upper body workout

Deck of Cards Upper Body Workout

A popular bodyweight workout for when there aren’t weights around requires only a deck of cards. Many like using a simple shuffle to mix things up and avoid dull “100 push-ups followed by 100 sit-ups” ordeals while still banking many overall reps. First, an exercise is assigned to each of the four suits. For example, spades may correspond to push-ups while diamonds may signal squats. One performs 11 push-ups if a jack of spades is drawn from the deck and continues in this manner until the entire deck is depleted. Whether the aces are counted as one or 14 repetitions depends on personal choice.

Variations on the Deck of Cards Workout

There are many different spin offs of this workout. Some stick strictly to push-up variations. Others also bring in ab and leg exercises. A few incorporate 8-count bodybuilders for a full-body workout or let one suit decide how many seconds one can rest for. Popular TV trainer Jillian Michaels recommends a version where diamonds call for push-ups, hearts call for lunges, spades call for crunches, clubs call for reverse crunches, and aces mean a one-minute break.

Why Focus Only on the Upper Body?

Trying to focus on upper body, midsection, and lower body can often spread the workout too thin. Thoroughly training any of the regions alone will take at least four different exercises. The following will detail suggestions for an upper body-tailored version.

To keep the workout balanced, it is a good idea to select one exercise for biceps, triceps, chest, and back. Hanging dips and diamond push-ups are arguably the two toughest tricep choices. Chin-ups (with underhand grip) are a sure way to feeling the burn in one’s biceps. Overhand pull-ups and hanging rows are both great ways of working the lats and traps comprising the upper back. Standard push-ups are the most direct way of working the chest.

Try mixing things up a bit by varying the width of your hands to work slightly different muscles. Those already in great shape can try adding a clapping push-up every five push-ups. The extra adventurous can substitute knuckle push-ups in place of regular palm push-ups for bonus wrist and forearm strengthening.

Sample Deck of Cards Workout

A sample deck of card workout is as follows:

  1. Clubs=Push-ups with a clap every 5th repetition
  2. Diamonds=Hanging dips
  3. Hearts=Chin-ups
  4. Spades=Pull-ups
  5. Red aces=1 rep
  6. Black aces=14 reps
  7. First card drawn is an ace of spades=14 pull-ups
  8. Second card drawn is an eight of clubs=4 regular push-ups, 1 clapping push-up, 3 more regular push-ups

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