4 Ways to Take Sit Ups to the Next Level

September 30, 2019 by  
Filed under All Round Fitness, Ideas to Help You Train

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Love them or hate them, sit ups are your friend. The traditional sit up is a simple, standard movement for your fitness regimen you can rely on to strengthen your core. Are you taking this exercise for granted? Let us remind you of how to bring proper sit ups into your workout so you can reap the benefits they bring.

 

Benefits of a Strong Core

Your core is an integral part of your body for developing your fitness. Since your core connects your lower body and upper body, it gets activated at every workout and for most of the exercises you do. Your core muscles support you to do the other movements, making sit ups a workout necessity. If your core muscles are weak or inflexible, it will impair your ability to function at maximum levels when performing the exercises in your workout.

Properly building your core will give you more power and alignment in your movements, enhancing your stability and balance. Think about it, how many movements call for you to tense your abs as you do them? It shows up in everyday actions too, allowing you to do chores and activities more easily and efficiently.

Maintaining a Healthy Back

Lower back pain is a common concern for active people. Did you know having core strength will help eliminate back pain? Performing core stabilization exercises acts as an effective form of physical therapy at reducing lower back pain as your lower back will bear less burden having the adequate workload balanced with your core muscles. This makes sense, doesn't it?

From a physiological perspective, your transverse abdominis hooks around the spine and serves to stabilize the body’s entire midsection, front and back. This is yet another reason you want to stay mindful of the role a strong core plays in your physical well-being. Whenever you're feeling pain in our body, it’s a sign that something is out of balance. Sometimes this thrown-off balance that's signaled by your lower back pain, is telling you your core isn’t doing the substantial amount of work it should be.

How to Do a Proper Sit Up

Since we’ve established the importance of sit ups in your workout, let’s make sure you perform them correctly. It's a familiar position, but you don't want to get lax with your form. Start with lying on your back on the ground, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. You want your knees to be bent at a 90-degree angle.

Bend our elbows so they’re pointing out at your sides. A helpful tip here is to cup or touch the back of your ears with your fingertips. When you do this, rather than placing your hands on the back of your head, you'll prevent pulling yourself up by your neck as you do the movement. Another option would be to cross your arms over your chest to keep them inactive during the movement.

Your aim is to lift your torso up and toward your thighs. You want to get as close as possible to your thighs while maintaining a smooth motion. Be mindful of keeping your feet flat on the ground and not jerking your body at any point in the movement. At the top of the movement, your lower back should be fully off the floor.

As you lower your torso back to the ground, maintain the same steady flow of movement. Straighten your body to lay back down into the starting position, but try not to release the tension in your core. Keep your abs tightened as you transition to go back up into the next rep.

Avoid Making Common Mistakes

As with any exercise, there are common mistakes you want to consider. These are easy to correct and usually occur as other parts of your body are unconsciously trying to assist in the movement. But you don’t want other assistance, you want the resistance and tension to remain within your core muscles.

The most noted mistake for doing sit ups is to get into a rhythm of using your neck to pull your torso up as you move toward your thighs. You want to avoid pulling yourself up with your neck, as it takes away from your abs doing the work to lift. This mistake puts a strain on your neck and increases risk of injury for a body part that should otherwise be stable for this exercise. As you survey your body throughout the motion of your sit ups, stop the exercise if you feel neck strain, then make your corrections and start again.

Another mistake with sit ups is to drop your torso to the ground toward the end of the rep. If you do this, you’ll interfere with your abdominal muscles maintaining their tension throughout the exercise. You want to get the intended workout by maintaining a slow, controlled motion to lower your torso back down to the ground. You can try to prevent hitting your back against the ground by imaging a thin sheet between you and the ground should only be touched lightly.

4 Ways to Take Sit Ups to the Next Level

woman in a sitting v position

Image source: Pixabay

Whether you're doing an entire core workout or adding some key core exercises to the end of a workout, it’s easy to get crafty with keeping things interesting. How can you bring your core game to the next level? Here are four ways you can level up as you make reasonable dynamic changes. First, let’s see how you can add other abdominal exercises to get a better sit up workout, then we'll work with some weight.

