Chalk is a grip agent commonly used in any sport in which losing your grip can be a problem, such as gymnastics, rock climbing and lifting weights. Choosing to use this tool during your workouts is a personal decision, with advantages and disadvantages.
How It Works
When you exercise, you sweat. If your palms sweat, it may make it difficult to maintain your grip on a weight bar. Although this is merely embarrassing when knocking out a set of light dumb bell curls, the results if you're doing a maximum weight bench press can be catastrophic. Rubbing chalk on your hands absorbs the sweat, allowing you to maintain a better grip. Chalk usually comes in a pouch or a ball inside a mesh for easy control and application.
Pros of Using Chalk
The main advantage of chalk is its intended purpose: using chalk is better than losing your grip on the weights. Chalk is less expensive than some other options for grip control. It's also portable and easily available at most sporting goods stores.
Cons of Chalk
Grip chalk's main disadvantage is the mess. Whenever you apply chalk, you get a light dusting of the stuff all over the immediate area, and you leave chalky hand prints on everything you touch. The combination of sweat and chalk, especially on the textured grips of many weight bars, can be difficult to clean off. This messiness also leads to another disadvantage -- not all health clubs allow chalk for the very reason that it is such a mess.
In response to the need for grip assistance and the messiness of chalk, the fitness industry has come up with two alternatives to using chalk in the gym. One simple, if potentially expensive, option is to wear weight-lifting gloves while working out. This controls your perspiration while also giving your palms a rest from the friction of lifting weights. You can also find grip lotions, which do the same job as chalk without leaving a mess everywhere.