Every Non-Specialty Garage Gym Barbell Explained w/ Pictures

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Did you know there are almost 40 distinct types of barbells on the market? Not 40 variations in color, material, and knurling. 40 completely different types of barbells!!!

In an effort to help you spend your dollars wisely, I put together a guide to every barbell you can buy, with pictures, diagrams, explanations, and recommendations of when and where to buy one.

In an effort to keep this guide manageable, I’ve broken it down into separate lists. The barbells on this list are all of the variations on a standard, straight barbell.

In another article (coming soon, I promise!) I’ve done the same thing with all of the specialty barbells available on the market.

If I’m missing anything, please let me know at tim@gymcrafter.com. I want to make sure this is as complete of a resource as possible!


Standard Barbell

When people started training with a barbell and removable plates, there was only one type of barbell: The standard straight barbell. If any of you had weight sets from Sears when you were younger, this is the type of barbell you were training with. My very first barbell was a standard straight bar (from Sears, no less).

Standard barbell with parts labelled
The anatomy of a standard barbell.

What is a Standard Barbell?

A standard straight barbell is a straight bar made of steel that is 5-6 feet long and 1″ in diameter. Its capacity typically maxes out at 200-250 lbs. It is designed to use standard opening weight plates and will not work with the 2″ diameter opening on Olympic weight plates without an adaptor.

Who Should Use a Standard Straight Barbell?

My honest answer to this is no one. These are a remnant of days long gone by, and there are much better options available. Almost no reputable manufacturer of strength training gear even makes these anymore. While you can still find them at your local sporting goods store or on the used market, I do not advise buying this type of bar.

What Does a Standard Straight Bar Cost?

The cost of the standard straight barbell is its only appeal. They typically run between $40 and $80. When compared to the $250 and up price point of quality Olympic bars, I can understand why some people would go with a standard bar. That being said, it’s a terrible idea. You will not save money in the long run. You will also end up with a bar that can’t be used for some lifts and is dangerous to use for others.

Who Makes the Best Standard Barbell?

If, for some reason, you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely must buy a standard barbell, I’d go with one made by Cap barbell. Cap is a reputable company and makes quality, entry-level products. You can usually find their standard bar for sale on Amazon.


Olympic Barbell

Aka, an Olympic straight barbell, this is the king of the barbells. Anyone doing “barbell training” is usually training with one of these. Invented in 1928 by Kasper Berg of Berg Barbell (source), this popular design was quickly copied by other barbell manufacturers, making it the industry standard in weight training.

The notable difference between a standard straight bar and the Olympic straight bar is the wider diameter sleeves that allow the weight plates to spin freely while lifting. These spinning sleeves added a much-needed level of safety to lifting heavy as it removed the ability of inertia in the plates to spin the bar in the lifter’s hand.

Being a primary piece of gear in most home and garage gyms, I’ve written quite a bit about Olympic barbells and their features. You can see a few of those articles here:

Olympic barbell with parts labelled
The anatomy of an Olympic barbell.

What is an Olympic Barbell?

An Olympic barbell is a straight steel bar with free-spinning sleeves on the ends. The bar ranges in diameter from 25-29mm, while the sleeves are 48-50mm (2″). The bar has knurling where it is gripped, while the sleeves (where the weight plates are loaded) are usually smooth.

Who Should Have an Olympic Barbell?

Anyone training with weights should have an Olympic barbell. While there are many variations available, the straight Olympic bar will usually be the centerpiece of any garage gym.

Those wishing to train in powerlifting or Olympic lifting will want a version of this type of bar, and neither can be done without one.

While training for general fitness and strength does not require a barbell or weight plates, the sheer versatility of this tool allows it to find a home in most garage and basement gyms.

What Does an Olympic Barbell Cost?

Expect to spend $250-$350 for a quality Olympic barbell. With an almost endless variety of finishes, bushing/bearing setups, and other variations, you can find Olympic barbells from $100 to over $1000. That said, most home gym owners are best served by looking for bars that cost no more than $500.

Who Makes the Best Olympic Barbell?

No matter what barbell I list here, there will be many people who disagree. That’s because there are a lot of really great bars on the market. Having used and extensively tested most of the barbells available today, I have a favorite. The bar I use daily is the Rep Fitness stainless steel power bar. I love it and have recommended it countless times.


