Hindu Squats. An Effective Body Weight Exercise for Fat Loss and Mobility.

September 6, 2010

So I have recently decided to add Hindu Squats into my routine. Due to the fact that I don’t want to increase leg mass, I’ve avoided barbell squats the past 10 years. I’m not saying that squats are bad, there just is a certain point where too much lower body mass becomes cumbersome. In my opinion intense cardio intervals develop legs that are functional and defined without getting too big. That being said, squats do help your body maintain good hip mobility and lower back flexibility. If I’m perfectly honest with myself, I’ve lost a bit of flexibility these past 10 years. So I have found that Hindu Squats are the perfect solution to get the positives of the barbell squats (mobility and flexibility) without the negatives (excessive lower body mass).

Hindu Squats

[Here's a picture from the Holi festival in India. It is a spring festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others. On the main day of the festival people throw colored water and colored powder at each other. It would be cool to see this in person some day.]

Why Can’t You Just Stretch for Mobility?

Static stretching just doesn’t get the job done when it comes to true flexiblity and joint mobility. I recently conducted an interview with Special Forces Trainer – Scott Sonnon. He explains it like this…

“In general, static flexibility training is meant to change the resting length of soft tissue. It stretches tissues long or hard enough to cause a permanent deformation, much like pulling a plastic bag until it can’t spring back to its original length. You certainly could address tight muscles that way, but ultimately it’s a danger to joint integrity, and it isn’t helpful for muscle growth or sports performance.”

So static stretching isn’t really a long-term solution to flexibility. You need to move on a regular basis through a full range of motion. This is what Scott calls “Mobility Exercise”. Deep squats done properly are a great mobility exercise.

A Case of “Hip Flexor Inflexibility”?

So I got some pretty darn tight and inflexible hip flexors. What is the big deal with tight hip flexors? I’m asking for another lower back injury with tight hip flexors. When your hip flexors are tight, your lower back has to compensate and hyperextend to make up for when the hips can’t fully extend. By avoiding the squat and deep squatting motions these past 10 years, I haven’t been actively working hip flexor mobility. Tight hip flexors also can cause a pelvic imbalance and bad pelvic tilt.

Squatting Motions Will Actively Stretch the Hip Flexors

So although I don’t want to increase leg mass and the size of my glutes, I need to incorporate some type of squatting motion into my routine. I suggest you do the same. A good active stretching and mobility movement is “Prisoner Squats”. Since you have your arms behind your head it forces your lower back to remain arched. The goal here is to squat down into a sitting motion and sit back, instead of allowing your knees to travel too far forward. Craig Ballantyne does an awesome job demonstrating in this video.



[So go down without letting your lower back round at the bottom. This will probably not be as low as Craig demonstrates in this video. Pushing your rib cage forward helps as you go down. Keep the weight on your heels.]

So Prisoner Squats Are Going to Develop Mobility

So where do Hindu Squats come into play? We are going to do Prisoner Squats to develop mobility and Hindu Squats as a way to reinforce the motor patterns around this new mobility. What does that mean? Well Hindu Squats are a high rep fat burning body weight exercise that can be done for high reps. After we do a set or two of prisoner squats for 10-15 reps, we will do an extended set of Hindu Squats as our cardio workout for the day. Insuring good form for dozens of reps will retrain these crucial pelvic and hip muscles to become mobile again. We are training these muscles to reinforce joint mobility.

So How Do You Perform Hindu Squats?

So this will take a video for sure. Luckily I found a good one on Youtube by Matthew Armstrong. I will show you the video first and then explain the steps. It is a fast and rhythmic movement, so it is easy to miss some of the key points.


[So it is basically a nonstop motion. As Matthew explains it can be done for hundreds of reps. I wouldn't recommend that until you have done these for a couple of weeks first.]

How to Do The Hindu Squat

1. Start with your hands pulled into your chest and feet shoulder width apart.

2. Squat down while keeping your back straight and bring your arms down behind you for balance.

3. Unlike the Prisoner Squat, you are going to want to roll up onto the balls of your feet as you lower down. At the very bottom you will almost be up on your toes.

