How to Use a Deck of Cards for Your Workouts and Training

This is your quick workout tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in moments so you can start exercising right away.

Adding variety and variety to your exercise regimen is not only optional if you want to achieve your fitness goals, it’s an absolute necessity. Trainers have a number of tricks they use to achieve these goals, but it can be difficult for the average man who doesn’t have the same level of training and hands-on experience. This is why methods like “card game” workouts can be so valuable.

You’ve probably heard the format hit the dumbbell rack or stumbled upon it while browsing your favorite fitness influencers. The concept is simple: each suit (clubs, diamonds, spades, hearts) is assigned an exercise, and the number on each card represents the reps you will do when you draw it. (Count up from 11 for face cards – jacks are 11, queens are 12, kings are 13, and aces are 14.)

Let’s say hearts are push-ups, spades are pull-ups, diamonds are squats, and clubs are hip kicks, for example. If you pull the jack of diamonds, do 11 squats. If the next card you draw is the nine of hearts, you do nine pushups – and you keep drawing cards and doing the specified number of reps until you run out of cards, time, strength, or endurance.

If you manage to go through the entire deck (minus the jokers), you have done a total of 416 reps. This makes deck-of-cards workouts a great way to increase exercise volume in addition to exercise variety. Plus, they’re fun, challenging, and suitable for partner workouts where each person takes turns taking turns drawing cards (believe me – unless you’re an athlete, an average of 208 reps per person in quick succession will get out of your muscles and lungs burn).

Men health

Your movement: Keep a deck of cards in your gym bag for times when your planned workout feels boring or you don’t have access to your usual weightlifting equipment.

That’s another benefit of this type of workout. The structure is great for bodyweight exercise because of the high number of reps you will be doing. You can also tailor your workout to your workout goals and preferences by choosing workouts and adjusting rest times.

For example, if you want to focus on cardio and muscle endurance, stack the deck with exercises like mountaineering or burpee and keep your rest periods short (say, less than 30 seconds). If you want to emphasize strength and strength, base your exercise choices on squats, split jumps, and pushups, and keep your rest periods a little longer (say, 30 to 45 seconds).

Also, focus on exercises that work better with repetition-based sets than timed sets (in other words, save the plank for other workouts). But no matter how you play it, a game of cards will help you burn calories, challenge your muscle endurance, avoid plateaus, and track your gains quickly.


Trevor Thieme is a Los Angeles-based author and strength trainer and a former fitness editor at Men’s Health.

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