Adding a Twist

It won’t take much time for you to get the hang of sit ups, so we suggest you try pairing them with other abdominal exercises you like to do. A natural addition would be to do some twisted sit ups. Starting in the same position as you would for your regular sit ups, after you lift your torso up toward your thighs, you add a twist. To get balanced twists, you want to turn your torso to the right until your left elbow is touching your right knee, and then alternate twisting your torso to the left next.

Engaging Leg Action 

One of our favorite abdominal exercises to add to your sit ups are flutter kicks. Start by lying on your back on the ground with your palms down and arms alongside your hips. With your legs extended, lift each legs 5 or 6 inches off the ground as you press your lower back into the ground. You will quickly and rhythmically move them in a fluttering motion up and down, switching each leg to be higher.

Whether adding flutter kicks, bicycles, or leg raises, you will notice the additional benefits in building core muscle strength when using your legs. Which ones do you think will provide you with a healthy challenge?

Do Weighted Sit Ups

Yes, doing a few sets of sit ups with your own body weight may tax your body enough. Why not see if you can push those limits by adding extra weight into the mix? Rather than increasing the number of sit ups you’re doing for more intensity, you can also incrementally add weight to your chosen amount of reps once they’ve gotten easier for you to complete.

For weighted sit ups, you start as you would with regular sit ups, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You can hold a dumbbell with both hands or weight plate against your chest by crossing your arms over it. Once you feel the weight is secure, lift your torso toward your thighs and then lower yourself back down to the ground.

Use a Medicine Ball

Another way to do a weighted sit up is to add a medicine ball into the mix. Start with a light medicine ball and hold it close to your chest as you sit up and go back down. You’ll notice the added challenge due to the amount of weight you're working against. The positioning of holding the medicine ball to your chest ensures that you won’t use momentum from your arms to reach the top of the movement.

Another modification you can make to your with a medicine ball is to toss it for each rep. When you're sitting up at the top of the movement, you toss it up in the air and catch it, or you can toss it straight ahead if you’re working out with a partner. Adding this next component allies you to work your arms along with your abs, while forcing your core to stabilize itself as you throw the ball.

Conclusion

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Image source: Pexels

The reality is that sit ups work! Knowing these tips to supplement your sit up routine will ensure that you maintain consistent with your core workouts. We recommend gradually increasing the difficulty, adding more challenging movements to your regular sit up, like a twist or a flutter kick. Then experiment with moving additional weight around.

10 Best Glute Exercises

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Your glutes are some of your biggest muscles in your body. They do consistent heavy lifting—carrying you around throughout the day! You already keep them engaged doing regular physical activities, but there’s more you can do to make them solid and strong. We’ve comprised a list of the best glute exercises to keep you powered up.

What Are the Best Glute Exercises?

Glute exercises can be the most powerful movements in your workout routine. Often these exercises will include moments when gradually go slow coupled with explosive movements. With all aspects, remember to keep the movements controlled movement and your form in check. These exercises will help you improve a number of goals, from balance and agility to stabilization and building strength.

How We Reviewed

We’ve reviewed these powerful glute exercises that will increase glute strength and give you a noticeable difference in how they look. These movements are more popular than ever as they provide intricate dynamic exercises that do what they're intended to do—strengthen your glutes. We've noted the key features and how to do them, along with tips about pros and cons for each of these glute exercises.

What We Reviewed

  • DUMBELL SQUAT TO PRESS
  • BULGARIAN SQUAT WITH SLAM BALL
  • LANDMINE SQUAT PRESS
  • BACK SQUAT
  • QUADRUPED HIP EXTENSION
  • KETTLEBELL SWINGS
  • DEEP SQUATS
  • BARBELL HIP THRUST
  • 4-3-1 SUMO DUMBELL SQUAT
  • HIGH STEP UP
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Dumbbell Squat to Press

FEATURES

The combination of a squat with a push press is also called a thruster. This is a total-body exercise that is perfect for conditioning while you target these specific muscles. You generate force from your glutes and lower body and use this momentum to further work out the upper body muscles.