4. At the bottom, swing your arms forward as you push up of your toes.

5. Your arms will reach out in front of you as you approach the top. Once you reach the top, your heels should be touching the floor again and then you pull your hands back in towards your chest. At this point start the movement over.

6. The breathing is important and different than other exercises. Exhale on the way down and inhale on the way up. Do this for each and every rep. The breathing is as important as the movement.

7. Start with 20-30 reps and slowly work up to 500. Within time, you will want to do this for 500+ reps for 15 minutes straight. This is easier said than done…and is a serious cardio workout.

Here’s A Video That Explains the Arm Motion…

[As you can see it takes practice to get the timing right.]

How You Can Incorporate These Into Your Routine?

I would suggest trying to get in a session of Hindu Squats 2 times per week to reinforce good hip mobility. I will most likely do these in place of my steady state cardio 2-3 times per week. I would recommend 2 sets of 10 of prisoner squats as a warm up to get the lower back and hips primed. I would also recommend 1-2 sets of prisoner squats afterward and possibly a set or two of back bridges, if you want to really insure great posture.

Note: I would love to hear your comments. Have you guys ever done Hindu Squats? Do you plan on implementing them into your routine.

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Rusty Moore

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Vivienne September 8, 2010 at 4:42 am

Hi Rusty,

I religiously follow your blog for about a year. It’s really amazing. Following your nutrition and workout tips I become very lean (5’10, 132 lbs, 18% body fat). I eat about 1200 calories a day, once a week I so eat stop eat and workout 5 times a week for about 1 hour 1/2 (3x cardio and 2x weight training). My problem is that my gluteus muscles are very flabby and full of cellulite although I focus my training on achieving gluteus firmness doing squats with weights, leg press,…I do not eat meat but I try to replace the meat protein with fish, yogurt and cottage cheese. What am I doing wrong? Should I include some amino acids supplements in my diet? Which kind of workout would you recommend? I would really appreciate your answer. Continue with your good work.

Vivienne

Brian Alexander September 8, 2010 at 8:04 am

1.”Hindu” ?? – Who thought up this one. I am an Indian, not a HIndu,
They have been around for centuries as has a form of martial
arts called “Kalari Payttu”.
These squats are known as ” Dhun Bhaitak”
2.Yogis will not be upset with the information on ” static Stretching”.
Yoga is not aggressive, concerned with the well being of the
practitioner.
” Dynamic Stretches” are also done without holding the pose-a
touch and Go sort of movement, and is practiced by Scott
Sonnon / Tacfit- They call it Prasara Yoga.

Prakassh September 8, 2010 at 10:12 am

Hey Rusty

I am from Mumbai, during my school days I use to do 100 Hindu Squats i.e. we call “Bhiathak” in “Vyayamshala” Vyayam means exercise and shala means school now days we call Gym. Hindu Pushup or Bomber pushup i.e “Dund”. In those days senior perform 500 to 1000 Bhiathak and Dund.

We have to wear compulsory Indian traditional “Langot” it’s ‘Y’ type cotton cloth you have to wear it and tie it. ( It is like athletic supporters )

http://srilankanmale.blogspot.com/2009/04/if-you-were.html

Without Langot we are not allow to perform those exercises.

Now a days this original tradition is vanishing only in some village of India practice by ‘Pahelwan’ i.e. wrestler.

Thanks for your article on Hindu Squat.

It is still performing by Indian in Villages and till date there is no knee injuries reported. Of course you have to do it in correct form. The video was excellent.

With best wishes.

Namaste.

Prakassh

admin September 8, 2010 at 9:53 pm

So I’ll try my best to answer as many questions as possible in the next 45-60 minutes…

@ Craig,

Glad you made the switch to drop squats. I think they can be beneficial for a short period of time, but once you have adequate leg mass it makes sense to drop them. You feel much better doing the body weight stuff and cardio (plus you will be able to wear nice pants and jeans…which is important in Hollywood). Drove past Hollywood on the way to Huntington a few weeks ago.

@ Clint,

You could do them as part of your cardio.

@ Jeffrey343,

Yeah…I am still learning these and look extra funny doing these.

@ Anna,

The cool thing is they take up zero space. People can do these watching TV at night, in the corner of a gym. In a hotel room, etc.

@ Hazman,

I’ve always had a challenge with flexibility so I need to go out of my way to do thing that improve joint mobility. I think these will help a bunch.

@ Dave,

I saw your article on these as well. I’ll go back and link to it in this post.

@ Clement,

I think some people will do fine squatting long term. For others is adds too much mass and makes them sluggish. Cool that you benefit from them. A certain percentage of people have great looking legs and squat regularly.

@ Raymond,

I can see the benefits of a limited amount of static stretching followed by working through full range movements. Scott Sonnon, Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock do Prasara Yoga for flexibility. I was a skeptic until I went through their Bodyweight Blueprint for Fat Loss last year. I have never felt more limber and really enjoyed that program.

@ Zak,

I love these ancient exercise traditions. So much good info resurfacing and making its way to the West,

@ Alejandro,

I am going to practice them in private first before I do them in my gym. I’m sure people will wonder what the heck I’m doing, but that wouldn’t be the first time. People give me strange looks when I do Renegade Rows.

@ Aaron,

I’m fascinated with Clubbells and all of the crazy and innovative stuff Scott Sonnon advocates. I have yet to use these, but will give them a go at some point.

@ Sid,

The only challenge with India is that the food is so delicious, it is nearly impossible to stay lean. I LOVE all types of curry and spicy Indian dishes. It is right up there with Thai food as one of my favorites. Can’t get enough!

@ Tony,

Squats at one time were by far my strongest exercise, but I hated shopping for pants…plus they made me feel sluggish. I will never go back to barbell squats, but I’m going to work in this body weight stuff as 2 times per week and include it with my cardio. I suck at pistols, but at some point would love to master these as well. Adam Steer makes these look too easy.

@ katie,

I like Prasara Yoga, but that is about as close as I have come to Yoga. Cool that you guys are implementing these in your Yoga classes. I don’t think I have the right personality type for Yoga. I like to lift and sprint…slow stretching and breathing exercises would drive me nuts. I know some people get great benefits, however.

@ Yavor,

That is an awesome way to progressively get up to high reps. I like the way you have structured this. I will see if I can get up into 300+ range by Christmas.

@ John,

I have no idea of the calorie expenditure. I have to think that 15 minutes straight would burn a ton of calories during as well as after. I am going to slowly progress the way Yavor recommends. I’m always cautious with leg exercises the first few times. I remember doing 10 sets of calf raises a few years ago after not doing them for some time. I think my calves were sore for a week and 1/2. I’ve done even worse damage with squats when I was younger.

@ Howard,

These feel good on the back. They will be tough is someone has a pre-existing knee condition…but if you have healthy knees these are suppose to be fantastic for knee mobility as well.

@ Chris ZTF,

Craig has a ton of amazing Youtube videos. I don’t like getting in front of the camera, so I’m glad we have people like Craig doing this for us.

@ SB,

To put on muscle, mix in some higher reps along with the 5X5′s. I like to use a period of higher reps 8-15, followed by a period of lower reps. Some people will work each muscle group 2 times per week and do low reps on one day alternated with high reps later in the week. I find that you will adapt better by focusing on one or the other.

@ Kim,

I actually have an entire book I’m launching for women that will address exactly what you have described. Too many in the fitness industry ignore it when women complain of adding too much muscle. This is a legitimate concern. My girlfriend used to be a gymnast and she has a tendency to add muscle quickly…and doesn’t want to…so I have constructed a very specific routine for her to follow. My book will help women who tend to add muscle easy, but want to look slim, fit and feminine. I know there is a huge demand for this info…and it seems nobody is addressing this issue. I plan to change that.

@ Sue,

Talk to your chiropractor. You may have to wait until your spine is in better alignment first.

@ Greg,

Good luck!

@ R.R.B.Dam,

I have read about the knee concern. Supposedly these prevent damage to the knees and improve mobility in that joint. Of course if they hurt, it would make sense to do prisoner squats instead.

