Underlays that absorb or cushion pressure and shocks during your athletic movements are called workout, training, sports, or exercise mats. There are three main types of mats: gym mats, fitness mats, and floor protection mats.

You can choose one or the other depending on the sporting purpose for which you intend to use a training mat. Training mats are essential for ensuring you do the exercises correctly and in a healthy manner.

Fitness equipment, such as a stepper, an exercise bike, an ergometer, or dumbbells, will require protection mats as an underlay.

Roll-able and portable fitness mat

Is a training mat necessary?

It’s hard on the joints when you train on the floor. As a result, there are training mats with padding, which cushion your body and prevent pain. The exercise mat also has a non-slip surface, ensuring safe workout.

Another advantage of training mats is their ease of handling. Because most mats can be rolled and unrolled easily, there is no extra work to be done. These basic training mats are lightweight and portable.

Thick exercise mat for more cushioning

Training mat as a base

You cannot avoid using a mat if you are trying to train effectively. Your training becomes more comfortable because of the soft padding and insulation from the cold floor. A good exercise mat will offer extra stability for certain exercises, depending on its characteristics.

Exercise mats offer slip resistance as one of their most important features. On the other hand, a mat’s surface usually ensures maximum grip, allowing you to easily do exercises that require balancing.

Training mat to protect the floor

A mat’s second important function, besides protecting you from injury, is to protect your floor. You can soon acquire scratches and dents in parquet flooring if you purchase fitness equipment, such as a home trainer. By using floor protection mats you can avoid these occurrences.

Floor mats can protect against laminate, parquet and tiles wearing out prematurely, while also reducing the noise level. They cushion violent movements, which is better for neighbors who are staying on the floor below. These mats also reduce noise and floor damage when you use small equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells.

Advantages of training mats at a glance

  • Suitable for adults and children alike
  • Versatile
  • Easy on the joints
  • Prevents slipping
  • Isolates cold floors
  • Increases motivation
  • Makes the training more comfortable
  • Reduces noises
  • Prevents damage to the floor
  • Protects against soiling

Which areas of application are exercise mats suitable?

Basically, mats may be used in any way you see fit. Everyone who does not like exercising on a hard, cold floor will find it suitable. You can get them in different lengths, widths, and thicknesses, so you can be sure to find the right one for your needs.

Before buying, you should be aware of the type of training or activity you plan to do. A training mat that doesn’t fit your needs will be a waste of money.

The following table gives you a rough overview of the applications of exercise mats.

Training matApplication area
General Purpose Fitness matYoga and Pilates in all versions, meditation, martial arts, warm-up exercises, stability exercises, stretching exercises, strength exercises, movement therapy, Zumba, aerobics, workouts such as Freeletics and much more.
Gym matAll the above mentioned training forms, floor exercises, jumps
Floor protection matProtective layer between heavy fitness equipment, weights and floor

What types of exercise mats are there and which one is right for you?

As exercise mats are extremely versatile, they are used everywhere. At home, as well as in places like day-cares, physiotherapy centers, medical centers and fitness studios. Different combinations of thickness, weight, and material are better suited for certain applications than others.

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Most slow-motion exercises, as in Pilates and Yoga, require a solid mat with a rigid base, rather than a thick mat that is too soft. You might invest in a thicker, cushioned exercise mat if you want to do jumps and similar dynamic exercises. We will look at the three types of exercise mats.

  • Fitness mat
  • Gym Mat
  • Floor protection mat

The use and functions of the various training mats each have their advantages and disadvantages.

General purpose Yoga mat

Fitness mat

A fitness mat can be used for Pilates, Yoga, gymnastics, fitness and strength exercises, aerobic exercise, dancing, Zumba, and martial arts. Fitness mats provide optimal support when lying, sitting or standing, as they are thin mats made of synthetic or natural materials. You’ll find the exercise mat also provides stability and security, due to its non-slip surface. It is gentle on your spine and joints, thanks to its light suspension. They can even protect you from the cold, depending on the thickness of the model.

Also, they provide support for dynamic movements such as aerobic exercises and dances. Many people refer to these mats as all-round mats. Their cushioning properties are limited as they are thin, so they are unsuitable for gymnastic exercises involving strong forces, such as cartwheels or jumping rolls. It’s usually easy to roll up fitness mats, so they’re easy to store and carry.

Exercise mats provide the minimum level of comfort compared to gym mats and floor protection mats.

Advantages:

  • Suitable for Pilates, yoga, aerobics, light gymnastic exercises
  • Can be used anywhere and anytime as they are easy to transport

Cons:

  • Not for gymnastics
  • Not robust enough as floor protection mat

Gym Mat

Your gym class definitely had gym mats. They can be found in day-care facilities and sports clubs today. Also available are slightly altered versions for home use. They provide excellent fall protection, especially for children who are running around.

Fall protection is even greater with gym mats. This makes them perfect for floor gymnastics. You can do headstand, handstand, and rolls without any problem.

Gym mats are thicker and more cushioned than fitness mats. You can also use them for general fitness exercises and sports exercises, depending on your individual needs. Special foam is used for gym mats. It offers good damping properties for movements involving strong forces. 

The mats protect your joints, muscles, and tendons. Although they offer some stability during weight-bearing exercises, they offer none for balancing exercises. Gym mats are bigger, bulkier, and less portable than fitness mats.

Advantages:

  • Suitable for gymnastic exercises
  • Better cushioning and fall protection

Cons:

  • Unwieldy and heavy
  • Difficult to transport

Floor protection mat

A floor protection mat acts primarily as a protector against damage and wear. The floor doesn’t matter whether it is carpet, parquet, or laminate. Most of them are made from PVC or foam material. These mats can be placed underneath fitness equipment like spin bikes, exercise bikes, or steppers.

In addition to separating the fitness equipment from the floor, they also prevent damage from toppling over heavy dumbbells and other types of weights. It also helps keep the equipment as stable as possible and prevents slippage.

Advantages:

  • Suitable for heavy fitness equipment
  • Size individually adjustable

Cons:

  • Transportation and storability tiresome
Mats made of different materials

How do I choose an exercise mat?

We’ll show you what criteria to compare so you can pick the right training mat.

  • Functionality
  • Material
  • Size
  • Thickness and cushioning
  • Skid resistance
  • Design
  • Transport and stowability

Functionality

You can narrow down your search for the right exercise mat if you consider what purpose you will use the mat for.

Using a fitness mat, for instance, may be adequate for yoga, Pilates, or similar exercises without weights. In gymnastics or other exercises where the mat is subjected to greater force, a gym mat is preferred. When working out on heavy fitness equipment, however, you should use a floor mat.

Exercise mat with printed pattern

Material categories

Different materials are used to make the training mats. Natural materials are a healthier option than petroleum-based products, but they also tend to be more expensive.

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Training mats made of synthetic materials

Synthetic mats are used for a wide variety of applications. PVC, thermoplastic elastomers, polyurethane and combinations of these are most commonly used.

A PVC mat is the cheapest. Individuals with latex allergies can use these products. It is mainly in dry conditions that their slip resistance is high. You should have a towel on hand if you sweat profusely. These cheap mats often contain plasticizers and other irritants.

Gym mats often contain polyurethane foam, which is known for its good dampening properties. Slip resistance is enhanced by polyurethane coatings.

Many synthetic mats are impervious to water and can be easily cleaned. Polyurethane coating requires special care. A synthetic mat is usually light and transportable.

Puzzle foam rubber (EVA) mats

Training mats made of natural materials

A variety of training mats are available for fans of natural materials. Rubber, virgin wool, cotton and cork are the materials used here. Biodegradability and sustainability are highly valued by manufacturers of training mats made from natural materials.

All natural rubber mats contain no harmful chemicals and are non-toxic. Even better, they usually offer greater slip resistance. However, they are harder to clean. Wear and tear on these mats is accelerated by a very dynamic exercise.Some of these mats may also have an unpleasant odor after purchase. After a brief period, the initial odor disappears because of its naturalness.

Virgin wool is another popular material. It is not only renewable but also of natural origin. The softness of virgin wool makes them ideal for comfortable training on cold floors. They are limited in terms of slip resistances and cushioning qualities. The mats are usually washable, just like mats with high cotton content.

A cork mat’s biggest advantage is its robustness and hygienic properties. A thermoplastic elastomer is often used to seal the surface. The mat is then impervious to water, sweat, bacteria, fungus, etc. Therefore, they are antibacterial, making them a good choice for allergy sufferers. Also, they handle dynamic movements, are very tough and easy to maintain.

Pilates on a fitness mat

How large should an exercise mat be?

A mat’s size is determined by the exercises you plan to do on it. Your body stature, however, will be most important in determining the size. Your arms and legs should be able to extend out comfortably while lying on it.

A good fitness mat should be 20 cm longer than you. Exercise mats are typically 180-183 centimeters long and 80 to 100 centimeters in width.. For most people, this is enough. A number of manufacturers also offer lengths up to 200 centimeters. A gym mat may be even longer.

You can choose a wider mat if you are broad. A wide mat enables better range of motion for very dynamic movements. If you plan to stretch, a slightly wider mat would be ideal.

Training on an exercise mat that is too small is uncomfortable. It’s tiring to keep slipping and rolling, so you’ll lose motivation. Always go with a larger mat if in doubt.

