Why to use Chalk for Gymnastics
For some athletes, this extra moisture doesn’t significantly affect their performance. For rock climbers though, just a bit of moisture on your hands can be the difference between success and failure. As a result, climbers use chalk to dry sweat and other moisture on their hands, increasing friction and improving their grip on the holds.
What is the Chalk for Gymnastics
Most climbing chalk you’ll find is made from Magnesium Carbonate. This is the same compound that gymnasts, weightlifters, and other athletes will put on their hands in order to improve friction and grip. Though it is sometimes available in other colors, it’s usually white.
Climbing chalk commonly comes in a few different forms: block, loose, or liquid. Which one you use is a matter of personal preference.
Block chalk is a compressed, solid chunk of Magnesium Carbonate. To use it, you break it apart as much as you want—our preferred method is to put the block in a chalk bag and step on it until it breaks apart to our desired size.
Loose chalk is block chalk that has already been broken up into a fine powder. Sometimes loose chalk will be sold on its own, and other times it will be put into a chalk ball, which is a soft, porous mesh ball designed to hold the chalk, prevent it from spilling, and limit the amount you get on your hands. Compared to block chalk, the advantage of loose chalk is that you just put it in your chalk bag and don’t have to worry about breaking it up.
Liquid chalk is Magnesium Carbonate mixed with alcohol. You squirt it onto your hands and spread it around like lotion. The alcohol dries quickly, leaving behind a chalk residue covering your hands. Compared to block and loose chalk, the advantage of liquid chalk is that it is easy to apply, cleaner, and sometimes longer lasting. The disadvantage is that the alcohol can dry out your skin too much and you also have less control over the amount of chalk on your hands at any given time.
How to use Chalk for Gymnastics
Whether you have a bucket or a small bag, at this point you should have a bunch of chalk on your hands and they should be out of the bucket/bag. Now rub them back and forth a couple times quickly, then blow away the excess. You should now have a smooth, uniform layer of chalk covering your fingers, but minimal loose particles since you blew them off.
Now get climbing before new moisture starts to eat away at the chalk!
When to use Chalk for Gymnastics
Everyone’s body produces moisture differently, so some people need to reapply more than others. Generally speaking though, most climbers will reapply at the beginning of each attempt and possibly again before a particularly difficult move in the middle of an attempt. It is possible to have too much chalk on your hands—remember, what you’re looking for is a fine layer of chalk covering your fingers, but not a bunch of loose or caked chalk sitting on there.
Over time, you’ll find your sweet spot for the amount of chalk you like on your hands. You’ll get a feel for when you need more based on what your fingers look like and how moist/dry they feel.
At Friction Labs, we spend a lot of time thinking about chalk, so we hope this guide is helpful to clearing up any confusion. Do you have a different method for applying chalk? Wondering about something we didn’t discuss? We’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment and we’ll be sure to get back to you!