Strength Training

What Is Gym Chalk & It’s 4 Most Important Lifting Benefits

what is gym chalk

Strength training causes you to work up a sweat, and this includes your hands.  Sweaty palms when lifting weights can reduce your grip strength.  Not only could this result in you failing your lift, dropping your weights can result in injury.  

However, there is a solution in the form of gym chalk.  In this article we’ll look at the benefits, drawbacks, and different types of chalk available so you can decide if it’s something worth adding to your gym bag.

What is Gym Chalk?

Gym chalk is a product that is designed to absorb the sweat from your hands to improve your grip.  It’s made from magnesium carbonate and is available in several different forms.  It’s most often used by rock climbers, power lifters, gymnasts and weight lifters.  

magnesium carbonate chalk

Chalk started to become regularly used as an aid to improve grip back in the 1950’s, specifically being used during rock climbing and gymnastics.  Overtime, this carried over to weightlifting due to its notable benefits in drying up sweaty hands and allowing for a better grip.  

Gym chalk comes in three different forms: powder chalk, liquid chalk and chalk blocks.  

Benefits of Gym Chalk

Improved Grip 

You only need to use a small amount of chalk to significantly improve your grip.  When your grip is better, you’ll feel more connected to the weights.  This is especially true during heavy lifts where a loaded barbell could slip and rotate in the palms of your hands.  

better grip

Often, chalk is associated with heavy deadlifts and other pulling movements.  However, it’s beneficial for many exercises giving you a stronger grip meaning the weights will feel more stable in your hands.  

Injury Prevention

Absorbing the sweat on your palms is going to limit the chance of the weights slipping.  If weights are not held with stability this could put pressure on your wrist joints.  What’s more, you may even drop the weights which could put you at risk of injury.  

Lift Heavier

Whilst chalk alone won’t help you lift you more weight, when used in conjunction with grip and wrist strengthening exercises, collectively they can make a big difference to your overall lift totals.  

Reduces Friction

​Gym chalk helps to reduce the friction between the bar and your hand.  When there is less movement and slipping of the barbell or dumbbell, this also helps to prevent calluses and blisters.  

Drawbacks of Gym Chalk

Chalk is Messy

Gym chalk can be very messy.  Whilst designed just to cover the palms of your hands, it can end up on the floor, over your clothes and all the gym equipment.  

powder chalk

A gym chalk block is less messy as it’s in a solid form.  Liquid form chalk is also a good choice if mess is a concern, as it’s far less likely to end up all the floor.  

It’s worth noting that whichever one you choose, all forms of chalk will transfer to equipment including barbells and dumbbells when being held.  

Could Be Banned

It’s not uncommon for a commercial gym to have an outright ban on gym chalk.  Not just because of the mess it can make, but also the links to respiratory problems associated with powder chalk.  

why do gyms not allow chalk

Gym owners have their members to think of most of whom won’t be too keen on breathing in the fine powder.  

That being said, some independent gyms who focus on power and Olympic lifting are much more likely to have chalk on hand for you to use.  

Accumulates In Barbell Knurling

Overtime gym chalk will accumulate in barbell and dumbbell knurling.  If it’s not cleaned out and removed promptly, it can start to erode the outer surface which could result in corrosion.  What’s more, a build-up of dry chalk can diminish the effectiveness of the knurling.  

 secure grip

If you attend a gym, or have your own home gym, and regularly make use of chalk make sure to clean out the knurling using a soft bristle brush.  

Different Types of Gym Chalk

There are several different types of gym chalk, and which one choose will be down to personal preference.  

Loose Chalk

Loose chalk is in powder form and is usually stored in a chalk bucket or bowl.  This by far the messiest form of chalk as applying it typically involves dipping your hands in to cover them.  

pure chalk

Usually, too much chalk is applied when the lifter would then clap their hands together to remove any excess causing it to go into the air and over the floor.  

Storing chalk in refillable chalk balls or a chalk bag can help to reduce the mess created. It works by filling the ball with the powder and simply rolling it around the palms of your hands to coat them.  This also prevent you from using too much of it resulting in less wastage.  

Block Chalk

Blocks of chalk are simply compressed loose chalk that form the shape of a bar of soap.  It’s not uncommon for people to break this up so it forms powder chalk.  

block chalk

However, it’s designed to be used in its solid form by being rubbed over the hands covering all surfaces that will come into compact with the barbell.  It’s much less messy than loose chalk but it will still transfer to the bar and clothing.  

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gym block of chalk

Block chalk is designed to be kept in a block and rubbed over the hands to increase friction. It can be crushed to form ‘loose’ powdered chalk if you prefer making it quite versatile. It generally does not last as long as liquid chalk though

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Liquid Chalk

Liquid chalk is the least messy and is supplied in bottle form where you squeeze a small amount of liquid onto the hands and then rub them together to cover your palms.  

liquid chalk

If a commercial gym is going to allow chalk, it’s more than likely going to be in liquid form.  

That being said, many users report that it’s not as effective as powder or block form chalk.  Another drawback with liquid chalk is that is can take a long time to dry.  So, if you want to keep drying time to a minimum your best off sticking to powder or block form.  

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Gym Chalk

Liquid gym chalk is an effective aid when gripping the bar during heavy pulling exercises such as the deadlift.

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Final Thoughts 

If you’re into Olympic weightlifting or any other form of weight training and you’re wanting to maximise your lifts by improving grip strength, then you’ll find coating your hands in a layer of chalk can make a big difference.  

It will allow you to feel better connected to the weights, potentially resulting in less stress to the wrist joints and give you much more stability during lifts.  Be sure to consider the different types of gym chalk and their benefits and remember to find out the rules surrounding chalk use in your gym.

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