mistake comrades make. They think high reps get them cut up. Thereís nothing about high reps that makes you cut up. If you feel the burn thatís just exhaust fumes from your muscles, lactic acid. It doesnít mean a thing. Muscle gets that "cut" look first of all when itís very dense (heavier training, myofibrillar density etc.). Second of all, thereís great resting tension and that comes from high tension training such as heavy iron and posing.

    So if bodybuilders would lay off their leg extensions for sets of twenty and instead go cramp your quads and pose them, theyíll get a lot better gains. "

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    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    That excerpt is what I've been advocating for awhile now. High-tension, multiple sets.......growth.
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

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    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Ah. No, that's not where I got that from, I wouldn't intentionally misquote and take something out of context. I got that statement directly from an issue of muscle media (God help me). I'll see if I can find it, and will post the exchange when I can. I've never been hugely impressed by his comments in magazines.

    I appreciate the attempt at a correction, but don't patronize me.
    Last edited by Alex.V; 09-25-2002 at 10:42 PM.
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    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    Part of why I was confused by this is that I am a little familiar with his work, and I *thought* it centered around strength training, specifically OL.

    My main issue is that he's making something that is remarkably simple (lift, eat, sleep, grow) into something rather complicated - and it's unnecessary, unless, of course, he's trying to sell something.
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
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  18. #18
    Simplistic
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    Great point, Paul. I agree. It looks like this guy may be doing a little self promotion through overcomplicating things.

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    Baby Seal Clubber ElPietro's Avatar
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    If they didn't overcomplicate things there wouldn't be much to say about lifting anymore though. So in order for these people to market themselves as leaders they need to get into the minute details. We do it all the time here, pretty much for the same reasons...we'd have nothing left to talk about.
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    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Paul Stagg
    My main issue is that he's making something that is remarkably simple (lift, eat, sleep, grow) into something rather complicated
    You get out what you put in, I suppose.
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

    Budiak: That girl I maced
    Budiak: macked
    Budiak: heh maced
    Budiak: I wish

    ShmrckPmp5: a good thing people can't fire guns through the computer...your ass would have been shot years ago

    Y2A 47: youre smooth as hell
    Y2A 47: thats why you get outta tickets, and into panties

    galileo: you're a fucking beast and I hate you
    galileo: hate

    assgrabbers are never subtile, they will grabb ass whereever they go,public or not, I know the type, because I am one. - Rock

  21. #21
    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    What are you trying to say?
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
    "You're wrong, and I have a completely irrelevant pubmed abstract that may or may not say so." - Belial
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  22. #22
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    That lift, eat, and sleep is fine....however, I'm becoming more and more of the belief lately that some structure has to be present as one gets more advanced; that the basics just can't keep on giving the same returns.

    Prime example in my own experience; look back over my journal in the past year. With the exception of a few bright spots, I largely stayed stagnant. If I'd followed the simple lift, progress, recover, repeat, methodology, I'd probably still be stuck. The times I made progress where when I shook it up, re-innovated.

    I'm now taking that a step further, by organizing those "shake-ups" according to principles taken from well-documented research. Pavel's alluded to many of them in his points above, although there is a bias to his words (naturally).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the basics you outlined aren't incorrect, but can be somewhat misleading at best and inadequate at the worst. After all, if it were that easy, I should have a 600 lb DL and a 350 lb bench right now.
    Last edited by PowerManDL; 09-26-2002 at 08:57 AM.
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

    Budiak: That girl I maced
    Budiak: macked
    Budiak: heh maced
    Budiak: I wish

    ShmrckPmp5: a good thing people can't fire guns through the computer...your ass would have been shot years ago

    Y2A 47: youre smooth as hell
    Y2A 47: thats why you get outta tickets, and into panties

    galileo: you're a fucking beast and I hate you
    galileo: hate

    assgrabbers are never subtile, they will grabb ass whereever they go,public or not, I know the type, because I am one. - Rock

  23. #23
    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    I pretty much agree with you - There should be some structure. And as you become a more advanced strength athelete, you *must* apply the stuff coming out of research to your training.

    I think bodybuilding (hypertrophy) tends to be simpler from a training standpoint than strength training - partly becuase the factors that get you big and lean include far more than just training (I think training is a pretty small part of it, and that diet, genetics, and drugs play a much bigger role), and partly because stiing for hypertrophy itself is less complicated (for a lack of a better word) than trainig for optimal strength - specifically when that optimal strength needs to be timed for peak performance.

    I know I tend to steer people towards the simple side of things, mostly because keeping it simple allows focus on what REALLY matters - progression and hard work - not rep ranges and deloads. I think in most cases some of that gets figured out by experience, anyway.

    You are in just about the same place I was with about 5 years of lifint under my belt... I was totally focused on the science of it all.. making my lifting more complicated, etc. It's a good thing to learn it, but takes some self control in order to keep your progress going. (I totally screwed my training up, and took a couple of huge steps backwards, and started getting hurt to boot. You are smarter than I was, so I trust you won't.)

    You WILL grow if you:
    Progressivly add weight to the bar
    Eat right
    Sleep right
    Work hard.

    Making changes to your routine so you can continue to do those things (progressivly add weight) is a key.

    The basics will always work.
    Last edited by Paul Stagg; 09-26-2002 at 09:37 AM.
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
    "You're wrong, and I have a completely irrelevant pubmed abstract that may or may not say so." - Belial
    I has a blog.
    I has a facebook.

  24. #24
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Paul Stagg
    Making changes to your routine so you can continue to do those things (progressivly add weight) is a key.
    That's the corollary I was looking for.

    And yes, I certainly agree that pure bodybuilding is a different matter from what I'm doing.

    I'm not entirely focused on the science, btw-- certainly not nearly as much as I once was. As my time in the gym increases, I'm building up my own anecdotal base of experience and the records to keep track of those types of things. I do appreciate the compliment, however I realize that I've still got plenty to learn.

    Even so, I don't consider what I do to be terribly complicated; I like to think of it as analogous to the programmer's black box. You've got tools and ideas that work, and can be strung together to create a coherent whole. Its not entirely necessary to know how or why those tools work, though the option of delving into them is certainly there.

    Aside from a few simple calculations to keep volume in the ballpark of where it needs to be according to the week and month, there's very little complication required. Anything I do calculate above and beyond that is purely out of my own personal interest. The choice of techniques and methodologies is also fairly straightforward. On the surface, it can look hopeless confusing; but in holistic terms, I'm only using a very small set of rules. The rest falls into place from that.
    Vin Diesel has a fever.. and the only prescription is more cowbell.

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  25. #25
    WBBs motivational Speaker Rock's Avatar
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    If he doesnt lift him self, I wouldnt take his advice, as he would know nothing in reality, but everything in theory, and everything is secondhand knowledge, as he must use others to develope his theories, its weird to read stuff from people like him.

    Chris Mason has a waste knowledge about bodybuilding, powerlifting ect, and he is 1. strong, 2. big, therefor I will take his words over this person or others like him anytime.

    If a person writing an article about blasting your bench press in 5 weeks, and the person does not lift more than 150lbs in the bench, I wouldnt listen.
    A big thanks to all my friends in the USA, I am deeply grateful for your hospitality and kindness.

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