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Deadlift: When to Use chalk [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Aug 14, 2018 9:30:00 AM

 When to use chalk

Deadlift: When to use chalk

Chalk needs to be used when your grip fails during the deadlift or the knurling of the barbells has worn down. It is most effective for your most strenuous deadlift attempts. This can be for maximum repetitions or weight. Compared to other options to help your grip chalk is cheap and versatile. Do not use baby powder as a supplement for chalk. It lubricates instead of improving grip. To minimize the mess chalk makes use a chalk ball. The article explains how to apply chalk and what different options you can choose from.

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Why should you care about chalk for your deadlift?


There are many reports of powerlifters that chalk helps them pull more with less injury risk. At most powerlifting and weightlifting events you will notice chalk near the platform. Most lifters apply it before their heaviest attempts.


You will have seen that chalk is used by gymnasts and climbers. They use it for a tight grip so that sweaty hands do not make them slip. This is mainly why you should care about using chalk on the deadlift. Moisture can make the barbell slip from your hands. If you mess reps because of this you are not training to your full potential. Chalk is an easy fix for this bottleneck.


Depending on where you train the equipment might be of poor quality. When the knurling of barbells and dumbbells is worn down chalk can be a fix. Clever gym owners might provide chalk to their customers instead of replacing all of their barbells


Different options for chalk

There are different options for chalk in the market. This is all based on personal preference depending on your goals and style. 
Here are the options you can choose from:

The first important thing to notice is that baby powder is not the chalk you want to use for the deadlift. Baby powder aka Talcum powder has been designed to be soothing. Powerlifters use it on their legs to make the bar slip up better. Talcum powder lubricates and does the exact opposite of what you want. Avoid putting it on your hands for any kind of lifting.

Powder Chalk is what most commonly is associated with powerlifters, gymnasts, and climbers. This type of chalk is provided in little pouches or on a big bowl to be used immediately. If you are in a gym which is tending more for athletes than for soccer moms you will likely find this. 

Blocks of chalk or the same as powder chalk. The only difference is that it has not been ground yet. This makes storing it a little less messy. Applying the chalk becomes a bit more complicated. Compared to powder chalk you have to use the cumbersome block to apply the chalk to your fingers. 

Liquid chalk is chalk combined with alcohol. This is an invention to provide more convenience and less mess. Many lifters describe that their experience with liquid chalk is inferior to normal chalk. The chemical process lets the stickiness of the chalk suffer. You might also experience more moisture in your hands depending on the quality of the alcohol and how quick it evaporates. 

A ball of chalk in a mesh is a good solution for the middle ground. You get the benefits of powder chalk with minimum mess. Still more than liquid chalk, but I find this to be the best trade-off solution if your gym does not provide powder chalk themselves. 

How to use chalk


The first time you use chalk you will not be used to it. Therefore here are some tips on how to apply it the correct way. Otherwise, you might literally mess things up. Chalk is best used on your heaviest sets of the day or when your grip starts to fail.


Powder chalk will usually be provided to you in a chalk stand or bowl. In this scenario just tap your hands in shortly. No need to press the entire hand in. Lift your hands slightly up. In the bowl, without touching the chalk, rub your hands together until satisfied. Keep the mist in the bowl to avoid it to go all over the place. 

If you use a block of chalk run it down your fingers. Start from the top and go to the bottom. Also, apply the chalk between your fingers and in your palm. When you bring your chalk have a separate little pouch for it. Especially when the gym does not allow chalk officially it is important to minimize the mess as much as you can. 

Liquid chalk works like a creme. Apply to your hand and rub until the alcohol dissolves. Once you are satisfied with the result it is time to lift. 

If you use a ball of chalk roll it through your hands like forming a meat patty. Make sure to also get the spaces in between your fingers. Once you are satisfied with the coating go ahead and lift.

The most advanced lifters will also chalk their backs for the squat and bench press. In addition, you can chalk your butt on the bench press. Baby powder can be applied anywhere, where you want lubrication. Here are different chalk option for you


As a word of caution start using chalk and get used to it. Ease into it. The deadlift feels different with it. Do not use chalk to simply lift a weight that you never lifted before. This is a recipe for injury. Once you got comfortable with applying it and have a feel for strength levels with and without chalk start pushing the boundaries. 


Pros of chalk 


Chalk helps you to be safer on the deadlift. Dropping or even slipping weights can rip your calluses. This can lead to severe hand injuries which keep you from training. I did not get one of these from lifting but from Judo. It's not pretty.


When you live in a very hot climate or sweat easily chalk will help to keep your palms dry. This also helps you to be safer and pull more. In addition, chalk also prevents blisters in tears to even form. 


Chalk is also even described to be superior to straps. Chalk is less expensive and easier to apply. Also, the feel is closer to actual lifting. It is also allowed in most strength competitions whereas lifting straps are not.


Apart from the deadlift chalk also helps for


All in all, chalk is a versatile, cheap companion for the serious strength athlete that has stood the test of time.


Cons of chalk


The main con of chalk is the mess. Whatever you touch will be covered in it. Your clothes, the power rack, and the barbell. This is why chalk is not allowed in most commercial gyms. Also, wherever you store the chalk, someone will manage to throw over the chalk stand and leave a big mess. 


Chalk can also give you a false sense of grip strength. Chalk is a helper and grip strength has to be trained separately. For this purpose, I recommend Irinmind grippers.


The last disadvantage is that chalk has to be constantly restored and can be used up. That is not the case for straps or gloves.




Chalk has been used for centuries by strength athletes. It is easy to apply in many circumstances. For the deadlift it makes the most sense to use chalk is grip is often the limiting factor in the lift. Chalk is best used for your most taxing work. Apply it for top sets and maximum attempts. Chalk balls are a good solution to get the best out of chalk with minimum mess. 


Further reading 




Topics: Lift stronger, Jim Wendler 5/3/1, Stronglifts 5x5, Deadlift, Strength, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman