By Spencer A. Berry

Not long ago, I read someone claim that a very popular amateur bodybuilding organization they work for is not only the best in the industry, but also offers all competitors a realistic path towards becoming a pro. Having competed many times in this amateur organization, I have my reservations on this person’s claims.

Nevertheless, I found in my many years as an amateur and professional bodybuilder that there is no clear cut “best’ when it comes to bodybuilding organization. What I do find best about being a bodybuilding competitor is that there are many organizations to choose from. And, a competitor only needs to decide which organization offers him or her the best opportunity to achieve their specific goals.

Choosing a bodybuilding organization that satisfied my goals was easy. However, someone new to the sport probably doesn’t know exactly how many bodybuilding organizations really exist. Nevertheless, after doing a little research, I can enlighten folks with some brief information on a hand-full of amateur bodybuilding organizations. Hopefully the information I’m providing will enlighten a few folks about the many choices available for all bodybuilding competitors.

National Physique Committee (NPC): membership fee – $120

The National Physique Committee (NPC) is the most familiar and popular amateur organization in the industry. The organization offers 100+ contests throughout the U.S. In my home state of Texas, there are 17 contest scheduled for 2015. The organization is the only pathway towards earning one of bodybuilding’s highest achievements, an International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) pro card.


2014 NPC Adela Garcia Classic, Men's Open Middleweight bodybuilding. file photo 

Joining the NPC is fairly simple. You only need to purchase a membership card and acknowledge a NPC athlete release. The NPC athlete release should be read by every competitor so he or she knows their rights and what rights they are waiving. You can find this information on the NPC website, or you can find it on any contest entry form.

Competitors can compete at either the novice or open levels. NPC defines a novice as someone who has never competed. An open competitor is one who has placed in the top 10 of a national qualifying event and is no longer considered a novice. First time competitors are allowed to compete at the open level. If they chose, they can also compete in both the novice and open divisions at the same show (commonly referred in the bodybuilding world as a “crossover”).

The NPC has the following men and women’s novice and open divisions and classes:










NPC also allows crossovers in each division. Men can compete in bodybuilding and physique at the same show. Women can also compete in two or more classes. Normally, class crossovers will come with an additional cost during contest registration.

The organization also offers masters (35 to 70 and older) and teen (13 and older – fitness only, and 16 and older) divisions. These divisions are generally classified as open. Masters and teen competitors are also eligible to crossover in any qualified novice or open class. Teen competitors, anyone under 18, will need to have a signed parental or guardian release before he or she is eligible to compete.

NPC contests have three qualification categories: local, regional, and national. Local contest offer competitors the opportunity to compete for the first time on stage or prepare for higher-level competition. Competitors cannot qualify for an NPC pro-qualifier at a local contest.

Regional contests provide competitors the first opportunity to compete at the national level. However, these regional competitions will soon be eliminated in Texas. Regional contest class and overall winners qualify for the NPC Jr. Nationals and Jr. USA Championships. Unfortunately, men and women bodybuilding competitors cannot earn their IFBB pro cards at these events. Only fitness, figure, bikini, and men and women’s physique winners can earn an IFBB pro cards at the Jr. Nationals and Jr. USA Championships (go to for detailed IFBB qualifying information).

National qualifiers are contests competitors enter to reach all pro-qualifying events. Generally, competitors qualify for all IFBB pro qualifiers; Nationals, USA Championships, Jr. Nationals and Jr. USA Championships, Team Universe, and North American Championships, if they place in the top three at a national qualifier. However, competitors who place fourth and fifth at a national qualifier are eligible to compete at the Jr. Nationals and Jr. USA, Team Universe, and North American Championships.

As for NPC natural or drug-tested events, the standards for these contests are governed by IFBB rules and regulations or can be established by the contest promoter. As for IFBB pro qualifiers, the Team Universe is the only drug tested show. Men’s bodybuilding is the only class drug-tested at this event.

In my experience, NPC natural or drug tested shows conduct random urinalysis testing. A few randomly selected competitors will be called at the competitors meeting to submit a urine sample. Any competitor that fails a drug test will be disqualified and/or will forfeit any awards or prizes won at a contest. It is unknown whether the NPC places further penalties on competitors who fail a drug test.

