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Some of us are just natural water benders. Our hands sweat a lot, affecting our grip on objects and often leaving a slimy feeling on them.
Lifting weights at the gym requires firm grasping of the weights which can be hampered by sweaty palms.
Lifters and calisthenics enthusiasts, here’s what you need to know.
Table of Contents
- Why Is Gym Chalk So Expensive?
- What Can I Use Instead of Chalk for Lifting?
- Can I Use Crayola Chalk for Lifting?
- Difference Between Gym Chalk and Regular Chalk
- Is Gym Chalk Bad for Your Lungs?
- Can I Use Sidewalk Chalk for Lifting?
- Can You Use Baby Powder as Lifting Chalk?
- Can You Use Flour as Gym Chalk?
- Does Chalk Go Bad?
- How Much Does Chalk Help Deadlift?
- Is Lifting Chalk Toxic?
Why Is Gym Chalk So Expensive?
Magnesium carbonate is mostly sold in bags and bulks. The prices only differ depending on the amount of volume that is bought. In large volumes, chalk or magnesium carbonate is relatively cheap. However, chalk prices also depend on its intended use. In this case, gym chalk becomes expensive because its source and texture matters for the consumers.
‘How the chalk feels’ and ‘how effectively it dries out moisture’ are some of the things to consider in chalk production. This means the dryness and the way it was grinded (either fine dust-like grind or medium grind) are also taken into consideration.
What Can I Use Instead of Chalk for Lifting?
Chalk may be helpful in drying out moisture and improving your grip in lifting but it does not hide the fact that chalk dusts are generally annoying and would scatter all over the place. Other than that, if not cleaned properly, the accumulation of chalk dust and other particles such as sweat, dead skin, dirt, and blood may oxidize and leave rusts to your equipment. This is why most gyms prohibit lifting chalk to avoid damages. And besides, who would be patient enough to consistently clean such mess?
But alas, here are some of the chalk alternatives for gym enjoyers and athletes alike:
1. Liquid Chalk
Usually made up of magnesium carbonate, this is one of the best alternatives for lifters who want to have an enhanced performance with less mess to deal with.
Unlike a regular block chalk, liquid chalks tend to dry faster since it is a mixture of rosin and isopropyl or rubbing alcohol, which when exposed to the air, quickly dries out and leaves a slightly tacky feel that prepares your hand for action.
Plus, it does not demand constant reapplication since liquid chalks tend to last longer than regular chalks. Albeit more expensive than regular lifting chalks, the convenience and practicality of liquid chalks often outweighs the cost.
However, using liquid chalk with profusely sweaty hands may be more of an inconvenience since there would be a need to constantly layer and re-apply the chalk in order to achieve the desired results.
This could mean that liquid chalk would cost more than what they’re worth since you quickly go bottle to bottle in order to maximize the results. Here are more alternatives:
2. Exercise Gloves
While hardcore bodybuilders and athletes usually use chalk in lifting, casual gym goers and weightlifting enthusiasts often use gloves as a solution in improving hand grips and protection from calluses.
Exercise gloves provide a wide variety of designs depending on the purpose and how well suited it is for the user. This includes the fingerless and open-back gloves for breathability, to easily evaporate sweat, and preserve the dexterity of the fingers.
One common feature among these gloves are the wrist straps which would secure the user’s wrist to provide protection from unprecedented injuries.
Additionally, many gloves also come with silicon pads that are strategically placed at the right spot to specifically protect users from calluses in specific areas of the palm, however, some also use the silicon grip surfaces or rubbers to further enhance gripping.
3. Lifting Straps
Lifting straps or also called wrist straps is another alternative for chalk. This material is looped around the wrist and wrapped in the bar with the means to help the user in increasing their grip.
In an event where muscular strength overpowers your gripping capacity and your grip becomes the limiting factor for growth, straps are used as a tool to continue building strength.
Can I Use Crayola Chalk for Lifting?
Can I just crush school Crayola chalk when my lifting chalk runs out? You can, but note that the effectiveness in moisture control and grip of crayola from lifting or performance chalk differs greatly.
The ingredient in lifting chalk that provides better grip is the chemical compound magnesium carbonate. According to chemistry expert and Rice University Professor of Materials Science Andrew R. Barron, the said compound is insoluble in water, meaning they are incapable of being dissolved in water.
The word “carbonate” may sound familiar because it is used in common chalk like the ones from Crayola with another compound named calcium carbonate.
Difference Between Gym Chalk and Regular Chalk
These two chemical compounds both have the ability to absorb water but what sets them apart is that in the same way calcium carbonate absorbs water, it also gets dissolved in it.
