We get it, exercise can get boring. That’s especially true if you can’t make it to the gym and have to rely solely on bodyweight, high-rep exercises. But with a deck of cards, you can make your training unpredictable and more like a game. And while practicing a deck of cards may sound silly, well, ask us one more time when you’re done with this practice.
The deck of cards exercise is deceptively simple and can be mixed around to target specific muscle groups. Begin by assigning an exercise to each suit. For example, assign squats to spades, good mornings to hearts, push-ups to diamonds, and reverse club throws. Then, draw a card and do how many repetitions match the number on the card. For example, if you draw five spades, you do five squats. If the next card is a ten of diamonds, you do ten push-ups.
Face cards add a fun twist. Regardless of the suit, you allocate a certain amount of practice and time to each face card, such as 30 seconds of oblique turns for the queen. When you draw any of the four queens, you pump out how many oblique turns you can make in half a minute.
Between the different suits and face cards, you’ll get an effective full-body workout as you work your way through the entire deck. According to Matt Spear, fitness program manager at Exos, a well-rounded total-body workout routine should include six primary movement patterns: squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, twisting (rotation), and pulling. Combining these together in one workout provides a great balance of movement types, promoting a well-rounded workout, he says.
While you can choose any exercise you like for each suit and face card, Spear recommends the following strength training exercises to give you a balanced full-body workout that hits all of your muscle groups.
Shovels = Squats
What works: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back, core
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Bend your knees and lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel or lower. Push your feet through the floor and stand back up to the starting position. Focus on a balanced and controlled squat for all repetitions. Repeat for the number of repeats on the card.
Hearts = Glute Bridges
What works: glutes, hamstring, lower back
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Drive your feet into the floor and push your hips up. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly return your hips to the start. Repeat for the number of repeats on the card.
Diamonds = Push-ups
What works: Pecks, delts, triceps, core
How to do it: Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows, keeping them close to your side, as you lower your body to the floor, pausing an inch above the ground. Push your hands through the floor, squeezing your pecs and triceps, to return to the starting position. Repeat for the number of repeats on the card.
Clubs = Reverse Lunges
What works: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, core
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with your right leg and lower knee just above the floor. Push through the left leg to return to the start. Repeat on the opposite side for one repetition, then repeat for the number of repetitions on the card.
Ace = Renegade ranks
What works: Lats, rhomboids, core
How to do it: Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Bend your right elbow and pull it up by your side in a rowing motion. Repeat on the opposite side for one repetition. Repeat for 20 seconds.
The King = Leaning over T
What works: Delts, rhomboids, traps, lower back, core
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly and hinge your hips. Keep your back flat, arms hanging down. Squeeze your shoulder blades to raise both arms straight out to your sides, forming a T. Squeeze your upper back muscles and hold. Slowly return your hands to the starting position. Repeat for 20 seconds.
Queen = Oblique twists
What works: Core, lower back
How to do it: Start in a seated position with your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and lower your torso back slightly. Keeping your abs in, twist to your left side, then return to center. Next, rotate it to the right, then return to the middle. Lift your feet off the floor to make oblique twists more challenging. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Jack = Holding a hollow body
What works: Core, lower back, quads, hip flexors, inner thighs
How to do it: Lie flat on the floor with your legs straight and your arms by your side. Squeeze your abs and lift your legs one to two inches off the floor. Next, raise your torso off the floor to the same height as your legs. Once you’re confident, make hollow holds stronger by raising your arms overhead. Hold for 30 seconds.
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