Domestica’s Smarter and Harder Deck of Cards Workout

playing-cardsIf you are like me, and never do anything twice, a Deck of Cards Workout can give you enough structure to work out effectively but just enough total randomness to keep things interesting. Tracey, one of my devoted Fitness Train passengers, shared this fun way to create a workout and knew I had to try it!  Who knew I could hate a deck of cards so. incredibly. much.


When I work out, I like to go hard and be out of there as quickly as possible. Living in the gym is not my idea of a good time. People ask me how I balance my extreme fitness level with my role as homemaker, wife, mother, homeschool teacher, etc…well, this is how. I don’t wuss out on long-winded lame workouts where I spend more time walking around the gym than I do exerting myself. And I most certainly do not spend it lolly-gagging on the elliptical machine.

So with a few modifications, I made the Deck of Cards Workout more challenging (surprise, surprise!) but also more effective. By removing the lower cards (2 through 6), your workout will be harder but it’s also more controlled. Of course the higher reps offer a greater challenge but this also means that you have fewer cards to work through and you can make it through the entire deck in less than 30 minutes while also ensuring that by the end of your workout you’ve done a well-balanced routine with exactly the same amount of reps for each exercise. Unless you have an hour to kill, leaving it entirely up to chance with a full deck could leave you with an easy workout full of nothing but lower rep cards. And let’s be honest, 2 push-ups is a waste of your time. You practically burn more calories bending down to flip over the next card.

The great part about this type of workout is that you can pick exercises and weights that suit your fitness level or the group of muscles you want to work out that day.


Decide if you are doing a specific body group (e.g. legs) or if you’ll opt for an all-over body workout.

TIP: Those who workout on consecutive days should split their workouts into body groups in order to give their muscles enough rest between workouts. Those who work out three times a week (or less) can opt for an all-over body workout each time they exercise (so long as they leave 24 hours in between workouts).

Take a deck of playing cards and remove the Jokers as well as cards 2 through 6 from every suit. You should be left with 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace.


Pick four exercises that suit your fitness level and the body parts you are focusing on today and assign each exercise to a suit. In the example I provide to the right, I was working upper body and abs with kettlebell and plyometric exercises.

Shuffle the deck and let’s begin!

Flip the first card over and immediately do the exercise associated with this card. Using my example, I assigned push-ups to the suit of spades so if the first card I flip over is a 9 of spades, I would immediately drop and do 9 push-ups. I would then continue to do the next three cards (for a complete round of 4 cards) before resting for 30 seconds.

As a bonus, the Ace is a free 30-second rest period. You will pray that these show up near the end of the deck, believe me!

By the end of the deck, you will complete 8 rounds (of 4 exercises) with no resting except for 30 seconds between each round. Anyone can make this workout easier by having up to 2 minute rest periods in between rounds and by selecting exercises that are right for their fitness level. Please do NOT attempt to swing a 45-lb kettlebell if you’ve never swung one before!

If random’s not your thing and you like to know exactly what you’re getting into, how about trying my last Deck of Cards Workout?  Here it is, in all it’s controlled randomness:

card_suitsDomestica’s Deck of Cards Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

8 x Alternating Swings (8 reps on right side, 8 reps on left side)
9 x Push-Ups
11 x Plank (x 10 = 110 seconds)
8 x Plank (80 seconds)


12 x Alternating Swings
10 x Push-Ups
13 x Push-Ups
12 x Plank (120 seconds)


12 x Snatch (12 reps on right side, 12 reps on left side)
8 x Snatch
13 x Snatch (I’m hating snatches by this point!)
10 x Alternating Swings


13 x Plank (130 seconds)
8 x Push-Ups
11 x Snatch


10 x Snatch
9 x Plank (90 seconds)
7 x Snatch
11 x Push-Ups


7 x Plank (70 seconds)
7 x Push-Ups
13 x Alternating Swings


9 x Alternating Swings
12 x Push-Ups


7 x Alternating Swings
11 x Alternating Swings
10 x Plank (100 seconds)
9 x Snatch


Domestically Yours,
Natasha Kay

3 thoughts on “Domestica’s Smarter and Harder Deck of Cards Workout

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Natasha. I really needed this. You’ve answered so many questions of mine in this one post.

  2. Ali says:

    Intense! Great workout description. There’s an app for that! Try RipDeck, a deck of cards iPhone workout app. Let us know what exercises you like to do with it and we may feature your workout on our In-App News, Facebook and Twitter.

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