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What Are the Primary Materials Used in a Gym Floor?

Learn About the Best Materials for Gym Flooring


What Are the Primary Materials Used in a Gym Floor?

Dedicating a space in your home to exercise is a great way to maintain the drive to stick to fitness goals. From weightlifting to high-intensity interval training to yoga, a home gym takes any fitness quest to the next level.

Whether you are starting with new construction, repurposing an existing space, or renovating an area in your basement, it is best to start from the ground up by making sure you select the right gym flooring for your needs.

Typically, the flooring that already exists in the home is not ideal for exercise. Wood, carpet, vinyl, and laminate can splinter, shred, dent, and may be slippery. So what is the best gym floor material? Because everyone's needs are unique, the best gym floor material entirely depends on its purpose. In general, however, suitable flooring for home gyms includes interlocking foam and rubber floor tiles and mats, rolled rubber, plyometric rubber, plastic tiles and carpet tiles. Each kind of material carries their own benefits compatible with a variety of fitness and sports.

In order to hone in on what kind of home gym flooring might be best for you, start your planning by asking yourself a few questions.

Equipment

What kind of fitness equipment will you be putting on the floor?
Will you be moving equipment around?
How heavy is the equipment you are going to be using? Will it be lighter weight like dumbells, or several hundred pounds like treadmills and ellipticals?

Types of Exercise

What kind of exercise will you be doing? Yoga... Zumba... Weightlifting?
What kind of high impact movements will your exercise require?
Will you be dropping dead weights?
Will your back or stomach be in contact with the floor?

Portability

Would you like the floor to be a permanent installation, or should it be temporary?
Are you a renter or planning to move, or is this a dedicated exercise space for the long term?
Do you need something that can be easily carried and stored?
Pre-Existing Environment
Is it wet or dry?
What is the existing floor - carpet, wood, concrete, or something else?

The answers to all of the above questions will be a factor in choosing the best gym floor material for you. You can keep all of these in mind as you learn more about the different types of gym floors.

What Are the Primary Materials Used in Gym Floors?

As mentioned above, the primary materials used in gym floors tend to include foam, rubber or PVC plastic, and even special carpet.

Rubber

If you are primarily interested in weightlifting or exercise machines, rubber is the best gym floor material. Unlike most foam, rubber is tough enough to protect the floor underneath from heavy equipment like treadmills and weight racks and from dropping weights. Rubber will not compress or warp when used under still or moving heavy weight equipment. It is relatively affordable, very durable, and pretty easy to install.

One challenge that does come with rubber is that it tends to be one of the heavier best gym floor material options. However, it can also be a benefit, as the weight makes it stay in place, so adhesives are less necessary. Tiles are lighter weight but rolled rubber results in fewer seams.

Another benefit is that rubber will deaden sound, whether from a noisy elliptical machine or dropping weights. Rubber is also easy to keep clean, with regular vacuuming and a damp mop. With proper care, rubber will perform effectively for decades.

Rubber Tiles

One example of rubber tiles is the American-made Geneva Interlocking Rubber Tile. The 3x3 foot tiles are popular for home gyms and easy for homeowners to install. Although tiles can be purchased in a variety of thicknesses, users most commonly choose an 8 mm thickness for a home gym. Tiles are made and shipped from Wisconsin. Geneva tiles are made from a combination of recycled scrap rubber and virgin rubber, keeping millions of pounds of tires out of landfills. That means tiles may contribute to LEED building points in five different categories. These tiles have low odor and carry a 5-year manufacturer's warranty

Rolled Rubber

Although tiles are the lightweight option, rolled rubber floors tend to be less expensive. Rolls come primarily in 4-foot widths, with lengths from 10 to 25 feet, and up to 200 feet. Again, the 8 mm thickness is available, along with 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-inch thicknesses. Using rolled rubber will result in fewer seams, giving your space a custom look, and can be laid over concrete, ceramic tile, or any smooth, hard surface.

Rubber Horse Stall Mats as Home Gym Flooring

Serious bodybuilders and powerlifters commonly choose to use horse stall mats as their home gym flooring alternative. Horse stall mats are designed to protect the joints of horse weighing a thousand pounds or more, so what are a few dropped weights? In addition to their extreme durability, horse stall mats tend to be an economic option and readily available locally, which minimizes shipping costs. This is helpful since the weight of rubber raises shipping costs.

One thing to always have in mind about rubber horse stall mats is the fact they often emit a strong odor, somewhat akin to rotten eggs or asphalt. Although this does not bother horses, certain humans can be quite sensitive to the smell, especially in smaller, indoor spaces. Make sure to take steps to deodorize mats before installing them and also maintain proper ventilation once they are installed.

