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How thick should a gymnastics mat be versus a cheerleading mat

How Thick Should a Gymnastics Mat Be? How about a Cheer Mat?

To the casual observer, cheerleading and gymnastics seem to share many similarities. On a surface level, they do. Both sports require tumbling, flexibility, and a whole darn lot of strength. Plus, both sports call upon choreography, dance, and music to perform routines during competitions.

Despite some shared characteristics, the two sports pose different risks, which means that the flooring will need to be different as well. For safety reasons, it is important to distinguish between the two. Whether you're looking for home mats for your budding Simone Biles or training your school's cheerleaders to ''Bring It On,'' you want to make sure they have a safe surface to land and practice on.

Differing Risks

While gymnastics does include tumbling and floor events, female gymnasts also use equipment for three of their events: uneven parallel bars, the vault, and the balance beam. Male gymnasts compete on even more apparatuses. Falling off of these pieces of equipment requires specialized fall-rated flooring, and unique mats to absorb the gymnast's energy when they really ''stick'' a landing.

Way back when cheerleading was a tamer sideline sport. Nowadays, however, it has developed into a full-blown competitive pursuit with governing boards, regulations and, unfortunately, injuries. Falling off a pyramid formation on the wrong surface can mean serious injury. Participants in cheer activities received more injuries than any other female college or high school sport. Fortunately, coaches, cheerleaders, and regulators are making moves to decrease the injury rate. One effective way the change is being made is through a larger emphasis on safe cheerleading flooring.

Read on to discover all you need to know about cheer mats and gymnastic mats and the important differences between the two.

Cheer Mats

Many home cheer mats are made of carpet bonded foam and easily roll up when not in use. They are lightweight and portable and work for home use and traveling cheer events. Cheer mats are able to connect together with a secure hook-n-loop connecting system that will not come apart on accident. Sizes range from 4x6 foot to 5x10 foot to 6x42 feet. Some mats are 1 3/8 inch thick while others are 2 inches thick.

Cheer mats generally have a carpet top, while gymnastics mats most often have a vinyl top.

Many good quality cheerleading mats are made in the US and feature a 3-year warranty, like the ones carried at Gym Rubber. Some cheerleading mat manufacturers simply glue a needle-punch carpet surface to a cross-link polyethylene foam, which provides the cushion. However, the better quality mats are assembled by flame bonding the carpet surface to the foam. This ensures that the bond between the foam and carpet won't begin to fail with use. Mats come in black, blue, purple, gray and red.

The roll-out feature, i.e., the slits in the back of the mat, are cut with water jet precision for a perfect cut in every mat. The foam in quality roll-out mats consists of cross-linked polyethylene material. These slits allow you to roll up the mats for storage or transport without creasing or damaging them.

The best quality cheerleading mats, like those found at Gym Rubber, are built to perfection. That means each edge is precision-cut so that when they are laid next to another, there are no gaping seams.


This flexible style is a popular solution for people who need to haul and use their mats in various locations. A lightweight design makes it easy for one person to install and move the mats. Even the large 42-foot mat at 1 3/8 inch thickness weighs just 115 pounds. A 2-inch thick mat weighs 135 pounds. Users adore the portability of cheer mats because it means they can go from gyms to competitions to sidelines without much hassle. Home mats in smaller sizes weigh as little as 12 pounds and can be hauled around and set up by your young athlete.

Safety Features

As noted before, cheer mats are absolutely essential for safety. Cheerleading mats are specifically constructed to provide ergonomic comfort to athletes while providing padded protection for tumblers, flyers, and floor routines. Different mats have different fall height ratings depending on the thickness. Carpeted landing mats tend to have a fall height rating of four feet or less. Since cheerleading is performed in shoes, the carpet top provides a safe, non-slip surface suitable for cheer.

If you are working on drills and learning new skills, vinyl covered landing pads or crash pads are a better option. Crash mats are not as firm as landing mats and are therefore not intended for stunting. Both of these options are generally used when there is a fall height of 6.5 feet or less. However, additional protection for greater heights can be achieved by layering landing pads over foam matted flooring.

Spring floors should be used for any cheerleading activity with a fall height exceeding 11 feet.

In addition to home cheer mats, Greatmats carries a complete line of professional quality 6x42 foot carpet top pro cheerleading mats for All-Star Teams and competitions, designed for years of use, which also come with a 3-year limited warranty. All-star and competition cheerleading mats are available in 1-3/8 and 2-inch thicknesses.


To ensure the longevity and cleanliness of cheer mats, keep them dry and stored indoors. Although they can be used outdoors for periods of time, they are not meant to sit outside - and especially are not meant to sit in the rain.

Cheerleading mats are easy to keep clean with regular vacuuming and an occasional light mop. Avoid using any powerful cleaning agents, as these can damage the product. Large, full-size cheerleading mats can be steam cleaned on an annual basis as a part of regular maintenance.

Gymnastics mats

Gymnastic mats range from training folding mats to rollout mats and landing pads, to shaped octagon mats and wedge-shaped incline mats. Many gymnastic mats fold or roll up for easy storage and transport.

Gymnastics Mat Construction

Gymnastics mats are typically surfaced with vinyl. For mats that are to see years of heavy-duty use, it is worth it to choose a particularly durable vinyl. Gymnastics mats sold by Gym Rubber come with industry standard 18 oz., 6P compliant vinyl coverings and are constructed using quality materials and craftsmanship. The durable vinyl cover materials on their folding gymnastics mats meet the California Clean Water Act requirements. Gym Rubber's folding gym mats ensure longevity and quality with double-stitched seams and a long-lasting, protective polyethylene foam center. The 2-foot wide panels fold accordion style for quick and easy installation and takedown. These panel-style gymnastics mats are also a popular form of economical wall padding.

