When I’m training I want to keep my hands protected, but I also need to be able to hold onto the kettlebell – the top solutions for these concerns are the use of gloves and chalk.
But, there are many questions to be answered about the use of gloves and chalk. Is one better than the other? Are they designed to do the same job? Can they be used together?
If we want to keep our hands from developing calluses and avoid ripping our hands during higher repetitions, then gloves are going to be a better option. However, if we want to be able to hold on to the kettlebell without losing our grip once we start to sweat, then chalk is going to be the better option.
It can be difficult to decide which products we need when we don’t have all the information, and we don’t want to end up with a product that isn’t going to solve our problem. For this reason I’ll discuss how to protect your hands when using a kettlebell, discuss the pros and cons of wearing gloves or using chalk, and help you decide which product is best for you.
Protecting Our Hands When Using Kettlebells
To protect our hands when using kettlebells we need to practice proper technique, use a good quality kettlebell, focus on hand care, and protect wounded areas while they heal.
The key to preventing our hands from tearing is to master our kettlebell technique, particularly with swings, cleans, and snatches that have more momentum and therefore have more friction with the hands.
To protect our hands in these movements we should have a relaxed grip on the kettlebell with the kettlebell handle resting in our fingers, rather than deep in our palm. When we grip the kettlebell too tightly it can damage our skin by creating calluses or blisters; to avoid this, we can use a hookgrip (gripping the thumb between our fingers and the handle) to secure our hold on the kettlebell without having to death-grip it.
We also need to prioritize proper hand care by moisturizing the hands when they are dry and on the verge of cracking, using chalk when our hands are sweating excessively and at risk for ripping, and shaving down large calluses with a pumice stone or sandpaper so they are less likely to catch and tear while training.
If our hand does happen to rip then it is important to keep the area covered, so that the wound retains the moisture that it needs to heal faster. If we want to continue to train while our hand is ripped we can tape over the ripped portion and/or wear a glove to prevent additional tearing.
Gloves can also help prevent calluses from developing by providing a physical barrier between our hand and the kettlebell handle; however it’s important to realize that calluses are normal and will not cause problems if we deal with them correctly.
Kettlebell Gloves: Overview
Lifting gloves are primarily used by those who want to protect their hands from calluses while weight training, or those who simply see others wearing them and assume they need them as well. It’s important to note that, although some may think that lifting gloves will improve their grip on the kettlebell – this is not true.
Gloves used for kettlebells are the same gloves that we see for all other weight training activities, which can be bought in many different materials – with the most popular being leather, nylon, and neoprene.
Some gloves are designed with a silicone grip in the palm of the gloves, but this often negatively impacts our ability to use a kettlebell because if the material is too grippy, then the kettlebell will not be able to slide through our palm – which is required for any movements that require us to rack the kettlebell (clean & jerks, snatches)
It is important to get lifting gloves that fit properly, because if the glove is too small then it will likely cut off our circulation, but if the gloves are too loose then it can bunch up, chaffe, and interfere with the movement of the kettlebell in our palm.
Lastly, I feel it’s my duty to tell you that most lifters frown upon those who use gloves because those that wear them are usually seen as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing and/or isn’t strong.
However, if you really feel that gloves are a necessity for you, then wear them anyway because who cares what other people think – at the end of the day, you’re still going to get the job done.
Chalk is used by most lifters because it dramatically increases our ability to grip kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells which allows us to train without having to worry about not being able to hold onto the weight while we’re training or competing.
Chalk is a gamechanger for anyone who has naturally sweaty palms or anyone who trains to the point where they’re dripping, because it is incredibly hard to hold onto a kettlebell once our hands get slick. Chalk works by absorbing the moisture from our hands to ensure a solid grip on the kettlebell handle, rather than losing grip once our palms start to sweat.
Although some people think that they shouldn’t need chalk if their grip strength is strong enough, this is likely not the case. Although chalk does help us to express our grip strength by allowing us to maintain our grip when our hands are sweaty, it doesn’t magically increase the strength in our hands and/or forearms beyond our original capacity.
