When weightlifting, you’ll start to notice that certain accessories are used quite frequently, especially if you go to a good gym with an extensive weights area. One popular – or common – accessory that many weightlifters use is chalk.
Lifting chalk improves and secures your grip during heavy Olympic weightlifting exercises like a snatch or clean and jerk. If you suffer from sweaty palms, have difficulty grasping that bar, or need to take caution when lifting overhead then lifting chalk is an almost essential item to have in your gym bag.
If, however, you use a gym that doesn’t allow chalk or you simply don’t want to chalk your hands before every big lift then it’s good to have some alternatives in your locker (or gym bag…).
In this article, we’ll therefore run through what to use instead of chalk for lifting, what the best lifting chalk alternatives are, and finally which alternatives are best based on individual preferences or training styles.
What To Use Instead of Chalk for Lifting
Chalk alternatives for weightlifting include liquid chalk, chalk blocks, lifting straps, or gloves.
These alternatives are useful options for those who do not want to use traditional loose weightlifting chalk. Finding the best alternative for you is dependent on your preferences, but some options on this list offer more advantages than others.
Lifting straps and gloves will provide more benefits than liquid chalk or chalk blocks, especially for those with chalk allergies. Additionally, if you tend to sweat more on your hands, these alternatives will be the best options.
Many of these alternatives are a bit more expensive than regular weightlifting chalk, but that can provide you with some distinct advantages in comparison. Nearly all of these alternatives are less messy than traditional weightlifting chalk (making them ideal for commercial gym use) and give you an easier application.
The best lifting chalk alternatives are:
- Liquid Chalk
- Lifting Straps
- Chalk Blocks
- Exercise Gloves
Best Weightlifting Chalk Alternatives
1. Liquid Chalk for Weightlifting
Liquid chalk is an excellent option for people looking to chalk up their hands without carrying chalk blocks with them. This type of chalk is applied by dipping your fingers into the liquid chalk and then rubbing it all over your hand or on the barbell before lifting weights.
Liquid chalk is usually made with magnesium carbonate, which cuts down on weight and cost.
Since liquid chalk is water-based, it will wash off quickly and easily in the shower or with a wet towel before weightlifting. This means there’s no residue left behind to attract more dust while lifting weights.
This is crucial when training in a commercial gym or home gym as cleaning your equipment after use is not only good etiquette but will maintain your gym equipment and keep it in good condition for long-lasting use.
Unlike the typical weightlifting chalk, it doesn’t clump up or break apart easily but instead stays in one piece as you work with it. Liquid weightlifting chalk is typically more expensive than traditional weightlifting chalk and has an easier application process so long as you know how to apply weight lifting gear correctly.
The cost is therefore offset by the ease of application, more convenient/practical use, and the ease of which you can clean it from your hands and equipment after use – which is a very good trade-off in our opinion!
If your hands often sweat though (like profusely sweating), then using liquid chalk might be inconvenient as you’d really need to layer it on to reap the full benefits which could mean you quickly go through bottles when compared against some other alternatives on this list.
2. Lifting Straps for Weightlifting
Lifting straps are another great option if you are looking for chalk alternatives. These straps wrap around your wrists and forearms to help keep the bar in place without having to chalk up as often. Lifting straps come in many different lengths with padded sleeves that can be adjusted accordingly.
** The padded wrist option is a personal preference though it’s not usually seen in the more “hardcore” weightlifting gyms. While I’ve got my fair share of basic figure 8 lifting straps, the best set I’ve ever owned is the Shiek padded lifting straps (check them out here). These are incredibly comfortable and place no strain on your wrists at all, even when lifting 450lbs or more!
Weightlifters will often use lifting straps to help their grip during weightlifting. To use lifting straps, insert the strap loops over your wrists and forearms and then attach them on either side of a barbell before gripping it.
Weightlifters may also wrap both hands around the strap loop at once, which allows him or herself to lift more weight than he could without using straps because they provide extra support to stay gripped onto the bar when weights become heavier (NSCA).
The key to lifting straps though is their versatility. Lifting straps can not only be utilized for Olympic weightlifting movements but also powerlifting movements (deadlift), and bodybuilding exercises (rows, pulldowns, pullups, shrugs).
