It can be frustrating and potentially dangerous to feel your hand slipping in the middle of a heavy lift. Gym chalk will improve your grip and help to protect your hands against skin tears. Chalk is especially useful when doing heavy lifts like deadlifts or chin ups. Some gyms are even supplying chalk these days for their members as the popularity of powerlifting exercises grows. It can be a great tool to help you push to that next level.
What and When to Chalk
Gym chalk is magnesium carbonate and helps to secure a proper grip by soaking up the moisture on your palms and fingers. While some people like to use weight lifting gloves, the best way to a firm grip is by using chalk which is the reason why gymnasts and power lifters use chalk. Gloves also have a negative effect on the sensory feedback you get from the nerves in your hands and fingertips. Chalk is mostly used for power and Olympic lifting exercises, heavy barbell pulling exercises, chins and dips, or dynamic kettlebell exercises. Basically anything that requires a firm grip to maximise your lift.
Dries Up Sweaty Grip
The last thing you want when you’re working hard to get those last few sets out is to be worried about your sweaty hands holding you back from lifting a PB. Spreading a thin dusting of chalk over your palms and fingers will give you drier hands to grip the barbell and lift safely.
Lift Heavier for Longer
We all want to last longer. And chalk will definitely allow you to take your performance in the gym to that next notch. When your lifting heavy weights, your fingers and hands are usually the first place where your grip begins to slip. This might mean that you need to work on strengthening your grip, and there are people who warn against using chalk for the reason that it cheats you out of developing grip strength. If that is a concern of yours, then maybe save the chalk for the last set. Using chalk for your final sets will help you to lift heavier for more repetitions, giving you a better workout.
Aid in Injury Prevention
Chalk will help protect the skin on your hands by drying it out and forming a thin barrier between your skin and the barbell. This layer will help protect the skin on your palms from tearing, especially the tops of calluses which are prone to tear when sweaty. Using chalk can also help protect against compensation injuries – those injuries that occur when you feel yourself losing grip and try to bounce the bar in your hands to get a better grip. Doing this can cause havoc on your back and put unnecessary stress on your joints. Using gym chalk, especially for heavy sets, will help you to keep perfect form throughout your lift and allow you to squeeze out those extra few reps!
Some people suggest that using chalk can in fact help your grip strength because of the fact that you’re lifting heavier weights. I tend to agree with the opposing argument that using chalk can have a negative effect on building grip strength but it certainly won’t hurt it. Using chalk will just help you maximise your lifts, by allowing you to hold a firmer grip for longer. Battling against slipping palms and a smooth bar might help build your grip strength, but there are better exercises for doing that so if increased grip strength and forearm mass are a goal for you then target them with specific exercises.
Chalk might seem like a small addition to your gym routine but you will be surprised at just how much difference it can make. There’s also a bit of positive mind games associated with it too, using the chalk and taking that extra bit of time to prep and focus on the lift will allow you to push through mental barriers. Half of the battle of lifting is breaking through those mental barriers and playing mind games with yourself, so if you find something that works then roll with it!