The Kettlebell Shortage of 2020

Of all the surprises of this year, this one was pretty up there as far as “unexpected” goes.

So, we all obviously know that I’m a sucker for a kettlebell workout (haha). Seriously, hand me a single kettlebell and an open space, and I’m in on a full-body crash course to fitness. 

Here’s the thing, though. Since March of this year, when Covid-19 shuttled us to our homes and away from the gym (and believe me, after experiencing the virus firsthand, the pain is real — but my dad and I used our strong, healthy bodies to power through it!), purchasing home fitness equipment has not been easy.  In fact, it’s nearly impossible, especially when the buy you’re trying to make is a kettlebell. 

The lack of kettlebells for purchase was such a big deal back in March and April, when everyone was scrambling to stock up with the right and best home fitness equipment, that GQ wrote a feature on it: The Great Kettlebell Shortage of 2020. The New York Times followed up with an article in June. And Newsday wasn’t far behind in August. And in between all of those mainstream outlets’ articles were about a million other blog sites writing about how Covid has depleted kettlebell and other home fitness equipment. 

Ultimately, a beast-mode workout accessible from the confines of your property was made a bit more difficult. 

So now what? How do we maneuver around this strange shortage in a time when we need it most? In a time when health, wellness and self care is more critical and effective than ever?

Well, I’ve got a few things for you. First, let’s break down the reasons we use a kettlebell.

Perks of Kettlebells

1. Easy Access to a Full-Body Weight Workout

There are hundreds of full-body lifts or moves you can do with a single kettlebell, let alone two. Take four of them, superset them into four sets of 12, and you just blasted your body into the next level of strength. 

2. Helps Develop A Strong Grip

Between its atypical center of gravity and the meaty handle, a kettlebell is a perfect tool to work grip strength. Literally, just grab on the weight and then press, lift or swing, and your grip is engaged in full work mode. 

3. Kettlebells Take Up Limited Real Estate

Kettlebells are small, consolidated weights that pack a serious punch in versatility, but hide well and neatly. It’s really that simple. 

4. Core Strength Work

While full-body kettlebell workouts don’t always target the core directly, you’ll never complete the sweat session without taxing your midsection simultaneously. Thanks to the many multi-joint movements many kettlebell lifts involve, you work with an engaged belly, hips and back, which in totality is your core. 

5. Improved Proprioception

Your proprioception, which is your innate awareness of body position and how it responds to movement, is constantly challenged when you work with the instability a kettlebell offers. You move it just slightly differently in one rep than you did in the previous rep, and your body has to recenter and refocus. Bam. Proprioceptive work.

6. Integrated Cardio/Weight Loss Work

What’s the first exercise that comes to mind when you think “kettlebell”? For me, it’s a Swing. This single, popular move is not only a major weight-building exercise, but it’s always a badass cardio workout. Go ahead, try out three sets of 12 and tell me your heart isn’t pumping. It gets me every time. This combination of powerful, heartbeat-inducing work is the perfect condition for boosting your cardiovascular stamina, along with helping you meet any weight loss goals. 

Home Fitness Kettlebell Alternatives

So, now that we’re dealing with a shortage of the piece that grants all of these benefits, let’s go over what tools can we use to replicate the results a kettlebell offers.

At-Home Objects. Let’s start with some objects you likely have at home. From large jugs of water with a handle and/or milk jugs to laundry detergent containers, any item with a handle and a receptacle that holds a liquid is a great alternative for a kettlebell. 

The weight moved may not be as precise, and you may have to make some adaptations to the item, like adjusting your grip or the amount of liquid in the container. But in the end, you have an item with a moving and different center of gravity than a barbell or dumbbell and a handle that bulks up grip strength. 

Other Tools to Purchase. Nothing offers the exact work of a kettlebell, or it would just be a kettlebell. Some workout tools, however, can at least replicate one or two kettlebell perks simultaneously. 

The Torpedo is as close to a kettlebell you’ll get without actually being one. Basically, this tool is a kettlebell, dumbbell and barbell all in one. A little bulkier than a kettlebell, you still can “press, pull, squat, swing, condition, build strength and have fun with unlimited variety,” according to the Alchemy site where they are sold. They vary in size by 10 to 50 pounds and run a cool $50. Some sizes are recently sold out; some are not. But, when available, here’s one of many great circuits you can try, replacing the kettlebell with the Torpedo. 

Interested in challenging core work, full-body strength and conditioning? You can’t go wrong using resistance bands, either. You may not move as much weight as quickly, especially if you use a thicker or stronger band, but you can at least strengthen through your hips, low back and belly. You can also give this workout a go as a leg day or as a warm up, and you’ll be focusing on the development of the tiny stabilizing muscles around your knees and hips. 

Bosu balls are another useful tool to keep on hand. Good to use in a variety of ways and on both the flat and rounded sides down, these half spheres can be used to focus on balance, proprioception, core and mental work. 

That’s right, don’t forget about the mindfulness you can train during your gym sessions. It’s just as critical as any other benefit, as you can walk away sharper, more focused and present.

Replacement Dumbbell Circuit

One last suggestion is going through an intense circuit, replacing your kettlebell with a dumbbell. Like a strict kettlebell workout, these high-intensity sessions are undoubtedly effective in simultaneously taxing your strength and conditioning, and this one in particular will shred serious calories, too. This will take 15 to 20 minutes and includes 90 Seconds Work with 90 Seconds Rest with the following exercises:

Squat to Alternating Press: 30 seconds 

Squat to Halo: 30 seconds

Beast Toe Taps: 30 seconds

Repeat for 10 sets.

Have you been dealing with the kettlebell shortage and found any alternative equipment pieces? Let us know below!

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