Covid-19 continues to impact various industries and their supply chains. One of the latest industries experiencing drastic shortages in supplies is the gym and exercise equipment manufacturing market. With a stay at home orders being implemented and certain states closing gyms indefinitely, people are starting to wonder where and how they will work out. Because of this, many people have been panic buying fitness equipment. This massive surge has caused shortages to arise.

It didn’t happen exactly this way, but it feels like it did: one day we were all hearing about the coronavirus. The next day, we were all murmuring the phrase “social distancing.” And then the day after that, the kettlebells disappeared. as you’ve realized if you’ve tried to order weights from anywhere online. The kettlebell is the most obvious flashpoint of our great weight shortage. They’re appealingly simple—just a hunk of iron with a handle, and useful for working out your entire body. But kettlebells are part of a complicated and fragile supply chain, one that’s a microcosm of a global economy currently in crisis.

n April 2, Rogue Fitness, a U.S. manufacturer and retailer of strength and conditioning gear, posted pictures on Instagram of kettlebells being manufactured. Rogue, which did not respond to an interview request for this story, captioned the post to its two million followers with: “We know we are behind and we are working around the clock to clear the backlog.”

Rogue prides itself on manufacturing and selling American-made goods, but the company’s kettlebells are normally manufactured overseas. Most of the kettlebells that you could have ordered before March 13 were; it’s probably not surprising that, in 2020, there are few American foundries eagerly pumping out large bulbs of iron. But Rogue, in a moment of massive demand and with a supply chain in chaos, has turned to Rhode Island’s Cumberland Foundry, a company with roughly 40 employees. Those Instagram pictures it posted were from Cumberland, a tacit acknowledgment that, at least temporarily, the system has shifted: Rogue needs professionally crafted kettlebells wherever it can get them, even if it has to pay higher, American-sized wholesale prices than what they and other companies (including Rep Fitness) are getting overseas.

The irony is that Cumberland Foundry doesn’t really want to be in the kettlebell business. Cumberland isn’t automated, and its president, Tom Lucchetti, estimates that it takes a full day to produce 40 to 50 kettlebells (with Rogue handling last steps, like painting the bells). Rogue typically buys internationally-produced kettlebells by the shipping container. “I’ve been clear with them from the start that isn’t something we can keep up with,” Lucchetti says.

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