HOW TO DO IT

Hold a dumbbell in each hand in the rack position while you stand with your feet apart at hip-distance. Keeping your butt back and down with your weight in your heels, slowly squat down, keeping the dumbbells steady. As you come back up out of the squat position and get back into the standing position, use your arms to press the dumbbells from your shoulders to overhead. Bring the dumbbells back to the front rack position and continue on to another squat.

Pros

  • Primarily targets your glutes, arms, and shoulders
  • Engages core throughout the movement

Cons

  • Must have dumbbells to do this variation 
  • Poor form may strain lower back

Bulgarian Squat with Slam Ball

FEATURES

This squat variation is one of the best glute exercises to work your butt while challenging your balance. As you try to keep your foot on top of the slam ball, you’ll be engaging your core to maintain control. As you balance with the slam ball, you’ll feel the extra tightening as you keep your foot from rolling off the ball.

HOW TO DO IT

Standing in front of the slam ball, you must step your right foot back as you place your toes on top of the slam ball. You want to maintain your weight through the heel of your left foot as you gradually lower your body by bending your right knee towards the floor. Similar to a lunge position, make sure your left knee is at a 90-degree angle to the floor and stacked above your ankle. Then attempt to stand up as high as you did at the starting position by straightening both legs without taking your left foot off the slam ball.

Pros

  • Helps your ankle mobility, agility, and reflexes
  • Will improve your split squat

Cons

  • May have trouble balancing
  • May not have a slam ball accessible 

Landmine Squat Press

FEATURES

This exercise includes the landmine, which consists of a barbell with one side anchored into the ground with a rotating base. The landmine is a safe piece of equipment for building stability and power.

HOW TO DO IT

Standing with your feet slightly more than hip distance apart, hold the landmine with both hands and have your arms extended out in front of you at a 45-degree angle from your shoulders. Maintaining control of the landmine, bring your body down into a squat with your weight through your heels, making sure your knees don’t go out further past your feet. As you bring the landmine to chest height, keep your chest upright while squatting. As you drive from your heels, press yourself back up to the standing position, bringing the barbell back to shoulder height.

Pros

  • Can help you work on range of motion 
  • Primarily targets glutes, legs, and arms

Cons

  • May accentuate stability issues
  • May not have access to a landmine bar

Back Squat

FEATURES

The back squat is a staple movement for your lower body and one of the most favored glute exercises. You'll want to do this to strengthen your glutes, and you'll want to have perfect form. Throughout the movement, keep your knees aligned with your feet and hips and go down as deep into your squat as much as your flexibility allows.

HOW TO DO IT

With your chest lifted and your shoulders back, stand with your feet hip-width apart while holding a barbel on your shoulders. Keeping your upper body as straight as possible, lower your butt toward the ground as you pull in your abdominal muscles. As you bend your knees, make you don’t lean forward. Once you go down as far as you can, straighten your legs in a controlled way to rise back up.

Pros

  • Targets gluteus maximus, hips, thighs, and calves
  • Stabilizes back and core strength

Cons

  • You many not be going low enough
  • Poor form if chest leans too far forward

Quadruped Hip Extension

FEATURES

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) did a study to see which glute exercises were most effective at activating your butt. The quadruped hip extension was at the top of the list! If you'd like to increase the difficulty of this exercise, then hold a light dumbbell behind your knee or add ankle weights.

HOW TO DO IT

Getting into a hands-and-knees position, tighten your arms and keep your back neutral. Drive your right leg upwards with your foot facing the ceiling, keeping a 90-degree angle at the knee throughout the movement. Keep your hip, thigh, and knee parallel to the floor and in alignment with each other. After reaching alignment, lower your leg back down and switch to left leg when you've completed all reps.

Pros

  • Targets each glute muscle individually
  • Stretches your core with the movement

Cons

  • Will have poor form if back is arched
  • May not keep hip, thigh, and knee aligned

Kettlebell Swings

FEATURES

This is another standard full-body movement that also serves as one of the best glute exercises. Remember to have the motion come from your hips and not from your arm strength. Use the momentum from thrusting your hips rather than trying to swing your arms for momentum.

