Ya'll got any more of that Taiwan chalk?
Coach: “This is only a 9 minute workout and there are only sets of 15 kettlebell swings. You don’t need chalk for this workout so don’t waste your time getting any so you can rest.”
Athlete: “I used chalk one time and tore my fingers. Why do you have buckets of it sitting around and then tell us not to use it? But then when we do use it rips our skin off? Maybe you should write one of your little blogs about chalk.”
Well…here we are.
Magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) is combined with some other science things and the result is gymnastics chalk. The favorite chalk among gymnasts, rock climbers and weight lifters comes from Taiwan. One of these reasons is that the blocks of chalk from Taiwan hold their form and don’t crumble immediately upon use. Back in 2013 some of the World’s biggest chalk mines closed and there was a global chalk shortage. Chinese chalk took its place and it turned out the quality was not up to par.
Obviously chalk is not found in the perfect little cubes we are lucky enough to use on a daily basis. It is refined, ground up, dried and then formed into bricks. That’s a lot of steps resulting in minor differences that really do make a big difference (I guess).
There is an American company called “Spider Chalk” that is claiming to have the World’s best chalk now. Spider Chalk is made of “lab-grade magnesium carbonate” (whatever that means) that are 5.5oz blocks. A block of Spider Chalk is much more dense and is supposed to last twice as long as “conventional blocks”. The blocks of chalk we have at the gym are 2oz blocks of Taiwan chalk. I have never used anything but the Taiwan chalk we get for the gym but I imagine “lab-grade” chalk probably isn’t that noticeably different for the every day CrossFitter.
Chalk comes in 3 main forms: block, powder and liquid. We have the blocks. Eventually is turns into powder until Don gets annoyed with the mess and dumps it all into the trash. We will never have liquid chalk. That’s weird.
“I don’t care about anything you just said. How do we use it?”
Good question. First, let me tell you WHY we use it.
The main purpose of chalk is to help increase grip strength by drying out our hands through sweat absorption and increasing friction. That’s it. If you don’t get very sweaty, you don’t need very much chalk. There are studies that have shown a significant correlation between increased grip strength and the use of chalk (source: Google). However, if you use chalk incorrectly it can have a negative effect.
HOW to use chalk: take a block, transfer a THIN layer onto your skin where you will grip the external object. Brush off the excess into the bucket and get to work. That’s it.
How NOT to use chalk: coating the knurling of the barbell, handle of the kettlebell, your feet, the rings, the pedals of the assault bike or your steering wheel with chalk. The knurling (rough part) of the bar is rough for a reason. That also increases friction and almost sticks the bar to your hands. When you coat that in chalk you are getting rid of the knurling and have just made the entire bar like a fire pole; there is no longer friction and it become slippery. When you apply too much chalk to your hands the same thing happens. All of your palm wrinkles get full and it is like trying to lift wearing plastic bags on your hands. By adding too much chalk you can also create too much friction, which causes hand tears. Yes I just said that too much chalk makes it too slippery and also too friction-y. The same water that softens the potato hardens the egg.
We want just enough chalk to keep our hands dry and to increase friction. Not to make snow angels on the floor (Kaitlin and Kaliko).
I hope this helps athletes, coaches, gym owners and American’s as a whole understand the value of Taiwan chalk and that the trade wars with China really aren’t that important.