It’s hard to beat gym chalk to keep your hands dry and improve your grip when lifting. I use chalk in my workouts almost every day, for all kinds of exercises like cleans, pulls, rows and pullups.
But, sometimes using chalk isn’t an option and you have to come up with another option. Maybe the gym you’re visiting doesn’t allow chalk or maybe you’re just out.
There are alternatives for gym chalk like a rosin bag, straps and liquid chalk that will still keep your hands dry when you find yourself unable to chalk up before a set.
In this article I’m going to share with you five alternatives for gym chalk, how to use each one and where you might be able to find them.
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Why Use Chalk For Lifting?
Before we get into alternatives for chalk, we have to understand why we use chalk in the first place.
Having a good grip on the bar, whether a barbell or a pull-up bar, will increase your ability to apply force to the bar which in turn makes you stronger for that particular set.
And for many exercises, once your grip goes, you’re toast.
Chalk keeps your hands dry which increases surface friction and reduces the bar’s tendency to want to slip away from your hands.
Not only does chalk help improve your grip, but by helping you keep the bar more secure in your hands, chalk also helps protect your hands from getting ripped up by calluses.
Lifting in hot and humid conditions combined with a heavy dose of pulling exercises can wreak havoc on your hands, but using chalk can help reduce the amount of wear and tear your hands receive.
So, what about when you can’t use chalk? You need to find other ways to keep your hands dry and tacky.
Gym Chalk Alternatives
From a performance standpoint, liquid chalk is the best alternative to using a common block of chalk. I have friends that even prefer liquid chalk over block chalk and it’s actually their preferred method of using chalk for working out.
I still prefer my block chalk, but I’ve liked liquid chalk the times I’ve used it.
What makes it perfect for a lot of lifters is that even if your gym doesn’t allow chalk, you can usually still get by with using liquid chalk. This is because liquid chalk doesn’t involve chalk dust flying around all over the place ‘making a mess’.
Most of the time, no one at your gym will even realize you’re using it.
If you have your own home gym and you don’t want to deal with chalk dust ending up all over everything then liquid chalk might be a great alternative for you as well.
There are multiple brands of liquid chalk that you can easily pick up on Amazon. The only kind I’ve personally used is SportMedIQ Liquid Chalk and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone wanting to try liquid chalk out for themselves.
Using lifting straps is the best way to keep your grip secure on the bar and save your hands from wear and tear trying to grip the bar.
They’re also extremely cost-effective as well – probably even more so than chalk.
A pair of lifting straps will cost you around $15, give or take, and will last you years. Seriously, I used the same pair of lifting straps for almost a decade.
Lifting straps are a great alternative to gym chalk, but even if you have access to chalk, straps are still great in addition to using chalk. The combination of the two can keep you locked into the bar for heavy sets of rows, pulls and/or deadlifts.
Depending on what type of you lifting you generally do (Olympic lifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding) will depend on what type of lifting strap will fit you best. I’ve tried out lots of straps over the years and here are my personal favorites.
Occam’s Razor basically states that the simplest solution is often the correct one.
I know that telling you to use a towel to keep your hands dry is not the kind of insight you came to this article for.
But, here’s the thing – I rarely see people using one.
People will use every square inch of their shirt and shorts to dry their hands until they run out of dry spots. Actually use a towel though? Hardly ever.
I take a towel with me out to the garage for hot summer lifts every time. I find a towel indispensable, even with chalk (or lifting straps for that matter). Having a towel to wipe your hands and forearms dry before a set is one of the simplest (and cheapest) alternatives to gym chalk.
If you’re not utilizing a towel for your workouts, especially in hot environments, you should start immediately.
If you’ve ever watched baseball pitchers pick up that little white bag that sits beside the pitcher’s mound, then you’re familiar with a rosin bag. Bowlers also use rosin bags to help them keep their grip on the bowling ball.
A rosin bag is a small canvas bag that is filled with rosin powder – a sticky substance made from the sap of fir trees.
Because they create way less dust (some bags will give off barely any at all) than block chalk and because you can keep the bag easily concealed in a bag or even your pocket, you can usually use a rosin bag as a chalk alternative if your gym doesn’t allow chalk.
They’re also pretty cheap, generally under $10. Here’s a Hot Glove Rosin Bag off Amazon to check out if a rosin bag sounds like a good chalk alternative for your situation.
Gloves… If You Must
The idea of me recommending anyone to wear gloves while lifting weights makes my skin crawl.
Call me old school, but I just don’t believe gloves should be worn in a weight room.
So, while I can’t in good conscious recommend you to wear lifting gloves, they are a thing that companies make that are technically an alternative to gym chalk.
I’ve had people ask me before if baby powder is a good alternative for chalk.
The answer is no, it’s not. In fact, if you try to use baby powder you’ll get the exact opposite effect that you’re going for.
Baby Powder is made of talcum powder which actually makes surfaces more slippery, not tackier.
Powerlifters will actually use baby powder, but not for gripping the bar. They’ll use baby powder on their quads to help the bar slide up their thighs on the deadlift.
If you’re looking for a gym chalk alternative, stay away from baby powder. Use one (or more) of the other alternatives that I discussed.
Maintaining your grip on the bar is essential for building strength in the weight room and chalk is a great tool to help improve and maintain that grip.
But, when chalk isn’t an option, you’ll need to get a little creative and hopefully this article gave you at least one option that you can utilize in place of your block of chalk.
Finally, while we’re on the subject of chalk, you should definitely look into chalk buckets to store your gym chalk in your home gym if you haven’t done so already.