Before I got into lifting weights, my associations with chalk came from elementary school and that scene in Jaws where Quint scrapes his fingers down the chalkboard. Once I began strength training consistently, and my poundages began increasing, I discovered the joys of weightlifting chalk. Is joy too strong a word? Maybe, but not if you’ve ever been in the middle of a set of kettlebell long cycle and gotten so sweaty that the bells are slipping out of your hands while blisters threaten at every rep.
Of if you’ve been shooting for a new deadlift max and the stupid bar simply slips out of your hands. Assuming your hands are strong enough to hold onto it, the answer could be as simple as a tiny dab of hand or weight lifting chalk.
The first time I used it was at the Tactical Strength Challenge in Grand Junction, Colorado. There was a giant bowl of it, everyone else was using it, so I used it too. Probably way too much, but there were guys who had it from their fingertips all the way up to their elbows, so if I was overdoing it, they were staring into the abyss of madness.
Long story short, it helped. I’ve tried a few different brands at this point and what I have found is that brands don’t matter to me as long as the lifting chalk is magnesium carbonate. Putting a tiny bit on my hands causes a dramatic increase in my ability to hold onto things. It’s not unlike glue, except it isn’t sticky.
More interesting to me than the brand is the way the chalk is packaged and applied. Basically you’re looking at:
- Blocks of chalk that you can rub onto your hands
- Blocks that have been crushed into powder so you can dip in and do the Lebron James thing
- Bags of chalk that you pat the sides of to coat your hands with
- Balls of chalk that can be used like the blocks, or crushed
So far I like the bag the most. I’ve got one with a drawstring on it that I am able to put around my neck, which helps me with some of the higher-volume stuff like kettlebell long cycle where the goal is not to put the bell down. On the fly I can put chalk on my free hand simply by patting my hand against the bag.
I have friends, rock climbers, who use the bag for the same reason. Of course, lifting weights does not have stakes that are quite as high as dangling by the hands during an ascent, but you get the idea. The bag is portable, I find that I use less of the stuff when I apply it this way, and that’s probably what I’ll use until science comes up with some weightlifter surgery where you can have pre-chalked palms transplanted onto your own hands.