Posted on 02 April 2014.
A deck of playing cards can make for an unusual but effective addition to your exercise arsenal. Popularised by legendary American wrestling coach Karl Gotch, using a deck of cards adds a degree of randomness to your workouts that means that every training session is different. This can be of great benefit if you are involved in chaotic sports such as rugby, football or boxing where the demands of competition fluctuate wildly or, if like many exercisers, you simply get bored easily and prefer not to repeat the same workout twice.
The Deck of Cards Workout is simple. Using a normal deck of playing cards allocate an exercise to each suit. For example:
Hearts = squats
Diamonds = press ups
Spades = lunges
Clubs = crunches
Starting with the well-shuffled deck placed face down, turn over the top card and perform the prescribed number of reps for that exercise. Using the exercises suggested above, if you turn over the 8 of diamonds, you would perform 8 press ups. Then, with minimal rest, turn over the next card and do that exercise and so on until each card has been turned over.
There are a couple of options regarding the picture cards. You could allocate a set number of repetitions to all picture cards, for example 12 or assign a numerical value to each one, for example:
Kings – 15
Queens – 13
Jacks – 11
Adjust these figures up or down according to your fitness levels.
Play the Joker for fitness
Jokers can be removed from the pack entirely or left in to provide extra exercises. If you leave the jokers in, you could allocate something like run 500 meters or 20 burpees or even use the joker to signify a 60 second rest. Personally I like to make sure the Joker is a real challenge to add some extra intensity to the workout and for some reason my pack has three of them! However, whilst a challenge is good, making the Joker so tough that you fail to complete the workout would be a mistake so be conservative and remember what seemed quite doable in the planning stage can turn into something bordering on the impossible mid-way though your workout!
Once you have decided on your exercises, repetition scheme and jokers simply start your stopwatch and storm through the exercises as fast as you can. The clock keeps ticking while you rest so try to keep your breaks to a minimum. As the cards come out in a random order, sometimes you’ll get a good run of dissimilar cards but from time to time you’ll think you must be playing poker and you’ll get runs of suits or lots of high cards in a row. Tough! That’s the beauty of this workout – you never quite know what you are going to get and that randomness is part of not just the fun but also the training effect.
The Deck of Cards Workout lends itself very well to body weight or minimal equipment exercises. This keeps the transitions fast and the pace of the workout high. You can, however, use weight training exercises as I’ve detailed below in workout five.
These are some of my favourite Deck of Cards Workouts to help get you started with this great training method. Feel free to use them as they are or mix elements from the different workouts to create your own unique training session. If you come up with a particularly good one, why not share it via our Facebook page or website?
1) Black cards = push ups, Red cards = bodyweight squats, Jokers = run 500 meters/skipping 300 rope turns. This is my favourite “no frills” Deck of Cards workout that never fails to deliver an awesome training session!
2) Hearts = Burpees, Diamonds = jumping jacks (x 2), Spades = rubber band high pulls, Clubs = sit ups, Jokers = 60 second planks. For this workout, when performing jumping jacks, complete double the number of repetitions indicated by the card e.g. 9 of diamonds = 18 jumping jacks etc.
3) Hearts = skipping (x 10), Diamonds = body rows, Spades = burpees, Clubs = dips, Jokers = row 500 meters. For this workout, when skipping, perform 10 turns of the rope for every number of Hearts i.e. 7 of Hearts = 70 turns of the rope etc.
4) Hearts = step ups, Diamonds = sandbag/Powerbag clean and push press, Spades = chin ups, Clubs = crunches, Jokers = skipping 200 rope turns skipping.
5) Hearts = barbell squats, Diamonds = barbell deadlifts, Spades = body rows, Clubs = bench press, Jokers = 60 seconds of twisting sit ups. For this workout, use around 60% of your one repetition maximum (1RM). It may be necessary to perform the reps rest/pause style i.e. if unable to perform all of the reps when a high card is revealed then do as many of the reps as possible, rest briefly and then continue with the set.
The ultra-FIT Cards and Dice Workout
We’ve provided you with (12?) exercise cards that you can use in conjunction with some dice to create your very own randomized workouts. The fitter you are, the more dice you should use.
Beginners – 2 dice
Intermediate – 3 dice
Advanced – 4 dice
Elite – 5 dice
You could also use a dice with more than 6 sides. These are commonly used in role-playing games such as Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons. Some have as many as 20 sides. Simply roll the dice and perform that number of repetitions. Sometimes you’ll roll low numbers and sometimes high – that’s the luck of the dice! You can combine the cards and dice in a number of ways:
1) Work through the (12?) deck and throw the dice each time you turn over a new card. Run through the deck once, twice or as many times as your current fitness level allows.
2) Pick four cards – an upper body card, a lower body card, a core card and a cardio card. Throw the dice and then perform that many repetitions of each exercise before throwing again. Continue until you have completed as many laps as desired or for a set time.
3) Throw the dice once and perform that many repetitions of each of the (12?) cards. On completion, throw again and repeat. This method works best if you set a total training time, e.g. 20 minutes and try to complete as many laps as possible in the allotted time.
4) Arrange the cards face up in their groups – upper body, lower body, cardio and core. Throw the dice and perform all of the upper body exercises. Throw the dice again and perform all the lower body exercises. Continue until you have completed all four groups. Repeat as desired.
Suggested exercises assuming 12 cards.
Upper body – Press ups, Dips, Body rows
Lower body – Squats, Lunges, Squat Jumps
Core – Bent leg sit ups, crunches, bicycle crunches
Cardio – Jumping jacks, Burpees, Alternate leg squat thrusts