HOW TO DO IT

Place your hands on the kettlebell as you lean forward with your back flat and core engaged. With your feet just wider than hip-distance apart, lift the kettlebell up as you maintain a slight bend to your knees. Bring your hips back, and, in a fluid motion, explosively drive them forward as you swing the kettlebell above your head with extended arms. Keep your glutes and core engaged the entire time.

Pros

  • Little stress to lower back 
  • Glutes are fully engaged throughout the movement

Cons

  • May not have good hip mobility
  • If not using hips, can stress lower back

Deep Squats

FEATURES

Since squats are the most go-to choice for glute exercises, let's see how low you can go! When compared to partial and parallel squatting, a deep squat will give you greater activation of your gluteus maximus. You may even want to try reps in which you hold for 5 or 10 seconds when you are in the bottom of your squat.

HOW TO DO IT

You should have a barbell resting behind your head on your shoulder, with your chest up and out and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With a tightened core, lower your butt back and down while keeping the weight in your heels. Keep going below parallel into your squat as long as your back stays straight, ensuring that your pelvis doesn't tilt as you go deep. Push your heels into the ground to drive yourself to stand up, squeezing your butt in the process.

Pros

  • Takes the focus off using your quads
  • Greater activation for your glutes

Cons

  • May not have a bar to use
  • Range of motion may be tight

Barbell Hip Thrust

FEATURES

This movement will activate your glutes to as great of a degree as any other glute exercise. Progress for this exercise will be to move on to using the bar once you've perfected the movement with your own body weight.

HOW TO DO IT

You should place your upper back against a bench with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Put a padded barbell across your hips, keeping your glutes near the floor. Without arching your back and keeping your back neutral, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until they are aligned with your body. Load the barbell higher if you’re able to do all reps with ease.

Pros

  • Activates the lower and upper glutes
  • Engaging your hip flexors

Cons

  • May be unaware of arching back
  • May not have access to a padded bar

4-3-1 Sumo Dumbbell Squat

FEATURES

4-3-1 is the tempo that you’re going to use to maximize your work in this exercise. You will have a 4-second lowering of the dumbbell, a 3-second pause at the bottom of the movement, and a 1-second concentric phase. This glute exercise has a built-in reminder for you to be mindful of each phase of movement and to remember to hold and squeeze when needed.

HOW TO DO IT

Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and flared out, and have the dumbbell placed at waist height. Lean your torso about 30 degrees forward, with your weight pushing through your heels. Maintain this angle throughout the sets as you bend your knees and squat down on a four count. As you reach the bottom of the movement on four, you the hold the squat position for a three count as you squeeze your glutes, then stand up.

Pros

  • Allows your glutes to burn as you pause
  • Core is engaged the whole time

Cons

  • May be challenging to maintain the correct angle
  • May not have access to dumbbell

High Step Up

FEATURES

It almost seems too easy, but the Step Up is one of the most reliable butt-building exercises to do (and the higher the better). Maybe you can start with a box that is 30 inches tall. Go as high as you can go without rounding your back or having your hips shift to one side. Once you feel you have the movement down comfortably, you can hold dumbbells in your hands or increase the box size to add difficulty.

HOW TO DO IT

With one foot on the box in front of you, place your body weight toward the center of your foot. As you slowly start to stand up straight, push your hips back and squeeze the glute of your supporting leg. Make sure to hold this position as you keep body upright with your hips and shoulders square. Then you push your hips back and slowly lower your non-supporting foot to the floor.

Pros

  • An easy-to-do, familiar motion
  • You work with your body weight and gravity

Cons

  • You don't want hips to shift to one side
  • May not have a sturdy step to use

The Verdict

active aerobics balance

When putting together your next fitness workout, try a combination of standard glute exercises along with some complex movements that include the rest of your body as you work your butt and core. These glute exercises will completely activate your glutes and allow you to make some big gains with effective movement in concise amounts of time. You'll enjoy doing them, and you'll see results!

Carb Cycling: Meal Planning for Beginners

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Do you want to lose weight and build muscle at the same time? Carb cycling is a dynamic nutritional approach that is designed to do both. A growing number of people are attracted to the idea for the physical and hormonal benefits, and because they can still enjoy many of their favorite foods and get the results they want.

