WOW: Primal Poker

Using a deck of cards, assign one exercise to each suit:

Hearts are Pushups
Diamonds are Pullups
Clubs are Squats
Spades are Planks


Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, a few squat jumps to get your blood flowing.

Today’s WOW comes from reader Steve Brown, who recently submitted his go-to workout, Primal Poker, and goes something like this: after assigning an exercise to each suit and shuffling the deck, flip the top card over. If you get a Nine of Hearts, do nine pushups. Flip the next card over and follow suit. Face cards are worth ten, Aces twelve. You might end up doing a bunch of pullups in a row, and that’s fine; just power through it. For spades/planks, multiply the value by four and do a plank for that many seconds. A Queen of Spades, then, means a 40 second plank. Do the entire deck for time. Oh, and Jokers are wild, so make them worth whatever you’d like. I suggest doing ten burpees for each Joker.

Thanks a ton, Steve. I really enjoyed this. As Steve pointed out in his email, it’s a fun one that you can always go back to and get something slightly, or massively, different. There’s also a bit of uncertainty and trepidation inherent in not knowing exactly how your impending workout is going to play out, and while that can be unnerving, it will ultimately help you perform with more urgency. I’ve always found pre-performance stomach butterflies to be helpful in wringing out extra effort.


  • Take sufficient breaks if you need them. Try to complete the sets as assigned by the cards drawn; don’t end up doing grind-it-out singles.


To increase the difficulty:

Add some weighted implements to your workout. Toss a sandbag over your shoulders for the squats and drape it over your back during pushups. Perform today’s WOW as stated, but feel free to build on the concept for future workouts. Maybe assign different movements to each suit, like kettlebell swings to spades, handstand pushups to hearts, weighted lunges to clubs, and burpees to diamonds. I would be wary of assigning super heavy lifting to the suits – don’t assign heavy deadlifts to spades, for example, or else you risk being tasked with hitting multiple consecutive sets of perhaps the most taxing exercise of all – or overly complex movements, where form can easily break down under duress and increase the risk of injury – like cleans. This is meant for metabolic conditioning, so keep things relatively simple.

To decrease the difficulty:

It’s a real challenge to get through an entire deck of cards performing high volume reps of Pullups, Pushups, Squats and Planks – especially with few breaks. If you really struggle with any of the Essential Movements substitute them for an easier variation on that Movement as described in Primal Blueprint Fitness. For example, you could do Chair-Assisted Pullups (1 leg), Knee Pushups, Bench Squats and Knee Planks to make each Essential Movement easier.

What are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!