A weak grip is often a limiting factor for most lifters as your grip can give out long before the targeted muscle group, particularly larger muscles like the back during rows and pulls. Straps, therefore, help you to fatigue a muscle group without your grip becoming a limiting factor.
Just note you shouldn’t rely on lifting straps in place of a weak grip. Any weak link should be rectified and not covered up with an accessory or fancy piece of equipment.
3. Chalk Blocks for Weightlifting
Chalk blocks are a finely grated form of the mineral gypsum.
They are used to dry out sweaty palms on weightlifting bars and provide grip in slippery conditions like rain or snow. Weightlifters use chalk blocks because it helps them maintain their grip while lifting heavy weights for repetitions. They offer a slightly neater alternative to loose weightlifting chalk that you’d get in a bag or tub.
Weightlifters will often pour chalk onto their hands before grabbing the bar so that sweat dries up and doesn’t interfere with weightlifting performance. Weightlifting chalk blocks are favored in Crossfit competitions where athletes perform multiple exercises in sequential order.
Chalk blocks help keep your hands dry when performing exercises like:
- Tire flipping
- High-knee running
- Rowing machines
- Squatting exercises
- Other bodyweight workouts.
Many weightlifters use chalk blocks because they can cost only $40 for a pack of eight. Chalk blocks are a comparable chalk alternative to liquid chalk, but liquid chalk is easier to transport and apply. You’ll find most weightlifters prefer liquid chalk because it sticks better on their hands than standard chalk does, so you need less product overall.
Some weightlifters will combine chalk powder with liquid to allow their hands to grip better when weightlifting. Still, this technique is not recommended for beginners because the mix can get into your eyes and cause irritation.
3. Exercise Gloves for Weightlifting
A general gym-goer or “casual” workout enthusiast will use exercise gloves to protect their palms from calluses or to offer a decent grip.
While more serious lifters will rarely use gloves, some lifting gloves have a chalk cloth sewn into them for easy application of the chalk before lifting weights so these are a viable alternative even for experienced lifters.
Weightlifting gloves come in multiple sizes for optimal comfort and even different colors for added style.
Exercise gloves are a good idea for people who suffer from chalk allergies or need to keep their chalk usage down. No matter what type of material they’re made of (leather, cotton), these options protect your hands when training at the gym by removing some friction between skin and bar.
These weightlifting gloves work well when doing exercises like deadlifts, pull-ups, or bent-over rows since these movements require more grip strength than others.
If you have any allergies from using chalk, then this might be worth trying out! Many people who don’t want excess contact will find the weightlifting glove useful because it removes some friction between skin and bar by protecting calluses and other problems.
Can You Use Baby Powder as a Chalk Alternative for Lifting?
Baby powder (talcum powder) can be used as a chalk alternative for weightlifting though it’s more of a hack and not necessarily recommended. It is not good to use baby powder if you are allergic or sensitive to talc because it contains the same ingredients. Still, people who do not have those sensitivities may find success using this chalk replacement.
Another benefit of using baby powder instead of chalk in your gym bag is that it does not leave white residue on metal equipment. You will be able to continue lifting without having any problems with irritation from chalk pieces left behind on bars and weights.
The only reason why baby powder is not on the lifting chalk alternatives list is that it’s not really an alternative. Baby powder is used to reduce friction (which is the purpose of lifting chalk) but offers no support when it comes to grip. If you have sweaty palms or difficulty grasping a barbell, baby powder will not help this so keep that in mind!
Lifting chalk is a common gym bag item for elite-level weightlifters but for the majority of people training, it’s not something that you’d consider to be an essential item. There’s no denying its use is beneficial though which leads people to wonder what to use instead of chalk for lifting?
If you’re looking for a like-for-like alternative, block chalk is a good option. For a more versatile alternative, lifting straps are definitely a great alternative to lifting chalk but in our opinion, liquid chalk is the best alternative.
Liquid chalk is slightly more expensive but is easier to apply, offers the same level of grip (and friction reduction), and it’s easier to clean up afterward so if you’re looking for a good lifting chalk alternative, liquid chalk could be the best option.