Short on time? Can’t get to the gym? Have no fear! The “Deck of Cards” workout is here! OK, enough of the infomercial hype.

playing cards poker gamble game leisure


The original Deck of Cards workout was known as the PUG workout (aka Push-Up Game). Many athletes and military personnel are familiar with this game. The rules are simple:

  1. Have a deck of cards
  2. Flip over the first card
  3. Perform the number on the card with pushups
  4. Repeat until the deck is complete


In case you’re not a mathematician that equals 220 pushups! (not counting face cards or jokers). It’s safe to say most of us could stand to do a couple hundred pushups every few days for muscle strength size, and looks. While I love pushups I found this game to get pretty boring after the first week. I decided to change it up and keep my body, and mind, entertained. I started assigning each suit an exercise (i.e. Hearts = Pushups, Diamonds = Pull-Ups, Spades = Squats, Clubs = Sit-Ups). Same rules would apply as the PUG workout but without the boredom and a more overall approach to physical improvement. My version of the the “Deck of Cards” workout  was born!


I did this when I traveled to Israel, Iraq, Thailand, and so forth. It can be done anywhere and get you in great shape as long as you’re creative. For example, not every place has a pull-up bar so I would substitute my luggage as a dumbbell and perform 1-arm rows. Can’t do pushups? Try bench dips instead. The point is almost anyone can come up with a few exercises that you can do while on the road or at home if you can’t get to a gym. And if you have access to a gym? Go nuts! You’ll have so many more tools at your disposal!


My recommendation for following the Deck of Cards workout is as follows:


Hearts: Push Exercise (ex. Pushup, Dip, KB/DB Press, Bench)

Spades: Pull Exercise (ex. Pull-up, KB/DB row, Lat Pull Down machine)

Diamonds: Leg Exercise (ex. KB/DB Deadlift, KB/DB Squat, Pistols, RDL, Split Squat)

Clubs: Core Exercise (ex. V-Ups, Hanging Leg/Knee Raise, Russian Twist)


Face Cards: Cardio (ex. Knee Tucks, High Knees, KBS)

Jack: 1-5 reps

Queen: 5-10 reps

King: 10 or more reps

Ace: 1 min. breaks


INSTRUCTIONS: Perform the number of reps that appear on the card for that suit. Continue until you’ve completed the deck. Use app store to download a deck of cards onto your phone. Perform workouts every other day (ex. Monday workout, Tuesday rest/light cardio/stretching, Wednesday workout, etc.).