What Happens When the Army Needs 36,000 Kettlebells, Fast

I’ve slowly been getting into a modest strength training routine. My interest was purely practical at first: I wanted to be able to herd and, if needed, carry both my twin toddlers at once without injuring myself or them. The twins were walking, running, and getting heavier and, to no one’s surprise, most buildings aren’t exactly designed to fit a double stroller. And, also to no one’s surprise, toddlers aren’t the most reliable listeners. I often found myself trying to get the twins from the parking lot into a building and navigate them up steep staircases with railings they were too small to hold onto. It was stressful!

The strength training definitely made me more capable to handle all of it. However, strength training (even the amateur version I’d been undertaking) at home eventually becomes a bit of a logistical issue. Basically, you need heavier and heavier weights. However, weights are expensive. Shipping them is expensive. Going into a store and trying to lug them home is not as expensive but it’s tricky to do safely.

Scaling up my incredibly meager home gym setup had me wondering at the logistics of outfitting a fitness studio, or a weight room, or barbell training studio. How does one do this efficiently, safely? The logistics, starting at the materials and manufacturing, must be quite a beast to manage.

This long-form piece by Michael Easter, published in Men’s Health back in late 2021, details how the US Army addressed this problem on a huge scale and with a very tight deadline.

This was early 2019, and although we had the most technologically advanced fighting force ever—able to conduct Hellfire-missile strikes from Predator drones piloted by men thousands of miles away—new research had found that soldier fitness had declined over the past few decades. Roughly 12 percent of active-duty soldiers were obese, a figure that had risen 61 percent since 2002. Obesity-related health care and recruiting cost the government $1.5 billion annually.

The Army was planning a generational shift in its culture of fitness that was going to start with its fitness test. Since 1980, the test had been simple—pushups, situps, and a two-mile run. But the new realities of war, military researchers determined, required a test that included forward-thinking strength and conditioning exercises: trap-bar deadlifts, medicine-ball throws, kettlebell farmer’s carries, sled sprints, and that two-mile run. Which meant the Army needed new fitness gear.

That’s 12,812,800 pounds of stuff that is heavy for the sake of being heavy, equal in weight to 2,135 of the pickups parked out front. And by government mandate, it all had to be made in America. In six months.

The Army knew the best place to start was Sorinex Exercise Equipment, a family owned business based in South Carolina. Read the full story here.

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