Chalk has been used in sports for ages. Crossfitters took chalk in the gym from a useful tool and made it a fashion. Not kidding, chalk is overused to the extreme in the CrossFit world.
Like with most things in CrossFit, it got pushed to the limits. If one rep is good, 100 is better. If a little chalk is good, a lot is better! Right? Well maybe not…
Why even use chalk in the gym?
Now, I am sure someone with a degree in some ultra-science major will know much more about what chalk does. The ridges of our fingerprints create friction when we try to hold onto something. The chalk particles create a bond between the skin and an object, blah blah blah.
Here’s the CrossFit answer. Chalk helps remove moisture from the skin. In most cases, the hands.
If you have ever tried to hold onto something with sweaty hands, you probably noticed that it’s more difficult than with dry hands. Chalk dries the skin, so as long as you have the grip strength you can theoretically hold onto whatever is in your hands.
Chalk also helps to increase friction. This is partially due to drying the skin but also because the small little particles give you more surface area and angles to “grab”.
Why more chalk in the gym isn’t necessarily better
One thing I see quite a bit, especially in the summer or when people are very sweaty, is people LOAD up on the chalk in the gym thinking it will help. Inevitably, they rip their hands and then are surprised.
They believe that since they used every ounce of chalk in the bucket that their hands should somehow be able to repel not only rips and blisters, but flames, needles, and knife wounds.
Here is what actually happens. The sweat mixed with the chalk creates a nice paste that holds the moisture against the skin. A little moisture is okay and can sometimes help. But, once you add too much and then throw in the friction of swinging on a bar for lots of reps, then your skin will eventually rip.
How to avoid ripping
Here are a few ways you can avoid ripping your hands:
- Dry your hands before using chalk in the gym.
- Use the right amount. Don’t go for AMCAP (as much chalk as possible).
- Buy gymnastics grip. Note: these do not help your grip. They simply add a barrier between your skin and the bar. You can also try doing exercises to improve your grip strength.
- Give it time. Most people who are new to CrossFit have soft hands. Over time, you will build up calluses, scar tissue and general toughness.
- Try healing balms. Bagbalm, Ripfix, Badger Balm…there are lots different healing balms out there that help heal rips faster than just letting them heal on their own.
- Let your rips heal. If you rip your palms, give it a day or two to close up. Otherwise it will never heal and you will get blood on all the things.
Health and safety
If you do rip, clean everything you touched! No one wants to grab your nastiness. Ripping isn’t a big deal, it happens. Leaving your blood on stuff is a big deal!