Hit the deck – Workouts using a deck of cards

Have you ever found yourself needing to workout, but unable to get to your gym, because of travel or a scheduling SNAFU?

If you have a deck of cards, then you have the tools to program a savage WOD. If you’ve got someone you can pull into the mix, now you’ve got the makings of a weapons-grade WOD with competition-grade intensity.

Designing workouts using a deck of cards is nothing new. Often the workout is simply to work through a deck, one card at a time, completing the number of reps represented by the card of a chosen movement (e.g. burpees, push-ups, squats).

Another version can have a different exercise for each suit. So hearts could be pull-ups, clubs as push-ups, diamonds for sit-ups, and spades as squats. Aces become either one rep or eleven, or fourteen, depending on what you make face cards.

CrossFit Missoula has included Hit the Deck workouts in our program since 2008 after I read Brian Jones’ “Hit the Deck” article in Vol. 16 – No. 2 of MILO.

Our clients love these workouts and have been known to throw down a deck-WOD with friends and family when they’re not able to make it to the gym, or on vacation.

Three things we like about workouts using a deck of cards are:

  1. Variance. Not only are there infinite ways to structure a workout, but even if you repeated the same exercise, you’d end up with a different stimulus, a different result. So it helps make the “constantly varied” part of the CrossFit prescription easy.
  2. Problem-solving under stress. When you’re dealing with a card deck workout your not only dealing with the physical demands, but also managing colors, numbers, organization, basic calculations, and strategy. Real life emergencies often require us to attend to logistics and communicate effectively with others while enduring high levels of stress. And though many CrossFit style workouts have some elements of organization and strategy, we believe the card deck workout engages our intellect sufficiently without sacrificing intensity.
  3. Entertainment. The Hit the Deck workout is one of our clients’ favorites. They confess they like them because the workouts are both physically grueling, and novel, which makes them fun. No one misses a Hit the Deck WOD.

Below, you will find three variations of our favorite type of Hit the Deck.


Rules of play:
Using a standard deck of cards, deal a hand of nine cards face up. Arrange them any way you like. Complete the work in the hand, represented by the suit (see below) and number on the card. Once completed. Deal the second hand, and complete the work. There are six hands (rounds) in a standard deck. Record the time to finish the entire deck of fifty-four cards.

Card key:
Hearts = pull-ups
Clubs = dips
Diamonds = squats
Spades = sit-ups
Jokers = Run 800 m
Aces = 1 rep
Face cards = 10 reps

Work completed:
95 pull-ups
95 dips
95 sit-ups
95 squats
1600 meter run

Weightlifting + gymnastic

Rules of play:
Using a standard deck of cards, remove the face cards and jokers. There will be fifty-five reps in each suit (hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades). Deal a hand of seven cards and as above, complete the work in the hand, represented by the suit and the number on the card. When you’ve finished the first hand, deal a second and keep moving. There are six hands (rounds) in this workout. Record the time to complete the entire deck of forty cards.

Card key:
Hearts = Deadlifts, 60-70% of your one-rep max
Clubs = Handstand push-ups
Diamonds = Power cleans, 60-70% of your one-rep max
Spades = L pull-ups
Aces = 1 rep

Work completed:
55 deadlifts
55 handstand push-ups
55 power cleans
55 L pull-ups

Red & Black

Rules of play:
Two people will go head-to-head in this version of Hit the Deck. Using a standard deck of cards, with the jokers removed, deal out the entire deck to each player. Players will start with their cards in front of them stacked face down. At the call of “3-2-1-Go,” each player will turn the top card over and complete the work represented by the card. Once the player has completed the number of reps on the card, they will flip the next card. Continue in this way until all cards are finished. The person to complete all cards first wins.

Card key:
Red cards (hearts and diamonds) = push-ups
Black cards (clubs and spades) = squats

Work completed:
Red cards account for 190 total reps. Black cards, the same. However, each player will most likely do more push-ups or squats due to the random nature of the deal.

Hopefully, if you’re new to the deck of cards workout, you have some simple designs to get you started. And if you’re familiar with Hit the Deck, then hopefully you’ve picked up some new ideas to help add variety to your game.

If you try one of these workouts, let us now how you do. And if you have questions, you can drop them in the comment box below.