Initially used by bodybuilders, this approach has been embraced by people from all walks of life for its many benefits and proven results. Understanding how carb cycling works, the advantages of this approach to nutrition, and how to plan your meals can help you get the greatest benefit.

An Introduction to Carb Cycling

Carb cycling involves varying your carbohydrate intake throughout the week. Some days are designated as high carb and low fat days and other days are low carb and high fat days. The fluctuation created by carb cycling helps to optimize your ability to lose weight, burn fat, and build muscle. This approach can be used to lose fat, increase lean muscle, or change your body composition, while maintaining your normal weight.

There are two basic ways to implement this approach. You can alternate your high carb and low carb days throughout the week. For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday could be designated as high carb days, while Tuesday and Thursday are low carb days. The weekends are usually reserved as low carb days, regardless of how you choose to assign the weekdays. Some people make Saturday a low carb day and allow their cheat day on Sunday, but you can adjust this to meet your unique needs.

The other way to do carb cycling is to have three or four high carb days in a row and make the rest of the week low carb days. For example, you could have Monday through either Wednesday or Thursday as high carb days and the remainder of the days reserved as low carb days. Keep in mind that it requires more discipline to stick to the regimen when you do it this way.

There are benefits to both methods. Alternating high and low carb on a daily basis is the best way for you to stay on track and stick to carb cycling. On the other hand, splitting the week into half high carb followed by several low carb days may be more effective for fat loss because you are in fat burning mode for three days in a row. Ultimately, the method that works best depends on the needs of the individual. Is fat loss most important or are you concerned with sticking to it?

The Benefits of Carb Cycling

There are a variety of advantages to this nutritional approach, which explains its rapid growth in popularity. Carb cycling offers a broad range of benefits for weight loss, building lean muscle, and even regulating certain hormones.

FAT BURNING

rope workout

Most of your fat burning happens on your low carb days. On the days that you eliminate carbs from your diet, your body goes into fat burning mode. The low carb days decrease the number of overall calories consumed in a given week, which helps you burn fat and meet your weight loss goals.  

MUSCLE BUILDING

lifting barbel

On high carb days, you increase your caloric intake and the carbs provide the energy and strength you need, both to meet your daily responsibilities and for working out. When you are trying to build muscle, make your high carb days your strength training days. This allows your body to use the carbs and extra calories to build muscle, rather than storing additional fat.

FLEXIBILITY

push up

One thing that can hinder your ability to stick to a nutrition plan is the complexity of the system. If you have to spend a lot of time planning specific meals that are different from the rest of your family, measuring foods, counting calories, and denying yourself all your favorite foods, it can be too difficult to maintain. This approach allows you to make one meal for the entire family, and just leave the carbs off your plate on the low carb days.

REDUCED CRAVINGS

kicking cupcakes

Carb cycling offers great flexibility in food choices and allows you to satisfy your craving for carbs on your high carb days, so you won’t be restricting your diet too much. Because you do have the opportunity to enjoy your favorite foods and treats on your cheat days, you will be more likely to stay with the program.

THE ADVANTAGES OF LOW CARB WITHOUT THE SIDE EFFECTS

no side effect

This is probably the biggest advantage of carb cycling. Low carb diets, such as Atkins, paleo, or keto do produce fat burning and weight loss benefits, but they have negative side effects and health effects. Long term low carb dieting can cause brain fog, fatigue, lack of energy, and may increase your risk of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. Carb cycling allows you to reach your weight loss and fitness goals without the negative effects associated with going completely carb-free.

HORMONAL BENEFITS

rock scale

Carb cycling offers a few key hormonal benefits. One significant advantages of this approach is improving your insulin balance and how your body processes insulin. The low carb days are key for keeping your insulin levels low and improving insulin sensitivity. This helps your body processes the sugar in your bloodstream from the carbs more effectively, allowing them to be easily converted to fuel for energy.