Panel-style folding gym mats are a popular choice for developing tumbling and general training. Like cheer mats, folding gym mats can be used on individually, or they can be connected together using the secure connector strips. Infallible connecting strips ensure mats will not separate or shift during training. Panel mats with two connector strips have the stripes on the short side (a.k.a. ends), allowing you to make long, narrow runs for tumbling.

Panel mats can be connected together using their hook and loop connector strips and placed over sprung floors for gymnastics - as well as martial arts and wrestling - for additional impact absorption. Panel gymnastics mats are smooth enough to use under bare feet and durable enough to handle athletic footwear.

Gym Rubber by Greatmats keeps many standard sizes in stock including 4x6 foot, 4x8 foot, 4x10 foot and 5x10 foot mats, in either 1.5 or 2-inch thicknesses.

School Use

The 1.5 inch thick home gym mats are best for younger children and 2-inch thick mat works for middle school students and older as they offer more cushion and impact absorption. 2.5 inch thick mats are also available. Standard colors include: blue and black. Green, purple and red are available as well. Some mats have as many as 17 color options and a custom color option. Customers may choose to put a school or club logo in one strip of their mats to share their school spirit.

Outside Use

Typically, gymnastic mats with a durable or vinyl cover will not suffer damage or discoloration when used in good weather over lawns. However, surfaces can suffer blemishes if used over harsh terrain. Keep in mind that while folding gymnastics mats can be used outdoors, they are not UV treated and are only partially non-absorbent, so they should not be left outdoors when not in use or used during adverse weather conditions.

Competition Mats

Landing mats can be purchased in both folding or non-folding forms. Competition landing mats come in sizes ranging from 6x12 feet to 8x18 feet, in both 12 and 20 cm thicknesses. All competition gymnastics pads have a laminate layer of 1-3/8 inch thick cross-linked polyethylene foam. Mats with 12 cm thicknesses feature a custom formulated bottom layer of polyurethane foam that will not come loose. Gym Rubber manufacturers are careful to use top qualities in order to produce the shock absorption necessary for safe landings. Plus, premium made products ensure that they can be used for years on end in any school or gymnastics facility. Competition landing mats have a double-stitched top end and a heavy duty number 10 YKK molded zipper and carry a 3-year warranty.

Gymnastic Mats for Young Ones

Sometimes just a little extra cushion is wanted for the little ones. Four-inch-thick skill cushions are designed for toddler and preschool rooms where extra safety and protection is needed. Meanwhile, the 8-inch thick skill cushion mats are the perfect option for tumbling and gymnastics programs, and the 12 inch thick tumbling mats add even more protection. Each and every skill cushion that comes at eight or twelve inches thick are designed with double-stitched surfaces and breather mesh sides. Skill cushion mats also feature heavy duty 10 YKK zipper, a 3-year warranty, and have 2-inch polyester web handles on all sides.

Gymnastic Mats for High Impact Landings

If you are looking for ultimate cushioning for athletes repeatedly landing on their backs or stomachs, then Fluffy Denim mats are the way to go. These mats are 1 foot thick and are 5 feet by 6 2/3 feet long. American-made Fluffy Denim mats are perfect for bars and vault drills where high-impact landings are inevitable. The higher the fall, the more the landing on a vinyl cover will sting. That is why Fluffy mats are designed with a denim cover - to lessen the harshness or slap of a big fall.

Another option to consider is the Gmats line of roll-out mats for gymnastics practices at home or on the road. This American-made 5x10-foot roll-up mat can be stored in an upright roll that is less than 18 inches in diameter and is excellent for tumbling and floor exercise practice.

For Extra Padding

Many users choose to use foam underlayment as an added layer of protection. Foam rolls are an economical way to cover large areas of gym floor with superior shock absorption. At Gym Rubber, you can find foam rolls that are 6x42 feet in size and come in either 5/8-, 1.25- or 2-inch. Foam rolls are not designed to be a finished top surface and must be covered.

Skill Training Tools

Certain mats are specifically designed for skill development. For example, a 10-foot long and 2-inch thick folding gymnastics mat can provide agility training platforms anywhere from 2 to 10 inches off the ground - in 2-inch increments. This is a popular training tool for multi-level jumps and working into transitions from the floor to upright positions or vice versa while learning moves.

Octagon mats are a popular choice for developing tumbling, strength, and flexibility. At Gym Rubber, their Octagon mats are filled with premium quality 70 ILD polyurethane foam and used Dacron thread and rugged webbing handles.

Inclined gymnastics mats go by many names, including wedge mats or cheese mats, and come in folding and nonfolding versions. These wedge mats can be used as a training tool for all skill levels. Some of the larger versions can be transformed into firm mini pits or spotting tables. Wedge-shaped gym mats are great for uphill vaulting, transition training on bars, basic tumbling and conditioning. They can also be used in conjunction with octagon mats for skill training.

Knowledgeable Resource

When the health and safety of students, children, and athletes are in the hands of a flooring retailer, it is essential to choose one that is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Whether it is gymnastics or cheer, with Gym Rubber by Greatmats, you can rest at ease knowing they only offer high-quality, thoroughly-tested products.
For more on this topic please review our Gymnastics Mats product page.