Could a Deck of Cards Help Spice Up Your Workout Routine?

Deck of Cards Workout

@ellusionist/design by Cristina Cianci

By now, we’re all sick of the same cycling and strength workouts we’ve been doing for the past year from our living rooms. If you’re looking to mix things up or just try something new, you don’t need fancy equipment or a gym—you can use something you likely already have in your home to help you get a great workout: a deck of cards. 

Yes, you heard right. Your card deck is useful for something other than magic tricks and poker night! The Deck of Cards workout is designed to give you a great workout by assigning different exercises to specific suits or cards in the deck, then performing those when that card comes up.  

Every deck of cards workout sequence will be a bit different, but you’ll definitely be feeling the effects and having fun at the same time. Here’s how to try it for yourself. 

How Does the Deck of Cards Workout Go? 

Fitness expert and personal trainer Ashley Larrea likes to recommend the Deck of Cards workout for her clients. “If you have a deck of cards, you have the means to have a great workout!” she says. “I have incorporated Deck of Cards workouts both in the gym as well as in virtual Zoom workouts for Brooklyn Cycle and Fitness of Massapequa.” 

If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, follow the instructions below. 

Equipment needed: A piece of paper (or your phone) to write notes on which exercises to do for each card. Weights are optional. 

  1. First, designate an exercise for each suit: “This is when you can decide what muscle groups you want to focus on,” Larrea says. “If you want a full body workout, it would be best to make sure each exercise hits a different muscle group—legs, back, core, biceps, etc.,” she says. “However, if you want to focus on upper- or lower-body muscle groups specifically, you would add exercises that work only those particular muscles—four lower-body or four upper-body movements, for example. 
    Full-body workout example: 
  2. Clubs = lunges
  3. Hearts = high knees
  4. Diamonds = push-ups
  5. Spades = bicycle crunches
  6. Once you designate an exercise to each suit, you flip a card and perform the exercise of that suit for the number of reps on the card. Example: 9 of diamonds equals 9 reps. Face cards = 10 reps. Ace = 11 reps. You can remove the Jokers, or use them to do a high-intensity move for an extra challenge (more on that below.)  
  7. Once you designate an exercise to each suit (you may want to jot everything down so you remember what to do once you start to sweat), you can begin your workout. “I would suggest pulling 5–10 cards at a time so you can perform the workout in small blocks,” Larrea says. “It’s better to pick up multiple cards at once in order to have a fluid workout with minimal breaks.” 
  8. Once you get through your whole deck, your workout is complete.

Level-Up/Challenge Yourself Even More 

Ready for even more of a challenge? Don’t remove the Jokers from the deck, Larrea recommends. “Jokers are a fun way to incorporate a challenging movement because there are only two of them. “You can use the Jokers as a high-rep count (25+) and designate it to a high-intensity movement or another muscle group you want to focus on,” she says. “If you want to incorporate more cardio, I’d suggest 25 burpees or 25 squat jumps. If you want to focus on core, you could make Jokers 100 bicycle crunches or 100 sit-ups.” 

 Another way she suggests making the Deck of Cards workout even more challenging is by adding cardio in between each block. Flip 10 cards, for example, perform the exercises, and after that block, add in a minute of a cardio movement. For example, go for a quick jog around the block, or do extra core.  

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