Synthetic PVC mat

How thick should an exercise mat be?

A thin workout mat is suitable for gentle and low-pressure exercises. For jumps or rolls that require more cushioning, a thicker exercise mat should be used. The density of the mat is also another important factor. Consequently, some mats may be thick, but airy inside. Therefore, you sink down hard and lose a lot of cushioning. In the beginning, it is best to buy an all-round mat rather than committing to a particular exercise.

Slip resistance

Slip resistance is absolutely necessary to ensure that you do not sustain injuries during training. Thus, the exercise mat should have good adhesion to the floor underneath particularly on laminate or parquet floors.

The surface of the mat should also be coated so you have a firm grip during exercises. A mat’s top surface may vary from product to product.

Sweating causes some mats to lose their non-slip properties, such as PVC mats. Some become non-slip only when sweat is brought into contact with them. You can also ask the manufacturer or read customer reviews if you are doubtful.

Design

A training mat is usually plain colored. There may be distinct colors on the upper side and the lower side. By doing so, you can tell the sides apart. Mats with prints and mats with patterns are widely used for yoga training.

Artists even sell unique pieces of their original designs. As a result, this is also reflected in the price. Because colors have a psychological effect on your training, consider which color appeals to you the most.

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It is worthwhile to use bright, motivating and stimulating colors and patterns for strength and fitness exercises. If your training mat will be used only for stretching and meditation, soothing colors are more appropriate.

Storage and stowability

It should be easy to carry your mat if you travel frequently or if you want to take it to classes as well as the gym. Several fitness mats are designed to roll up. Your mat shouldn’t be too heavy if you would like to take it on holiday or to the gym. Carrying accessories, like straps and bags, are provided with many mats.

Grey training mat

What are the alternatives to the exercise mat?

Some people come up with novel ideas to use in place of the exercise mat. Here are some of the most popular alternatives you may be considering:

Carpet

Carpets can have certain cushioning properties depending on their density and construction. Carpets are not intended to cushion your joints during dynamic movements. Slippery floors and smaller carpets pose a risk of injury because they are prone to moving.

Unlike a training mat, sweat and dirt from exercise cannot easily be cleaned from the carpet. Therefore, a training mat is a better option than a carpet.

Towel or blanket

In hotels or holiday apartments, towels or blankets are popular as well. They are easily accessible and easy to clean. Yet neither one of them gives you protection from a cold and hard floor.

Back and knee exercises can become painful. Dynamic movements are barely dampened, and there is no slip resistance. Towels or blankets are a poor substitute for exercise mats and pose a high risk of injury.

Sleeping mat

Sleeping mats or pads serve as insulation from the cold. Because of that, you will not freeze if you train on this mat. However. the surface is not equipped with a dampening effect nor is it designed to be non-slip. There is also a high risk of injury with this mat, making it unsuitable as a training mat.

You should not underestimate the psychological aspect of a training mat. You prepare your mind for the upcoming training by rolling out the training mat and setting it up. You’ll be able to train more efficiently. Exercises can be conducted with a full muscle tension and correct control due to the slip resistance. Your success rate increases, and you are more motivated.

Using carpet as a fitness mat

Training mat trivia questions

How do I know which side of the exercise mat is facing up?

You can usually tell just by looking at the material. If you are still unsure, you may want to consult the manufacturer. Also, check out the logo, which is usually visible at the top. Some training mats are designed to be used on both sides. It is true that most surfaces are smooth, but the rougher structure is usually on the underside. Make sure the slip resistance is adequate before training.

What can I do if my training mat slips?

There is a slight possibility that a layer of dust has formed on the mat if it has been lying there for a little while. Skid resistance can be affected by this. To clean your mat, use a damp cloth. Use anti-slip socks or yoga socks when training. You’ll have a better grip with them. Increase the grip on your training mat by gently rubbing it with vinegar or sea salt solution.

How do I clean my training mat?

Taking care of your exercise mat is essential to ensuring its longevity. Here are a few tips.

  • You should ideally use your exercise mat on a level floor. In addition to causing damage to the underside of your exercise mat, irregular, sharp and angular surfaces can increase your risk of getting injured.
  • Exercise mats should be used without shoes or shoes without hard tread. 
  • Your exercise mat should be stored somewhere with room temperature. In cold or humid environments, the material might suffer damage and it may also smell musty.
  • Keeping your mat clean is as simple as wiping it with a damp cloth after training. Use a mild detergent or soapy water on the mat if it is very dirty. Cleaning agents that are too aggressive can easily damage the exercise mat’s material and impair the skid resistance. Wear can also result from excessive rubbing. Stains and unpleasant odors can also be eliminated with a vinegar water solution. Following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions is essential.
  • Your mat should be allowed to dry well before being rolled up and put away.