Gym Flooring Guide: Rubber Mats and Rolls

By | 2017-11-02T17:02:58+00:00 November 2nd, 2017|Categories: Equipment Guides, Most Popular|Tags: , |4 Comments
  1. Quick Pick by Gym Type
  2. 4ft x 6ft Rubber Mats
  3. Interlocking Rubber Tiles
  4. Rubber Rolls
  5. EVA Mats
  6. Lifting Platforms

Quick-Pick by Gym Type

Type of Gym Flooring Choice
Home Gym

The best deal online for just a few 4′ x 6′ x 1/2″ rubber mats is XMark’s mats on Amazon. For a power rack setup, 2 of these mats will nicely cover the floor under your rack and enough in front for your bench.

For about the same price per sqft as the above, but not quite as thick, smaller interlocking 7/16″ thick rubber mats are easy to install. 

Commercial Gym,
Health Club,
Training Studio

3/8″ or 1/2″ rubber mats or rolls are fine for most applications. See the rubber rolls on Amazon.

If your gym has no freeweights that could be dropped, no mats are necessary.

Crossfit Box

3/4″ thick rubber mats are needed to give maximum protection for your concrete subfloor against constantly dropped weights. Available in a 25-pack deal from Rogue Fitness or Fringe Sport.

Olympic Lifting Gym

A line of several lifting platforms is the standard, either the professional-looking York platforms or the budget-friendly Rogue platforms. It protects the floor really well, and rubber flooring might not be needed throughout the rest of the area.

 


4ft x 6ft Rubber Mats

4′ x 6′ happens to be a common size that these come in. There are larger and smaller ones. Larger ones are almost impossible for one person to handle (this size is already 96 lbs). For smaller sizes, on the other hand, you might as well go with interlocking mats, detailed in the next section below.

These mats can work in a 3/8″, 1/2″, or 3/4″ thickness. Get the 3/4″ if you can. It protects your floor underneath the best against dropped weights. Anything thinner than 3/8″ is more like a cardio equipment mat that’s just meant to protect the floor against a treadmill or bike sitting on it and not much else.

A concrete floor underneath is ideal, and it’s the only subfloor you should have if you plan on dropping weights at all when doing olympic lifts.

For carpet, you’re going to either need to pull up the carpet (ideal) or lay sheets of 3/4″ (or 23/32″) plywood over the carpet, and the mats on top of that. A thick carpet will be too squishy and not give you the kind of stability you need when you’re lifting a lot of weight. Squats in particular will make you notice that your rubber and plywood setup on top of thick carpet doesn’t give you the firmest footing. Either way, drill screws through the mats into the plywood to keep everything from shifting around. 

Rubber mat screwed into plywood, laid on top of carpet.

For thin, firm carpet, you can lay mats directly on them and you’ll be fine.

For tile or hardwood floors, to prevent scuffing first put down some canvas dropcloths (foam underlay also works but can add squishiness, which is bad), then 3/4″ plywood, then rubber mats. This will protect your nice flooring sufficiently from dropped weights and the direct abrasion of the plywood… and reduce noise. Finally, drill some wood screws through the rubber and plywood to keep everything nicely in place. You will be recessing the screw into the rubber a bit so you don’t trip on the screw head, so be extra careful taht your screws aren’t so long that you go through to your nice floor underneath.

Plywood note: Get high quality plywood sheets that are nice and flat, not curled. It can still eventually curl up on you, but at least starting with flat plywood is critical. Be careful when you mop the floor later (you do mop your gym floor, right?), keeping any moisture from seeping down to the plywood to prevent curling over time.

“Stall mats”, or any mats made with recycled rubber, will stink. If you have time, and you’re just installing a few, drape each one on something outside to air them out for a while. Possibly up to a month. Otherwise just keep the room ventilated and they’ll eventually stop off-gassing.

These rubber mats can be cut to size with a few passes of a utility knife or good serrated knife. I’ve cut 3/4″ stall mats with a utility knife and straight edge, and it cuts fine. Just cut the edge that will go against the wall.

Where to Buy 4’x6′ Rubber Mats

If you are filling a big area, get the 25-piece case from Rogue Fitness or Fringe Sport. Even if you don’t need all 25, it’s a great deal. Sell your extras on an app like Offerup or Letgo for the same as what you paid, $50 a pop, and you’ll get rid of them in one day flat and make a friend. There are tons of people out there looking for 2 or 3 good gym mats for that price.

For smaller quantities, XMark’s 4′ x 6′ x 1/2″ mats on Amazon are the best deal online right now.


Rubber Puzzle-Piece Tiles

Currently this is the only type of rubber flooring we sell ourselves. We have 7/16″ thick interlocking rubber tiles for a great price.

They’re small pieces that are easy for anyone to install, and the puzzle-piece tabs ensure they won’t slide apart.

You might still want to drill in a screw here and there around the edges of the area if you’re going into plywood, to make sure they don’t shift over time. 

One downside for these is there’s a lot of edges everywhere to possibly stick up and be annoying. Well-made ones shouldn’t have that issue. This is assuming your floor underneath doesn’t have any imperfections that cause the pieces to stick up anywhere.

Basically, for small areas, these can work pretty nicely.


25ft or 50ft Rubber Rolls

If you buy a few rolls, these are the best deal per square foot.

These are all 4ft wide and come up to 1/2″ thick but most commonly are 3/8″ and thinner, because thicker ones won’t roll up very tightly.