Musclemania: membership fee – $50 

Musclemania promotes the organization as the industry leader in natural bodybuilding. The organization annually hosts regional and international bodybuilding and fitness events. This year, Musclemania will host 27 U.S., 11 World, 17 Mexico, (5) European, and 14 International shows. Go to to see a complete list of all 2015 Musclemania contest.

Musclemania photo

2012 Kansas City Musclemania Show overall winners. photo from web

Joining this organization is also very easy. Just complete a simple application, mail it to the organization with the membership fees, and you’re in. No matter your past or current organization membership, Musclemania welcomes all competitors. However, the organization does have restrictions that every competitor must know before registering for a contest.

Musclemania offers four types of amateur shows: beginner & novice, local, regional pro-qualifiers, and international. Only first time competitors can register and compete at a beginner & novice show. Local shows are open to any competitor, regardless of their experience. Pro-qualifiers and international shows are also open to all competitors.

You can only obtain your Musclemania pro status or compete as a pro by winning at a designated pro-qualifying event. Pros from other organizations must also qualify at a designated event to become a Musclemania pro. Once you become a Musclemania pro, you cannot compete at another organization’s event. If you do, you will forfeit your Musclemania pro status and will need to re-qualify to rejoin the organization’s pro ranks.

Musclemania offers the following divisions and classes for men and women competitors:



Physique (New this year)

Male Model





Female Model

With the exception of women’s physique, all classes have normal bodybuilding and fitness competition appearance and posing standards. Women’s physique appearance standards vary between contests. Some shows require an athletic, shapely, sexy look while others require a more muscular physique with low body fat. Clink on the “Ladies event comparison cart” link,, to see the specific contest requirements for women’s physique.

Men and women’s Model classes do not have any weight or height requirements. Competitors will be judge on a runway style presentation wearing sportswear, a swimsuit, and nightclub wear. See additional Model class judging criteria under

Musclemania also offers teen bodybuilding (16 – 19) and junior bodybuilding and physique (22 & younger). Master competitors can compete in the men’s bodybuilding (40+, 50+, & 60+) and women’s figure (35+ & 45+). Only men and women over 20+ can compete in the Modeling divisions.

Although not clearly indicated in the contest entry info, it appears that Musclemania does allow class crossovers. Like most organizations, multiple class entries will come with additional registration fees.

Any competitor joining Musclemania should also be aware of the organization’s drug testing policies. At the discretion of the regional promoter, the top five in each division or weight class can be subject to a polygraph and/or asked to submit a urine sample immediately after the contest finals. All competitors at the Musclemania America, Worlds, and Universe Championships will need to provide a urine sample.

Competitors who refuse to take any drug testing will be disqualified. Any competitor who fails a drug test will be disqualified from the contest, will forfeit any prizes and/or awards, and will be banned (2) years from any Musclemania sponsored events. Please go to for the organization’s complete banned substance list.

World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF): membership fee – $60

The WNBF is recognized as one of the premier natural bodybuilding federations. Anyone joining the WNBF must be aware of the policies and restrictions enforced by this organization. The WNBF sanctions amateur shows throughout the U.S., Canada, and eight overseas locations.


2014 INBF/WNBF Naturally Fit Supershow, Men's open lightweight bodybuilding. file photo

To register for a contest, competitors must hold or purchase a membership card. Unlike the NPC and Musclemania calendar year registrations, a WNBF membership is valid a year from the date of purchase (ex. Membership purchased April 2015 expires March 31, 2016). Competitors are advised to read the terms and conditions waving the contest promoter and WNBF of any legal liabilities during the registration process. Promoters will also ask all competitors to verify that they are natural bodybuilding athletes.

All competitors will need to schedule and complete polygraph testing before a contest. The WNBF uses polygraph testing to verify that all competitors are (7) years drug free and have not taken any items found on the WNBF banned substances lists, A competitor can schedule and pay for his or her testing during their contest registration or on the contest check-in day. The cost, date & times, and location for the testing will be determined by the polygraph administrator.

The majority of the WNBF’s 61 U.S. and affiliate amateur contests are pro-qualifiers. Anyone, regardless of level or experience, can enter a pro-qualifier. First place winners in each open class must win the overall title to earn a pro card. WNBF super-pro qualifiers are the only shows that provide all first place open class winners pro cards. Check out for a complete 2015 WNBF amateur contest schedule.

The WNBF offers the following divisions and classes for qualified competitors:







Fit Body


WNBF’s women’s Fit Body posing standards are the same as women’s physique (open-hand mandatory poses). However, Fit Body competitors must wear heels during all judging rounds. Fit Body competitors will also conduct an individual performance at the finals, which will consist of open-hand mandatory poses to music while wearing heels.

The WNBF also offers teen and master classes for men and women competitors. Only master competitors are eligible to earn a pro-card at designated pro-qualifying events. These pro qualifying classes will be offered at the discretion of the contest promoter.

The organization does not allow competitors to compete in both the novice and open divisions at a single event. However, amateur competitors are eligible to crossover in multiple novice or open classes at the same show (ex. A novice female figure competitor can compete in the novice bikini or/and novice fit body class(s), but she cannot crossover to an open class).

WNBF Pros are restricted from any crossovers at a single event. However, Pros are allowed to compete in a different class at separate shows (ex. Figure Pro can choose compete as a Bikini or Fit Body Pro at different events, but cannot compete in both classes at the same show).

Class winners at all WNBF contests must complete additional drug testing. The top three winners in every men and women’s class will need to provide a urine sample. This urine sample will be taken from all class winners immediately after the award presentations. Failure to complete a polygraph or provide a mandatory urine sample will result in a competitor’s immediate disqualification from the contest and/or banned from competing in the WNBF. Any competitor who fails a polygraph or urinalysis will receive a (7) year ban from the organization.

Previously, the WNBF prohibited the organization’s Pro competitors from competing outside the organization without approval from the governing body. However, in 2014, the organization dropped this restriction. WNBF Pros are now free to compete in other organizations that will either honor their pro status, or they can compete as an amateur.

The WNBF also welcomes Pros from other organizations. Pros from other organization will need to purchase a WNBF membership. They will also need to validate their pro and (7) year drug free status.

Organization of Competition Bodies (OCB) – membership fee: $65

The OCB is also recognized as a premier amateur natural bodybuilding federation. It is part of the Natural Muscle Network and partners with three amateur affiliates in the U.S. (North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation, Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Federation, United Natural Bodybuilding Federation) and four foreign affiliates (Canada, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria). The OCB and affiliate organizations offer qualified competitors the opportunity to earn an International Federation of Physique Athletes (IFPA) pro card.


IFPA/OCB 2014 Yorton Cup World Championships, Pro women's bodybuilding. file photo

Competitors from any organization are welcome to join the OCB. Like the WNBF, memberships are valid one year from the date of purchase. When applying for a membership, you will be asked to provide your area of interest, if you are interested in helping out at a local show, and if you have past judging experience. You will also need to validate that you read and acknowledge the organization’s drug testing policies and the standard competitor’s waiver agreement.

Out of the 60 OCB U.S. and affiliate amateur contests scheduled this year, only 29 are IFPA Pro qualifiers. The organization does welcome all competitors, regardless of experience, to compete at the pro qualification level.

The OCB offers the following (8) division levels based on age and experience:




Teen (19 and under)

Junior (22 and under)

Masters (40 and over)

Grand Masters (50 and over)

Great Grand Masters (60 and over)

Besides the age restrictions in the teen, junior, and master divisions, only first time competitors can compete in Debut. Furthermore, anyone who has place first in any division cannot compete as a novice. The OCB does allow open class crossovers to only qualified novice competitors. However, crossovers between women’s figure, bikini and physique are not permitted.

OCB also provides the following classes based on the promoter’s specified height and/or weight requirements:









Most of the OCB appearance and posing standards are similar to other organizations. However, mandatory bodybuilding poses may include a Side Serratus and/or Single Leg Quadriceps pose(s). Ensure that you review all posing standards on the Natural Muscle Network’s link.

Most of OCB’s banned substances are the same found on the WNBF’s lists. However, some prescription diuretics have only a three-week prior to a contest ban and DHEA (not allowed in the WNBF) is authorized for use in the OCB. You can see the organization’s complete drug testing guidelines on the same link above.

