Don't Sweat The White Stuff: Chalkless Chalk Reviewed

A look at the Metolius Eco Ball.

Chalk is awesome. We use it all the time to keep our hands dry and improve our grip. It's used in competition and in training alike, and it's the reason many of us have hit the PRs we have.

But most commercial gyms look down on chalk and have rules against its use on the training floor. The dust, they say, is too messy and gets everywhere, destroying the knurling on the equipment.

Management wants to keep their facility clean, and I can respect that. But what do we do then if we're not allowed to use chalk? The solution, it turns out, can be found in a simple product rock climbers have know about for years.

Metolius Eco Ball
Metolius Eco Ball.
Climbers use chalk for the same reasons we do and to minimize chalk build-up on the handholds and dust on the floor a lot of them use a synthetic chalk substitute. Metolius, a climbing supply company, calls theirs the Eco Ball and it's the one I use during my workouts.
I first discovered the Eco Ball last year when I stated rock wall climbing with my girlfriend and her crew. While most of the climbers we met used traditional chalk, a small number of them preferred using the chalk substitute. It seemed to work just as well as chalk and cost about the same.

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To learn how to put it to work, swing by the Guides area.

Gripping the Bar
Gripping the Bar.
So when I received a chalk bag for christmas the first thing I did was buy one of these chalkless chalk balls. I figured, if it didn't leave marks on the rock wall it might not leave marks on the barbells at my gym. And I was right! The Eco Ball is full of tiny flakes of blue-green particles that just suck the moisture from your hands. It works so well, in fact, you may want to rinse your hands off at the end of your workout because they will be very dry.
Usually, there is just the faintest hint of color on your hands when you use it, so I had to really work up a layer of particles to take the photo above. Particles disappear completely when they hit the ground and leave a very faint trace on equipment, far less than actual chalk does.
Bag it
Bag it.
Because I keep my Eco Ball in a chalk bag, it's very easy to transport and use discreetly during my workouts. I never worry about spilling chalk all over the floor or tupperware breaking in my gym bag. And if I wipe down the equipment after I'm done, you'd never know I was there.
The Eco Ball costs about $4 on and a decent chalk bag will run you another $20 or so depending on the supplier. Climber superstition says you should never buy your own chalk bag, so maybe have someone buy it for you as a present. Whatever you do, this is a great alternative to traditional chalk and will allow you to hit new PRs no matter what gym you train in.
Derek 'D-Rock' Peruo

Derek Peruo, CSCS, is the owner of Renaissance Fitness, an exclusive personal training service based in New York City. He shares his training philosophy via magazines such as Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, and Men's Health. And of course Straight to the Bar.

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