Chalk has always been a part of a powerlifting gym. The white residue can be found on nearly every piece of equipment that requires a tight grip. Without it, you could fail your lifts due to grip slip.
When you have a better grip, you will be able to lift heavier, with faster times and better form. This will translate over to mass and strength gains. It’s amazing how something as simple as your grip can have such a big impact on your results.
For what seems like forever, block chalk was around for any gym goer to use but so many have complained about how messy this white powder is and what a pain it is to clean up. Chalk has also been used in other sports such as gymnastics, rock climbing, and CrossFit but for this article, we will focus on how it is used in bodybuilding and weightlifting in general.
There is a new type of chalk in town, and it has taken it by storm. This new type is called liquid chalk.
What is liquid chalk?
Simply put – liquid chalk is a liquid form of the traditional chalk that you are used to. It uses the exact same material which is magnesium bicarbonate. Some chalk block has used calcium bicarbonate but recently they’ve switched to magnesium bicarbonate. This material has been proven to be the best type of chalk to absorb the sweat from your hands and improve the strength of your grip.
It doesn’t matter how strong your grip strength is, however, if the surface you are gripping is too slippery to hold. This is why chalking your hands is so important. Liquid chalk can help with this.
The additional ingredients in liquid chalk are ethanol or alcohol which allows it to have a liquid consistency when applied but after the alcohol dries, it now has the chalky texture that will absorb your sweat and improve your grip.
Another added ingredient in most liquid chalk is Rosin. This ingredient makes the chalk tackier, keeping it from becoming dust and falling off your hands.
Times have changed for many lifters in where they actually prefer liquid chalk over the powder form for several reasons, which we’ll talk about below. It has become a welcomed alternative to powder chalk for many professionals to aid in their grip training.
Liquid chalk vs. powder chalk
Lifters have been using powder chalk for decades, so why would one even consider trying liquid chalk? What works for the greats should work for us, right? Well, let’s think about the pros and cons of both and then you can make an informed decision.
Powder chalk pros
Many people swear by traditional chalk because it is more functional. With one application you can bust through multiple sets of any exercise you choose, sometimes sets of more than one exercise. This functionality would be depending on how much you sweat, the intensity of your workout, and what moves you are doing.
Powder chalk, therefore, saves you time and keeps you moving rapidly through your workouts without having to reapply.
Powder chalk is also cheaper. A block would cost about the same as a bottle of liquid chalk but lasts for more than a year compared to liquid chalk which can last around 6 months.
Powder chalk cons
This chalk is incredibly messy. Not only does it leave the entire gym full of a white residue but having the chalk dust floating around in the air can be harmful to gymgoers if they are inhaling it over a period of time.
Powder chalk can even stain clothes, shoes, or any other equipment that is porous.
For these reasons many gym owners are banning powder chalk from their gyms and that leaves you without a way to contradict the sweat for a better grip.
Liquid chalk pros
Liquid chalk definitely takes care of the whole messiness factor. There is no dust floating around. The liquid is dispensed directly onto your hands. The composition of the liquid makes it much easier to clean up and mostly sticks to your hands and not the equipment.
Liquid chalk is becoming the only approved form of chalk in most commercial gyms, so you won’t have to worry about being told to put it away.
Even though liquid chalk is more expensive ounce for ounce, there is far less waste involved in this type of chalk. That is because it is applied directly to the location that it needs to be used for and none floating around to fall where it may. Unless of course, you have a horrible aim or spill some which are your fault doofus.
Liquid chalk is definitely more portable. Many brands come with a clip that you can put on the O-ring of your gym bag compared to chalk block which requires a whole bag of its own to catch all the powder that falls off as you move around.
Instead of having to walk back to where you left your block of chalk to reapply, a bottle of liquid chalk can fit into your pocket and be accessible at all times.
Liquid chalk cons
Many people are just used to powder chalk and they prefer the consistency even though the tackiness of liquid chalk can actually work in your favor when it comes to gripping.
Liquid chalk is a bit more expensive, but I think that when you factor in the amount of block chalk that is wasted and the convenience of the liquid chalk, the extra price is worth it.
Some people are allergic to Rosin, the ingredient in liquid chalk that makes it tacky. This obviously, would rule out liquid chalk for these people. People who have skin conditions, in general, should probably stay away from liquid chalk just in case.
Liquid chalk also contains ethanol which can dry out your skin and cause cracking or splitting but this is rare.