@ Janos,

I used to think Burpees were just for kids, but did them as part of Craig Ballantynes “Crazy 8 Circuit” and they rocked my world. They really get the heart pumping!

Shoot! Ran out of time.

Thanks for commenting everyone…keep them coming!

-Rusty

Josh- Home Made Fitness September 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Why don’t you want to increase leg mass? What’s cooler than having to grease your inner thighs before a run?

“Nothing” is the answer you are looking for!

SB September 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Hey,
Thanks
Ill focus on the higher rep range for a while, maybe 1 or 2 months. What type of diet should i maintain while trying to gain mass? Definitely not on a deficit right? Or is it okay to be on a calorie deficit? And postworkout shake is a no or a yes?
thanks :)
Appreciate all the help and effort

Anita September 10, 2010 at 5:38 am

Thanks for reminding me about those Rusty. I had come across them a while back and I still remember that even though they looked easy to do – they hurt like hell the next day – simply because they use so many muscles… Great one to also increase heart rate.

I mainly do HIIT and Yoga – so I’ll definitely be including some Hindu Squats in my next week’s workouts.

Great detail btw – love the depth of your posts :)

Sabina September 10, 2010 at 3:24 pm

In India when we do Hindu squats we stay flat on our feet throughout the movement even at the lowest point. It is said to injure the joints of the toes if we rise up on the balls of our feet. It is a part of our yoga pratice.We also go much lower than is shown in the video. Yoga has a lot of cardio and strength training at slightly more advanced levels. It can be very interesting. I used to think it wuld bore me to tears too.. but I really enjy it.

Sabina September 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Your website is great. It gives a fantastic overview of health and fitness. It comes across as authentic and straight from the heart. We can see that you really love what you do and that is s nice to see.

jason September 10, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Well I guess I am in the minority- High Rep Calisthenics like hindu squats have never done right by me. I worked up to 300 in a straight shoot, but my knees were starting to creak and just overall not feel right. At the time i was ALL about high rep calisthenics. Personally 8-12 reps, of progressive resistance is my main modality and I feel much better for it. When i do a program I clear everything with my physical therapist.

Azri Miskal September 11, 2010 at 3:09 am

This exercise is wonderful! I got pretty tired of just doing normal squats over and over again so seeing your post on Hindu squats was really a boost. Definitely going to incorporate it into my routine soon. Maybe later even! Thank you once again!

Ralph Hollandsworth September 11, 2010 at 11:32 am

Rusty, Great write up on this exercise, spent 22 years military special operations and swear by functional type fitness workouts. This exercise combines strength, power and endurance a key combination for longevity.

David September 11, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Hi Rusty! I really like the site and i was wondering if you could tell me what kind of diet and workout(also which ab exercises) i should do to get a body like Cam Gigandet in never back down or if you could tell me how you helped Craig Avera get abs like Brad in fight club.I dont want to get bulky abs. i want my abs to look like Brad,Craig or Cam also I am really afraid of lifting to much so i will look a muscle head or doing to much cardio so i end up skinny. I would really appreciete if you could help me out on my goal.My weight is 64kg waist 75 cm and height 170 cm.
P.s should i take some supplements like protein shake,multivitamin and dandelion root also which protein shake if i should take one.
Thanks for everything you do to help people like me and others

kev September 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

hey rusty,

i’ve a kinda weird problem with my pecs, they’re fairly big and really toned near at the sides of my chest, but it seems like there’s no muscle whatsoever down the center of my chest. i dunno wat im doin wrong. any advice would be great, thanks.
P.S: love the site, i go on it almost every day!

Sammy September 13, 2010 at 5:11 am

Hi Rusty,
I have a question for you and don’t know anyone else that could help me find the answer.

I’m a 19 years old guy and I want to be fit and lean but don’t want to be an amateur athlete or a fitness fanatic or getting bigger. I’m okay with my thinness, my lightness and with taking so little room.

So I want to be thin and slim but to have muscular tone, a flat stomach, a good body shape and enough strength. And I know that if I keep living an average life of sitting all day and just commuting to school, eating freely, I will have flaccid muscles a poor body shape and a fat belly.

