When it comes to lifting weights, there are a lot of things that one needs to take care of. Among many of these things, the grip is of primary importance. If your grip is weak, the possibility of you ending up hurting yourself rises significantly. One of the best ways of improving your grip is using chalk. Over the course of this article we are going to talk in great detail about why chalks are useful for lifting weights, and how weightlifters can make the best use of chalk to prevent injuries. Besides, we also have a list of some of the best chalk for weightlifting which you can benefit from.
Safety is critical while lifting weights. Be it a correct posture, the correct movement of the wrists, the correct amount of weight, or the correct grip. In this article, we are going to talk about the last of the lot, the grip. In fact, a correct grip is really important while lifting weights because there are times when your brain won’t allow you to lift weights if you aren’t able to grip it correctly. While the strength of your grip can be improved by various exercises, the biggest problem comes when you have to reduce the sweating.
Since you are exerting a great amount of pressure on your hands while lifting the weights, there will be quite a lot of sweat that will be generated. Using chalk is one of the best ways to counter this. Especially when it comes to lifting weights, you don’t use regular chalk, you use a special ‘gym chalk’. That is going to be the focal point of our article here.
However, before diving into any further details, let us first try and understand the basics:
What is Gym Chalk?
When we say the word ‘chalk’, it usually brings in the good old high-school nostalgia of the teacher using chalk to write on a blackboard (or a green board if you went to a fancier school). However, in the context of gymming and lifting weights, the word has a different meaning. Here, the chalk is not used to write on a board (thank goodness, that screeching sound won’t bother you anymore). In gyms, chalk is used to ensure that you get a better grip while lifting weights as it helps to eliminate sweat.
When we refer to gym chalk, we are talking about Magnesium Carbonate, chemically understood as MgCO3. The practice of using chalk to lift weights comes from the world of gymnastics and climbing. There are a number of gymnasts and rock climbers who prefer using chalk while they hold their ropes or rings to eliminate sweat. This practice has been followed for several decades in these fields.
The most basic fundamental that needs to be understood here is that when you use weightlifting chalk, you are essentially increasing the friction between your hand and the bar. Without going too much into the scientific details of this, you need to know that chalk absorbs the moisture that forms when you grip the bar. This also causes the temperature in your hands to rise a little. Basic science suggests that when your hands remain dry, the friction between your hand and the bar is going to be higher, and hence it will lead to a better grip.
Your grip is very important because if you do not have a good grip you can risk major injuries to your wrist or arms, or if the weights fall, it can hurt your back, legs, or various other parts of the body which can be very dangerous. Furthermore, a good grip is good for your back and your knees too because it reduces the stress of all those other parts.
How to Use Gym Chalk?
First of all, you need to ask your gym if they allow using weightlifting chalk. There are a lot of gyms and fitness centers all over the world which as a policy do not allow the use of chalk for lifting weights. This is because using chalk can often get messy and requires a lot of maintenance. Some gyms allow that but do not provide their own chalk. Make sure you know all the policies of your gym before you start using chalk.
One more suggestion that we really want to give you while using chalk for lifting weights is that please, for heaven’s sake, do not do ‘the clap’ while using chalk. This is how they show it in the movies, but this is not how it is supposed to be done. Clapping the chalk is only going to make things messier for you as well as for the people around you.
Apply a very slight amount of chalk to your palms before you lift weights. Use the chalk block from top to bottom and then rub it across the palm. Make sure that you are applying it only on the palms and not on the back of your hands or the wrists or any other part of the body because you don’t really need it anywhere else. Before you apply the chalk, make sure that your hands are dry. Always wipe your hands with a thick towel before you use chalk. This is important because if your chalk mixes with your sweat before you start working out, it will reduce the friction and will make things worse.
Once you are done lifting weights, use a damp towel or water and soap to wipe your hands clean. You don’t want any of that chalk lying around for later. Another important tip that we have is that you might also want to moisturize your hands. This is because when you are using chalk, you end up drying your hands beyond their normal texture.
Besides this, when you are done with everything, it is generally considered good manners to wipe up the chalk around you because there will be people working out in the same place after you go and no one wants to work out in a chalk-filled mat. Also, wipe the equipment clean after you’re done using them. Make sure you are using a separate chalk bag to store all your chalks once you are done using them.
There are some people who immediately bring up the argument that instead of using chalks for lifting weights, you might also consider using talc. However, the biggest argument against talc is the fact that it has scientifically been proven to be bad for you over the long run if inhaled. This is why most baby powders have now begun to use cornstarch instead of using talc. Magnesium Carbonate has proven to show no such adverse effects and is hence considered safe to use.
