T Nation

Deck of Cards Energy Systems Work


Anyone else here do a deck of cards workout for conditioning/energy systems? U pick 2-4 exercises and have them correspond to either the specific color card or the suite and then perform an entire deck without rest doing the number of reps/exercise that shows up on the card? I have found them to be an awesome, quick, and brutal way to get in and get out. Just wondering if anyone else does these or has any other methods that they see as brutal (besides complexes).


A buddy of mine was in prison for about 4 1/2 years, and he said they would do stuff like that damn near daily. One he told me about was take a deck of cards, squat down and place one card on the ground. Stand up, take a step and do it again. Next card do two squats, then 3 the next and so on. Do it 'til you're out of cards then pick them up in the same fashion. Don't remember how many bw squats this works out to but it's a lot. Sure the same would work for really any bw movement.


Oh yeah, when he came out he was probably only 10lbs heavier but was SHREDDED.


I think that would be 1400. Paradise city inspired me to do some math in my head. Your post inspired me to do pushups using the deck of cards like I used to do when I was incarcerated. Cards 2-10 are worth 2-10 pushups, jacks are 11, queens 12, kings 13, and aces 15. I flip over anywhere from 2-7 cards and then do the corresponding number of pushups. Tonight I only did about half the deck since it's been a while. I used to do this 3-4 times a week and ended up doing 875 pushups in one day which I do not really want to surpass ever.


Good for variety and breaking routine work!!!


I used to do something like this with a friend, line up twenty cards, squat down and pick up the first, step forward, squat to put it down, squat to pick it back up, squat to pick up the next. It worked out so that by the last card in the line, you were squatting 39 times on that row. Added a 40lbs vest and repeat the line three times in a row, and I was unable to walk for a week.


This is cool. I'm liking some of these variations. I usually pick 2 exercises (burpee/DB or KB swing, many other combinations) and have one represent the black, the other the red and just go through the deck.


I've done this in the past. I've heard the session termed running the deck.

I would choose two exercises to do during the session, say push up and sit-ups for example.

I would then have my wife shuffle the deck, and then begin to reveal one card at a time.

All face cards were worth 10 while the aces were worth 11.

The running of the deck was timed so next session my goal would be to be that time.

Each week I chose two new exercises.

It was fun and the best part was that it was completely random.


Ya, I think this is exactly what I do as well. It is awesome and you are never really bored. Unless someone shuffles the deck badly...


I've been wanting to do this but ended up forgetting about it, I read about it in one of Ross Enamaits books, I need to get me a deck of cards! I'm glad to hear it's brutal, can't wait.


I don't know about it being a quick in-and-out workout. It usually takes me 40-50 minutes to complete a deck then 10 minutes regain consciousness after passing out on the floor.

Cards = # of reps

Face Cards = 10 reps
Aces = 11 reps
Total 96 reps per suit/exercise
384 Reps Total

I would give the deck a good shuffle then flip 4 cards at a time, and that would be one set. More a of mental, time economy thing as there are no rests between exercises or sets. I simply could do more exercises faster without constantly going back to the deck to flip a card. Plus when it got really hard I could grit my teeth and push through knowing I only had 4 or 5 sets to go.

My Favorite 52 workouts are:
Clubs - Inverted Row on Smith Machine
Spades - Stiff Leg Deadlift (or maybe a Romanian DL)
Hearts - Power Clean to Overhead Press (no rack so I just power clean the bar up and press it out for reps)
Diamonds - Front Squats

Clubs - Renegade Rows
Spades - 1-Arm Dumbell Snatch (Chalk is your friend, sweaty hands lead to involuntary manslaughter)
Hearts - Clapping Pushups, Plyo Pushups, Pushups (depending on fatique)
Diamonds - Walking Lunges

For the exercises requiring weights I would use a weight approximately equal to 65-70% of my 1RM or roughly a 12rep max. This worked great for any single card, but if two hearts or spades in a set flipped over then there was a lot of rest/pause technique being applied.


