Although some gyms across the US are reopening, many Americans have no plans to renew their memberships in a post-pandemic world, having found safer and cheaper ways to work out from their homes. But even free videos, apps, and workout routines often require the use of equipment—whether a yoga mat and blocks, resistance bands, or just a set of dumbbells.
The lion’s share of the US’s imported exercise equipment comes from China—some 65% in 2019, according to the International Trade Centre—where factories were shutting down at the beginning of 2020 due to Covid-19. The resulting production slowdown caused bottlenecks for all of sorts of imports. Home exercise equipment fell into the unique category of goods that saw demand skyrocket as a result of stay-at-home orders. Google searches for “home workout” reached their peak on March 22, the same month that Chinese exercise equipment exports to the US dipped to their lowest point in more than 15 years.
The bottleneck sent exercise enthusiasts searching for alternatives to backordered dumbbells and dead-lift setups. Some used soup cans and water jugs; others searched the internet for used equipment from gyms forced to shut down. US imports of gym equipment from China have bounced back, nearing $250 million in June. But many of those dumbbells are already spoken for, so those who didn’t successfully pillage their local gyms may still face delays on orders for new weights.
Until the supply chain catches up with demand, strengthening enthusiasts can still plank for free.