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How a Deck of Cards Can Give You a Good Workout

playing cards graphic

As an avid traveler and new mom, sometimes it’s difficult for me to find time to get in the car and drive to the gym for a fitness class. Although it’d be easy to let my busy, unpredictable schedule get in the way of my workouts, I’ve decided to let my on-the-go lifestyle serve as inspiration to get creative on the fitness front!

One of my favorite “workout anywhere” routines is the deck of cards workout. All you need is a soft surface and a deck of cards to get started. Not only is this workout fit for anywhere (like a hotel gym or your play room), but it’s also easy to modify. Adjust the deck of cards workout to your skill level and change it up every time you do it so that you’re adding variety to your workouts.

What You’ll Need

  • Open space with a soft surface (such as a yoga mat on top of a carpeted floor)
  • Deck of cards, shuffled
  • Dumbbells (optional)
  • Resistance band (optional)
  • Kettlebells (optional)
  • Jump rope (optional)

How It Works

Choose four exercises, ideally targeting different muscle groups (such as upper body, core, back and lower body). Assign each exercise to a card suit. Choose two additional high-intensity exercises (such as burpees or skater jumps). Assign these “special” exercises to aces and jokers.

Once you’ve selected your exercises, begin the workout. Place cards face down and flip over the first card. Complete the exercise assigned to the card’s suit with repetitions (reps) according to the card value. For aces, complete 11 reps; for jokers and face cards, complete 10 reps. Repeat until you’ve gone through all cards in the deck. Take breaks between cards as needed.

For example, if you assign push-ups to hearts and flip over an eight of hearts, you would complete eight push-ups. If the next card is a jack of hearts, you would complete 10 more push-ups.

Sample Exercises

The deck of cards workout is effective with just a few basic body weight exercises. If you have access to equipment like dumbbells, resistance bands, a jump rope, or kettlebells, feel free to incorporate those into your routine! If you’re looking for inspiration, try the exercises I’ve listed below. Select exercises that target different muscle groups for a full-body workout. Depending on the exercises you choose, completing a deck could take anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes.

Beginner:

Inchworms, wall push-ups, standing lunges, shoulder push-ups, planks from knees, seated tricep dips, jogging in place, sit-ups, bent-leg donkey kicks

Intermediate:

Standing burpees, knee push-ups, walking lunges, chair push-ups, full planks, elevated tricep dips with bent legs, jumping jacks, crunches, straight-leg donkey kicks

Advanced:

Jumping burpees, full push-ups, alternating jumping lunges, wall walks, one-armed planks, elevated tricep dips with straight legs, tuck jumps, V-ups, straight-leg donkey kicks with resistance band

Additional Tips

I’ve found that this workout is great for groups. If you’re traveling with a friend, pair up and choose two to three exercises each. If you work out from home regularly, write down different exercises on note cards and draw from the card collection for a quick start. Lastly, I recommend pairing this workout with a workout playlist to keep the energy level up!

Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Mary Lambkin

Mary Lambkin

Mary Lambkin is a Nashville native, blogger, and healthy living enthusiast. She lives in East Nashville with her husband and loves running through downtown Music City and around Shelby Park. Mary has run nine marathons and is always looking for new recipes to fuel her exercise adventures. Learn more about her at www.minutespermile.com.

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Filed under: Mind & Body

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Mary Lambkin

Mary Lambkin is a Nashville native, blogger, and healthy living enthusiast. She lives in East Nashville with her husband and loves running through downtown Music City and around Shelby Park. Mary has run nine marathons and is always looking for new recipes to fuel her exercise adventures. Learn more about her at www.minutespermile.com.

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