Chalk - is it cheating?

rickyw

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Maybe the best answer is it depends. I am blessed with dry hands and for me using chalk is just trying to fill in for a weak link in the chain. Not using chalk keeps me honest on what weight I should really be practicing with (1RM and competition totally use it!). I can see how someone with extra sweaty palms would need it all the time though.
 

Antti

More than 2500 posts
I've never used chalk with kettlebells, as I have very dry hands. However, I can't see a compelling reason why it would be cheating for someone who just happens to have sweaty hands.
 

Sean M

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Curious if the more lower mess of liquid chalk lotion is worth the additional cost. I haven't used chalk before but I'm losing my grip on heavy (32kg) one-arm swings and getups in the more hot and humid weather now. But I don't want a mess in my living room. Anyone try both kinds?
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
Well, a slippery handle puts more pressure on your fingers so you have to use a lighter bell. A chalky handle puts more presure on the rest of your body so you're getting a better workout overall.

No use for chalk or tape for TGUs, or C&P or snatches. Swings only need it and only if you're using a really heavy weight one handed.
 

Antti

More than 2500 posts
Curious if the more lower mess of liquid chalk lotion is worth the additional cost. I haven't used chalk before but I'm losing my grip on heavy (32kg) one-arm swings and getups in the more hot and humid weather now. But I don't want a mess in my living room. Anyone try both kinds?
I have used both, and so far prefer the liquid. How big is the price difference over there? A block of dry chalk costs about 3 € and a bottle of liquid about 7 €. Both the bottle and the block last for ages.
 

Geoff Chafe

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Nothing in lifting is "cheating", it depends on the training effect you are after. Is chalkless Simple or Sinister an achievement you want? Is wearing wrist bands or gauntlets cheating? A beltless 500lb Deadlift? Or so much kit on you look like a pro strongman. Is wearing knee sleeves and shoes cheating? I don't care. You are not a superior being because you do not use lifting aids.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Well, a slippery handle puts more pressure on your fingers so you have to use a lighter bell. A chalky handle puts more presure on the rest of your body so you're getting a better workout overall.
Only if your grip requires it, @Kozushi. Training the StrongFirst way for 15+ years now, my abs and my grip are never my weak points, and I've found this a very good way to go through my training life. Everyone's different, and I'm not suggesting one not use chalk, but one can also focus on improving one's grip strength with whatever the current bell is, e.g., by working in some higher-rep sets, perhaps by doing some barbell deadlifts.

-S-
 

ShawnM

More than 2500 posts
@Geoff Chafe- I agree, I don't care either. I remember back to when I competed in power lifting and took it very seriously. Between DL suits, wraps bench shirts and squat suits, I had more training equipment than regular clothes it seems. Lol.
 

william bad butt

More than 300 posts
I haven't tried chalk with kettlebells. However, imagine doing 10 perfect hard style swings with a 32 kg bell with chalk (A) vs 10 perfect hard style swings with a 24 kg bell with no chalk (B) vs 10 perfect hard style swings with a 16 kg bell with soapy hands (anti chalk) (C). I'm assuming this person can't do perfect reps of 32kg without chalk nor can he/she do perfect reps with soapy hands with 24kg.

My expectation is that (A) would have the best overall impact on strength and conditioning, then (B), then (C). This even includes grip strength (although I might be wrong because I've never tried it).

Although, eventually, I do agree it's probably best to work towards the goal of not needing chalk, but I wouldn't let this get in the way of swinging heavier weights (especially as you are first exploring a new weight).

A 300 lb back squat is probably a better move vs a 150lb squat while balancing on a bosu ball, isn't it? Unless you are competing in the bosu ball Olympics.
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
Only if your grip requires it, @Kozushi. Training the StrongFirst way for 15+ years now, my abs and my grip are never my weak points, and I've found this a very good way to go through my training life. Everyone's different, and I'm not suggesting one not use chalk, but one can also focus on improving one's grip strength with whatever the current bell is, e.g., by working in some higher-rep sets, perhaps by doing some barbell deadlifts.

-S-
I've wrapped tape around my 40 and 48 handles although that's more for safety than anything. I've almost let go once or twice while doing swings, so it's a safety precaution. I don't think at this point I need it. Anyhow, it just kind of feels better to have a rougher grip. But, I suppose it isn't necessary at all though.
 

taikei

Triple-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
Really? I was under the impression it wasn't allowed. Which made me wonder about here as it can get quite humid here. Thanks for the info.
Dropping a kettlebell abruptly during snatch test is a fail. Chalk is like a security measure.
In past we had kettlebell by design or by randomness had slippery furnishings on handle. So there's no guilt using it.
 