Chalk can also help prevent our hands from ripping while using the kettlebell because it’s ability to absorb moisture reduces friction that can occur while training/competing. Although it cannot prevent calluses from occurring, we can instead fix flaws in our technique (gripping too tightly, gripping in the wrong place, incorrectly dropping from overhead) that may cause excessive calluses from occurring in the first place.
Pros & Cons of Kettlebell Gloves
- Prevents Calluses
- Protects Healing Wounds
Kettlebell gloves help prevent calluses from developing on our palms by providing a barrier between the handle of the kettlebell and our palm.
The barrier prevents calluses from developing as they normally would if the texture of the handle was too aggressive against the skin, or if our skin was getting repetitively bunched up/pinched when we’re gripping the kettlebell.
Protects Healing Wounds
The barrier that the kettlebell gloves provide is also useful to protect healing wounds.
Oftentimes, if we are not taking proper care of the calluses we have developed, they can rip open and be pretty painful.
The gloves can help provide some much needed cushioning of the area when we are still healing, but we still want to continue training.
- Alters Kettlebell Movements
- May Not Be Very Durable
- Does Not Improve Our Grip
Alters Kettlebell Movements
Kettlebell gloves can alter the flow of the kettlebell in our hands, particularly with movements that require us to transition the kettlebell from one position to another, such as the clean and jerk or snatch. The reason for this is that they tend to bunch up or stick to the handle and prevent the smooth transition of the kettlebell in our palm.
Although this can be minimized with a properly fitted glove, it will still never be as smooth as it would if we were lifting with our bare hands.
The most popular kettlebell movement is the kettlebell swing but if you’re looking for alternatives to this movement, then check out my other article on the 7 Best Kettlebell Swing Alternatives.
May Not Be Very Durable
Kettlebell gloves may not be durable enough to survive high repetition training, especially if we’re training multiple times per week. So if we’re planning to train on a regular basis then we should be aware that the gloves may not last as long as we might expect them to. That being said, gloves are not very expensive and can quite easily be replaced.
Does Not Improve Our Grip
Gloves will not help improve our grip on the kettlebell, because as we start to sweat the gloves may slide around against our skin and our fingers will still be slick as well which will make it harder to maintain our grip on the kettlebell.
Although some gloves do have a grippy material on the palm, this actually makes it harder to perform kettlebell movements because we need the kettlebell to be able to slide in our palm and we will not be able to do this with those gloves.
Pros & Cons Of Chalk
- Better Gripability
- Made For Performance
- Cheap/Readily Available
Chalk is designed to help absorb moisture from our hands to improve our grip on the kettlebell – especially once we start to sweat while we’re training or competing.
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to hold onto the kettlebell while we’re training/competing, so it is an important tool for all users.
Made For Performance
The ability to hold onto the kettlebell once the volume and intensity of our training increases is important, which is why most elite strength athletes use chalk regularly.
Using chalk is a better option for serious kettlebell users, because it does not negatively impact our ability to transition the kettlebell to different positions but still allows us to maintain our grip.
It can also help prevent our hands from ripping once we start to sweat, which is especially important for those who train/compete with higher repetitions like kettlebell sport and crossfit-style training.
If you’re interested in the performance side of kettlebell training, check out the 5 Best Competition Kettlebells (For Crossfit and Kettlebell Sport).
Chalk is very affordable for those who train at-home, or want to carry their own supply; but it is also usually readily available for those who train at a fitness facility that is strength-oriented.
Typically if a facility does not supply chalk for its users, then they likely do not allow chalk because they are worried about the clean-up – in which case, I would be switching gyms.
- Will Not Protect Against Calluses
The downside to using chalk is that it is more messy, and has a tendency to get all over our clothes and the area we’re using it, but it is easily cleaned up with water or any sanitizer that we would normally use to wipe down equipment with.
