The use of chalk in the gym is often a hotly contested topic. Some lifters (particularly powerlifters) swear by chalk, and claim its use is as necessary a part of lifting attire as tank tops or tennis shoes. Other gym members (often the fitness, less hardcore types) see chalk as a messy and unnecessary addition to their gym. Both sides are partially right. Let’s delve deeper into chalk use in the gym.
Chalk makes lifting easier and safer. On major lifts like the deadlift, the use of chalk allows the barbell to slide easier across the leg, making for more weight moved and a lot less bleeding from the legs. On the bench press, chalk assures a surer grip on the bar, which can prevent a heavy barbell from slipping and falling on a sweaty lifter. Chalk does help prevent injuries.
Chalk is messy. It leaves white residue, which immediately seems to stick to clothes, skin, and equipment alike. Chalk is extremely hard to clean up.
People often see lifters who use chalk as meatheads. This is often a stereotype exaggerated by the media, but very often its one that is perpetuated by lifters themselves. How many times have you heard a person cursing loudly to motivate his training partner to complete a lift? How many times have you seen a fellow gymgoer drop heavy weights from waist level unnecessarily? Chances are, the offenders in each case were chalk users. Not to say every chalk user is a meathead. However, most meatheads are chalk users.
Some gyms, particularly those that cater to the less hardcore audience, will ban the use of chalk entirely. The know that many seriously powerlifters use chalk, and they prefer not to have members like this which might alienate the other 95% of members. There is nothing that can be done in these cases, especially when the gym falls under the auspices of a nationwide corporate policy.
If possible, clear chalk use with gym management before you use it. Let them know the safety benefits of using chalk, and remind them that you do respect gym rules and will leave no mess when you leave. As you train, use common courtesy. Remember that much of the stigma against ‘chalk users’ is because of their behavior, which often accompanies chalk use- namely, swearing, throwing weights, and other macho intimidating behavior. Don’t exhibit that behavior.
See if your gym will designate ‘chalk-acceptable’ zones for safety purposes. This assures their expensive cardio equipment and the cursed white dust doesn’t affect strength machines by keeping the chalk use confined to the bench and deadlift areas where it is typically used.