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The Up-Against-the-Wall Workout

Balls to the Wall!

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It's easy to think of workout ideas with a gym full of equipment. An empty room with just you and four walls presents more of a challenge. But with a little creativity, you can turn that boring flat surface into a dynamic workout partner.

"Wall exercises engage the core and stabilizers of the hips and shoulders, depending on the area of focus," says Mark Merchant, C.S.C.S., co-owner of As One Fitness in New York City. Try these challenging moves to add a new dimension to any workout.

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Wall Pushups

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Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Putting your feet against the wall challenges the shoulder girdle stabilizers while enhancing core activation, Merchant says.

How to do it: Place feet about 12 inches off the floor, bottoms of your feet pressed against the wall. Assume a pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and directly below shoulders. As you lower your upper body towards the ground drive your feet against the wall without moving them. Perform 3 sets of 5 reps. (Bring feet up higher on the wall for a greater challenge.)

Sprints Against the Wall

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Sets: 10

Reps: 20

Mix in this cardio drill between resistance exercises to drive up fat burning.

How to do it: Place hands on a wall at shoulder height in a pushup position. Lean in until your body is at a 45-degree angle; bring one knee up to your chest in a starter position and then quickly "run" by alternating legs as if trying to run through the wall. Do 20 quick leg exchanges, pause 10 seconds, and repeat. Do 10 sets total.

Wall Plank

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Sets: 3

Reps: 5 per side

This move challenges the endurance of your core muscles, says Merchant.

How to do it: Start by getting into a pushup position with feet against the wall. Instead of performing pushups, simply hold this position and draw one leg off the wall up towards your chest in a "tuck" and return your foot back to the wall; alternate legs. Do 3 sets of 5 "tucks" on one side and then switch to the other side.

Outer-Thigh Toner

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Sets: 1

Reps: 15

Increase the angle of your body to the wall to create a greater challenge, says Tom Holland, M.S., C.S.C.S., author of Beat the Gym.

How to do it: Stand with your right side to the wall, approximately two feet out from the wall with feet together; bend your right arm and place your forearm on the wall for support. Keep your body straight (do not allow your hips to sag towards the wall). Bring your left leg slightly in front of your right foot and slowly bring it out to the side, pause and return to starting position. Repeat 15 times and switch sides. Add ankle weight for more resistance.

Hamstring Blasters

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Sets: 1

Reps: 12-15

Your core muscles keep you in place in this move, Holland says. If your back slides on the floor, lie on a towel or rug.

How to do it: Lie faceup on the floor and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and place your heels on the wall; your shins should be parallel to the floor. Lift your hips off the floor by pushing your heels against the wall; hold and then slowly return to starting position without resting at the bottom. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Single-Legged Wall Squats

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Sets: 2

Reps: 10 per side

This one-legged version takes traditional wall squats to the next level and works quads and glutes, Holland says.

How to do it: Stand with your back flat against the wall in a squat position, knees bent at 90 degrees, feet hip-width apart (hands on hips or out to the sides against the wall for a greater challenge). Extend one knee until shin is parallel to the floor and straighten up by pushing against the wall and straightening your supporting leg. Lower back down and repeat 10 times and switch legs for 2 sets.

Plyometric Wall Pushups

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Sets: 1

Reps: 10-12

Done in their traditional form on the floor, these explosive pushups are reserved only for the most advanced exercisers. This modified wall version makes them doable for nearly anyone, Holland says.

How to do it: Start facing the wall approximately 18 inches away; lean in and place hands on the wall at chest height, shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower your body in towards the wall by bending your arms, then quickly extend your arms and push yourself back, "catching air" as you push away (keep body straight throughout the move) and then "land" back on the wall with elbows bent. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

For a greater challenge, do 5 reps with both hands and then 5 each using only one arm and then the other.