Your Easy Guide to Creating a Deck of Cards Workout

Use Exercise Playing Cards to Develop Your Own Workout

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A simple deck of cards is one of the easiest ways to plan your own workouts. While several companies have developed exercise playing cards specifically for workout routines, there's no reason to go out and buy a set if you have a good ol' deck of playing cards sitting around your house. All you need to plan your own deck of cards workout is a list of exercises (a few examples are included below), a timer, and a set of cards.

If you have these items on hand, you're ready to get started. 

1. Select Your Workout Focus

The exercises you perform during your workout should correspond with the focus of your workout. For instance, if you want to do cardio, you need to choose exercises specifically designed to raise your heart rate. If you want to focus on strength training, you need to decide whether you want to focus on a specific group of muscles, or if you want to do a full-body routine.

There's no right or wrong decision, so feel free to mix things up and try different approaches, but as a general rule, if you strength train a certain group of muscles on one day, you should give them at least 48 hours to rest before you strength train them again. In other words, if you decide to focus on training your chest and back today, you'll want to wait 48 hours before you target the same muscle groups in the same way. If your goal is to exercise every day, that means tomorrow you'll want to do cardio, core, a lower-body routine, or a routine that hits your shoulders, biceps, and triceps.

2. Select Four Exercises

Start by choosing any four exercises that fit within your workout focus. By sticking with just four exercises, you'll easily remember which exercises you're supposed to perform, and you'll be able to assign each exercise to one of the playing card suits. Here are some suggested exercises, grouped into workouts based on workout focus: 

Need more exercise ideas? Check out these lower body, upper body, core, and cardio exercises. 

3. Assign Each Exercise to a Suit in the Deck

This is pretty self-explanatory. Simply assign each exercise to one of the suits of cards. For instance, if you're planning to try the full-body workout suggested above, you might pair up exercises with the card suits as follows:

  • Squats = Diamonds
  • Push-ups = Hearts
  • Jumping Jacks = Spades
  • Sit-ups = Clubs

To help you remember which exercise is associated with which suit, you may want to write it down on a piece of paper you'll keep next to your deck of cards. This way you can double-check which exercise you're supposed to perform when you pull a particular suit from the deck. 

4. Know Your Numbers

When working out with playing cards, the number on the card is representative of the number of reps you perform for each exercise.

For instance, a two card represents two repetitions. It's fairly straight forward. 

Except, this can get tricky with face cards, like jacks, queens, kings, and aces.

For these non-numerical cards, you have a couple options. First, you could choose to assign each face card the equivalent of 10 repetitions, so no matter which face card you draw, you always perform the same number of reps. As an alternative, you could assign each face card a different number of repetitions. For instance, jacks might represent 11 reps, queens 12 reps, and kings 13 reps.

In either scenario, you'll need to decide what to do with aces.

You can treat them as a face card, assigning them the equivalent of 10 or more repetitions, or you can treat them as a one, assigning them a single repetition.

In a nutshell, whatever number is on the card you draw from the deck is the number of reps you'll perform. 

  • Ace = 1 rep, 10 or 14 reps, player's choice
  • 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 = 10 or 11 reps, player's choice
  • Queen = 10 or 12 reps, player's choice
  • King = 10 or 13 reps, player's choice

As an example, using the total body workout detailed above, if you were to pull a 10 of hearts from the deck, you'd do 10 push-ups. If you were to pull a six of spades from the deck, you'd do six jumping jacks. 

5. Choose a Time Limit

Now that you've selected your workout focus and exercises, you've assigned them to a suit, and you know how many repetitions each card represents, you need to decide how long you're going to exercise.

It's a good idea to do each series of four exercises for 5 to 10 minutes. If you want to exercise longer, give yourself a brief water break, switch up your exercises, and continue.

For instance, if you do a full-body workout for the first 10 minutes, when you're done, you could switch things up, assign new exercises to each card suit, and do a lower body workout for five minutes, then an upper body workout for five minutes, for a total of a 20-minute routine.

6. Start Your Workout

All that's left is to get to work! Set a timer on your phone or keep an eye on the clock. Shuffle your cards and pull the first card from the deck. Perform the designated exercise for the assigned number of repetitions, then immediately pull another card from the deck. Continue drawing cards and performing exercises until your time expires. Just like that, you've planned and implemented your own workout routine using nothing but a deck of cards!

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