To Chalk or Not to Chalk

By: Wes Winter

Let’s talk about chalk. We all use it, whether chalking up before some clean and jerk strength work, heading to the pull-up bar, or mid WOD dumbbell snatches. Chalk dries the sweaty grip for solid security on a heavy barbell and gives confidence in not ripping the palms on those big sets of pull-ups mid workout. It’s a great tool in the gym. But is it subconsciously hurting more than helping? Let me explain.

A few weeks ago we had DT as Tier 2 Testing. I watched throughout the day as many very fit Tier 2 DE athletes attempted to complete this challenging Hero WOD under the time cap. Very few finished under the time cap checking it off of their list. However, one attempt stood out to me. With an 8 minute time cap, the athlete was coming up to the 7 minute mark and was working in the 5th and final round of DT. I’ve known this athlete for a long time and is one of the most fit people I know. They’re getting close, I know they can finish. The cheering and screaming gets louder and louder the closer the time cap gets. Then I start to notice it. A few reps here… chalk break… a few more reps… chalk break… a couple more reps… more chalk… last few reps and the clock beeps 8 minutes. Two push jerk reps short of finishing under the time cap.

This got me thinking. How often do I myself subconsciously break for chalk not because I physically need chalk on my hands at that specific moment, but more for myself to take a break without feeling guilty? If I’m bent over getting chalk out of the bucket for thirty seconds I’m not resting, but if I’m bent over with my hands on my knees for thirty seconds I am resting? Our brains will think of any reason to stop the pain we’re putting our body through at that moment. I think I’ll Lebron James it up and get a lot more chalk!

Yes! It is totally ok to chalk up before the WOD starts and throughout if you feel a rip happening. The goal with this is to learn to stay focused mentally when that ‘fight or flight’ mentality starts kicking in during those painful and challenging WODs. Are you going to lose the bar on a push jerk because you don’t have enough chalk? Probably not, but it’s normal for our brains to look for relief when under such mental and physical stress mid WOD. The walk to the chalk bucket is sometimes far and good for rest. Did the chalk help? Possibly. Did you need it? Eh. Did it temporarily end the pain and muscle burning? Yes. I challenge you, myself included, to grind hard for those last few pull-ups, cycle a few more snatches and fight mentally to hold on longer! You will surprise yourself at how much farther you can go!