But I also know that an intense program of daily exercises or every other day gym or fitness and sport lifestyle, is not what I want. So I’m looking for a way to have a decent level of fitness without becoming a gym or sport person. And no one seems to talk about this need, because either you find the sedentary ones or the super-active ones. No middle ground. But being fit is a birth right, something humans should have even without an intense workout program.

Can you help me? Thank you

Tim September 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I do these with a spring-jump up/soft-landing straight back into the down-movement.

Adds explosive power to legs which I want as a cyclist.

They’re seriously epic; I use them as part of a 5 station kettle routine, along with Hindu pushups, manmakers, burpees etc

Kevin Williams September 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Hello Rusty, I have to say I REALLY hope you get the chance to read this particular comment as it would be a godsend. For the last 4 months I’ve been really wired to your website, I am generally new to your techniques, but they all make sense and I’ve adopted them, I’m in college, and I’ve just been able to get back on the weights after a summer of being limited to body weight exercises (not that I don’t like them) and I noticed after the first week the increased definition in my arms and chest and shoulders. My only question to you is…How do you do it? I follow your 2 day split, but it seems that I always find myself in the gym for at least two hours which I know is detrimental to my results to be in the gym that long. I have a workout that goes like this…
Mon/Wed Tues/Thurs
5×5 incline bench 5×5 Curls
5x5flat bench 5x5chins’ or cable curls
5X5Pullups 5x5triceps pulldowns and dips
5x5Rows 5x5shoulder press and side raises
Planks
Hit/steady state cardio.
It seems that I rest too long, because I really do not want to tear the fibers in order to grow bigger, but it probably takes me about two minutes to finish the working part of the five sets, and 11 mins minimum with the added rest. I feel like I’m taking entirely too long though, but I just want to make sure that I rest enough to not tear the fibers, so I can benefit from the strength aspect and not build on one set. Rusty, If you could help me to tweak my workout to the standards you would approve it would be very beneficial…or if ANYONE who follows Rusty’s advice on the website to the Tee, could help me it would be very much appreciated.

Norbi September 15, 2010 at 2:34 am

Hi Rusty,

it’s been a long time, I’m glad to see you’re still doing good. I just wanted to tell you that you should REALLY check Krav Maga out, it has become my main line of exercise, I train 5-6 times a week, and just passed my test for the next level, which took 5,5 hours! But it’s great stuff. Unrelated to this post, and hopefully you will get to read these comments, would you have any specific suggestions for strengthening the wrists? I’m doing a lot of punching, but I feel limited because of my fragile wrist(s) (mostly the right one).

Keep up the great work, cheers,
Norbi

Susan @ Home Workouts September 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

Hey Rusty, really interesting exercise, those hindu squats. I personally have had a ton of mobility issues from running, driving and sitting too much and have noticed that my bootcampers have similar hip limitations that I do from their sedentary lifestyle. I have been very well aware that static stretching does nothing for gaining back the flexibility lost in the pelvic area and have been searching for hip mobility exercises to help myself and my clients. I have been using these mobility drills with great success although I am finding that a “one and done” type approach does not work – mobility drills need to be done on a regular basis for optimal effects. I am happy to add the hindu squat to my regime.

Alex Allmert - Hardcore Natural Bodybuilding Tips October 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Hindu Squats eh?

I will try those, the arm movements make it look weird but I’m still curious.

-Alex Allmert

Diego October 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

Great Post! What an excellent exercise I will be adding these to my workouts and that of my clients especially the one that want to lose weight. Thanks for sharing Rusty!

Jay November 1, 2010 at 6:51 am

Hey Norbi, nip on over to gymnasticbodies.com, the gymnastic coach on that site has just the exercises you need for strengthening your wrists. i can completely vouch from personal experience as to how effective they are. I’m not very good at explaining the method, so I’ll let you read up on it from the expert.

Hazel November 24, 2010 at 2:48 am

I loved reading this and I’m going to start incorporating this into my current workout routine.

Thanks!