Unlike magnesium carbonate, it absorbs moisture and does not dissolve in water.
Is Gym Chalk Bad for Your Lungs?
Generally, fine particles are bad for the lungs especially if they don’t get filtered properly by the cilia in our nose and windpipe. Tiny hairs inside our nostrils up to our trachea filter the air that we breathe and trap tiny particles such as dust from vehicle exhaust, pollen, and in this case, chalk.
So, you smear chalk in your hands and clap to even them out for better grip. Where do those micro particles go? Aside from dusting the place, they get inhaled. Chalk also builds up in curtains, nooks, and crannies, making the air quality poor. Of course if you get to inhale it infrequently and in short amounts of time, it would not be much of a problem.
However, if you frequently use gym chalk and the gym has little to no proper ventilation, you may be in for its long term effects to the respiratory system. It could worsen asthma, trigger bronchitis, and frequent inhaling of chalk dust could irritate the windpipe.
People sweat in the gym, not to mention coughing and sneezing. After taking samples of the air in gyms, research also found that bacteria like Salmonella (Salmonella cholereasuis), Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), E-Coli (Escherichia coli) and Candida (Candida albicans) thrive on shared gym chalk containers.
Do note though, that it is not the chalk that primarily harms the lungs, but what it is made of or rather, what it gets mixed with. Yes, it is magnesium carbonate as previously mentioned. But gyms often keep their chalk in one container like a plastic tub or bucket.
Sharing is never bad, but when it comes to hygiene and safety, you may want to keep your own stash of gym chalk. In a wad of gym chalk, it would be normal to find mat fibers, hair, and other harmless foreign things.
Can I Use Sidewalk Chalk for Lifting?
Calcium carbonate, the main ingredient of sidewalk chalks may be capable of absorbing moisture, it also easily dissolves in water according to Andrew R. Barron, a chemistry expert.
That is to say, using sidewalk chalk may be effective temporarily, but it cannot be used for lifting since it will lose its effectiveness the moment you start sweating.
Can You Use Baby Powder as Lifting Chalk?
Absolutely not. Baby powders are not an advisable alternative for chalk. Using baby powders may be used like a hack to reduce friction but it is not necessarily an alternative since it does not provide support when it comes to gripping.
They contain talcum powder or cornstarch, ingredients that do not ease your job in lifting and actually makes the bar more slippery.
Can You Use Flour as Gym Chalk?
Flour can be used as an alternative for a lot of things except gym chalk. One can make gym chalk out of flour but it was not proven effective since flour is made up of wheat, which has nothing to do in helping you lift weights, while gym chalk is composed of magnesium carbonate which was designed to dry out the moisture from your palms.
Flour may have a similar function as baby powder, which is to serve as an aid to reduce friction but is totally unhelpful in gripping bars.
Does Chalk Go Bad?
Normally, chalk will remain safe and usable even if it is used beyond the expiration date on the label, which is only placed there for the sole purpose of complying with the regulations. Even after the designated expiration date, chalk will not lose its effectiveness, or react differently when exposed to other chemicals.
However, chalk may absorb moisture from its surrounding environment when not stored in a sealed container. This is something you want to avoid. It is best to keep your chalk inside a ziplock bag or in airtight containers before stashing it together with your other lifting equipment.
If your chalk gets wet, you can always bake the moisture out to 120 degrees celcius in an oven or simply place it outside and let the sun do its thing.
How Much Does Chalk Help Deadlift?
While it is impossible to quantify ‘how much’ chalk helps in deadlift, some do say that chalk is essential in improving your grip on the bar.
It does not necessarily mean that chalk increases or decreases strength, however, it surely does enable you to pull more and express your actual strength potential that is often hindered by sweaty hands.
Chalks are also a necessary protection, it helps you to be safer in lifting. Since slipping or dropping weights can rip calluses, chalks are used to prevent severe injuries caused by slippery palms.
Is Lifting Chalk Toxic?
Lifting chalks is mostly made up of magnesium carbonate, a non-toxic and nonflammable chemical compound, which is relatively harmless to the human system. But that is just the mineral base of chalks.
Some brands differ in texture, which means other chemicals are added to further improve performance and effectivity. However, since magnesium carbonate does not react negatively to other chemicals, its toxicity is still far from possible.
So it is safe to say that chalk is not really that dangerous when taken in small to moderate amounts. Even if you eat a small amount of chalk, you would eventually be fine aside from tasting its dust-like texture. But health problems begin when the inhaled dust particles from chalk accumulate over time and are accompanied by other gym air pollutants that are caused by poor ventilation, growing molds, and dampness.