Stall mats can also vary widely in thickness. It can be hard to find two mats that are exactly the same, even after digging through a whole stack of mats at the farm supply store. The uneven appearance of seams can be unattractive. Thinner mats may not protect the floor or your weights completely from drops during Olympic lifts, so many powerlifters and bodybuilders also use plywood underlayments in addition to stall mats.

Plyometric Rolled Rubber

While rubber is durable, it doesn't add much cushion for aerobic activities like zumba, cardio activities, tumbling, grappling or floor exercises. The one exception is plyometric rolled rubber which can be a good, affordable option, offering enough cushion for a safe cardio workout, whether it is HIIT, P90X, Tae Bo or ''Sweatin' to the Oldies.''

This highly shock absorbent material is available in 4 foot wide rolls starting at lengths of 25 feet. 3/8 inch, 1/2-inch, and 8 mm are standard thicknesses. Plyometric has a greater cushion than standard rubber products because it is less dense. Yet, that does not decrease its durability. At Gym Rubber, plyometric rubber rolls come with a five-year guarantee but are bound to last for much longer.

Foam

Foam is the best gym floor material for fitness that requires padding and protection for the body and a variety of cardio exercise as well. Foam is not a good choice for serious weight lifting as it will dent, may not decompress, and may cause weights to bounce back, which could be dangerous. However, foam won't break the budget for a simple home gym with a few machines, light weights, where you want to do cardio activity or yoga.

Foam tends to be less expensive than rubber, but it is also less durable. That being said, you can find dense foam that gets close to the consistency of rubber. Since it weighs less, however, it is also cheaper to ship, easier to install, and is durable enough for many home applications. Foam is also the simplest option for temporary installations. Foam puzzle tiles, for example, can easily be laid down for workouts and picked back up and stored at other times.

Foam mats are readily available at big-box retailers, mainly in black or mixed packs of bright primary colors. For thicker, more durable mats in a wider range of single colors, check the big box stores websites or a specialty flooring company like Gym Rubber by Greatmats.

Foam flooring is available in different hardnesses. What's available at your local retailer will probably be soft - a standard hardness best for multi-use areas. High hardness foam tiles are better for karate and aerobic activities, specifically standing and kicking drills. There are softer martial arts mats for home Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), judo and grappling with a durable tatami no-burn surface that provides grip for groundwork with enough cushion for takedowns and throws. If you want to put heavy weight equipment like a treadmill over foam, it is typically necessary to use a special mat under the equipment to prevent the foam from being damaged.

Plastic

Plastic is one of the best gym floor material options for basements or carpeted areas. Plastic flooring can both protect subflooring and offer cushion at the same time. Unlike foam or rubber, certain plastic tiles can be used on top of existing carpeting without the risk of the tiles separating or sinking into the carpet pile at the seams.

For intense aerobic workouts like P90X, Crossfit, and Hip Hop Dance, soft PVC gym floor tiles can provide superior cushioning and durability. PVC tiles are perfect for these sports, as they allow athletes to remain sure-footed and stable, while still lessening the shock of high-intensity impacts. Plastic tiles are also tough enough for light and medium weight lifting. Plus, it is the best gym floor material for quick and easy maintenance. They dry quickly, do not grip to dirt, and do not absorb water, which makes them super easy to clean and disinfect. are easy to clean and disinfect.

StayLock Bump Top tiles are an example of plastic gym flooring that is durable like rubber, with the cushion of foam. These tiles are made from soft PVC and are flexible and pliable, yet non-absorbent. The underside of each tile has little feet that elevate the tile above the floor surface, providing cushion but also airflow beneath the tile, an important feature if you are using them in a damp basement area.

Gym Carpet

Carpet can be a tricky one. As mentioned before, most types of carpet are not suitable for a home gym. Carpet can be ruined when exposed to moisture, and it more easily takes on odors. However, as long as you choose wisely, it turns out that carpet is actually one of the best gym floor materials when space versatility is desired. If you do not want to be bothered with picking up and putting down an exercise floor but you cannot commit an entire room solely to exercise, carpet tiles make a good compromise. The right carpet tiles will offer cushion, warmth, and stability with the convenience of modular flooring. Gym carpet tiles will have a dense ply so it also enough stability for exercise. The surface of gym carpet tiles is more durable than residential carpeting, and damaged tiles can be replaced.

Learn More

There are a lot of gym flooring options on the market. Take some time to think about how you will train. Find a reputable retailer like Gym Rubber by Greatmats, and ask questions. Do your own research, read product reviews, and make sure you order some free samples to get an actual feel for a product.
For more on this topic please review our Gym Flooring product page.