I first wrote about deck of cards workouts back around 2003. At the time, I often used a deck of cards to create random sessions as finishers or brief mini-workouts. The format for a deck of cards workout is quite simple. You start with a fully shuffled deck of cards (52 cards). All face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) have a value of 10. Aces have a value of 11. Number cards will be face value (ex. 7 of spades = 7 pushups). Jokers are optional and can be set to any value or exercise.
Deck of Cards Workout Sample
Deck of cards workouts can have 2 or 4 exercises. If you choose two, black cards will designate one exercise and red cards the other (ex. black = pushups, red = squats). If you choose four exercises, each suit will designate its own exercise (ex. spades = pushups, clubs = sit-ups, hearts = squats, diamonds = pull-ups).
Below you can see a recent demonstration of a deck of cards workout using squats and pushups. The video is sped up so that you can see me work through the entire deck.
I’ve probably worked through the same squat/pushup workout a few hundred times in the last 15 years. Yet, after all these years, the brief session is still challenging and effective. In less than 10 minutes, I will perform a few hundred reps of calisthenics in a random and unpredictable format.
Deck of Cards Variations
After sharing the video demo to my Instagram page, I saw loads of comments from people discussing other variations. And it’s true, the workout options with a deck of cards are literally endless. Personally, I prefer a simple format however. I typically stick with two exercises as it spares me from thinking about what exercise corresponds with what suit. During these workouts, I’m not interested in thinking. I want to go from one set to the next as fast as possible.
For those interested in additional options though, you can use the Excel link below to create several unique variations. The file was created many years ago by one of the site’s early readers. I’ve hosted it online ever since.
Deck of Cards Convenience
An added benefit to the deck of cards workout seen above is that I can perform it anywhere. As a coach who often travels, it’s nice to have workout options that I can perform in a small hotel room. I don’t need equipment, very little space, and less than ten minutes.
There goes just about every excuse about not exercising when you’re on the road without access to a proper facility. As I’ve said before, you can always do something, and something beats nothing.
In summary, I often forget that there are many new readers to the site who aren’t familiar with the workouts and content that I shared many years ago. It was great to see so many people on social media who weren’t familiar with the deck of cards workout.
A deck of cards really provides a great option when time is limited or if you want to add a brief finisher to a longer session. Every deck of cards workout will be different based on the shuffling of the cards and it is something that you’ll never outgrow. I certainly haven’t.
“Success is all about consistency around the fundamentals.” – Robin Sharma