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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, Issue #250 A deck of cards can be a fitness tool.
May 01, 2019

May 1, 2019

In this newsletter . . .

Shuffle The
Deck Challenge

In 2004, I last tested myself by doing the Deck of Cards Workout as fast as I could. When slowed down, the workout can be a good all-around workout for anyone. But performed as a fitness test — by going as fast as you can — 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. 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:

Get a stopwatch and deck of playing cards. Assign an exercise to each suit. Here’s one example 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).

  • 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 for your record.

If you do 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.

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. They often confine it 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 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 the exercise mix was slightly different each time I did it, there was some degree of “comparing apples with oranges.” But probably not very much.

I’ve since done the deck of cards routine as a workout. However, 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. Younger seniors in good shape should go for it.

Going through the deck with a reasonable recovery time when needed should be appropriate for even older seniors.

Again, an all-out effort test is not recommended for senior beginners.


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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 web site contain advertising and marketing links. Naturally, I am compensated for these.

The newsletter and web site 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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