Lifting Chalk - Why and How to Use It – Garage Strength

Lifting Chalk - Why and How to Use It

Stop letting PRs slip away by using the wrong chalk. As with any athlete, there might be a preference for what equipment you use during training. That includes lifting chalks.

Lifting chalk is used to protect hands during training, improve grip security, and also prevent injuries from uncontrolled weights. Do not get lifting chalk confused with regular chalk that you used to play outside with. This chalk is easier to clean up, often cheaper, and often has minimal ingredients to reduce skin irritation. Yes…there are different options and forms of lifting chalk.

So what are the options?

Aside from traditional blocks of chalks, you’ll find new ways to dry out hands for activity such as lifting, throwing, or climbing. The two other ways that you can get better grips with chalk include liquid chalk and chalk balls.

We’ll dive deeper into the benefits and compromises of each one, but it’s important to understand your options right off the bat.

Throughout this article, we’ll touch on why magnesium carbonate is the go to solution for drying your hands during training and how the different variations may be ideal for your gym bag. Then to top it off, we’ll give you the Garage Strength recommendations for the gym chalk you should be using depending on the type you’re looking for.


What is Lifting Chalk

Lifting chalk is a staple in gym bags and athletic venues around the world, yet many people don't fully understand what it is, why it's used, or what it's made of.

First things first, what exactly is lifting chalk?

Despite what the name might suggest, it's not the same chalk that's used on classroom blackboards. Lifting chalk is a topical substance primarily used to dry out the hands. It absorbs the sweat and moisture that often accumulate on our palms during strenuous activities, which in turn enhances grip and reduces the chances of an unfortunate slip-up.

Different types of athletes use lifting chalk, not just weightlifters. Rock climbers rely on it to keep their hands dry while scaling rough terrains, helping them maintain a secure hold on rocks and equipment.

Throwers, such as shot put, discus, and javelin athletes, use it to better control their equipment during the heat of competition. Even gymnasts and pole dancers apply lifting chalk for a secure grip during complex maneuvers.

Interestingly, lifting chalk isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. There are various types that cater to different athletes' needs, with each variant boasting unique attributes.

The most commonly used forms are block chalk, loose chalk, liquid chalk, and chalk balls. Block chalk, often a large lump of solid chalk, is popular for its longevity and cost-effectiveness. Loose chalk is essentially block chalk that's been crushed into a powder and is favored for its easy application. Liquid lifting chalk, a blend of chalk and alcohol, is praised for its mess-free application and longer-lasting effects. Lastly, chalk balls are small sacks filled with chalk, reducing waste and preventing excessive dust.

Magnesium Carbonate

Now, let's discuss the primary component of lifting chalk: magnesium carbonate (MgCO3).

Magnesium carbonate is a white, inorganic compound that's been the athlete's choice for decades. It's preferred over alternatives because it's excellent at absorbing moisture without making the hands feel overly dry or chalky.

Additionally, it doesn't usually cause skin irritation, which can be a concern with continued use of some substances.

Apart from its stellar moisture-absorbing properties, magnesium carbonate also provides a certain level of friction that enhances grip. The fine particles of the chalk increase the surface area of contact between the hand and the object being gripped (be it a barbell, rock, or javelin).

This friction plays a crucial role in providing the lifter, climber, or thrower with the control they need during their activity.

Magnesium carbonate is not only effective but also safe. It's non-toxic and doesn't pose a risk if inhaled in small quantities (although, of course, one should always try to avoid direct inhalation). Magnesium carbonate is easily washable, which means you can get rid of it as soon as you're done with your training session or competition.

When to Use Gym Chalk

While chalk can be used with various applications, some scenarios warrant the need for lifting chalk more than others.

When it comes to using lifting chalk, the primary deciding factor is how sweaty your hands are. If your palms are excessively sweaty, they'll naturally become slippery, compromising your grip.

This is where lifting chalk comes in.

Lifting chalk helps absorb the sweat and provides a layer of friction which can significantly improve your hold. Therefore, irrespective of the workout, if your hands are damp and your grip feels unsteady, it's time to reach for the chalk.


Specialized athletes, such as weightlifters and gymnasts, use weightlifting chalk in a more targeted manner. Olympic lifting, with its dynamic movements, requires a rock-solid grip on the bar.

Whether it's the big pull of a clean and jerk, or securely catching a snatch in the hole, having a good grip is non-negotiable. Chalk should often be liberally applied before almost every lift to ensure the bar doesn't slip mid-motion.


Gymnasts, on the other hand, utilize gymnastics chalk for an array of athletic feats. From the parallel bars to the rings, a reliable grip can mean the difference between a perfect routine and a dangerous fall.

Before each performance, gymnasts should apply a generous coating of chalk to their hands, and often their wrists and forearms, to keep their grip firm and steady.

General Fitness

For general athletes and gym-goers, lifting chalk can be employed whenever they feel their grip faltering. Exercises like pull-ups, deadlifts, and rows are prime examples.

In these movements, the entire weight of the bar (or the athlete's body, in the case of pull-ups) hangs from the grip of the hands. When fatigue sets in and sweat starts to build up, chalk can should be used to get hose reps in safely and comfortably.


Powerlifters and weightlifters can use lifting chalk in a slightly different way in competition. For them, chalk's utility extends beyond just the palms.

In movements like the back squat or the clean, the bar is often positioned across the shoulders or collarbone. Sweating in these areas can cause the bar to slide, disrupting the lift or, worse, causing injury. To prevent this, these athletes can apply chalk to these areas, providing an extra layer of security to keep the bar in place.

Rock Climbers

Let's not forget the rock climbers, who often rely on chalk to conquer challenging ascents. Given the nature of the sport, climbers can't afford a weak grip. Here, chalk becomes a necessity, not a luxury. Before and during a climb, they will frequently chalk up their hands to ensure a reliable hold on every precarious ledge and crevice.

In the end, the use of lifting chalk boils down to personal preference and the demands of your sport or workout. Not all activities will necessitate chalk, and not all athletes will prefer it.

However, for those exercises or sports where grip plays a pivotal role and sweat is a common enemy, lifting chalk can provide a substantial advantage. Its usage isn't restricted to any specific point during a workout, but rather linked to your individual need – typically when sweat starts interfering with your grip or equipment stability.


Lifting chalk can provide shot putters with a more reliable grip on the shot, especially during the outdoor season when humidity and perspiration can make the shot slippery.

Before the throw, athletes will typically apply a generous layer of chalk to their fingers and palm. This ensures a firm and confident hold on the shot, enabling them to channel their strength more effectively during the throw.

Additionally, shot putters often place the shot against their neck during the initial stage of the throw. This positioning, although crucial for leveraging power, creates a risk of the shot slipping due to sweat or skin oils. To counter this, athletes often apply chalk to their neck area. The chalk provides an extra layer of friction, keeping the shot securely in place throughout the rotation and launch.

Different Types of Lifting Chalk

Chalk Block

Block chalk is the OG of lifting chalk. It comes in large, solid squares that can be broken down into smaller chunks or ground into a fine powder chalk for when it’s needed. Its popularity stems from its effectiveness and economical value, offering a substantial amount of chalk at an affordable price.

You can often get 4-8 blocks for around $20

Block chalk’s dry texture effectively absorbs sweat and enhances grip, while being easy to apply as you can get really specific since you hold it. However, it’s also the messiest of the three main types of chalk.

The chalk dust tends to disperse in the air and on the floor, which can lead to additional cleanup work and potential respiratory irritation.

Transporting block chalk can be somewhat cumbersome, given its bulkier size if not broken down and can get a gym bag really messy if it spills inside the bag.

Some gyms may also have restrictions on using block chalk due to its messiness. Despite these downsides, for athletes who value efficacy and value for money, block chalk remains an appealing choice.

This is the chalk we use at Garage Strength for our athletes because it is easy to share and a block lasts about half a week even with hundreds of athletes coming through the door every day.

Liquid Chalk

Liquid chalk is a modern twist on traditional chalk, combining magnesium carbonate with alcohol to create a quick-drying paste. As the alcohol evaporates after application, it leaves behind a layer of chalk that’s resistant to sweat and offers a solid grip.

One of the biggest benefits of liquid lifting chalk is its convenience.

It comes in compact, spill-proof bottles that are easy to transport. Plus, the application is a breeze — simply squirt, rub your hands together, and now you’re chalked up. The low-dust, low-mess nature of liquid chalk makes it a favorite among gym owners and cleanliness-conscious athletes.

However, liquid chalk tends to be more expensive than its counterparts and doesn’t last as long.

It also dries out the skin more than other types, which can be an issue for individuals with already dry or sensitive skin. Some athletes find the grip provided by liquid chalk to be less effective than block chalk, but this largely depends on individual preference.

Chalk Ball

A chalk ball is essentially a small sack filled with crushed chalk, which is released through the fabric when squeezed. Chalk balls combine the effectiveness of block chalk with the reduced mess of liquid chalk, offering a sort of middle-ground option.

The main advantage of chalk balls lies in their mess-minimizing design. As the chalk is contained within the sack, the amount of dust that escapes into the air and onto the floor is significantly reduced. Chalk balls are also reasonably portable, making them a good option for climbers and athletes on the go.

