Let’s Talk Chalk

Chalking your hands. To some, it’s an integral part of their workout and the very last thing they do before hearing the words 3, 2, 1, GO! It is taken for granted in the CrossFit universe that chalk is an important part of a workout and for good reason. If I’m swinging a heavy kettlebell overhead then I am definitely putting chalk on my hands first. There is, however, a difference between slightly dusting your hands with chalk and going overboard:

So, here’s the score on chalk:

When to chalk and where to chalk

Chalk is a helpful aid in those workouts where you’re lifting heavy objects or swinging around on a pull- up bar.  Usually a very light dusting is all you need. It’s rare you need to coat your whole hand. Here are a few of examples of when to apply chalk and where:

  1. When lifting weight: place some chalk on your thumb to help maintain your hook grip and on your palms to reduce sweating.
  2. During pull-ups: dust your fingertips and the base of your fingers.
  3. When performing muscle-ups: apply on the side of your hand where you hold false grip and across the top of your palm
  4. FYI: You don’t need to apply chalk during burpees.
Person showing the palms of their hands with white chalk applied
Using too much chalk could lead to too much friction and a painful tear

Don’t use chalk as an excuse during a WOD

There’s really no reason to hit the chalk bucket more than once during a workout — unless your hands sweat like waterfalls. So, next time you think, ‘I need chalk’ during a tough WOD, consider whether or not it’s really necessary or if it’s just your brain’s way of cutting you some slack during a tough workout.

How much chalk should you use?

The reason we use chalk is to create friction between the sensitive skin of our hands and an object. Chalk absorbs our sweat —making better contact and allowing us to hold on longer and grip firmer. If you have too much chalk there will be too much friction and that usually causes painful tears in the skin of your hands. Most people need none or very little chalk to stop their hands from sweating.  If you are one of those people whose hands do sweat quite frequently (you will know if you are) then I suggest bringing a towel to wipe your hands off first before applying chalk. Chalk usually only needs to be applied once in a workout.

Next time you are in a workout I challenge you to try and hit the chalk bucket once through your workout. The results will be a faster, less hand-tearing, safe workout.

Broder McNeill is a coach and co-owner at Alchemy CrossFit

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