Olympic Lifting Barbell

Within the category of “Olympic barbell,” there are three common sub-types. All of them are “Olympic barbells,” but each is tailored to a specific type of lifting. The major differences between those types of bars are their diameter, knurl pattern, and sleeve spin. One of those three types of lifting is called an “Olympic weightlifting barbell.” As you can probably guess, this is the type of lifting you’ll see in the summer Olympics.

Olympic lifting consists of the snatch and the clean and jerk, among other explosive movements. This type of lifting benefits from a freer spinning sleeve, no center knurl, less aggressive knurling overall, a smaller diameter, and knurl rings set at a distance standardized by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

For these reasons, we have the category of Olympic lifting barbells. I wish the word “Olympic” wasn’t used in both, as it tends to confuse people. Just remember that ALL barbells with 2″ spinning sleeves on the end are “Olympic barbells,” but only barbells set up with specific sleeves, diameter, and knurling are considered purpose-built for Olympic lifting (cleans and snatches).

I’ve written several detailed resources that can help provide further information if you are curious about this type of bar:

Barbell Schematics 5
The anatomy of an Olympic lifting barbell.

What is an Olympic Lifting Barbell?

The Olympic lifting barbell is a barbell designed for two specific lifts: The snatch and the clean and jerk. The bar is optimized for these lifts by having a diameter of 28mm, sleeves that are mounted on multiple sets of needle bearings, and no center knurl. Bar capacity is usually 800 lbs or more.

Who Should Use an Olympic Lifting Barbell?

Anyone looking to learn or train with the snatch and the clean and jerk should invest in an Olympic lifting barbell. I also recommend that people participating in Olympic lifting competitions as well as CrossFit should have one.

What’s important to note that those three groups of people only make up a tiny fraction of people training at home. In fact, I highly recommend that unless you have years of experience under your belt, you never do Olympic lifting at home alone.

This type of lifting is inherently dangerous, even to skilled and well-trained people. To be safe, this type of lifting should only be taught or trained in a dedicated gym with a coach or trainer and a spotter present for safety. That leaves most of us garage gym athletes out of the Olympic lifting market.

What Does an Olympic Lifting Barbell Cost?

A high-quality Olympic lifting barbell will cost between $500 and $800, with some well-made budget options running around $300. Because this type of bar is frequently dropped from overhead to the ground, it’s important not to shop by price alone and instead strongly consider quality as well.

Who Makes the Best Olympic Lifting Barbell?

If you are in the market for an Olympic lifting bar, I have a couple of favorites that my readers tend to enjoy. The first is the performance bearing bar by American barbell. This premium option is perfect for those looking to compete in Olympic lifting. American Barbell has been making barbells longer than almost any other company and is known for having the tightest tolerances and the highest quality bars on the market.

The Rep Fitness stainless steel Gladiator bar is the perfect option for those on a budget. Extremely well made and almost half the price of the American Barbell option, it’s the right Olympic lifting bar for most garage gyms.


Powerlifting Barbell

Within the category of “Olympic barbell,” there are three common sub-types. All of them are “Olympic barbells,” but each is tailored to a specific type of lifting. The major differences between those types of bars are their diameter, knurl pattern, and sleeve spin. One of those three types of lifting is called a “powerlifting barbell.”

Competitive powerlifting consists of three basic lifts: The deadlift, squat, and bench press. This type of lifting benefits from a slower spinning sleeve, a center knurl, more aggressive knurling overall, a larger diameter, and knurl rings set at a distance standardized by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF).

Powerlifting barbells tend to be the best options for home and garage gyms. They are much more versatile than barbells designed for Olympic lifting. Also, powerlifting tends to be safer. That’s really important for those training at home alone!

I’ve written several detailed resources that can help provide further information if you are curious about this type of bar:

Detailed schematic of a powerlifting barbell
The anatomy of a powerlifting barbell.

What is a Powerlifting Barbell?

A powerlifting barbell is designed with three specific lifts in mind: The squat, deadlift, and bench press. The bar is optimized for these lifts with a 29mm diameter, sleeves mounted on bushings instead of bearings, and a center knurl to aid in squatting. Bar capacity is usually 800 lbs or more.

