Lifting less in quarantine? Blame the supply chain

When gyms across the country began to shutter in mid-March, retailers reported spikes -- sometimes as much as 625% -- in at-home equipment sales.


April 10, 2020

If you’ve been struggling to peel yourself off the couch and clock in some at-home exercise, here’s another excuse for you: You probably can’t buy the right equipment anyway.

When gyms across the country began to shutter in mid-March, retailers reported spikes — sometimes as much as 625% — in at-home equipment sales. On March 13, Colorado-based Rep Fitness sold more equipment in 24 hours than it usually does in a month.

Now stores everywhere are running low on free weights. Some in particular — like kettlebells — have altogether vanished from shelves.

Welcome to the kettlebell shortage

Kettlebells are so good for quarantine workouts because they can target all parts of your body — they’re essential, for instance, in CrossFit.

But when it comes down to it, kettlebells are basically just big masses of iron — and these days, the US isn’t doing a whole lot of cast iron manufacturing.

Sixty-five percent of our exercise equipment comes from foundries in China, which in January halted production because of COVID-19.

Only Rhode Island can lift us out of this

With the US manufacturing sector patently not swole, we don’t have other options. The number of American foundries able to build kettlebells is vanishingly small. In fact, one company is trying to pump way more iron than it can handle.

Exercise aficionados across the country are pinning their hopes on the Cumberland Foundry, a small Rhode Island company that is the only major supplier of kettlebells at this moment. The problem: It can only churn out about 40 to 50 kettlebells a day.

Endorphins, we hardly knew ye

Free weights may have been the first to go, but now fitness companies are reporting shrinking supplies of even the most unwieldy home gym equipment: treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes.

There are plenty of alternatives that take advantage of tech-friendly hardware. Digital fitness apps like HomeCourt are seeing jumps in popularity, and social-distancing measures may reshape what a traditional workout looks like.

Prefer to keep it old school? Maybe you can just fashion some dumbbells out of wood.

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