On the downside, chalk balls may not provide as thorough a coating as block or liquid chalk, as the distribution is more controlled. Also, depending on the fabric's permeability, getting enough chalk out can occasionally be a struggle, especially as the ball nears the end of its lifespan.

4 Best Chalks to Use

TO be honest, it’s hard to define the “best lifting chalk” on the market. Because in reality, the best lifting chalk is going to be something simple, convenient, non-irritable, and dry. That is magnesium carbonate to a tee. Instead of talking about the best lifting chalk, let’s look at our favorite options for each.

Garage Strength Lifting Chalk

You know we had to throw a shameless plug in here. Garage Strength lifting chalk is the day-in and day-out chalk that athletes like Hayley Reichardt, Jake Horst, and Eric Favors use for their training sessions.

Our lifting chalk is exactly what you’d expect: a block of premium magnesium carbonate.

If you are an athlete or are prone to some serious training sweats, you might want to look into higher quality chalk like this. This is the formula elite athletes use in the dead of the humid, Pennsylvania summer where 90 degrees makes you sweat more than a dry 105.

Garage Strength lifting chalk absorbs moisture instead of mixing with it so that your hands stay dry and protected without the caking of lower quality chalks.

Although this is not liquid chalk or a chalk ball, Garage Strength lifting chalk is a good solution for athletes and conditions where you will be sweatier than usual.

Ader Gym Chalk

When it comes to just snagging some chalk and running with it, Ader Gym Chalk is a good go-to. Ader chalk is hard to beat when it comes to value and it stays true to being just straight magnesium carbonate.

There’s nothing fancy, no gimmicks, and nothing that makes this chalk the “ultimate chalk to use” and that’s why we love it. Before we started making our own lifting chalk, we used Ader here at Garage Strength.

Ader was used in every chalk bin, used by every athlete that walked through the doors, and every thrower that was tossing bombs in the shot circle. Ader has helped Garage Strength develop freak athletes like Nick Singleton and world medalists like Hayley Reichardt.

For about $15 per pound of chalk (8 2oz blocks per package), it’s perfect for stocking fully loaded gyms, or lasting the average at-home lifter for about 6 months.

If you’re not getting chalk through Garage Strength, Ader is the next best thing.

ToGear Liquid Chalk

Togear offers a great liquid chalk set which is probably the easiest and cleanest chalk to transport.

Although we aren’t the biggest fans of liquid chalk and it’s not something we use for our athletes, this is a good solution for individuals. I know that some gyms like LA Fitness and YMCAs may be stingy abotu chalk usage, but that’s primarily with block and dusty chalk.

As bad as it sounds, if you are lifting at a commercial gym where they might call you out for using chalk, Togear liquid chalk is a good solution to sneak around those rules.

I’m not saying you should break the rules of the gym you go to. Always respect the rules of any fitness campus you visit. Just if you decide to go through with it anyway, liquid chalk will be a lot less noticeable compared to chalk or a ball.

Togear’s set is easily portable, has minimal ingredients to reduce skin irritation, and cleans up easily. The only thing you may run into trouble with is the effectiveness of the chalk when dried and having to reapply generously to get the grip you want.

Bryo Refillable Chalk Sock

If you are in the loose powder club (unlike me) then you will probably want to go with the Bryo Refillable Chalk Sock. Especially if you are a traveling lifter of one.

The Byro sock has an extra level of mess protection with the secondary chalk bag that comes along with the ball. The Primo Chalk Ball doesn’t come standard with this.

 This sock and ball is not meant to house block chalk, at least in its blocky form. This is for those carrying around the powder chalk and prefer the refined chalk to apply to their hands.

Refiling the sleeve is inexpensive, but may get messy as you pour. So just be careful that when you are ready for a refill, that you do it outside or in an area that is easy to clean up.

Bottom Line

The chalk you use is really up to your preference and what your gym allows, but if you are training at a performance gym or at home, the chalk block is the way to go. Even if you go to a commercial gym that allows chalk, find a Tupperware or a Ziplock baggie to house your chalk block throughout your workout.

The chalk block is easy to share, quick to replace, and can be broken down into a powder if that is the form you prefer. Garage Strength lifting chalk is what our throwers, football players, weightlifters, and general fitness clients use everyday to become the best versions of themselves.

As someone that may drive to a gym that doesn’t provide complimentary chalk or attend a gym that is strict with chalk rules, liquid chalk may be a better option. Although you will probably end up paying a little extra for a chalk that doesn’t provide the same secure grip as a block or a ball.

For chalk that can withstand the brunt of 2-3 hours of intense and probably sweaty training, check out Garage Strength’s lifting chalk for details and specs. If you want to train to be a freak, you have to be prepared like one. Lather the chalk and don’t let go of any goals you’re working toward.

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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