Weightlifter’s Guide to Weight Lifting Chalk

Weight lifting chalk is one of the first things that new weightlifters must learn about in order to train safely and effectively.  Here are the answers to the most common questions those starting out in weightlifting have about it:

What is Weight Lifting Chalk?
Weight lifting chalk is made from magnesium carbonate that has been pounded into a powder.  It can be found in a number of different forms, including pressed cake, ball or block, as a chalk bag (like those carried by rock climbers) and as a loose powder. Generally, it is quicker to coat the hands using loose powder, but it is also messier than the cakes, balls or blocks, which is why it has been banned in many gyms.

Will Rosin, Baby Powder or Talc Work Instead?
No, no and no! None of these are suitable alternatives to weight lifting chalk.  Rosin is actually illegal to use in any weightlifting competitions because it is very sticky.  It will also hasten the development of calluses.

Baby powder is a mixture of talc and corn starch.  It is true that corn starch is a drying agent, but the talc is a dry lubricant.  This makes baby powder useless for weightlifting because it makes hands more slippery, not less.

PowerliftingMagnesiumCarbonateGymChalk 199x300 Weightlifter’s Guide to Weight Lifting Chalk

Talc is made from magnesium silicate.  As mentioned earlier, it is useless as an alternative to weightlifting chalk because it reduces grip strength by lubricating the hands.  It can be used on the shins, however, because it will help to allow the bar to slide up more easily when doing deadlifts.

How is Weight Lifting Chalk Used?
Weight lifting chalk is used on the hands in order to improve grip, because even a small amount of perspiration can significantly reduce grip strength, which is vital to powerlifting and other exercises like pull-ups, deadlifts and cleans.  It is also very helpful for kettle bell snatches.

Will Weight Lifting Chalk Prevent Calluses?
The short answer is no.  In fact, since the calk makes hands less slippery, it can actually encourage the formation of calluses.  In order to prevent this, consider investing in weightlifting gloves or learning how to use pumice stones or callus files.

Alternatives to Weight Lifting Chalk
There are alternatives to weight lifting chalk, but most are not as effective.  One alternative product is liquid chalk, which is essentially a quick-dry alcohol solution.  A can of antiperspirant or deodorant from the supermarket is basically the same thing, and probably cheaper too.  This spray is applied to each hand and allowed to dry before training.  While it does prevent the palms from sweating, it does not prevent moisture from making the palms slippery.  Some liquid chalk brands make the hands more “grippy” but this is more helpful to rock climbers than weightlifters, especially when they are performing any ballistic moves like cleans or with kettle bells.

Other alternatives include weight lifting gloves, weight lifters wrist straps, weight lifting hooks or even a sheet of inner-tube rubber (wrap it around the weightlifting bar).  All of these can aid in lifting if grip strength is an issue.  They are also useful alternatives when chalk is not an option.

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