Hmm sounds all good. I tried it once.

I did BW squats, Burpees, Bent Over Rows and I think bench press

On Jokers I would do 50 jump squats which was fun specially after burpees.

And on Aces I did 50 crunches.

It took me 40-50 mins. And felt it 3 days later.

has anyone got more exercises?


yeah this was a big one i used to do in the army for PT or if i wanted to smoke my soldiers for fuckin up. funny enought the squat routine was the one i ussually used for smoking my soldiers but for PT i would ussually give an exercise (ie, pushup berpee,squat, pull ups) per suit and the jokers were 50 flutterkicks. shit sucked and we ussually never got threw the whole deck in the time we had.


explosive pushups
one arm pushups
squat jumps
BW squats
high knees
mountain climbers (4 count)
side lunge
lunge jumps
walking lunges
shuffle run (4 count)
jumping jacks (4 count)
bear crawls
spider kicks
kicking/punching on a heavy bag
step ups
stair running

Also fun with sandbags, medicine ball, and jumprope.

Really one is only limited by one's imagination.


Ya, there are really tons of possibilities. I've never tried doing them and incorporating anything except basic bodyweight exercises, but I'd be interested to see how one would do if they chose 4 weight or loaded exercises and performed them that way.


There are a few possibilities. I would probably not use more than one or two loaded movements.

for example:
medicine ball slams
high knees
sand bag shouldering
push ups

For beginners I would suggest not going through the entire deck of cards in one session though that would be the ultimate goal eventually. Instead I would see how many cards I could get thru in 15 - 20 minutes going 4 cards at a time:

For example, deal 4 cards, do what ever number the cards say for the selected exercises, and repeat as many times as you can in 15 minutes; rest as needed. This method allows one to measure progress on work capacity. The point of these drills is speed and intensity for the metabolic training effect. The more work one is able to do in a given time the better.


I would not agree on dealing 4 cards and seeing how many one can do in 15 minutes. -What if you get lucky and don´t have lots of reps? I think it is very hard to measure.

What I would do is select the cards, for examples start with 1-10 cards ONLY and see how long it takes you. When it becomes a peace of cake add more cards into the deck.

I hope it makes sense;)



I don't think it matters. The odds of not pulling at least one of every suit is slim. The point is to make it so you do not know what it going to happen from one bout to the next and to challenge you to get further into the deck from one session to the next.

Focus on speed and intensity! Not total repetitions.


Was in Colorado last week and during some down time I ran the deck back to back. I'd flip 8 cards at a time and go from there. jacks were 11, queens 12, Kings 15 and aces 20. No jokers. First round was-

Clubs-incline pushups, daimonds-bw squats, hearts-crunches, spades-glute bridges

Second round was-

Clubs-cg pushups, daimonds-split squats with back foot on chair, hearts-leg lifts, spades-chair curls

I'd flip 8 cards, do whatever was lined up, wait a minute and go again. I waited a few minutes between rounds. Don't know exactly how many I did total, but it was somewhere over 300 pushups and squat/split squats. Had a killer pump afterwards and felt like I got a good workout in.


I LOVE these. Used to do 'em with a buddy of mine (Brazi MMA guy). We'd get a deck and see how fast we could get through it. Whoever finished their set first would hop up and grab the next card. When we got done with the deck, take a break to reshuffle and do it all over again. Usually did 2-4 rounds for time but occasionally do as much as 6 or even 8. A month of this and we were both in damn good shape.

If you REALLY want to be evil, put the cards on a chair or stool about 30-60 feet away, sprint to, grab a card, jog back, do your set and then do it all over again.

Red suit was pushup variations, black was squat/explosive variations and aces & jokers were either pullups (lots of kipping) or something weird. Bear walk, duck walk (god those hurt so bad) bridges etc.

Hell, as soon as I get over being sick I think I'll start doing these again.