Kettlebelephant

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I see it like this...
Can you do 10x10 swings with the 32 on a not so hot and humid day without chalk?
If yes that means you're not cheating, but adjusting to the circumstances.
If no you are cheating, because even in perfect conditions your grip isn't strong enough for 10x10 and you make up for that lacking grip-strength by using chalk.

IMO it's the same with a lifting belt or straps.
Can you lift x amount without the belt/straps? If yes you are allowed to use the belt/straps (e.g. on a day where you don't feel that well).
If you can't lift it without the belt/straps it's cheating in my eyes.
Btw nothing wrong with using e.g. straps so grip doesn't become the limiting factor in your hypertrophy routine, but don't run around claiming you can lift x amount of weight, when you can't do it without the gear.
 
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Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
I really don't think of chalk in the same light as lifting belts and straps. Maybe because my first associations with chalk (personally and as a spectator) are from gymnastics. It's just a part of your interaction with the equipment. Not really any different than if you put lotion on you hands in the morning, or not.

Some bells I like to use chalk, and others I don't. Would it be any lesser accomplishment to swing/snatch a 32kg bell with a smooth handle vs. one with a textured one?
 

Harry Westgate

More than 500 posts
To respond to a few points that have been brought up...

@Kettlebelephant yes I can do 10x10 in cooler conditions with the 32kg. It's only become a bigger issue now that summer is arriving.

To everyone else, all I'll say is that I've tried the chalk and it works a dream. It still works my grip plenty but it stops me worrying about my bell slipping due to humidity.

In addition, the only mention I can find of chalk in the Simple and Sinister book is something along the lines of "a little is good, but abusing it will tear the skin". On my first session with it I used a bit too much and could feel how it puts the skin in a risky position. Nevertheless, a little bit certainly did the trick and made the practice more enjoyable and will no doubt improve my consistency. Plus it gets the Pavel stamp of approval. That's all I really needed, as I'm not breaking any of the 'S&S rules'.

Also, as has been mentioned already, if 'Chalk-Free Simple/Sinister' was a goal of mine for whatever reason (FWIW I really hope that doesn't become a thing... this thread is only really a product of me overthinking things), achieving 'Simple/Sinister Plus' with chalk would probably be a quicker way to do it.

Finally, I definitely agree with the stance @Anna C has on the comparison between chalk and lifting belts - I really don't think they're on the same level as one another. I mean, don't some people/lifters also use chalk as well as belts when deadlifting? If doing hairstyle swings with a belt was a thing, then I think that'd be more comparible.

Bottom line that I'm going by now though is that the rules on achieving Simple/Sinister do not say anywhere in the book that chalk isn't allowed, but does say that a little is "good". Having tried it myself now, I'll definitely be making use of it as needed.

I apologise for overthinking things...
 
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Kettlebelephant

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@Anna C have you ever had problems with your grip? As in your grip was the limiting factor for your swings/snatches?
For me it has always been grip. When I started out using KBs I could already swing the beast for 5 reps, two-handed of course. Yet I had to start out with the 16 for S&S. Hips or lungs were never my problem.
While I can't use more weight using chalk it definitely helps with "fatigue of the fingers". When I can swing a weight every minute without chalk and that is my maxiumim, meaning if I'd tried to go for a set every 50secs I'd lose my grip on the last set and the KB would fly or at least I would lose power on my last swings, because my body would dial it back.
With chalk I could swing the same weight every 45sec without grip issues.
At least for me it's that much of a difference. For me it's more than just interaction with the equipment.
 

Harry Westgate

More than 500 posts
While I can't use more weight using chalk it definitely helps with "fatigue of the fingers"
See you and I are different here, fatigue of my grip/fingers hasn't been my issue; the bell is just as close to slipping on the first rep as it is on the 10th (when it's hot and humid). I can just sort of feel that it's the humidity that's the killer and not really my lack of strength. Granted, being stronger would no doubt help, but as said before, I'd probably have a better chance of achieving Chalk-Free Simple if I first achieved Chalked Solid (40kg). Means to an end, and I've decided on my plan of attack.
 

Glen

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I'm very sweaty, always been a proponent of chalk from a powerlifting background but now my girlfriend insists I always use chalk since i lost grip of a 40kg bell during snatches and the arc sent it straight on top of my daughters play kitchen causing it to explode.

Chalk (liquid) for me gives a degree of assistance without creating any real weak link (like straps, belt etc)
 
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