Playing cards aren’t just for games – they’re great for exercising too.

A deck of cards workout is a fun yet challenging way to get in a good workout. It’s ideal for people who are bored of their regular workout routine, have limited equipment, or are looking for a quick challenge.

There are companies that have pre-made deck of cards workouts, but you can just use any old deck you have stowed away in your drawer.

This article will tell you how to set up a deck of cards workout and provides helpful tips.

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Like its name suggests, a deck of cards workout uses a traditional deck of cards to take you through a workout.

Simply, you assign an exercise to each suit and use the number of the card to tell you how many reps to do.

For example, let’s say you assigned squats to hearts and you pull a five of hearts. This means you’ll do five squats.

You continue to pick through the deck until you’ve reached the end of the 52-card pile or you’ve run out of time.

The best part of a deck of cards workout is that you can design it however you like. You may decide to do a full-body workout, focus solely on legs, or prioritize cardio-based moves.

Ultimately, the workout you do is in the cards.

Summary

A deck of cards workout involves assigning exercises to normal playing cards from a 52-card deck. Go through the entire deck or as many as you can in a specific time to complete the workout.

To design your deck of cards workout, you’ll need to make sure you have a 52-card deck, a timer, and a piece of paper (or you can use the notes app on your phone).

You may also want to have some exercise equipment depending on the type of exercises you choose (e.g., jumping rope, dumbbells, resistance bands).

Step 1: Decide your workout focus

You’ll need to first decide what type of workout you want to do.

For example, if you want to do a full-body workout, then you’ll want to choose a variety of workouts that target your lower body, upper body, and core.

Alternatively, if you want to focus on cardio, you’ll want to pick moves that get your heart rate going (e.g., jumping jacks, skipping).

Step 2: Select your exercises

Once you’ve decided your workout focus, you’re going to want to choose which exercises you’re going to do. Ideally, pick four exercises which you can assign to each of the four suits.

For example:

The opportunities are endless, so feel free to try different exercises.

Step 3: Assign a suit to each exercise

Next, you’ll need to assign a suit to each exercise.

For example, let’s say you choose to do a lower body day. It may look like this:

  • Hearts = squats
  • Spades = glute bridges
  • Diamonds = reverse lunges
  • Clubs = Romanian deadlifts

You’ll also need to decide what to do about face cards (i.e., jacks, queens, kings, and aces). You can either keep the exercise the same and assign a number of reps to the face. For example:

  • Jack = 11 reps or players choice
  • Queen = 12 reps or players choice
  • King = 13 reps or players choice
  • Ace = 30 seconds rest or players choice

Alternatively, you can choose to assign time-based exercises to face cards to add in an extra challenge. For example:

  • Jack = 30-second plank
  • Queen = 1-minute squat hold
  • King = 45-second high knees
  • Ace = 30-seconds rest or players choice

Again, the options are endless, so choose whatever you feel like doing or what you think will be the greatest challenge.

Step 4: Know your reps

Thankfully, playing cards are convenient because they already have numbers assigned to them.

Therefore, it’s easy to assign the number of the card to the number of reps you’re going to do:

  • 2 = 2 reps
  • 3 = 3 reps
  • 4 = 4 reps
  • 5 = 5 reps
  • 6 = 6 reps
  • 7 = 7 reps
  • 8 = 8 reps
  • 9 = 9 reps
  • 10 = 10 reps
  • Jack = 11 reps or players choice
  • Queen = 12 reps or players choice
  • King = 13 reps or players choice
  • Ace = 1 rep, 14 reps, 30 seconds rest, or players choice

To illustrate, let’s say you chose eight of hearts. This means that you’ll do eight squats (or whatever exercise you’ve assigned to hearts).

Step 5: Choose a time limit

How long you decide to do the deck of cards workout is up to you.

Ideally, the goal is to finish the 52-card deck which takes around 15 to 20 minutes depending on the type of exercises and breaks in between.

You may also decide to exercise for a time limit. Let’s say you only have 10 minutes to spare. In this case, you will select as many cards as you can in that 10-minute timeframe.

Alternatively, you may decide to assign the first 10 minutes (or 26 cards) to a lower body workout and then the remaining 10 minutes or 26 cards for upper body.

Step 6: Get started

To start, make sure you shuffle your deck well. This is important as you don’t want to do the same exercises back-to-back too many times.

Once you’re ready, set the cards on the floor beside your sheet of paper (or your phone) that list your exercises and assigned cards.

Select a card and start your workout. Continue picking cards until time has run out or you’ve completed the entire deck. Ideally, try to avoid long breaks between exercises which adds to the challenge.

Summary

To do a deck of cards workout, you’ll need to assign four exercises to each suit and additional exercises or reps to face cards. Start the workout by flipping a card and completing the exercise and reps. Continue until you’re done with the deck or time has run out.

There are many potential benefits to a deck of cards workout:

  • It keeps things interesting. Not knowing what card is going to come next adds a bit of mystery to your workout. This can make exercising a fun activity for you.
  • It’s challenging. The goal is to complete a 52-card deck, which involves a lot of exercises and reps. Limit the number of breaks between workouts for an added challenge.
  • You can do it solo or with a partner. You and a partner can do this workout together. For added fun, have your partner pick your card and vice versa.
  • Improves cardio. Since you’re performing exercises back-to-back, this keeps your heart rate up which can help improve your stamina over time.
  • No equipment needed. Since you’re in charge of designing your workouts, you can select bodyweight exercises that require little or no equipment at all.
  • No two workouts are the same. Since you’re picking cards at random, you’ll never have a workout look exactly the same. This is ideal for people who grow tired of the same old workouts.
  • You can build strength. Just completing the numbered cards (not including the face cards, which adds more) means you’re going to do at least 54 total reps per exercise, allowing you to build some serious strength over time.
Summary

The deck of cards workout adds a new, fun challenge that will help improve your cardio and strength. Since cards are picked at random, every workout is unique.

To get the most out of your deck of cards workout, you’ll want to make sure that it’s a challenge for you.

For example, if you can easily do bodyweight squats, try using a resistance band or dumbbell.

On the other hand, you don’t want to select exercises that are too challenging or that compromise your form. As an example, you may want to try doing modified knee pushups instead of regular pushups.

The key to seeing results is to challenge yourself while still practicing good form. Only you will know what you can do, so make modifications as needed.

As you get stronger and fitter, you may want to change the exercises for more of a challenge. Depending on your goals, other workouts you do during the week, and the exercises you select, you can perform this workout a few times per week.

Regardless, you want to make sure that you’re incorporating at least 2–3 days of strength training and at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week (1).

Summary

To see results, choose exercises that provide a challenge but that you can do with proper form.

A deck of cards workout is a great way to add a challenge and some fun to your workout.

It involves performing exercises based on the suit of the card you picked and performing the number of reps that the card says. For example, if you pull a nine of spades, you would do nine reps of the exercise assigned to spades.

Many people enjoy this type of workout because every workout will look different, since the order of exercises is randomly selected. What’s more, you get to decide which exercises to do, meaning it’s suitable for people of all activity levels.

So, instead of waiting for game night to play cards, you can now use them to get in a good sweat.