You must have noticed that gymnasts use a white-colored powder while performing their acts. This is nothing but chalk.
A mandatory curiosity automatically comes to mind related to the reason behind using chalk powder. That is ‘Why do gymnasts use chalk?’
What are the crucial tasks of chalk | Why is chalk important in gymnastics?
When gymnasts compete on rings, bars, and so on, chalk does a couple of important things. The International Federation of Gymnastics declared:
- Chalk let a gymnast swing, twist, and turn around bars without slip and sweat.
- Chalk helps in maintaining better grips and let the athletes perform on time.
How does gymnastics chalk work?
Chalk is great for moisture absorption. It keeps the performers’ hands sweat-free resulting in zero slip. Again, chalk resists friction and lets gymnasts spin smoothly.
There is minimal risk of hand and body injury. Many female athletes prefer using chalk on their feet for performing on a balance beam.
What does chalk contain?
The chalk is made up of inorganic salt known as Magnesium Carbonate or MgCO3. You can get chalk in the form of powder, liquid, and solid blocks.
It is the most common type of chalk. But, some gymnasts do not prefer using it because it is messy in nature.
Liquid (spray) | Do gymnasts use liquid chalk?
Liquid chalk or spray chalk is used by lots of gymnasts. It tends to become solid after spraying.
It resembles a soap bar. After application, it converts into powder form.
Chalk makes a gymnast feel extremely comfortable and confident while performing various complicated movements.
Many beginners may think of using baby powder instead of chalk. It is a big ‘No-No’.
The baby powder won’t give you the grip needed for gymnastics. Rather, it will weaken the grip and your hands may sweat after some time resulting in a deadly slip.
Why do gymnasts apply chalk to their hands?
The two primary purposes of using chalk on hands are:
- Chalk is very helpful in absorbing sweat. So, gymnasts can keep their hands dry and grip better on various apparatuses like uneven and parallel bars.
- Chalk powder, liquid, or solid block reduces friction that occurs between hands and specific apparatus. So, gymnasts feel comfortable doing movements on bars and can refrain from any injury caused by friction.
Another important thing you must know is that gymnasts also use chalk on their feet, especially females.
They apply to chalk both on hands and feet before doing any movement on the balance beam. The reason is the same, and that is the absorption of sweat and the achievement of better grip.
Is there any other thing that gymnasts use?
According to the Wall Street Journal, in the year 2012, a US gymnast named Jonathan Horton applied a little amount of honey on his hands before applying chalk.
There was another gymnast who used a blend of sugar ad beer. Additionally, Trent Wells, a US gymnast applied melted gummy bears on their hands.
Which material do gymnasts apply on their hands to increase friction for better grip?
Grips are considered optional in gymnastics. Not all gymnasts use grips.
Many use sports gauze or grips for better grips. Some gymnasts prefer bare hands. The majority of gymnasts use Magnesium Carbonate, we can say ‘Chalk’ for getting better grips and resisting sudden slips.
What kind of chalk do gymnasts use? what is gymnastics chalk made of ?
The chalk used by gymnasts is different from that used in classrooms. Again, the white marking you see on sidewalks differs from gymnastics chalk. Added, this chalk is not the same that you find easily in a local store meant for craft items.
It is actually magnesium carbonate which is a white material naturally materialized. Usually, through mining Magnesite, this kind of chalk is found.
When did gymnasts start using chalk?
Chalk has been used in gymnastics for a long time. It is the same chalk used in other sports as well such as weight-lifting, rock climbing, etc.
It is believed that John Gill, a former gymnast, appreciated using it and thus introduced it to the rock climbing sports community in the 1950s.
Soon after it, the chalk replaced the previous methods for getting a grip in gymnastics and since then, it is used to absorb sweat and prevent slip-offs.
Why do gymnasts put chalk on their legs?
Gymnasts not only use chalk on their hands but also dust it on their feet and leg as well before performing. The reason they use it on their legs is the same as that on their hands.
They use it to absorb sweating on feet and legs and do more smooth movements on the balance beam.
It also helps them to avoid friction-related injuries during the performance. Gymnasts may have visible chalk on their legs because they often wipe excess chalk off their thighs, calves, and shins after dusting chalk on their hands and feet.
If the other part of the legs except the feet is covered in chalk, there are chances that it happened accidentally when gymnasts brush or press against the residue of chalk on equipment.
Chalk collects on mats, bars, balance beams, and vaults, it easily spreads on the gymnasts’ other body parts.
Is gymnastics chalk harmful?
Gymnastics chalk is made up of a chemical compound, calcium carbonate, which is itself not considered a toxic substance.
However, it comes with a caution that states that it can cause irritation in the skin and respiratory problems.
The most potential harm is caused by ingesting chalk dust rather than the chalk directly if the chalk is used for an extended period. The hazardous effect of chalk is caused by its dust because it can easily carry bacteria with it.
So, it’s not the chalk that causes the hazard but the organisms that it carries into your body through inhalation.
The study came after examining the air samples specified the dangerous contaminants on it. The contaminants include:
- E-coli (Escherichia coli)
- Candida (Candida albicans)
- Salmonella (Salmonella choleraesuis)
- Staph (Staphylococcus aureus)
The Chalkdust retains the bacteria and odors that are breathed by everyone in the gym.
The sense of smell goes directly into the brain and so do the bacteria along with it. Even if the air fresheners are used, it does not make the situation better but worse.
The air fresheners deaden our sense of smell and make it comatose. The scent only masks the odor of the bacteria but does not destroy them. So, they still get inhaled along with the chemicals released by air fresheners.
Thus, the prolonged use of chalk can contribute to some harmful health problems for gymnasts.
Some best chalks for gymnastics:
- SPRI Chalk Block (both liquid chalk and chalk ball)
- Gibson Athletic Premium Block (Gym chalk)
- Z Athletic Chalk Ball for Gymnastics
- Sportmediq Pro Grade Liquid Chalk
- Physic Liquid Chalk for Gymnastics
Gymnasts prefer using chalks for saving themselves from breaking fingers and other fatal injuries. Performers used to grip bars with thumbs and fingers. Chalk helps in providing a strong, non-sweaty, and slip-resistant grip.