Who Should Use a Powerlifting Barbell?

Anyone training at home and not focusing on Olympic lifting should be using a powerlifting bar. A powerlifting barbell can be used for every lift but isn’t recommended for the two Olympic lifts (snatch & clean and jerk). This makes the powerlifting barbell the most versatile for garage gym lifters.

It’s also important to note that the wider bar diameter, more aggressive knurl, slower spinning sleeves, and a center knurl all benefit the person training many different types of lifts. Unless you are a competitive Olympic lifter (and if you are, you probably aren’t reading this article!), a powerlifting barbell is the best choice for your home gym.

What Does a Powerlifting Barbell Cost?

A high-quality powerlifting barbell will cost between $300 and $500, with some well-made budget options running around $250. Factors that can impact the price are finish material, tensile strength, bushing type, and country of origin. There is a direct relationship between price and quality.

Who Makes the Best Powerlifting Barbell?

No matter what barbells I list here, many people will disagree. That’s because there are a lot of really great bars on the market. Having used and extensively tested most of the barbells available today, I have a favorite. The bar I use daily is the Rep Fitness stainless steel power bar. I love it and have recommended it countless times.

If you are in the market for a premium option, there is simply no better power bar than the American Barbell Chewy bar. It’s quite possibly the only barbell you would ever need to buy! If I had to buy one barbell to last me the rest of my life, this is the one!


Multi-Purpose Barbell (aka Functional Training Barbell)

Within the category of “Olympic barbell,” there are three common sub-types. All of them are “Olympic barbells,” but each is tailored to a specific type of lifting. The major differences between those types of bars are their diameter, knurl pattern, and sleeve spin. The multi-purpose barbell (aka functional training barbell) is one of these types.

Originally designed for CrossFit, the multi-purpose barbell combines many features of the Olympic lifting barbell and the powerlifting barbell. The functional training bar was created to reduce the amount of needed equipment and create a bar ideal for the broad exercise assortment of CrossFit.

The primary features that set a multi-purpose bar apart from Olympic lifting and powerlifting bars are the knurl rings, bar diameter, bar whip, bushings, and center knurl.

I’ve written several detailed resources that can help provide further information if you are curious about this type of bar:

Multi-purpose barbell schematic
The anatomy of an Olympic lifting barbell.

What is a Multi-Purpose Barbell?

Originally created for CrossFit, multi-purpose barbells combine features from Olympic lifting and powerlifting bars. Also known as a “functional training barbell,” it has dual knurl rings (IPF & IWF), passive/no center knurl, a 28-28.5mm diameter, and a medium knurl to accommodate a variety of uses.

Who Should Use a Multi-Purpose/Functional Training Barbell?

People competing in CrossFit are ideal customers for a multi-purpose barbell. So are people training at home who need a bar suitable for both powerlifting and Olympic lifting movements. Anyone on a budget doing multiple types of lifting but only wanting to buy one barbell should at least consider a functional training barbell.

That said, it’s important to note that outside of competing in CrossFit, most people training at home in their garage or basement would be better served with a powerlifting bar. In an effort to combine the “best” features of power and Olympic lifting bars, we end up with a bar that isn’t really the “best” at anything.

What Does a Functional Training Barbell Cost?

A high-quality multi-purpose or functional training barbell will cost between $300 and $400, with some higher-end models running as much as $800. The biggest contributors to the cost of this type of bar are the finish and country of origin. Bars made in the US will be more expensive than others.

Who Makes the Best Multi-Purpose Barbell?

If you are in the market for a functional training bar, the American Barbell California bar should be at the top of your list. The first barbell ever to feature Cerakote coating, you can get it in a variety of colors. American Barbell makes the finest barbells you can buy, and the California bar is no exception. As a bonus, all American Barbell bars are made in the US!

If you are looking for a budget option, then look no further than the Rep Fitness Sabre Bar. Rep is my go-to when it comes to recommending barbells I know are of the highest quality while still being reasonably priced.


Women’s Barbell

I wish this bar was called something different. I know quite a few women who are way stronger than I am and would never need or use this type of bar. That said, there are a lot of people for whom a traditional, full-size 45lb barbell is too much to work with. Whether women, kids, or men, there is a place in some gyms for a barbell that is less imposing and easier to use.

