You’ve seen powerlifters, bodybuilders, and crossfitters use gym chalk — magnesium carbonate or calcium carbonate — as they get ready to lift heavy, and you know the same stuff has applications in gymnastics and climbing, as well.
If you’re trying to maximize your form and performance (and you are!), you’re probably asking yourself what the benefits of chalk are when you’re lifting weights, and how you can put gym chalk to good use yourself.
Once you decide to come to the chalk side, you’ll want to know how you can chalk up without getting banned from your local gym, and you might appreciate a glimpse into some of the best gym chalk options on the market, too. As always, we’re here to help you out.
Why Do You Need Chalk when Lifting Heavy?
You can’t have missed the fact that top bodybuilders, weightlifters, gymnasts, and climbers use chalk to improve their performance. It’s been common practice since at least the 1950s, after all. But is chalk right for you, too?
You’re not a pro powerlifter or bodybuilder (yet). You haven’t used chalk before lifting heavy so far, and you might think you don’t think you need to — hell, chalk might even be banned at your gym. You’re wondering why you should rethink that chalkless strategy, and what you could get out of chalking up before you exert yourself to the max?
There are plenty of reasons to use chalk before lifting heavy, and one that covers them all — using chalk will help you perform significantly better, and that’s what you’re after!
To break that down into manageable chunks:
- Chalk leeches moisture from your sweaty hands, giving you a superior grip and increased friction. In other hands, kiss those sweaty hands goodbye! That improved grip comes in handy whether you’re doing deadlifts, pullups, or even inverted rows. The actual result, in action? When you use gym chalk, you can do more reps for the simple reason that it’ll take longer for you to lose your grip.
- That better grip gives you better control over your body — and to be able to maintain flawless form, you want to be in charge. Don’t let sweaty hands, which force you to change your posture to keep holding on, ruin your form. Reduce your risk of injury by using gym chalk.
- If you’re doing kettlebell swings and cleans, which involve more reps, chalk can make the difference between suffering from annoying blisters and walking away with hands that will be ready for more work soon enough.
How does gym chalk actually work to increase your grip? Magnesium carbonate, the main ingredient in any gym chalk (generally mined from Magnesite, but also synthesized in labs) soaks up the moisture on your skin. Calcium carbonate, sometimes used instead, has a similar effect.
This results in more friction between your skin and the bar, and therefore an improved and more durable grip. Modern commercially-produced gym chalk brands often add other chemicals too magnesium carbonate, which affects the texture and overall result, however. If you want to make the most of gym chalk, you have to know what different types of chalk are on the market, and which best meets your needs.
Different Types of Chalk: How do They Compare?
All types of gym chalk will offer weightlifters a better grip, but the differences are significant enough to make a real difference.
Old School Block Chalks
Block chalk has been around the longest, and it has staying power because it works really well and is practical. We’re talking about solid blocks of calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate, in various sizes. Think of this kind of chalk as a bar of soap, but use it much more sparingly — try to keep the block intact as you lightly coat your palms in the chalk.
Weightlifters and bodybuilders might choose a block chalk because it’s the purest chalk you can get. Liquid chalks contain additional ingredients that can make them more effective, but they can also cause skin irritation.
Mess-free Liquid Chalks
Liquid chalk, derived from magnesium carbonate, comes in bottles and performs a very similar function. Many weightlifters prefer liquid chalk because its effects last longer, and liquid chalk causes much less of a mess at the gym. Generally contains ethanol, and may contain rosin as well — in addition to perfumes.
Super Sticky Rosins
Rosin, a substance derived from pine trees (think “resin”!), is often incorporated into liquid chalk blends and even powdered chalk. It can also be used on its own, instead of chalk. It’s common in baseball, for instance. Rosin is very different to magnesium and calcium in that it doesn’t dry your hands, but instead makes them sticky. When rosin is used in a chalk blend, it enhances the effect. The problem is that some folks also get severe allergic reactions from it.
Powdered chalk is another option. We’ve placed it last because it’s almost universally considered a weak substitute for the real thing. You probably remember it from your school days, when your PE teacher might have pulled it out for rope climbing and gymnastics. Powdered chalk is very messy; it gets everywhere, including into your lungs, which might lead to a rather unwelcome coughing fit. Not what you want before you lift weights.
That covers the different types of chalk weightlifters and bodybuilders have at their disposal — but keep in mind that not every product within a category has the same quality, or the same ingredients.
How to Use Chalk
If you’re using a chalk block, simply slide it across your palms and fingers individually. You want a light coating. Your goal isn’t to bathe in the stuff.
If you’ve opted for a liquid chalk, you’ll need to shake the bottle before use. Then spray the chalk onto your hands and wait for the chalk to dry. That’ll usually take 10 to 20 seconds, after which you’ll be good to go — at least an entire set, but because liquid chalk has more staying power, one application might just get you through your whole workout.
You’re stuck with powdered chalk? Dip your hands into the bag with your fingers spread apart, then run and clap your hands, if you do that at all (it’s frowned upon) still in the bucket, to rid them of the excess without sending it all flying into the air.
Chalk Etiquette: What to Look Out for When Using Chalk
Some gyms provide chalk for weightlifters. Others don’t, but don’t mind if you bring your own. Some gyms have banned chalk, and will ban you too, if they catch you using it or you make a mess. This is usually because of a worry that gym chalk has a negative impact on indoor air quality, and could even cause respiratory distress in some people. Though chalk is not toxic, it’s not exactly nice to inhale.
If you’re not sure which category your gym falls into, you can ask — or you can take your cues from your fellow weightlifters. Some weightlifters use liquid chalk, which is more discrete and doesn’t make a mess, at the gym even if chalk is banned. Consult your personal code of ethics if you’re wondering if you should do the same. Better yet, find a new gym that actively supports you in taking your performance to the next level. That’s what a good gym is there fore, and policies that stand in your way shouldn’t jive well with you.