Most lifters are respectful enough to clean up after themselves after using chalk, but those who do not, often ruin other lifter’s ability to use chalk because gym staff do not want to have to clean up after those who are disrespecting their facility.
Will Not Protect Against Calluses
Chalk will not protect against calluses, which seems to be a concern for many beginner to intermediate lifters. If we’re concerned about calluses and/or ripping our hands when using kettlebells then chalk will not solve the problem.
That being said, large calluses are more indicative of poor technique, improper hand care, or a low quality kettlebell so we should probably be more concerned with these factors.
To learn more about high quality kettlebells that are still affordable, check out my other article on the Best 5 Kettlebells For The Money (That Are Still Well Made).
Which Product Is Best For You?
If we’re looking for something that is going to keep our hands protected and prevent calluses from developing on our palms, then gloves are going to be our best option.
The material separating the kettlebell from our skin will prevent us from developing calluses, but it should be noted that our hands may still get irritated if the gloves bunches up or rubs against our skin repetitively during kettlebell movements.
Oftentimes though, calluses develop because our technique is not quite right – we could be gripping the handle too tightly or holding it in the wrong part of our hand. It is worth evaluating our technique to see if gloves are really necessary or if we can modify our technique to solve the problem.
In addition, it is unlikely that gloves will actually help improve our grip, especially once our hands start to sweat – so if our goal is better grip, then gloves are likely not the best option.
If we’re looking for something that is going to increase our ability to grip the kettlebell, then chalk is our best option because it will dry out the sweat from our palm and help prevent our hands from sliding off of the kettlebell.
Although chalk will not keep our hands from developing calluses, it can prevent our hands from ripping once our palms get sweaty – particularly when training with higher repetitions.
But if our goal is to be callus-free then this may not be the best option – but I will say that most serious lifters do not care about calluses; instead, they care about being able to hold onto the kettlebell.
Can Chalk and Gloves Be Combined?
Although it may seem like the best of both worlds to use gloves and chalk together for those who want to protect their hands from calluses and to be able to maintain their grip once they start to sweat, unfortunately they do not work well together. Chalk will not adhere to the material of the gloves, and therefore it does little to help increase our grip on the kettlebell.
The Mava Sports gloves are one of the best options for those who are interested in using gloves for their kettlebell training because they cover the entire palm of the hand, they have plenty of ventilation to help keep the hands from getting as sweaty, and the palm is not overly grippy so the kettlebell should flow well enough through the palm.
They also have built-in wrist support which could serve as a wrist guard for movements like the clean, and the snatch that require us to rack the kettlebell which can bruise the wrist if we don’t do it correctly.
If we’re set on using gloves for training then the mava sport cross training gloves are going to be our best option for the price.
The Spri Chalk block is a very affordable 2 oz chalk block that we can rely on to absorb moisture from our hands to increase our ability to grip a kettlebell. This chalk has better adherence than some other chalk on the market, and therefore does not need to be reapplied after each set – which will save us money because it makes this already affordable chalk last for even longer.
Other Kettlebell Resources
- Cast Iron vs Steel Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Kettlebell Window Size: What Is It? How Big Should It Be?
- 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell Handle: Which One Should You Get?
- Plastic Kettlebell vs Iron Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Powder Coat vs Competition Kettlebells: Pros & Cons
- Adjustable vs Standard Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- E-Coat vs Powder Coat Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell? (4 Steps For Restoring)
- Kettle Gryp Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- 5 Best Kettlebell Gloves To Protect Your Hands
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Two-Handed Swings
- 3 Best Rubber-Coated Kettlebells
- 7 Best Kettlebell Apps For Both iOS & Android
It’s important to realize that chalk is mainly for increasing our ability to grip the kettlebell, and that gloves are designed to protect our hands from wear and tear while training. The difference between the products should point us in the right direction based on what our top priority is while lifting.
It’s also important to realize that calluses will not necessarily occur when lifting without gloves, and we may not need the extra layer of protection, which will interfere with our kettlebell technique.
About The Author
Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.