This is where the “women’s barbell” comes in. Smaller in every respect, a barbell of this type allows people to train barbell movements even if they aren’t strong enough to lift 45 lbs, let alone a bar with a load on it.

Many years ago, when I started training with weights, I could not overhead press an empty barbell. While dumbbells and kettlebells provided a lower-weight option, I chose to use a women’s barbell instead. It allowed me to train the specific movement I wanted to, but with a lower-than-normal weight.

Barbell Schematics 8
The anatomy of a powerlifting barbell.

What is a Women’s Barbell?

A women’s barbell is a smaller version of a standard Olympic barbell. They are 25mm in diameter, 6.5 ft. long, and weigh 15kg (33 lbs). That’s smaller than “men’s” bars which are typically 28-29mm, 7.2 ft. long, and weigh 20kg (44 lbs). All other features, options, and design elements are the same.

Who Should Use a Women’s Barbell?

Again, I wish this had a different name, as this type of bar is well-suited for a variety of people. Anyone who finds the traditional 45lb bar too heavy to effectively train with can benefit from the overall smaller profile of a “women’s” barbell.

People with smaller hands will appreciate a women’s bar’s smaller 25mm diameter. Kids who train with their parents can also start barbell training much earlier with a lighter bar. And people with limited space may opt for a women’s bar as it might be the only barbell they can train with in a limited area.

Lastly, women competing in the CrossFit games will want to own a barbell like this, as it’s used in CrossFit competitions. It’s important to train for comps using the same gear you’ll use when competing.

What Does a Women’s Barbell Cost?

The price of a women’s barbell is typically about 10% less than a men’s bar of the same model. Prices on quality women’s barbells will vary from a low of around $300 to a high of $800 or more. Bars in the $300-$400 price range are typically perfect for people training at home.

Who Makes the Best Women’s Barbell?

This recommendation is easy as most barbell manufacturers make a women’s version of their most popular bars. Who makes the best women’s bars? The same people that make the best men’s bars! Not all models have a women’s option, but the ones that do are excellent!

My top choice is the training bar by American Barbell. American Barbell makes the highest quality barbells you can buy, and their women’s training bar is no exception. If I was in the market to buy a women’s barbell today, this is the one I’d buy, no questions asked!

If you are looking for a less expensive option, look no further than the Women’s Wonder Bar by Fringe Sport. The Wonder Bar is one of the best-reviewed barbells around, and the women’s version carries all the same great features.


Technique Barbell

Technique (aka form) is one of the most important things to get right when training with weights. Without proper form, injury can happen easily. That’s where the technique barbell comes in.

Whether it’s training juniors who can’t proficiently handle the weight of a full-sized barbell or Olympic lifters training in two of the most dangerous lifts there are, the technique barbell is a vital tool. Many of the best trainers in the world start people off by training with a piece of PVC pipe (basically a bar that has no weight). Once form is dialed in there, weight is added.

The technique barbell represents the safest first step in this process. The lower overall weight, shorter length, and significantly reduced weight capacity provide the perfect way to start adding load to resistance training movements.

Technique Bar 2
The anatomy of an Olympic lifting barbell.

What is a Technique Barbell?

A technique barbell weighs less than a standard bar. It weighs 5-10kg (10-25lbs), has shorter sleeves for reduced capacity, medium knurl with no center knurl, and is 72-79″ long. A technique barbell is used to train lifters on technique prior to adding weight, where injury can result from poor form.

Who Should Use a Technique Barbell?

The most common uses for a technique barbell are juniors and Olympic lifters.

One of the biggest challenges for juniors when learning to train with weights is their ability to organize their bodies to use proper lifting form. It’s critical in their journey to dial in technique and form well before adding any serious weight. A technique bar provides juniors with a safe on-ramp to weight training and sets them up for long-term success.

It’s also a great way to get kids involved when training at home. Giving your kids an appropriate barbell makes it much more enjoyable for them to learn to train with you.

Olympic lifting consists of two of the most dangerous lifts there are. Because heavy weights are combined with explosive movements, the opportunity for injury is high. All great Olympic lifting coaches start their athletes with either PVC pipe or broomsticks.

A technique bar is an intermediate step between a broomstick and an Olympic barbell. It’s also an ideal way to practice these movements at home without a spotter.

