the joy of strength training


July 21st, 2009 at 12:35 am

Turbo charge your fitness with a simple deck of cards

kettlebell swingThere are many short, sharp workouts which are brilliant if you are pressed for time and need a 10 or 20-minute gutbuster to keep your fitness levels up. However, I also like to work out for a longer period of time, especially when my aim is to train for endurance.

My problem is that I get bored doing the same routine over and over again but I don’t have time to sit around making up long complicated circuits.

I used to get around this by going to circuit classes and training with groups – all the thinking and motivation is done for you. But what happens when there isn’t a suitable group or class available?

Enter the Deck of Cards circuit. I have recently started using it in my own training and I am an instant convert! It is brilliantly simple and performs the essential function of keeping my fitness and cardio endurance levels high.

With the Deck of Cards format you get a long workout (anything from 25 to 45 minutes) in a circuit training style without having to rack your brains for loads of exercises.

You keep your heart rate elevated for long enough to improve fitness and endurance and there is also the element of surprise to keep you motivated – you never quite know what’s coming next!


Here’s how it works

Take an ordinary deck of cards. Assign one exercise to each suit. So for example you might choose

  • burpees for spades
  • push ups for diamonds
  • squat jumps for hearts
  • jumping jacks for clubs

Then you simply go through the deck performing every single card, according to the exercise you assigned to that suit and the number on the card. If you turn over the 8 of spades, perform 8 burpees.

With 52 cards – or 54 if you are using the jokers – you have a pretty long workout and you never know what is coming next. Part of the fun (if you can call it fun) is turning over the next card and seeing what torture is in store!

The beauty of the deck of cards is that no two workouts are ever the same – well, unless you don’t shuffle the pack.

See more exercise combinations in the comments below!

So what about the face cards and the jokers? Well do what you like, there are no rules. Some people treat all face cards as 10, others increment by one so that Jacks are 11, Queens are 12 and Kings are 13. Some people assign a particularly high number to Aces and Jokers, just for some extra pain.

Here’s a video clip of me performing one of my favourite Deck of Cards variations.

Having to work through the deck keeps you pushing forward and once you’ve decided what exercises you are going to do, there’s very little thought that needs to go into it. Which is a good thing because you’ll be able to think of little else except the effort you are putting in!

There’s no denying that a Deck of Cards workout is tough. The first time you do the workout it will probably seem like it is going on forever! But it is a great way to get a long hard workout done on your own.

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