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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #310. Add spice to your workouts.
November 01, 2021

November 1, 2021

In this newsletter . . .

Add spice to
your workouts

It was in 2004 that I last tested myself by doing the Deck of Cards Workout — as fast as I could. Slowed down, the Deck of Cards can be a good all-around workout for anyone at any age. But performed as fast as you can do it, it’s a real gut-buster.

In a minute I’ll tell you how it works. First a little history: The Deck of Cards Workout is not my invention. I wish it was. But as far as I know, its origin is with the famous American wrestler of the early 1900s, Frank Gotch, who introduced the workout in Japan to condition judo athletes.

Please understand that the Deck of Cards Workout done as a fitness test is not appropriate for out-of-shape senior beginners. Beginners should start their training with something specifically for them. However, for younger seniors, who are fit — and ready to test themselves — do the following:

You will need a stopwatch and a deck of playing cards.

Now assign an exercise to each suit in the deck. Here’s one example that will test your mettle. (If you don’t have a set of dumbbells, here is a list of bodyweight only exercises.)

  • Hearts — Dumbbells Clean & Press (use good form and don’t go too heavy or you’ll never make it through the deck).
  • Clubs — Standard Pushups.
  • Spades — Bodyweight Squats (thighs parallel with the floor on every rep).
  • Diamonds — Mt. Climbers.

Now shuffle the deck several times. Then place the deck face down. Start your stopwatch or timer.

Turn over the first card. Let’s say it’s a seven of hearts. Clean & Press your dumbbells seven times.

Turn the next card. Suppose it’s a nine of spades. Do nine bodyweight squats. And so forth, working through the deck.

With each card, do the same number of reps as the number on the card. The face cards are considered tens. Aces are eleven. Remove the jokers or leave them in and assign them any exercise and number of reps you want to. (Personally, I removed the jokers. The challenge was tough enough for me without them.)

Keep going — as quickly as you can. Then check your stopwatch. Write down the time for your record.

Doing it that way, it’s a serious fitness test. Of course, the workout is not as taxing if you ease up to catch your breath whenever needed. But it’s still a fine workout, either way.

Deck of cards training is supposed to be still popular with Japanese wrestlers and judo competitors. Conditioned athletes do the workout in under 30 minutes. Also, younger athletes often confine workouts to two exercises, such as squats and pushups, and double the reps called for on each card. Wow!

How did I do, personally? The first time I tried it, about the year 2000, it took me 27 minutes. I tested again in 2003, and did it in 20:53.79. However, I used a different exercise mix the second time, which may or may not have been less challenging. I tested twice in 2004, finishing once in 21:27.75 and once in 22:22.25. As I said, since my exercise mix was slightly different each time I did it, there was some degree of “comparing apples with oranges.”

I’ve since done the deck of cards routine as a workout, not pushing myself to my limits. It was back in 2004 that I last tested myself with a stopwatch and gave it a 100% effort. I have no plans to test myself that way again. But younger seniors — in good shape — should go for it.

Remember: Going through the deck with reasonable recovery times whenever needed should make it appropriate for even older seniors.

But once again, all-out effort tests are not recommended for senior beginners.

Stay healthy. Stay fit.


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Newsletter Policy

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

I have never been paid or received compensation of any kind to write a positive review or endorse a product. If I say that I personally use a product or service, it is because I find value in it and have paid for it with my own money.

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The newsletter and website provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you.

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Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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