Powder Chalk vs Liquid Chalk: Different Types of Chalks for Weightlifting
Talking of the different types of chalks for lifting weights, there are two major options out there – powdered chalk blocks and liquid chalk. Let us take a closer look at each of them:
1. Powdered Chalk
Powder chalk is relatively simpler to understand than liquid chalk. You can visualize it pretty much as the chalk stick that you used in your school days but in the form of a block or a ball. Now imagine that chalk being ground down into a fine powder. This kind of chalk is much cheaper in comparison, but poses one major drawback: it is very messy. Using powder chalk leaves a very messy trail of dirt and dust behind which can cause problems to people working out around you. People who have respiratory issues might develop problems if they inhale chalkdust.
However, not every powdered chalk is like that. The Spri Chalk Block is an exception to this and is extremely safe and easy to use. Applying this kind of chalk is simple – this gym chalk comes in the form of a chalk block or chalk balls that can be rubbed on your hand and you’re done. It helps you maximize your grip strength, but it is best suited to be used in places that are either well ventilated or have good airflow.
2. Liquid Chalk
The second kind of lifting chalk is liquid chalk. This is something that doesn’t really fit most people’s idea of a ‘chalk’ but is very useful in modern-day gyms because it helps to strengthen the grip without really causing all the dirt and the mess that powder chalk does. Liquid chalk is also made of magnesium carbonate, just like powder chalk. However, it does not come in chalk blocks or chalk balls but instead comes in a tube from where it can easily be squeezed and applied.
This kind of chalk is also equally non-toxic and effective when it comes to countering sweat and improving grip, but has one drawback: it needs to be reapplied frequently when compared to powder chalk. However, this is universally accepted in gyms because it does not cause as much of a mess as powdered chalk does. Apart from making chalk blocks, the aforementioned SPRI brand also makes the SPRI Liquid Chalk which can suit your needs really well if you don’t want to use powdered chalk because of all the dust it creates.
Chalk Balls vs Chalk Blocks
Having understood the difference between powder chalk and liquid chalk, you also need to understand the two different form factors of powder chalks. These chalks come either as balls or blocks. Here’s a closer look at both of them:
These are essentially square or rectangular-shaped bricks of chalk. In order to use them, you need to rub your hands around them and the chalk will be applied to your hands. These generally tend to be quite messier in comparison to chalk balls or liquid chalk because when you rub your hands around them the chalk falls from all directions. These, however, are the cheapest option that is available to anyone who is looking for a good quality lifting chalk.
One really good option would be Rage Fitness Gibson Athletic Premium Block Chalk which offers you one pound of chalk divided into 8 blocks of 2 oz each which is bound to last you for months! Chalk blocks are often seen in gyms where there is a community chalk room or a designated area where you can chalk up without spreading chalkdust in the entire gym.
Apart from chalk blocks, another popular form factor in which lifting chalk comes in is a chalk ball. Imagine this as a cotton sock full of chalk. All you need to do in order to apply chalk to your hands is to rub your hands around the ball covered with a sock. Just fondle the ball a little and there will be chalk in your hands. The biggest benefit of using a chalk ball is that it is much less messy when compared to block chalk. This benefit can be observed when you use a good quality chalk ball such as the Primo Chalk Ball.
Primo makes sure that the chalk that is used by them is good for your skin and does not dehydrate your hands too much. It is non-toxic and alcohol-free as well. Chalk Blocks usually tend to chip off after a while but since in the balls the chalk is covered and protected inside a sock, there’s no dirt and there’s no mess.
Benefits of Gym Chalk
There are a large number of benefits that using gym chalks brings to you. Here is a closer look at some of them:
- First up, using gym chalk helps you deal with the sweat in a much better manner. Be it powdered chalk or be it liquid chalk, both of them help you with the same thing: reducing sweat. Since chalk is made of magnesium carbonate, it basically absorbs all the sweat that your hands generate when you are gripping the bar while lifting weights. This makes sure that your grip and your balance remain stable.
- Chalks also help you lift heavier weights in the long run. Basically, when your grip is firm, you are more confident about lifting heavier weights. Your fingers and your palms are usually the ones that begin to shake or sweat when you are lifting heavier weights. However, when you use chalk, this is easily countered. This helps you attain a better workout overall.
- The biggest benefit that you can get by using gym chalk for weightlifting is that there will be a lesser chance of injuring yourself. Injuries are very common while lifting weights and people end up pulling various muscles or hurting their wrists, or back, or various other body parts because they have a bad grip. Using chalk helps reduce this risk significantly.
- Apart from lifting weights, using chalk is also quite useful when it comes to activities such as rock climbing, mountaineering, and various other activities where grip strength is important. It can also be useful for Crossfit training and for gymnastics.
