Wreckin’ the ‘Deck’

Today is Tuesday, which meant that Jess and I rocked O2 Fitness with a deck. I’ve mentioned it before. Figured it’s about time I introduce y’all to one of my favorite workouts.

My Denver personal trainer turned gym buff BFF Ryan Taves first introduced – scratch that, kicked my behind with – the ‘deck wreck’ in late 2008. My workout buddy at the time, Jasolyn, renamed me ‘Meme’ and dubbed me a ‘beast’ after a few of them. Aaaahhh, those were the days!

OK, so this isn't Ryan; but it may as well be. He'll always be 'Superman' to me!

OK, so this isn’t Ryan; but it may as well be. He’ll always be ‘Superman’ to me!

All you really need is a full deck of playing cards; but you can add whatever equipment you like – free weights, weight machines, a bosu ball, exercise bands – for more of a challenge. Here were our toys for this evening’s deck:

These are a few of my fa-vo-rite things

These are a few of my fa-vo-rite things

OK, kids, here’s how you play. It is work, don’t get me wrong. But it can still feel like play.

  1. Shuffle the deck of cards.
  2. Assign an exercise for each suit.
  3. Place the deck face down and draw one card at a time.
  4. The suit will determine what exercise you do, and the number on the card will determine your assigned number of repetitions for that exercise.


  • Jack = 11 repetitions
  • Queen = 12 repetitions
  • King = 13 repetitions
  • Ace = 15 repetitions
  • Joker = 5 repetitions of all four exercises.

When describing it to my good friend and blogging extraordinaire, Jordan (check out her blog – Food, Sweat, and Beers!) she asked, “What? A ‘death deck’?” She may have been on to something.

Jess and I typically make a deck a whole-body workout, including one suit for arms – typically pushups – one for legs – typically some variation of a jump or squat – one for abs – some sort of crazy sit up – and one adding some cardio – typically burpees – to get the ol’ heart rate up.

Over the dozens of decks we’ve endured together, though, we’ve gotten creative and mixed things up a bit. For instance, we’ve added a fifth torture method to the deck that we do only when an ace is drawn – holding plank or doing mountain climbers for a minute have been past drugs of choice.

We even did a deck at the UNC track once – put half of the deck at either short end of the field in the center of the track, then ran to either side for the next card. Aces meant sprinting up and jogging down stadium steps. Go ahead, get your creative juices flowing – That’s where the ‘play’ comes in. I highly recommend it!

Being a solid runner – or whatever the descriptor for your sport choice – means being an all-around athlete. Think about giving the ‘deck wreck’ a try. Who knows? It may inspire you to tap into your own ‘beast.’

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

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