Since gyms shut their doors at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and we moved our workouts to our living rooms, there’s been a run on exercise equipment from kettlebells to Pelotons. Perhaps most surprising, though, is the booming popularity of wrist and ankle weights. Considered, not too long ago, a better-off-forgotten ’80s exercise fad, these wearable Velcro accessories quickly became as hard to find as toilet paper and Purell.
Bala bangles — the soft-hued, bracelet-esque weights at the center of the phenomenon — started taking off even before social distancing became the norm. Max Kislevitz and Natalie Holloway, the husband-and-wife team behind Bala, had already reached $2 million in sales when they appeared on Shark Tank at the end of February, walking away with a $900,000 investment from Mark Cuban and Maria Sharapova. Since then, Bala’s minimalist weights have been popping up on my Instagram feed on the wrists and ankles of fitness influencers like yoga instructor Marie Grujicic and personal trainer Taylor Rae Almonte. Celebrities — like Lucy Hale, James Franco, and Bachelor winner Hannah Ann Sluss — were soon to follow, and the weights began selling out everywhere from Goop to Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. Kislevitz says that the “one-two punch” of the exposure from Shark Tank and the ensuing need for at-home workout gear led to a giant surge in demand that the start-up could barely keep up with. So far this year, they’ve made eight times as much from sales as they did in all of 2019.
Bala’s eye-catching styles, a far cry from their bulky Jazzercise-era counterparts, were designed with aesthetics in mind. “We’ve deliberately blurred the line between fashion and fitness,” says Kislevitz. He and Holloway knew ankle and wrist weights were a great way to add intensity to a yoga or pilates class, but in our world where we expect stylish workout wear, Kislevitz says existing ankle and wrist weights were “fashionably and functionally deficient.” The old style of neoprene weights with iron filling soaked up sweat, absorbing odor and sliding around uncomfortably. Bala bangles improve on the design by featuring easy-to-clean silicone-coated cast-iron bars and a stretchy, adjustable elastic band to fit snugly on all sizes.
Bala isn’t the only…