This quarantine cans-as-dumbbell device turns your food hoarding into gains

By Talib Visram

For those of us who are too corona-shy to venture into the outside world for runs (or who use the virus as an excuse not to run), home workouts have become the go-to form of exercise for the quarantine period. We’ve become accustomed to reps with a side of danger, like risking our heads on a whirring ceiling fan every time we attempt a jump squat.

Many bedroom workouts that people are following, via Instagram or gym apps, call for assistance weights that you may not readily have at home. Some recommend water jugs or jars of peanut butter. My trick, of which I’m inordinately proud, is to use a basket of books as a kettlebell, and to fill or empty it according to the exercise.

This quarantine cans-as-dumbbell device turns your food hoarding into gains |

[Photo: courtesy Emily Fukunaga]

But one innovator has turned her makeshift weights into a marketable product. And it’s an invention that has the added benefit of making use of all the spare cans of coconut milk, kidney beans, and Green Giant corn niblets you’ve been messily hoarding in the pantry, to the point that you can never find the coffee grounds the first thing in the morning.

Enter the Makeweight: essentially a DIY dumbbell device, a plastic and metal structure that’s designed to firmly hold a food can on either side, fashioning a custom weight that’s adaptable to your curling and pressing needs.

The device is in the prototype stage, and is listed on Kickstarter by creator Emily Fukunaga, a management consultant based in Baltimore who, like the rest of us, started to improvise when she needed weights. “I started out doing squats with a 12-pack of Diet Coke,” she says. And, like many of us, she didn’t want to fork out for dumbbells online, which commonly involves having to buy multiple for different workouts. With the Makeweight, different cans can make for different weights. It’s a cheap and portable option that Fukunaga says is perfect for small budgets and small apartments.

She’s tested different cans sizes and shapes, and while perhaps those small tuna cans wouldn’t work, and cans with easy-open tabs can be a hurdle, the Makeweight accommodates any good old-fashioned, American can-opener-operated cans.

Fukunaga personally invested funds to raise money for designers and engineers, and launched the Kickstarter specifically to gain funds for the structure’s molds. She’s so far raised $2,545, almost 20% of her goal.

This quarantine cans-as-dumbbell device turns your food hoarding into gains |
[Photo: courtesy Emily Fukunaga]

One bigger factor with which Fukunaga was concerned were the environmental effects of shipping workout equipment, especially when people find themselves ordering more and more add-on weights, which leads to additional shipping and packaging, not to mention labor for essential workers. For Fukunaga, that was a lot of wasted energy and cost. “This comes in at less than half a pound per unit, and so it’s really cheap to ship, and easy to transport,” she says.

Of course, it’s all relative, but the Makeweight is currently designed for lifting light weights, of one to seven pounds, meaning it’s not really the solution for weight trainers looking to build any real mass. It’s more of an assistance for high-rep routines for staying fit, such as for tricep lifts as part of a circuit routine, Fukunaga says.

But she would like to eventually cater to higher lifters. She mentions that solutions could be cinder blocks (“but I don’t know if people have those at home”), or a case of beer on either side. “I’m definitely thinking about how to get the weights up, because I know that that matters for a lot of folks,” she says.

She hopes to have the Makeweight in production by the summer, and shipped to Kickstarter orderers in August or September. So, while the idea was a product of the COVID lockdown, she hopes people will see the value even after normal life commences, and people have come to enjoy home workouts. Besides, if the virus lingers, it may force quarantines to continue and gyms to remain closed.

As for the ideal cans to work out with? Fukunaga recommends Campbell’s soup and Del Monte vegetables—but her ultimate favorite is Hunt’s diced tomatoes. “I think that those are a really good size,” she says. “They’re about one and a half pounds. So, I find that that works out really well for me and the types of workouts I do.”


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