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Chalk is a fantastic tool when lifting weights to give your grip a helping hand (if you excuse the pun) – BUT for some people regular chalk just isn’t an option. Some gyms ban it and some people just find it agitates their skin too much.
Here are some awesome chalk substitutes you can use for weightlifting!
At a glance…
- The best alternative to regular chalk powder for weightlifting is liquid chalk
- Liquid chalk creates less mess and is therefore more discrete in use and can ‘fly under the radar’ in many commercial settings which frown on regular chalk use
- If you can’t use liquid chalk then lifting straps are a great alternative
- Straps have the downside for competitors of generally not being allowed in powerlifting competitions
What is a good substitute for chalk?
If you need an alternative to standard weight lifting chalk powder then you have a few options to choose from:
- Liquid chalk – a liquid that dries after application leaving a chalk powder on your hands. Creates far less mess and therefore can be used discretely in some gyms. The downside is it can dry out in the container over time turning it in to chalk powder. I actually use my dried out liquid chalk in my home gym so it’s not all wasted!
- Weight lifting straps – these reduce the emphasis on your grip strength by tethering you to the bar with a fabric or leather strap. These are SUPER simple to use and very affordable. The downside is they are usually not allowed in powerlifting meets so may not be ideal for competitive lifters.
- Chalk ball – near identical to powder chalk but formed in to a ball or bar. It’s easier to transport than powder but a little more difficult to apply given its fixed shape. It’s more messy than liquid chalk. Depending why you cannot use regular chalk a ball may not be feasible for you given they are so similar.
Overall I think liquid chalk is the best direct substitute for powder chalk as it dries to form a chalky residue without the mess. If you are prudent with its use you can likely use it discretely in most environments where chalk use is frowned upon. However if you cannot use liquid chalk due to your skin or outright bans on ALL chalk in your gym then I would recommend lifting straps which reduce the demand on your grip when training.
Is chalk necessary for weightlifting?
No, chalk is not required to successfully lift weights. Chalk is super handy for absorbing moisture and improving your grip on the bar, but you can live a long and happy lifting-based life without ever touching the stuff.
If you have the OPTION to use chalk it can HELP you achieve SOME goals – for example lifting heavier deadlifts without straps, more chin up reps, more pull-ups and other grip-limited activities are generally enhanced with chalk. If these are of interest then you will benefit from trying it out yourself.
Why do some gyms ban chalk?
Most gyms which ban chalk do it for the simple reason that it is messy and people don’t tend to clean up after themselves.
Careless use of chalk can leave the floor dusty (and getting loads of chalk off of gym matting can be a nightmare), the barbell knurling caked and therefore less effective for others AND it can lead to rust if the moisture-retaining chalk is not cleaned off the steel equipment. It is therefore easy to see why some gym owners simply don’t want to deal with chalk!
Most of the downsides can be circumvented by using a small amount as and when required and simply cleaning up after each session to keep the place neat and tidy.
What should you do if your gym doesn’t allow chalk?
In my experience if you clean up the equipment and gym space after yourself and use chalk discretely you will be left alone to use chalk in peace. That said, some places ARE strict – so please use your judgement before breaking (or bending!) any rules. Bringing a towel to the gym with you can help to dry your hands as much as possible before any lifts and will help you clean up any equipment when you are finished.
If you cannot feasibly use liquid chalk discretely I would recommend lifting straps as an alternative to chalk in this situation.
The best alternative to chalk for use when lifting weights is liquid chalk. It is easy to transport with you and creates far less mess than regular powdered chalk. This means MOST gyms will allow it – or turn a blind eye to you using it – as long as you clean up after yourself diligently. We should be doing this anyway though!
If your gym is firm in their ‘no chalk’ policy or you simply don’t want to use it for other reasons then lifting straps are an excellent way to take some of the pressure off of your grip strength when training with weights in the gym. They are cheap, readily available and very effective.