Why Do Gymnasts use chalk?
When we watch gymnastics competition, we can observe the participants rubbing their hands with a white powder or a white chalk. They rub the chalk on the body parts where they need to hold the grip while performing. It is done basically to avoid skidding and perform safely. If the gymnasts know how to apply chalk on their palms and make their grip friction less, it is easier and advantageous for them to perform well and safely. Not only gymnasts, many other athletes and weight lifters also apply chalk in their hands.
Gymnastics is a very tough game. The participants in gymnastics easily sweat within one round of their act. When they perform saltos or twisting body in the air, they catch hold of their thighs to make fast rotations. To make the grip on the thighs very stiff, it is necessary to lessen the friction in their hands and on thighs. As the participants often sweat, it is difficult to expect their hands not to slide on the thighs while making rotations. So they need to put chalk powder in their palms in order to have a firm grip on their thighs. If the grip is tight, the player can make rotations rapidly and reach the ground. Men performing on the vaulting tables also use chalk to avoid slipping.
Those who are performing on the beam, in order to have balance on the beam they apply chalk in their palms as well as on their legs. The hands will be protected from slipping from the rod. Players who perform on the bars get their hands wet with sweat as they will be often holding the bars for long time. The use of chalk was not found to be that damaging to the health of the performers. It is found to be not causing harm to immune system. Therefore, the chalk or chalk powder used by gymnasts in their hands and legs improves grip and decreases friction.
August 3, 2012 10:03 am
I don’t understand how chalk can both INcrease ‘grip’ [which requires friction between the hands and the bar] and at the same time “…decreases friction…” as stated in the answer above.
What am I missing? Thanks for the advice.
May 2, 2013 11:16 am
It’s the opposite. It INCREASES friction, thereby reducing slippage.