Thanks to their incredible combo of simplicity and versatility, kettlebells are a hugely popular home fitness item these days. But if you’ve gone shopping for them online recently, you may have noticed that the wonderfully handled weights are a little, umm, scarce. Perhaps even worse, some are being sold for the gouge-iest of prices — as much as $3,000 on Amazon for a product that won’t arrive until the end of next month, at the earliest.
How did this happen? For better or worse, a lot of kettlebells are produced in China, where manufacturing slowed down thanks to coronavirus at the same time demand was shooting up in the US, again, thanks to coronavirus. Brands like Rogue Fitness are now retooling and rehiring American companies to ramp up production, which is great. But it doesn’t do you any good if you’re stuck home without any weights to throw around right now.
To address this issue, we connected with fitness pros across the country in search of DIY solutions, homemade hacks that can mimic kettlebells in a pinch. Read on to learn how everything from gas cans to teapots can help you get your sweat on — plus how sources like Craigslist and Dick’s Sporting Goods can potentially hook you up with the real thing.
“There are quite a few large load laundry detergents with nice thick handles,” says Lynn Montoya, ACE, a hardstyle kettlebell-certified instructor. “You would probably only be able to do one-armed kettlebell exercises, but you could still put together a kickass workout, such as one-armed swings, push press, clean & press, snatches, lunges and one-leg deadlifts.”
Milk or Water Jugs
“My clients have been keeping moving using water jugs,” says Bay Area trainer Jonathan Jordan, NASM-CPT, a Kettlebell Athletics L1 coach. “For the beginner, water is a decent weight. For the novice, we fill up with rice or dry beans. And for heavy we fill up with loose change.” Jordan has created a 12-move milk jug workout, with videos showing all the moves.
“A weighted backpack is a great swap,” says Ryan Palermo, manager, head coach and trainer at New Jersey’s CrossFit Turbocharged. “You can add weight by using water bottles, canned goods — or for a little more weight, small bricks or even textbooks. Cushion with a towel or t-shirts so your household items don’t move around.” Palermo has demonstrated a backpack kettlebell workout on Instagram.
“Outdoor home and gardening items tend to be closer in weight to a kettlebell,” says trainer Robert Lemus, who runs Simple Fitness Hub. “Planter pots made from cement, ceramic, or stucco are great, especially when doing squats or Russian twists. If you want to do kettlebell swings, it’s best to use something that has a handle you can firmly grip, such as a tea kettle.”
“Jerry cans usually hold five gallons, and with water weighing eight pounds a gallon, can be quite effective,” says Robert Herbst, a world champion powerlifter and personal trainer. “When partially filled, the water sloshes around so there is an uneven load, so your muscles do more work. They also have a handle at the top so you can hold them like kettlebells.”
Dan Jonhenry, director of fitness at Retro Fitness has not only used water jugs as kettlebells but also incorporates paint cans into his “Parents’ Basement” workout. While he typically suspends a pair of cans from a broomstick to mimic a barbell, they can double as kettlebells for basic lifts. Just go easy on the swings, cowboy.
“I would caution inexperienced kettlebell users to refrain from starting now in their homes,” says personal trainer Jim Frith, founder of TopFitPros. “However, a sturdy gym bag loaded with canned goods, books or magazines offers a great piece of homemade exercise equipment. For anything that requires good control of the swing of the bag, hold by its ends or around the middle. The handles can be used for curls, rows and flies.”
Life Fitness Hammer Strength Kettlebells
Life Fitness currently has 11 Hammer Strength kettlebells, from 10 to 60 pounds, in stock. The brand also carries its own branded kettlebells.
Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell
Dick’s Sporting Goods currently carries this excellent kettlebell and a few others. The SelectTech 840 adjusts from 8 pounds to 40, so it’s like six kettlebells in one. Note: Dick’s stores are temporarily closed and this product is not available online, but the chain is offering curbside contactless pickup at select locations.
“Kettlebell Kings will have stock available for pre order after April 20th and will be shipping first week of May,” says co-founder Jay Perkins. “We have six full containers of kettlebells over the next five to six weeks, close to six-thousand bells coming in, so we will have a ton available for people.” Perkins also mentions that the brand offers home workout plans at its training site, living.fit.
This one’s a bit funky, but we’ve learned that while the kettlebell section of Dragon Door shows all kettlebells as out of stock, there’s a semi-secret preorder page. Here you can pre-order some Dragon Door’s bestselling RKC kettlebells, ranging from 22 pounds to 70 pounds.
“Amazon Warehouse has awesome deals on kettlebells that have been returned to Amazon,” says Montoya. “However, you may need to check it frequently to find the size you want. You should never pay more than one dollar per pound.”
Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist
“With unemployment rates rising and people also getting reduced hours at work, people are looking for ways to make extra money right now,” observes Lemus. “Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are constantly being updated, and because people are mostly at home, it is easier to arrange immediate shipping or a drop-off.”
eBay and Mercari
“Kettlebells can still be found on bidding sites like eBay and on selling platforms such as Mercari,” says Greg Brookes, founder of Kettlebell Workouts. “Just remember to sanitize and use personal distancing when making your purchase!”
Your Local Gym
Several of our sources noted that many gyms have been loaning out equipment, rather than let it gather dust during the pandemic. “Reaching out to local CrossFit gyms and boutique gyms for rentals would be a good place to start,” says Christian Koshaba, founder and owner of the Chicago area’s Three60Fit personal training and wellness studio. “I myself have lent equipment to current members and have charged a premium for non-members.” While this particular resource could be tapped out at this point, it’s worth a shot.