The hormone leptin is essential for metabolism and triggering feelings of satiety, which helps you avoid overeating. When you have more leptin in the body, your metabolism will be faster, but low levels of the hormone can slow your metabolism, sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Leptin production is triggered by an increase in

Carb Cycling: Meal Planning for Beginners

Meal planning with carb cycling is actually easier than with many other diets and nutritional approaches, since you won’t have to worry about measuring, weighing, or counting calories. When you first start, it can be easier to maintain your typical diet, but just adjust your carb intake. For example, if you normally eat about half carbs and half protein in a single meal, enjoy your normal foods, just eliminate the carbs on your low carb days and increase your protein and vegetables.

On your high carb days, the quality of the carbohydrates is important. Most of your carbs should be complex carbohydrates, such as fruit, legumes, and whole grains to provide the energy you need without disrupting your weight loss or fitness goals. You can make a few easy modifications to enjoy healthy carbs on your high carb days. For example, skip the white bread in favor of whole grain and use whole wheat pasta in place of regular spaghetti.

Try not to eat much sugar, even on your high carb days. This doesn’t mean you have to completely give up treats. It’s fine to enjoy a piece of cake or a couple cookies on a cheat day, as long as you aren’t doing this on all your high carb days. On your low carb days, pay attention to the quality of your protein. Choose chicken, lean beef, fish, eggs, and tofu for protein. Pair protein at each meal with vegetables, but stay away from starchy vegetables. Most vegetables are fine on your low carb days, except corn, peas, and potatoes.

Planning Your Daily Meals

Regardless of the day, eating breakfast soon after waking is recommended. On both low carb and high carb days, you should eat four to six small meals throughout the day, rather than going many hours without eating at all.

Start off your low carb days with eggs scrambled with bell pepper, or eggs with bacon for breakfast. Good snacks for low carb days include a protein shake, berries, almonds, or deli turkey and cheese rollups with avocado. Lunch and dinner should include protein, such as chicken, fish, or beef, with a non-starchy vegetable.

On high carb days, oatmeal with nuts and berries or eggs with whole wheat toast are good options. Snacks can include an apple with peanut butter, quinoa and bean salad, Greek yogurt, or fruit. Lunch and dinner can include the same foods as low carb days, but you can add some healthy carbs. Enjoy a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread for lunch and pasta, rice, or a starchy vegetable with your protein for dinner.

Conclusion

Carb cycling is among the most flexible approaches for burning fat and increasing lean muscle at the same time. Provided that you remain strict with your food choices on your high carb and low carb days and make healthy food choices, you will see noticeable results without a lot of extra effort.

The flexibility of this diet approach makes meal planning easy. You can enjoy the foods you love, just watch your portions, eliminate the carbs on your low carb days, and make sure you pick healthy proteins and carbohydrates.  

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Ideas to Help You Train and Build Muscle for Body Building

April 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Ideas to Help You Train

How often have you been at the gym, and seen all kinds of guys lifting weights and gaining muscle, but yet you struggle to build any bulk at all? Most guys aim to have bigger muscles and build more strength, especially in the arms and chest. While it may seem like you are never going to be able to be as big as some of the other guys, you can still build muscle, add bulk and define the muscle groups that can make you attractive and in shape.

Gaining weight first, before you gain muscle is key. The truth is, you do have to gain some weight in order to gain muscle, but the key is to do a lot of weight training while you are gaining the weight. Turning the weight into muscle right away, is what is going to help you gain muscle and not fat. Be sure that they weight you gain comes from good calories like protein and carbs. Once you have the weight on you that you need to get bigger, you can start lifting some weights and getting those muscles.

If you have never worked out in a gym before, and are new to the idea of muscle building and body building workouts, there is a lot to learn. You may want to work with a trainer or professional at the gym to help you get started on a healthy program. They can help you get on a good plan to build muscles, and can work with you and your individual needs, which is important when you are starting a workout. Body building is not only about strength, but also endurance and determination. If you are really wanting to get the look of a body builder, you need to be ready to put down the roll, and pick up the weights.

Building muscle and defining your muscles is something that takes time and a lot of hard work. It is not something that happens right away, but if you find a good program for building muscle and eat plenty of the right foods, you are on your way to defined and attractive looking muscles. If you are not sure what kinds of exercises you should be doing, or what is best for you to build muscles, ask a trainer to help you get started and get on your way to body building and getting the look that you want.

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