Let us now head straight into some of the best options that we’ve got there when it comes to buying chalks for lifting weights:
How to Choose the Best Chalk for Lifting Weights?
Now that you know which are the best options out there when it comes to the different kinds of weightlifting chalk, you also need to know how to choose the best one for all your needs. Here’s a quick buyer’s guide which will help you determine whether the chalk that you are going for is right for you.
- First of all, you need to decide whether you are going to use powder chalk or liquid chalk. This is important – and the major deciding factor generally is your gym’s policy. If they allow you to use powdered chalk then you might go for it. There’s always the option of using liquid chalk otherwise.
- You also need to know how much chalk is being used to coat your hand. If that is beyond the size of a regular nickel, then we strongly recommend you to go for another brand where you have to use less amount of chalk to coat your hands.
- Similarly, you also need to test your chalk while lifting: how long does it last? If your chalk disappears quickly, it is not the best option for you. You must get at least a few sets done before sweat starts forming again. If you are already sweating in the first few sets, you should go for another brand.
- In the case of liquid chalk, you must check the texture of the chalk. Is it smooth or chunky? Getting chunks or lumps in liquid chalk isn’t really suitable and you should go with another brand in case something like that is happening.
- One small thing that many people tend to overlook is the smell of the chalk. If you are planning on using it in a gym, you must also be aware of the fact that people around you might not appreciate the smell of chalk, particularly if it is too strong. Try and get something that does not have a really intense smell.
- Last but not least, the cost of the chalk vs the amount of chalk that you get should also be considered. Make sure that you’re getting the right deal here, or at least the right quality vs quantity.
Gym Etiquettes While Using Chalk
When you are using weightlifting chalk, you need to realize that there are people around you who might not appreciate all the dust and the smell that comes while you use the chalk. Besides, there might be people who use the same space after you leave, and you don’t want them to be troubled as well. It is because of these very reasons that many gyms all over the world do not allow using powdered chalk but are alright if you choose to use liquid chalk, such as Fire Team Fit Liquid Chalk.
As we mentioned above, please do not clap if you are using powdered chalk. There is no benefit to that, and it leads to dust just floating around in the air for a long while. Secondly, if your gym has a community chalk room, please don’t be too liberal in using the chalk blocks or a chalk ball, use only the amount that you need and apply a fresh coat only if you feel that your grip is loosening up because of sweat. We also strongly recommend that you use this chalk only in your palms and hands and not all over your body.
Another part of gym etiquette that we have already addressed above is that please don’t use chalk that has a very strong smell. The smell can be quite an irritant for people around you and especially in a closed environment like a gym, the smell tends to linger on for very long hours. If you are looking for odorless gym chalk, we strongly recommend you something like a 321 STRONG Refillable Chalk Ball which does not leave that strong stench in the gym. Lastly, after you’re done exercising, please make sure that all the residue of the lifting chalk is wiped off the bars, as well as the equipment and the floor.
Pros and Cons of Using Weightlifting Chalk
Having fully understood what lifting chalk is all about, let us take a closer look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of using chalk for lifting weights
- As we’ve mentioned multiple times over the course of this article, the primary benefit that you get when you use gym chalk is that it helps you eliminate sweat and get a better grip while lifting. Sweaty palms can cause the weight to slip and can end up hurting you. Using gym chalk helps counter this really well.
- Chalk is also useful in improving your overall performance too. Research published in the International Journal of Exercise Science states that performance can improve by about 16 to 58% if you are using magnesium carbonate than when you are lifting without it.
- Chalk is safe to use as Magnesium Carbonate is non-toxic in nature and does not cause any damage to your skin or body.
- Even those practicing other sports such as gymnastics, rock climbing, or any other sport where direct contact with a piece of equipment is important, using gym chalk is always considered beneficial when it comes to improving the grip.
- One of the disadvantages of using chalk for weightlifting is that it tends to dry up your hands pretty quickly and you will need to moisturize your hands quite a bit after you are done lifting your weights.
- Another major problem is that of “too much grip”. It has been observed that when your hands dry up the friction between your hands and the object you are gripping tends to increase significantly. This can generate heat which can cause blisters in your hand.
- All the trail of dirt and dust that the chalk leaves behind is another reason to why some people do not prefer to use chalk
How to Stay Safe While Using Gym Chalk?
While gym chalk is generally very safe to use, there are some things that you really need to look out for while using chalk during a workout:
- First off, make sure that the chalk that you are using is non-toxic. For even safer results, go for an alcohol-free chalk variant. Friction Labs Secret Stuff is one of the best examples of alcohol-free liquid chalk that is good for your hands.