The OCB also conducts polygraph testing for all competitors prior to the contest date or at the competitor’s meeting. They also require urinalysis testing for class winners. At pro qualifying events, only pro card winners will need to submit a urine sample. Other forms of drug testing, such as, voice stress, blood, saliva, hair testing, and other means may be required at the promoter’s discretion.

The OCB, affiliates, and the IFPA have no restrictions on their members competing at other organization shows. The OCB, affiliates, and IFPA also welcomes all amateurs and natural pros from other organization. Amateurs and pros from other organizations only need to purchase a membership, and validate their drug free and/or pro status.

Something unique found in the OCB and IFPA is the organization’s pre judging and finals format. Unlike traditional shows that conduct morning judging and evening finals, OCB and IFPA conducts all class pre-judging and finals simultaneously. Having experienced this format twice as an IFPA Pro…I loved it!

At a 2014 contest held in Orlando, my day started with an 8 a.m. morning check-in. When everything was all said and done, my contest day was over before noon. Therefore, I spend the remainder of day enjoying some afternoon and evening sightseeing around the Orlando area. In my opinion, everyone should take an opportunity to experience this judging format. You may also find it to be a great experience.

International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA): membership fee(s) – $60 (bronze), $99 (silver), and $169 (gold) 

The INBA is the amateur affiliate of the Amateur Bodybuilding Association (ABA). The organization is promoted as the worldwide leader in natural sports. The organization’s founder, Denny Kakos, is recognized as an Ambassador for Drug Free Sports by the office of the President of the United States. The INBA hosts shows in 50 countries and is the pathway for athletes to become natural pros in the ABA’s Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association (PNBA).

INBA photo

2014 INBA Brisbane Classic - Fitness Model Class. photo from web

Membership is open to all natural athletes. Anyone can register by completing an ABA/INBA membership form and selecting a membership level: bronze, silver, or gold. Applicants will also need to agree to on/off season drug testing. Memberships purchased between January – June 30 will expire December 31. Memberships purchased between July and December will expire June 30 of the following year.

INBA sanctions over 60 amateur contests in the U.S. and 125 amateur contests worldwide. These contests are categorized as National, Team USA, Ms. Fitness USA, and Pro qualifiers. All contests are open to natural competitors from all countries.

INBA offer the following divisions and classes based on the promoter’s height and/or weight requirements:



Mr. Physique

Mr. Beach Body



Ms. Figure

Ms. Physique

Ms. Fitness

Bikini Divas

Bikini Mamas

Bathing Suit Beauties

Other divisions

Sports Model

Body challenge

Body Quest

Physically challenged

Kid and teen fitness

Bodybuilding, women’s figure and fitness all have the same appearance and posing standards as other organizations. However, like the WNBF women’s Fit Body competitors, INBA Ms. Physique competitors must wear heels. Men’s Physique and Beach Body competitors are required to wear cargo type shorts. But like bodybuilders, men’s physique competitors are judged in an additional mandatory posing round (front double bicep, side chests, etc.).

Women’s Bikini Divas, Mamas, and Bathing Suit Beauties go through the same single scoring round, but each bikini class has very different requirements. Although not required, Bikini Divas are allowed to wear G-strings or thongs. Bikini Mama competitors must have given birth less than 2 years, between 2 – 5 years, or less than 5 years depending on the promoter’s class requirements. Finally, Bathing Suit Beauties are required to wear a one-piece bathing suit during the judging round.

The remaining divisions; Sports Model, Body Challenge, Body Quest, Physically Challenged, and Kid and teen fitness, are all non-traditional classes with very unique requirements. You can review these requirements on the following links:

As a natural organization, the INBA bans all illegal performance enhancing products found in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) banned substances lists. INBA athletes are required to be (2) years drug free. Competitors must also provide two character references verifying that he or she is a drug free athlete.

Similar to the WNBF and OCB, the INBA requires all competitors to take a polygraph test prior to stepping on-stage. Promoters determine if only the top three class winners, first place winners, and/or the overall winners will have to take an additional urine or blood test. All athletes are subject to random testing and must pass a WADA certified test ever 60 days.