If you leave the lid off your liquid chalk, it will become unusable. The air will dry out the ethanol and you’ll be left with a squirt bottle of chalk that you can’t squirt out.
How to use liquid chalk
Instead of rubbing your hands all over a block to chalk up, using liquid chalk is a bit different. It’s by no means complicated but there are a few rules to follow in order to make sure your liquid chalk application works efficiently. Follow these 4 simple steps:
- Make sure your hands are clean. Wash with soap and then dry them off well.
- Apply a small amount of liquid chalk on your hands. Just a little bit of this chalk goes a long way, so there’s no need to overapply and waste the product.
- Rub your hands together making sure to cover all the necessary regions. Make sure you get it where you grip the most, the lines of your palm and the place between your thumb and forefinger, really well.
- Keep your palms extended and wave them around for about 30 seconds to allow the liquid to dry. It will be ready when it has turned white.
Just like chalk block, make sure you reapply when it has worn off, which will be after a few sets depending on how much you sweat and how hard you are pushing yourself.
It’s always good gymenship, (yes, I made that word up), to clean the equipment up after you have used it to get off all the chalk residue.
What to look for when buying liquid chalk
When choosing liquid chalk there are a few factors to consider. Some of them you couldn’t possibly know without either using it or reading reviews. (Hint: Check out the five below.)
How well does this chalk help your grip? Does it absorb your sweat well?
Liquid chalk should dry fast. If not, it can interrupt your workout session while you wait for it to dry when you reapply between sets.
Liquid chalk does tend to have a stronger smell because of the ethanol and Rosin but the fumes shouldn’t be so strong that you get a headache or bother those around you.
It shouldn’t be too liquid making it slip right off your hands when you apply it but it also shouldn’t be so thick that you struggle to squeeze it out of the bottle or spread it on your palms.
You’ll want liquid chalk that makes it worthwhile to use. There’s no point in using one that will last just a short while. The longer it lasts the better it will be for your wallet and your time.
5 Best liquid chalk products in 2021
Below we put together a list of top 5 liquid chalk products based on a collaborative effort between ourselves and reviews from fitness experts and enthusiasts.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good grip. Not only will you minimize the risk of injuries in case of your hands slipping, but you’ll also get a boost in performance.
This liquid chalk needs very little product to go a long way. It claims to only need one application for an entire workout and only a pea-sized of the liquid is needed. Some people say that it is too runny but once it dries, the issues seem to be gone.
It has a good grip and it has very little to no smell. It also doesn’t transfer to the equipment when you use it. It dries faster than the competition. The bottle is bigger than most, so it costs more than the others.
This stuff is a great price. The bottle refills the small portable bottle that comes with it six more times! The gripping ability is great, and it has no nasty smell to contend with.
It dries in about 10 seconds which is a bit faster than most other brands. It will last through plenty of sets before needing a reapplication.
3. Liquid Grip
This liquid chalk is mostly known for its great gripping ability and the fact that it leaves no residue behind on the equipment that you are using. This is great if you are using it in a commercial gym that isn’t all that into the whole professional lifting thing.
It doesn’t seem to last as long as the competition, however, as many people complain about the number of times that they have to reapply. The drying time seems to be longer than most also. Aside from that, it smells like coconut so you might feel like you’re at the beach.
It has a very thin consistency, so you’ll have to be careful not to spill any and you’ll need more than a dime size for each application. The price is reasonable, but you’ll need to take into consideration that you will have to use more and you’ll end up buying more.
This liquid chalk is on the thicker side which isn’t bad as it ensures a good even application across your palms. The stickiness of the liquid remains throughout your workout which will improve the grip quality. It does smell like glue, but it isn’t too bad, and it takes about 20 seconds to dry completely.
This chalk will definitely last through more than one set and it cleans off rather easy. Many users say that it feels like a lotion going on and you only need a dime-sized application if not less. The bottle is 1.7 ounces and is priced about the same as the competition.
This liquid chalk has great consistency and smells like bubble gum. It doesn’t seem to have a fantastic gripping ability due to the smoothness after drying but it’s not terrible either.
It also takes a lot of product for one application due to the thickness of it, which is a good and bad thing. Good because it covers well but bad because you will go through a bottle much quicker.
People also complained that the design of the bottle makes it really hard to use. It is difficult to squeeze out the right amount without an explosive amount popping out all at once. It is a bit cheaper than the competition when it comes to price.