Anyone looking to really dial in their form can use a technique bar. They are an often overlooked but highly valuable tool for anyone learning to train with weights!

What Does a Technique Barbell Cost?

Technique bars range in price from a low of around $125 to a high of just over $300. Price variances are caused by finish type, country of manufacture, and material quality. Steel bars that are made in the US will typically cost more than aluminum versions imported from overseas.

Who Makes the Best Technique Barbell?

While you can find a few bars in the $100 price range, I’d advise against those as they will not last. You can get a great training bar from Rep Fitness for just a few dollars more. For those looking for a higher-quality technique bar that better mimics the finish and feel of a full-sized barbell, make sure to check out American Barbell’s complete line of training bars.


Kid’s Barbell

It used to be thought that letting children lift weights would stunt their growth and cause problems with their growth plates. Turns out that’s not the case (source). In fact, strength training is great for kids! Not only is it healthy for them, but starting them young is the best time to help them build healthy habits that will last them a lifetime.

Because of this, children’s barbells were created. Obviously, small children can’t handle the size or weight of traditional Olympic barbells. While using a Women’s barbell might be an okay solution, sometimes an even smaller and lighter bar is needed.

kid's barbell schematic
The anatomy of a powerlifting barbell.

What is a Kid’s Barbell?

A children’s barbell is a smaller, lighter version of a standard 45 lb barbell. The average children’s barbell weighs 5 lbs and is usually made from billet aluminum. With a length of around 48 inches and a capacity of 50 lbs, they are an ideal solution for teaching kids to lift weights!

Who Should Use a Kid’s Barbell?

Children! This is one of those pieces of gear that does exactly what it’s designed to do and nothing else.

I suppose adults could use one for some specialty exercises, but I wouldn’t buy one unless you are buying it for your kids.

What Does a Children’s Barbell Cost?

Kid’s barbells typically run between $75 and $175. Lesser expensive models are typically not built to last very long. More expensive models are usually unnecessary as kids don’t need anything more than a basic children’s bar.

Who Makes the Best Kid’s Barbell?

My favorite kid’s bars are made by Get Rx’d. They come in a variety of cool colors that kids will love and usually sell for right around $80-$90. If you want something a little closer to Mom or Dad’s barbell, the OSO kid’s barbells sold by Fringe Sport are awesome. They are almost twice the price but have better knurl, knurl rings, and the sleeves spin!


Fixed Weight Barbell

Most barbells are designed for you to add or subtract plates to arrive at your desired weight. This allows you to have one barbell and a set of plates to cover all of your needs.

Fixed-weight barbells are very different and are kind of like long dumbbells. Instead of a dumbbell handle that only fits one hand, there is a bar wide enough to grip with both hands. The length of a fixed-weight barbell is less than a standard 84″ barbell but long enough to get your hands further than shoulder-width apart.

You typically only see this type of barbell at large commercial gyms, but some people do use them at home.

Fixed-weight barbell schematic
The anatomy of an Olympic lifting barbell.

What is a Fixed-Weight Barbell?

Fixed-weight barbells are a barbell version of fixed-weight dumbbells. Available weights range from 10-110 lbs in 10 lb increments. The bar itself is 32mm in diameter and available in a straight or EZ curl version. The grip area is 36″ long, while the overall length ranges from 38″ – 45″.

Fixed-weight barbells are available in sets or individually. The inner area of the bar, where you can grip it, is a standard 36″ wide. The overall length varies by the amount of weight.

The bar diameter on a fixed barbell is 32mm, much larger than standard barbells and a lot close to the handle diameter of dumbbells. Knurling is typically passive and only located shoulder-width apart where you would grip the bar. Knurl rings are present on some mfrs. and not on others.

The bar itself is available in either a straight bar or an EZ curl version. The most common bar coating on fixed bars is hard chrome.

The weights on the end are coated with either rubber or urethane, with the urethane versions being much more expensive.

For home gyms, fixed-weight barbells are rare. So rare that only a handful of major mfrs. even make them anymore.

Who Should Use a Fixed-Weight Barbell?

There are three primary users for fixed-weight barbells.

These work very well for those that cannot manage to change weight plates on a standard barbell. Whether it’s a disability, lack of strength, age, or any other number of reasons, some people cannot change plates without help. Fixed-weight barbells allow those people to train on their own at home without help.

Fixed-weight barbells also lend themselves to drop sets (link). Instead of having to change plates, the lifter simply grabs the next barbell with their desired weight.

This type of barbell is also appealing to beginners. Experienced lifters tend to forget that gym equipment is usually very intimidating to new lifters. Fixed-weight barbells make things simple. They are smaller, easier to hold onto, and less “scary” to new folks.

What Does a Fixed-Weight Barbell Cost?

Complete sets of fixed-weight barbells run from $1500-$3500, with individual bars costing $75 to over $250, depending on the weight and material. EZ curl sets are usually around the same price as straight bar sets. A stand, which is a must when buying full sets, will run $200-$500 depending on the mfr.

Who Makes the Best Fixed-Weight Barbell?

The most common place to find this type of bar is at commercial gym equipment mfrs. The problem with that is the price. Sets made for commercial gyms range from $3500-$5000. That’s cost prohibitive for most people building a home gym.

Home and garage gym manufacturers don’t usually carry this type of barbell. American Barbell, my previous choice for this type of bar, has stopped making them due to no sales. So I set out to see who was still making these and who makes the best.

In all of my research, I couldn’t find anyone making these for themselves. It really looks like everyone who sells these sells the same sets. Reaching out to my contacts at several companies, I couldn’t get anyone to confirm that… But they didn’t deny it either! In cases like that, it makes sense to shop by price (something I rarely recommend).

As is usually the case when shopping by price alone, Titan Fitness comes out on top. They offer sets and individual bars in both straight and EZ curl variations.

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AUTHOR

Tim Steward has been training at home since he got his first weight set from Sears in junior high. Over 30 years later, Tim has helped thousands of people build home and garage gyms that they love and use regularly. He also holds a CPT certification with the ISSA and is an NCCPT nationally accredited trainer. When Tim is not training or writing about home gyms, you can find him at the dog park with his two Australian cattle dogs, Anny and Beans.

14 thoughts on “Every Non-Specialty Garage Gym Barbell Explained w/ Pictures”

    • They sure are. These are mostly sold by big box stores like Walmart or big box sporting goods stores like Dick’s. With no qualified help at most of these stores, people buy the less expensive option, not understanding why it’s a waste of their money. That experience is a huge part of the reason I built GymCrafter.

      Reply
  1. What about the Swiss bar? Or the Duffalo? Or a bunch of others that it looks like you forgot? It shouldn’t say “every” if it’s not every one!

    Reply
    • This post is every “straight” bar, not every bar in total. That said, I am currently working on a similar article highlighting every specialty bar and every bar you list will be in that article!

      Reply
    • The earthquake bar is a specialty bar that helps you work on shoulder stability while pressing. It’s a great supplemental tool if you are working on shoulder stability. It’s also helpful in getting you past plateaus as it works muscles you don’t normally work during a movement. All that said, you could go your whole life without one and never miss it.

      Reply
    • Rogue is a brand, not a type of barbell. They make OK stuff that is quite popular with the CrossFit crowd. Personally, I think you can get equal or better gear for a lot less money with other companies, but you probably won’t be disappointed in their bars either. To me, if you want great value and an awesome bar, go with Rep Fitness. If you want high-end quality, no one makes better bars than American Barbell.

      Reply
    • Okay, have to admit I laughed out loud at that. I suppose an entire post only about straight barbells was asking for this.

      Reply
  2. Hi Tim,

    I wanted to get your recommended bar from Rep Fitness, the SS power bar v2. However, it is discontinued. One of the highlights you mentioned was a passive knurl in the center.

    Do you have a recommendation for a bar with aggressive knurl on the outer and passive knurl in the center?

    Thanks for all you do!

    Reply
    • That’s actually one of the things I wasn’t happy with about their new Double Black Diamond bar (although that bar is sooooo much better than their previous bars. I don’t know of a great power bar with a passive center knurl, but some of the “all purpose bars” do have a less aggressive knurl across the bar. I’m not sure where you live, but I’m selling my ss power bar v2 now. If you are in the Chicagoland area, shoot me an email at tim@gymcrafter.com. If not, check FB marketplace or ebay. You may be able to find a used bar thats in good shape.

      Reply

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