- Another essential thing is that if there are a lot of people using chalk around you, try wearing a face mask while you work out. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a very strong or a tight one, but a layer that is good enough to keep away all the chalkdust. This is particularly important if you have a history of respiratory ailments.
- After you are done using gym chalk, make sure that you are moisturizing your hands. This is very important. No matter how good or ‘premium’ your chalk promises to be, it is bound to cause dryness in the palms because it absorbs sweat. You need to take care of your hands because if you don’t moisturize them they become dry and then you are in a danger of getting blisters upon heavy lifting.
- Don’t apply too much chalk. Just enough to get your palms covered and that’s about it. Don’t apply a second or a third layer. Getting excess chalk is going to cause blisters as well as it can lead to an uncomfortable grip which is counterproductive to the very idea of using chalk for lifting weights in the first place! Make sure you are using only a nickel-sized quantity of chalk while lifting weights.
Is Liquid Chalk As Good As Powder Chalk?
Liquid chalk and powder chalk both serve the same purpose: they increase the friction between your hands and the bar of the weights that you are lifting. No matter if you are using something like a Z Athletic Chalk Ball or liquid chalk such as Physic Liquid Chalk, they are essentially serving the same purpose: providing you a strong and decent grip.
People who tend to use liquid chalk over powder chalk primarily do it because of hygiene reasons. This is because liquid chalk does not leave behind any chalkdust and residue which is a major problem among users who make use of powder chalk. However, in terms of lifting experience, they are pretty much the same. However, there is a common belief among old-timers that powder chalk is better. Personally, we don’t advocate any such bias and hold the belief that using either kind of chalk is equally beneficial. Both of them are basically Magnesium Carbonate in just a different form factor.
How to Improve Your Grip for Weightlifting?
While using weightlifting chalk is one of the best ways to improve your grip, there are a number of other ways which can also help you get a better grip. Chalk primarily helps you reduce the sweat and increase the friction. However, the actual grip strength can be improved by some of these methods:
First up, one of the best ways to improve your grip is to get hold of a power-gripper or a metal grip strengthener. This is a device that looks like a nutcracker and has a spring in between. This allows you to put pressure on your palms and improve the strength of your hands. Besides that, you can also try using a regular nutcracker and cracking some nuts. Another suggestion that we have for improving the strength of your grip is to lift regularly. The more you lift the better you will get at gripping the bar.
Furthermore, always make sure that your hands are dry and clean while lifting weights. This is necessary because when you do this, your grip will always be stronger because there will be no friction. You can also do some basic gymnastic training or CrossFit exercises using a rope and rings in order to get your grip right. You can also try doing a little bit of rock climbing which is great for improving your overall grip strength. Other basic exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups are also a good way to get your grip stronger, as well as to improve strength in your forearms and shoulders.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Weightlifting Chalks
1. Can I lift weights without using chalk?
The simple answer to this question is, yes you can. However, using chalk improves your grip and ensures that your palms are less sweatier. There are often mishaps in gyms due to sweaty palms as the weights tend to fall on the person lifting them which can end up in a serious injury. Hence, you require weightlifting chalk for a better lifting experience.
2. How to use chalk balls?
Chalk balls such as Friction Labs Magic Chalk Ball can be used very easily. Simply grab them and fondle them and just run your hands around them and the chalk would be applied to your hands. You often find them placed in a chalk bag or a ball bag which allows you to rub your hand around the bag and the chalk is applied to your hand.
3. Is it safe to use liquid chalk?
Yes, liquid chalk is as safe to use as any other kind of chalk. It is made of magnesium carbonate, which is the same compound that forms regular powdered chalk.
4. Can I use blackboard chalk instead?
No, you can’t use regular blackboard chalk for lifting weights. You need specialized weightlifting chalk for that. It is only these chalks that allow you to lift better by giving you a stronger grip.
5. Where can I buy weightlifting chalk?
Amazon is certainly the best place to buy weightlifting chalk. However, you can also buy it from any store around your home which sells lifting or gymming supplies as it is a very common and inexpensive product.
We hope that by the time you reach this point in the article you know everything that there is to know about using chalk for improving your grip. We have also come up with a list of the best chalk for weightlifting, which will help you achieve a better grip and can be bought off a few clicks. We have tried to provide a review that is as detailed as possible so that you understand the product in a complete manner. Besides that, we have also answered various other questions related to weightlifting chalk and how to use it in the right manner. If you still have any more questions, feel free to let us know in the comments or send us a mail and we shall get back to you as soon as it is possible for us! Till then…
…Happy Lifting! 🙂