Mercy Tan December 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

It really doesn’t matter what kind of push up you are doing as long as you are committed to yourself that you want to get fit, then it will follow. But based from what I have read from this post, Hindu Squat have a different advantages that can be gain from doing a Barbell Squat. In the end, it is still your choice where you feel most comfortable and easy for you to stay fit.

Edward December 9, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Squats are one of my favorite exercises. This is a very interesting variation of that – will have to try it.
I think this combined with barbell squats will make for an amazing workout. For some info on barbell squats, here’s an article on
For more info on squats, check out my article on Leg Training

Ray - Six Pack Abs Diet January 7, 2011 at 2:11 am

Rusty the Hindu squat looks like a pretty effective bodyweight exercise for fat loss. But it looks so fluid that I believe it will fool a lot of people doing it for high reps! I think I’ll stick with doing air squats (a la Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Body) and two hand kettlebell squats to burn fat ;).

Ray

Duff February 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Careful–I built leg size with sets of high-rep hindu squats to failure, probably due to Carpinelli’s logic. Stay away from failure and you’ll probably reduce that possibility however.

John the Drunkard April 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm

A bit late to add this, but there are good reasons to be cautious about knee-strain in the baithak. Rising on the toes CAN through too much work onto the quadriceps and stress the patellar tendon.

The breathing and arm swinging of the classic baithak undo this potential stress. Done properly, the knees should be very safe. Done poorly, for high repetitions, some strain is inevitable.

These are quite different from most other ‘air’ squats, and probably should not be compared to them directly.

Jill May 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

Love this post, amazing website. But I was wondering if you are going to put up a post about boxing. I recently joined a boxing gym when I moved to Miami. Its called biscayne boxing, here’s the link Biscayne Boxing & Fitness Club and it has been gonig amazing. Starting to read up more on boxing as a form of exercise!!!

Jillian

Andreas June 27, 2011 at 4:27 am

Front Squat with your bud to the ground is the best exercise out there !

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Eduardo July 19, 2011 at 9:43 am

I started doing hindu-squats due to an injury on my left-knee (ACL tear) and i can tell you it’s been of great help. It has helped strengthening the knee and also avoiding future injuries.

Yes, it’s a very very recommendable exercise. Id say its even much more beneficial than the standard weighted squat for the “average sportman”.

Cheers,

Phil September 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

About Hindu Squats, after squatting with heavy weights for 15+ years I had trouble; that “power” didn’t transfer to athletic performance. I carried my legs they didn’t carry me. Once I could do 50reps I started feeling like I was on springs, after hitting 100 continuous reps, every athletic movement became explosive. I didn’t tell my training partners, but they made comments about how heavy my kicks were, I was driving through my opponents and my cardio was incredible, I actually stopped doing roadwork.

A funny thing happened, I quit hindu squatting and coincidently all those positive things also went away. A 500lb squat for reps impressed some younger athletes,600lbs no belt did not transfer while hindu squats did. 300 Hindu Squats I dare you!

Marsha San Miguel September 13, 2011 at 7:43 am

Explain how much mass a woman can actually gain in her lower body if she is squating w double kettlebells @ 26 pounds a piece?

D.Pramod February 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Sabina, The Baithak technique displayed here is authentic… and Yoga does NOT recommend going very deep although you do not rise on the balls of your feet… refer to the Utkatasana illustration and description in Dr BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga… it is more of a half-squat than anything you have described…

Rusty, Static stretching is a great way to increase long-term flexibility… it’s proper place is not at the beginning of a workout but at the end when applied to already warm muscles… in the traditional way or marga, yogis get up in the morning, complete their toilet, have a cold bath and then do dozens of Suryanamaskaras at a fast clip to get the body hot and sweating and THEN go into the Asana practice; some of these (not all!) asanas do involve static stretching but by then their bodies are well warmed up…

Imad June 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hi
I’m from India and my great-grandfather was a wrestler (we call them pahelwans) who did thousands of Hindu pushups and squats daily (we call them dands and baithaks). He didn’t suffer from bad knees AFAIK and neither did any other pahelwan I ever heard of. I suppose too much of anything is bad for you, even if it’s a “good” exercise. Kept in moderation I’m sure the Hindu squats (and pushups) will benefit tremendously.

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