Is your gym generally cool with chalk? You’ll still want to make sure you’re not an ass about using it. Here’s a quick chalk etiquette 101 to get you up to speed:
- Use as little chalk as possible. Remember, you don’t really need a lot to achieve an effective result, and slathering it on in royal doses won’t make your grip better; it’ll actually weaken your grip again.
- Don’t make a ritual of applying more chalk excessively often. Once before each set usually does the trick.
- Don’t use powdered chalk in a gym, unless the gym itself provides it and you’ve got nothing else. Not only is powdered chalk often considered less effective, it’s also notorious for making a giant mess and impacting the air quality. Don’t clap your hands enthusiastically to eliminate extra powdered chalk, but keep the action in the bag.
- If you do make any sort of mess with your gym chalk, on the floor and the equipment (and yes, absolutely double check that!), have the common courtesy to clean it up. A damp towel works well for this purpose. You wouldn’t want to lift weights covered in white powder either, so leave the gym in the state you found it in.
- If someone else could really do with some gym chalk, but they don’t have any, it’s nice to share. Just saying. Not a fan of sharing your block chalk with some rando’s germy hands? Bringing an extra block is a small price to pay for not seeming like a douche.
When Chalk Isn’t Necessary
Gym chalk is a great tool when you’re lifting heavy or doing crossfit. Use it for deadlifts, kettlebell swings, or pullups, for sure, but skip it if you’re doing light lateral raises, superman reps, and the like. If the exercise is light and you don’t inherently face the challenge of a weak grip, you probably don’t need chalk.
The Best Chalk for Lifting Weights in 2023
Ready to go shopping? Don’t just head over to Amazon and hit “buy” on the first random gym chalk you happen to come across. Choose the best chalk for lifting weights. These winners will help you achieve your goals!
1. Rogue Gym Chalk
Rogue Gym Chalk is a tried-and-trusted block chalk beloved across the weightlifting community. It’s a pure magnesium carbonate block with dimensions of 3.5″ x 3.5″ x 2.5″ that ships in a neat cardboard package. If it’s block chalk you’re after, you really can’t do any better than Rogue Gym Chalk.
2. Togear Liquid Chalk
Have you decided to go with liquid chalk? Togear’s Liquid Chalk Pack has everything you need. It’s made with pure magnesium carbonate and is free from rosin, perfumes, irritating chemicals, and drying products. What you do get is three handy bottles, including one with a clip for rock climbers.
- Liquid Chalk - Portable with less mess than block chalk and much less wast ( 1.76OZ)
3. Z Athletic Chalk Ball
Z Athletic’s Chalk Ball is perfect for weightlifters who like powdered chalk but prefer to keep things clean. It’s powdered chalk — 100 percent magnesium carbonate, without any added chemicals, scents, drying agents, and so on — wrapped neatly in a fabric ball. (OK, Z Athletic describes it as a “cotton sock”, but that doesn’t sound quite as good.) It’s your number one way to confine powdered chalk to a limited space.
- 《Quality》- Fragrance and pigment free. This is high quality 100% pure magnesium carbonate chalk inside a 100% cotton sock. No fillers, dyes or gimmicky added scents.
4. Rage Fitness Gibson Athletic Premium Block
Premium Block Chalk is another great option if you’re looking for block chalk. You get a total of eight two ounce blocks to last you for many sessions — and, as a bonus, you’ll be able to share, too. Gibson’s Premium Blocks were lab tested to ensure quality.
- 1 pound of Magnesium Carbonate, Lab Tested
5. Rogue Spider Chalk Liquid Chalk
Rogue’s liquid Spider Chalk, formulated with magnesium carbonate and two bonding agents, is perfect for weightlifters who need their chalk to last them through an entire workout. Don’t want to be interrupted sweaty hands that scream out for more chalk ever again? Give Spider Chalk a shot, and be pleasantly surprised.
6. Friction Labs Premium Sports Chalk
Plenty of pro athletes love this chalk; it’s been endorsed by climber Austin Geiman, shot putter Jon Jones, and ninja warrior Meagan Martin, not name just a few. The great thing about Friction Labs’ Premium Sports Chalk, besides the pure magnesium carbonate without added cheap and irritating stuff? You get to pick your preferred consistency.
From “basically powder” Unicorn Dust to a much chunkier Gorilla Grip and a big and bold (but not quite blocky) Bam Bam, there’s a chalk that’s just right for you, waiting for your order.
This long-lasting formula wasn’t just endorsed by athletes, but not matter how hard you look, you just can’t find any terrible reviews. Friction Labs’ Premium Sports Chalk is just that good.
- HEALTHY SKIN = BETTER PERFORMANCE | Non-toxic, silica-free and pigment-free chalk that is safe for kids and adults. We responsibly refine all of our chalk in Colorado and strip out all fillers and artificial drying agents found in most other chalks that...
Skinny Yoked Summary
Yes, there are a lot of people you will see in your gym with chalk, gloves, shoes, belts, smelling salts, and stringers who don’t need them. Don’t judge them too harshly, the more people that are passionate about bodybuilding the better and if amateurs want to waste their money let them.
If you’re lifting heavy on the regular, or operate in a gym without air conditioning with slippery bars, or heck, if you’re an alpha and into serious olympic weightlifting then investing in a quality chalk is a good idea.
If you’ve got your own space or workout in a garage of some type then powdered chalks cheap factor makes it the most logical option. If you workout in public gyms or in your house and are concerned about the mess that powdered chalks make then looking at liquid chalk or rosins would be a good idea.
Last update on 2023-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API