Competitors who fail a drug test can receive either a one-year or lifetime ban. Competitors must also agree to have their photos placed on the ABA/INBA’s Hall of Shame if they fail a drug test. The INBA is the only natural organization that does this. You can see some of the INBA’s Hall of Shame inductees on this link:

To become an ABA/PNBA pro, competitors must win an overall title at an INBA pro qualifier. The PNBA does welcome Pros from other organizations, but with some restrictions. To compete in the PNBA, others Pros must have won an INBA pro qualifier or win an open class at a PRO/AM show and compete as a pro on the same day.

The organization bans any use of personal cameras, camcorders, and/or video equipment at all events – no exceptions. Additionally, all athletes competing at the INBA/PNBA Natural Olympia must stay at the designated event hotel or pay a $100 penalty.

Below are a few more bodybuilding organizations available to amateur competitors. Many of these organization’s rules and regulations are similar to the previous ones. Therefore, I will only highlight some of the most important and unique facts about each organization.

National Gym Organization (NGA): membership fee – $60

NGA photo
 2013 NGA NW Natural, Boise ID - Men's physique class. photo from web

- Natural Bodybuilding organization; competitors must be (7) years drug free

- 2015 schedule offers 54 U.S. and (3) international amateur contest: 22 shows are either limited or top level pro qualifiers.

- The NGA has five tier competition levels:

Tier 1 – General contest: Novice/first time competitors that have never won in any organization

Tier 2 – State Qualifiers: Only top three winners from Tier 1 qualify to compete in state qualifiers. Top three winners in this class will qualify to the next two tiers.

Tier 3 – Limited Pro Qualifier: Only the overall winners in men and women’s open divisions win Pro Cards.

Tier 4 – Top Level Pro Qualifier: Each men and women’s open class first place winner earns a Pro Card.

Tier 5 – NGA Pro level: Only qualified NGA Pros and verified natural pros from outside organizations can compete at this level.

- Women’s Fitness/Figure/Bikini are judged similarly, but have different posing standards. There is no routine for women’s fitness.

- Men and women’s bodybuilding and physique classes have the normal contest appearance and posing standards.

- Pros from other organizations can compete in NGA Pro shows with proof of an active pro card and he or she must agree to submit to the organization’s drug testing standards.

Go to for additional athlete and membership information.

World Beauty Fitness & Fashion Inc. (WBFF): membership fee – unknown

WBFF photo
WBFF Figure competitors. photo from web

- Founded by former IFBB Pro, Paul Dillett, who is also the organization’s current President and CEO.

- Open competitive organization with no drug testing standards.

- The WBFF offers 13 U.S., (5) Canadian, and (5) additional international amateur shows.

- Competition divisions are male and female model, and female figure:

Male fitness model – Judged in two rounds: swimsuit and eveningwear. Square cut spandex swimwear is recommended. GQ style clothing is recommended for eveningwear round.

Male muscle model – For competitors who are too big for male fitness model and do not want to compete as bodybuilders. Only judged in one swimsuit round – square cut spandex swimsuit recommended.

Female Diva Fitness model – Judged two rounds: Theme wear and swimsuit. Theme wear will be Victoria Secret style attire. Competitors must present themselves in a professional and marketable way. They must also display a sense of style, poise, and overall beauty and stage presence, as well as, a fit and toned physique.

Female Diva Bikini model – Is primarily a beauty contest. Competitors are judged on their overall beauty, body shape and tone. This competition consists of two rounds: bikini and evening gown round. Bikini can be any two-piece style. Gown must fall below the ankles and is selected by the competitor.

Women Figure & Figure over 35 – Appearance and posing standards are the same as other bodybuilding organizations.

Men and women’s commercial model – This is a new category for 2015 that has specific age and height requirements for competitors. Other unique requirements for competitors are three digital photos (headshot, full swimsuit body shot, and waist-up clothes shot) and a 50 word explanation of why he or she wants to be a model. Judged in two rounds: swimsuit (full piece for females and square cut trunks for males) and fashion attire. Commercial model competitors must show the ability to display confidence and marketability.

- The WBFF does allow class crossovers.

- The WBFF welcomes all competitors from any organization to compete as an amateur.

- Pros from other organizations must qualify at a WBFF Pro qualifier to compete as a WBFF Pro.

Go to for detailed competitor information.

