Chalk Etiquette

Chalk use in the gym can be a contentious point for some, although it shouldn’t be. There are some gyms out there that frown upon the use of chalk, or even forbid it (if you find yourself in this situation we recommend that you find a new gym @RPE10). The problem with powdered chalk is that it leaves a mess. No matter how careful or liberal its application there will always be a Pollock-esque bespattering of powder left on the floor. Most gyms are sympathetic to this and simply take it with the territory of lifting, however, some establishments wince at the thought of that extra sweeping. No matter what kind of gym you find yourself in, there is nevertheless a base level of courtesy regarding chalk.

Don’t overdo it. There’s no need to don a pair of chalked gloves every time you go to pull. The aim of chalk in the deadlift is to counteract the sweat produced from the palms and to increase friction; this can be done with a surprisingly small amount.


Chalk powder lingers around, which is simultaneously a positive and a drawback. It’s not great when it comes to cleaning time but it also means that it can be re-applied in smaller and smaller amounts as the session goes on. By set three, the palms may be sufficiently sweatless that it may not even be necessary to reapply. The best course of action would be to apply the minimum amount of chalk needed to keep a solid grip on the bar. By using chalk to pull, grip strength should increase over time (much more so than with the use of straps or gloves) which will also gradually have an impact on the amount of chalk needed.

One rule to remember when it comes to chalk etiquette (that’s a thing now) is no clapping. This is a guaranteed fast track to securing the entire gym staff’s contempt. It may seem like a good idea or a really ‘badass’ way to hype yourself up, but in reality it is none of the above. It doesn’t say “time to focus” or “let’s hit this lift”, it says “look at me” and this mushroom-cloud of chalk and smoke that I am needlessly emitting over my surroundings is a direct affront to everybody in here and unto the Lord himself”. There’s no need for it, it serves no purpose and most importantly it creates an unnecessary amount of mess. Don’t show off by being inconsiderate; show off by being an impressive lifter.

Powdered chalk is one of the greatest tools in a lifter’s arsenal. It beats straps, it beats liquid chalk, and it beats fooling yourself that you can lift anything ‘spicy’ with your bare naked hands. We just need to make sure that we don’t abuse it. Make sure that you’re using the white stuff in moderation, substance abuse isn’t cool.