Chalk vs Lifting Strap (Which is Better – Pros & Cons)
Chalk and Lifting Straps are the two most effective ways at improving your grip strength when lifting weights and can help protect your hands from excessive wear and tear.
But, the question this article is going to tackle is – is one of these lifting accessories better than the other for grip dominance in the weight room?
The answer is actually dependent upon your situation and needs.
I’m going to go over the pros and cons of both gym chalk and lifting straps and examine which has an advantage depending upon where you’re working out and what you’re working out for.
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Why Is Grip Important?
First, let’s quickly talk about why grip is important and how chalk and lifting straps act as an aid for your grip.
If you’re doing heavy pulling exercises – whether that’s Deadlifts, Cleans or maybe Shrugs – then grip can sometimes be a limiting factor in your ability to move the weight.
Chalk and Lifting Straps enhance your ability to grip the bar (or dumbbells) and therefore allow you to move heavier weight for more reps.
The other area Chalk and Lifting Straps can help your grip is to reduce the wear and tear your hands can endure if doing a lot of pulling movements.
Weightlifters, especially, do a lot of pulling. Between the Olympic lifts and their variations, a weightlifter’s hands can get chewed up from all the volume. Add a hot gym into the mix and you can find your hands getting completely destroyed.
Chalk and even more so Lifting Straps can limit the amount of sliding around the bar does within the grip (which creates friction and calluses/torn skin).
That’s why grip is so important. Now, let’s look more closely at both chalk and lifting straps and their pros and cons.
Let’s start with gym chalk.
Pros of Gym Chalk
To be clear, chalk is extremely effective. There is a reason why a chalk bucket is the last thing weightlifters pass by on their way onto an Olympic platform.
Having said that, chalk is also very popular because it’s cheap.
I can buy an 8-pack of chalk for around twenty bucks, which will last me years.
It’s also easily portable. I can throw a block of chalk into a Tupperware container that fits easily inside a gym bag.
Chalk helps improve your grip, but does not hinder your grip strength development. One of the drawbacks of lifting straps is that using them too much can actually be detrimental to your grip strength (more on that in a minute).
Using chalk doesn’t carry that issue.
Finally, chalk is legal to use in competition. If you plan to compete in weightlifting or powerlifting, chalk is perfectly legal to use in a meet. Straps, however, will not be.
Cons of Gym Chalk
Chalk can be messy. If you have chalk in your gym, it’s inevitably going to be everywhere and on everything (Liquid Chalk is an option if this is a big problem).
If you’re working out at home or at a weightlifting gym then that might not be an issue for you. But, there are many gyms that don’t allow chalk in their gym for this very reason.
The other issue that chalk has is it can start to struggle if you’re really sweating a lot in a hot gym. I live in Georgia and run into this issue in the summer. At a certain point, chalk can’t keep up with how sweaty your hands become.
Now, let’s switch over to lifting straps.
Pros of Lifting Straps
Chalk is effective at improving your grip, but Lifting Straps make your grip practically superhuman.
Lifting Straps will lock you into a bar like nothing else can. Doing shrugs with 5 plates on each side? No problem. Deadlifting 600 pounds? No problem.
Unlike chalk, there is a reason why Lifting Straps are not allowed in competitions. They are that effective.
Another pro? Lifting Straps are cheap. You can get a great pair of lifting straps for around $20 or less.
I had a pair of Lifting Straps that lasted me almost a decade. Hard to argue that’s not a pretty good value.
Lifting Straps will continue to work regardless of sweat or humidity.
I mentioned earlier that, at a certain point, chalk will have a hard time keeping up if you’re in a hot and humid gym. Lifting Straps, on the other hand, will keep doing their job regardless of how much your sweating.
On hot summer days, I’ll usually start with using chalk, but about 30 minutes into my workout I’ll switch almost exclusively to Lifting Straps.
Cons of Lifting Straps
If you rely on lifting straps too much, especially as a beginner, lifting straps can actually be detrimental to your grip strength development.
Lifting Straps do so much of the work that your actual grip barely has to work at all to hold onto the bar. If you become dependent on them and use them for all of your pulling movements then your own grip will never get the work it needs to improve.
Straps should only be used on sets when they’re absolutely necessary to maintain your grip on the bar. Or, for experienced lifters to reduce the wear and tear on their hands for particular exercises.
Chalk or Lifting Straps: Which Should You Buy?
Honestly, this one is pretty easy. The answer is both.
Because Chalk and Lifting Straps both have their own pros and cons when it comes to aiding and enhancing your grip. And, because both are so inexpensive, there is really no reason to not have both.
We’re not talking about deciding between two different barbells that cost hundreds of dollars. You can get a pack of chalk and a pair of lifting straps for less than $50 and be good to go for years to come.
What type of chalk and lifting straps do I use?
For block chalk, I’ve been using Cramer Block Chalk for a long time. It’s also the chalk that we would buy to supply the college weight rooms I worked in.
For lifting straps, I’m loving these straps from Warm Body Cold Mind. The extra width of the strap makes the connection to the bar amazing.
Both Chalk and Lifting Straps do an amazing job at improving your grip and protecting your hands.
Both do this slightly differently and both have their own pros and cons.
This is why (combined with the fact that they’re both very inexpensive) I highly recommend having both in your gym bag.