One big advantage of these is they minimize seams between mats that are unsightly or can lead to slipping. Basically, the fewer mats, the fewer seams. These are made specifically for commercial applications so are precision-cut so that you can barely notice the seams. This 

Be warned, these rolls are really heavy, more than you can handle on your own. You may need professional help to get them installed right, or at least a couple friends.

See these 8mm (about 3/8″) thick rolls on Amazon. Pick the 3 or 5 rolls options on the Amazon product page and you’ll see it’s quite a bit less per square foot than for just 1 roll.


EVA Puzzle-Piece Tiles

I have to mention these because they’re all over Amazon. 

If you want to cheap out on flooring, EVA is what you’ll get. It’s the Cheez Wiz of flooring. Don’t even think about using it in a commercial setting, or your whole gym will feel cheap.

Sometimes these are advertised as “rubber foam” flooring or “soft rubber” flooring. They’re not rubber. Don’t be fooled.

They’re extremely lightweight and easy to install. Each tile weighs maybe 1/2 pound? 

They have several major issues:

  • The floor protection isn’t that great if you drop weights, because it’s too soft to disperse the load like rubber does
  • Pieces can stretch from enough lateral force and move out of alignment
  • The surface texture wears away quickly
  • Heavy equipment will cause it to compress a lot and leave marks permanently
  • Your footing won’t be firm for any standing heavy lifts. Squats and cleans, beware!

If you insist on using them, don’t put them directly on carpet, unless it’s super thin carpet. They’ll squish and separate all over the place and be totally unusable. Major bummer. You could lay some 3/4″ plywood sheets down first, as described above for the rubber mats, to at least help keep the tabs from lifting up.


Lifting Platforms

For ultimate protection in dropping barbells when doing the olympic lifts. You still need to use bumper plates, but if you’re careful and not lifting a ton of weight you can do deadlifts with iron plates on it.

It’s two layers of plywood underneath, and on top is a another layer of hardwood in the center strip, and a layer of thick rubber on the sides. The whole thing is enclosed by a steel frame to keep it together. It’s awesome.

The width is always 8ft, to accommodate a fully-loaded 7ft barbell with room for slop. As far as the length front to back, get 8ft if you’re going to be doing olympic lifts. That will give you room to drop the barbell in front of or behind you. 6ft depth can work. For deadlifts you only need 4ft.

Putting it directly on a concrete subfloor is fine. Most commonly a lifting platform is on top of the rubber flooring that’s everywhere else in the gym. 

The hardwood has just the right amount of traction if you’re using olympic lifting shoes.

If you have anything but a concrete subfloor, don’t try a platform. This won’t go well. Light to moderately heavy deadlifts are ok, but a wood floor underneath isn’t going to like it when you drop olympic lifts, even with the platform.

We sell York’s oak platforms at our store, which look great and perform well in any environment. 

For a cheaper price you can get Rogue’s modular “build-your-own” platform kit in the 8’x6′ size or 8’x8′ size. I love things that you can take apart and actually move, and good luck ever moving a regular platform on your own. Basically with Rogue’s solution you buy the frame and a set of 1.5″ thick rubber tiles to stick in it. Done! 

Another advantage of Rogue’s is you don’t have to ever worry about wood curling over time or everything staying glued together. The frame keeps it all together, and that’s that. There’s not much to it. If you really want to, you could stick two layers of 3/4″ plywood in the center for your standing area.

 

 

What did you do for flooring in your gym? Send us a pic!

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About the Author:

David Kiesling
David founded Adamant Barbell in 2007. He is into weight training, Crossfit, nutrition, hang gliding, snowboarding, mountain biking, and hackysack. He also owns a hang glider repair business.

4 Comments

  1. Justin August 28, 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Ok, thanks! I have tile floor above concrete subfloor, my plan is to build a standard 8×8 lifting platform out plywood and horse stall mats. Since firmer is better, would laying down four 4×6 horse stall mats and building the platform ensure better protection tile floor? A few of the tiles are uneven. Could the mats themselves damage the tiles in some way, or lead to water pooling underneath them? Perhaps I should lay the canvas drop cloth beneath the horse stall mats as the first layer? No dropped weights, just deadlifts (~300-400lb at the moment) lowered quickly to the platform.

    • David Kiesling
      David Kiesling August 29, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Right, I’d put something like the drop cloth as the first layer to protect the tile even from just rubber. Rubber will probably leave marks on it. Moisture shouldn’t be an issue as long as you only do light mopping.
      I would want the plywood as well to distribute the impact and protect the tile, but the platform will do it. I’ll be interested to hear how it goes, but sounds fine. As a reference point, concrete gets pulverized from enough drops (cleans/snatches) when only protected by a layer of rubber mats, but with only deadlifts and a platform I can’t imagine you would do damage. The uneven tiles might be troublesome, maybe requiring another layer of canvas or something on the other tiles to even things out.

  2. Justin Hill August 25, 2017 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    What type of thin foam underlay would you recommend to put between tile floor and plywood? How thick should it be?

    • David Kiesling
      David Kiesling August 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Good question! A canvas drop cloth under the plywood would prevent the possibility of the plywood scuffing the tile. Here’s a 12×15 one: http://amzn.to/2wiWp5Z
      3/4″ plywood and 1/2″-3/4″ rubber on top of that should do the trick to absorb impact, as long as you aren’t doing anything extreme like dropping weights from shoulder height.
      I’d steer away from foam underlayment, because it’s designed to add a tiny amount of cushion, and that’s a bad thing for this application. The firmer the better.
      I’ll have to add a note about it to this article.

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