- It is mandatory that all contestants use the WBFF provided beauty services for hair, make-up, and tanning – no exceptions.

Drug Free Athletes Coalition (DFAC) – membership fee: $40

DFAC photo
2013 DFAC Suburban Warfare Pro/Am, Rockway NJ. photo from web

- Natural bodybuilding organization with one U.S. and four international affiliates: American Natural Bodybuilding Conference, British Natural Bodybuilding Federation, German Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation, Austria Natural Bodybuilding Federation, and South African Natural Bodybuilding Federation.

- Abides by the WADA banned substance list. Competitors must be (7) years drug free.

- Competitors are allowed to use DMAA or Geranium (stimulant) (7) and up to 21 days prior to a urinalysis.

- DFAC sanctions 13 U.S. and (9) international amateur shows.

- Men competitors have two classes:

Bodybuilding – Standard three round judging requirements

Athletic class – Basically, has the same appearance and posing standards as men’s physique. However, competitors will need to complete a mandatory hands-over-head Abs pose during the pre-judging.

- Women have four classes:

Ms. Physique – Is basically women’s bodybuilding, and has the normal appearance and posing standards.

Ms. Figure – Same posing and appearance standards as other organizations.

Ms. Athletic – Similar posing and appearance standards as WNBF’s Fit Body and INBA’s Ms. Physique. Open hand mandatory poses and competitors must wear heels.

Bikini – Same posing and appearance standards as other organizations.

- DFAC does not allow any class crossovers.

- Only 1st and 2nd place winners at a DFAC event or 1st place winners at a natural event can compete at a DFAC Pro qualifier.

- DFAC does welcome all natural pros that possess a current and valid pro card.

- Currently, contest promoters do not pay any section fees.

Go to for detailed DFAC information.

United States Bodybuilding Federation (USBF) – membership fee: $60

USBF photo
USBF Battle of York, Women's Figure winners. photo from web 

- Drug free organization that abides by the IOC and WADA banned lists, but has no clear drug free period limits for new competitors.

- USBF uses random urinalysis testing prior to a show. Competitors selected for drug testing are notified prior to the evening finals.

- USBF sanctions 10 shows (nine pro-qualifiers and one debut/novice show). All shows are held in the U.S. Northeast region.

- All men and women’s classes; bodybuilding, figure, and physique, have the same appearance and posing standards as other organizations. Bikini has the same posing standards with one appearance exception:

Bikini – Competitors will be judge a third round in two-piece sports theme attire. This round, competitors will be scored on presence, sportswear selection, and creativity.

-   USBF does allow crossovers at the contest promoter’s discretion.

- The organization has a National Championship. Competitors must qualify to compete at the nationals at only a USBF amateur event.

Check out for the organization’s rules, criteria for competitor classes, and other information about the USBF.

I may have missed highlighting some remaining bodybuilding and fitness organizations located in the U.S. and overseas. Nevertheless, this article was written to hopefully clear up a few points about most amateur bodybuilding organizations.

One point is that there is really no clear-cut “best amateur bodybuilding organization.” What one competitor believes is best for his or her competitive goals may not be the same for many other competitors.

The final point is that amateur competitors have a lot of choices when it comes to either stepping on stage for the first time or becoming a bodybuilding and fitness pro. Whether you compete for the love of the sport, or you’re chasing that exclusive pro card, there’s a bodybuilding organization for everyone.

Some will still remain committed to one amateur organization because he or she believes it offers best route to fame and prestige in the bodybuilding industry. If you are one of these individuals, obviously, this article is not for you. However, if you are interested in competing for the first time or have passion for this sport, just know that when it comes to stepping on stage, you do have choices.


National Physique Committee (NPC):


World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF):

Organization for Competitive Bodies (OCB):

International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA):

National Gym Association (NGA):

World Beauty Fitness and Fashion Inc. (WBFF):

Drug Free Athletes Coalition (DFAC):

United States Bodybuilding Federation (USBF):



Spencer A. Berry is the owner of Alpha FitT Hardcore Training, LLC, a pro natural bodybuilder, and certified personal trainer.

You can contact him at or for any business inquires. 

Don’t forget to check out the featured products for men and women on the Alpha FitT Hardcore Training GEAR homepage.


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