putting chalk on hands before lifting weights

There are two white, powdery substances very popular with powerlifters: chalk and baby powder. Chalk, which is common in weight lifting as well as rock climbing and gymnastics, is used to enhance your grip. Baby powder (or talcum powder), on the other hand, is used for lubrication.

Chalk vs Talc

Chalk, which is common in weight lifting as well as rock climbing and gymnastics, is used to enhance your grip. It keeps your hands dry when they would otherwise get sweaty and slippery.

Talcum powder (commonly referred to as “baby powder”) is used for lubrication. This is wiped on your quads to make it easier to slide the bar up at the top of the deadlift. (Otherwise the bar’s knurling can tear at your skin and/or singlet.)

Don’t get the two mixed up! You don’t want to get baby powder on your hands or feet.

Chalk for Powerlifting

Chalk absorbs sweat so you are ensured a tight grip on the bar.

This is important because for most people, their grip is their “weak link” in their deadlift. A tight grip is useful for the squat and bench press, too.

Another trick is to put chalk on your butt and shoulder blades for the bench press (since these parts of your body need to stay in contact with the bench).

Typically you get a bag of chalk powder or a block. The block is placed into a special “chalk ball” or “chalk bag” for carrying purposes. It is much less messy than the powder.

Nowadays there is also liquid chalk. This is a spray or lotion that provides the same benefits as dry chalk, but doesn’t make a mess. It is basically chalk mixed with alcohol so it dries fast.

CAUTION: Some gyms disallow chalk since it makes a mess. If your local gym is like that, there are some liquid chalk alternatives listed below.

If you can’t find any at your local outdoors store (check the rock climbing section), Amazon.com has a wide selection. Here are some good ones:

The Best Chalk

Here is my favorite chalk, chalk sock, and liquid chalk.

black diamond white gold chalk powder

Black Diamond White Gold Loose Chalk
This is just plain chalk powder and chunks, but it’s rumored to be the best chalk out there. Black Diamond knows their stuff! It’s a good value, too.
Check price on Amazon.com

metolius refillable chalk sock

Metolius Super Chalk Sock
A soft little sock filled with chalk. You can squeeze it and it coats your hands. Very convenient! Be sure to get the refillable version.
Check price on Amazon.com

Bison Designs Competition Chalk
Another high-quality chalk powder, this one is very fine and silky smooth. It is excellent for refilling a chalk sock.
Check price on Amazon.com

friction labs liquid chalk

Friction Labs Liquid Chalk
If you want a longer-lasting chalk, and something that doesn’t make a mess, try liquid chalk. I suggest Friction Labs Secret Stuff liquid chalk. It’s made in the USA and comes in a skin-friendly, alcohol-free formula.
Check price on Amazon.com

Baby Powder for Powerlifting

johnson's baby powder for use in weight lifting

Just go to any drug store and grab a bottle. It’s all the same.

(Technically, talcum powder is made from talc, while baby powder may be made from talc or cornstarch. But I don’t think it makes a difference for our purposes.)

Tip: In competition, make sure someone else applies the baby powder to your thighs. You can’t risk getting any on your hands.

Also keep in mind that baby powder is just as messy as chalk. It is often banned in gyms as well as smaller powerlifting meets because it requires extra time and money to clean up.

Photo Credit: Michael Brooking

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