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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #371. Fun Playing Cards
June 15, 2024


Do you have a deck of playing cards? If so, and you are a young senior, you may want to try the Deck of Cards Challenge. Or, if you are a more seasoned senior, you might enjoy a good, all-around playing cards workout — but not the gut-buster challenge.

I’ll explain how it works, both ways.

The Challenge. Performed as a fitness test, the Deck of Cards Challenge can be a true huff-and-puff gut-buster. In a minute I’ll tell you how it works. But first, a little history.

The Deck of Cards Workout is not my invention. 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.

For younger seniors who are fit — and ready to test themselves — do the following:

You’ll need a stopwatch and a deck of playing cards. Assign an exercise to each suit. Here’s one example below that will test your mettle. A set of dumbbells is required in my example. But no equipment is needed if you replace the Clean & Press with a bodyweight only exercise.

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

Now, shuffle the deck several times. 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.

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 keep them in and assign them any exercise and number of reps you want to. (I removed the jokers. It was tough enough for me without them.)

Keep going through the entire deck — as quickly as you can. Then check your stopwatch. Write down the time it took for your record.

That is the Deck of Cards Fitness Challenge.

Give it everything you’ve got and it is a serious fitness test. Of course, the workout is not as taxing if you ease up, stop, and catch your breath whenever needed. Still, it’s a fine workout.

Conditioned athletes can do the workout in under 30 minutes. Some often confine it to only two exercises, such as squats and pushups, and double the reps called for on each card. Wow! That’s tough stuff.

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.

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 seasoned senior workout. However, it was in 2004 that I last tested myself with a stopwatch and gave it a 100% effort.

For older seniors:

Simply, remove the higher-numbered cards from the deck. Beginners might start with a deck with cards numbering only the 3s or 4s, and adding numbers and face cards as their fitness grows. Also, taking a reasonable recovery time between exercises when needed should make it age-appropriate for even much older seniors.

Again, an all-out effort challenge is not recommended for senior beginners. Be smart. Start slow and have fun building up.

Stay healthy. Stay fit.


Senior Exercise Central

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Photographs: Subscribers have asked when the newsletter photo at the top of the page and my website pictures were taken. Well, I was a mere 70 years old then. I’m 87 now. Though I remain active, I am no longer nearly as strong or muscular as I was 17 years ago. —LF

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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.

Like newspapers, magazines, and television, this newsletter and my website contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

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.

Your comments and questions are always appreciated. Simply click on the "Reply" bottom.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter

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