A workout, training, sports or exercise mat is an underlay that absorbs or cushions pressure and shocks during your athletic movements. Basically, you can choose between three types: Fitness mat, gym mat and floor protection mat.
Depending on the sporting purposes for which you want to use a training mat, one or the other is right for you. For easier exercises, such as Yoga or Pilates, a fitness mat is suitable. A gym mat is more appropriate for activities that require a lot of pressure and strength. And the floor protection mat for training with heavy fitness equipment.
When choosing an exercise mat, slip resistance is a must. Factors such as thickness, cushioning and the material play a role.
We use exercise mats in gyms and physiotherapy. However, they are most popular for home use. To perform the exercises correctly and, above all, in a way good for your health, a training mat is essential.
If you have purchased fitness equipment, such as an exercise bike, stepper, ergometer or dumbbells, you can choose workout mats that are intended as an underlay for the equipment.
Training mats are available in various sizes, thicknesses, materials, colors, etc. Depending on their characteristics, they fulfill different functions and offer distinct advantages.
- 1 Is a training mat necessary?
- 2 Which areas of application are exercise mats suitable?
- 3 What types of exercise mats are there and which one is right for you?
- 4 How do I choose an exercise mat?
- 4.1 Functionality
- 4.2 Material categories
- 4.3 Material description
- 4.4 How large should an exercise mat be?
- 4.5 How thick should an exercise mat be?
- 4.6 Slip resistance
- 4.7 Design
- 4.8 Storage and stowability
- 5 What are the alternatives to the exercise mat?
- 6 Training mat trivia questions
- 6.1 How do I know which side of the exercise mat is facing up?
- 6.2 What can I do if I slip on my training mat?
- 6.3 How do I clean my training mat?
- 6.4 What do I have to consider when training on a mat?
- 6.5 Where can I find suggestions for training at home on my exercise mat?
- 6.6 Are there training mats for dogs and cats?
- 7 Conclusion
Is a training mat necessary?
Exercising on the bare floor not only feels hard but also increases the risk of slipping and thus the risk of injury. Training on the floor is also uneasy on the joints.
That’s why there are training mats that cushion your entire body and prevent pain because of their padding. You will notice the advantages of the soft ground, especially when exercising lying down or in supported positions at knees or elbows. In addition, the non-slip surface of the exercise mat ensures a safe workout.
The easy handling of training mats is another advantage. You can roll and unroll most mats easily, so the training does not require any preparation regarding assembly and disassembly. Basic training mats are light and portable.
Training mats are versatile and are not only suitable for adults but also for children.
Here we will explain the advantages of using a training mat and what happens if you do not have one. We distinguish two principal areas of application for exercise mats.
Training mat as a base
Workout on a mat has many advantages, and if you want to train effectively, you cannot avoid using a mat. Foremost, a training mat supports your healthy training. It cushions your joints like knees and elbows when you lean on it and absorbs shocks.
Thus your training is more joint-gentle. The soft padding and even insulation of the icy floor makes your training more comfortable.
Depending on the characteristics of the exercise mat, it offers additional stability for some exercises.
An important feature of exercise mats is their slip resistance. They prevent you from slipping, especially during jumps and other very dynamic movements. But the surface of the mat also gives you the necessary grip for holding and balancing exercises.
Doing without a training mat can be dangerous. Slipping away, and the lack of cushioning, can lead to injuries of joints, muscles and tendons. We cannot perform exercises with full focus, which reduces your success and motivation.
Training mat to protect the floor
The second important function of exercise mats, besides protecting your health, is to protect the ground. Especially if you have purchased fitness equipment such as a home trainer, scratches and dents in the parquet flooring can quickly appear. You can prevent these by using training mats that act as floor protection mats.
Their characteristics differ slightly from those that you use for your exercises, but they can also serve as an underlay for you. Because they not only protect against premature wear and tear from laminate, parquet or tiles, but also reduce the noise level.
These mats cushion jumps and vigorous movements, and the tenant staying on the floor below has less reason for complaints. Using smaller sports equipment such as dumbbells and kettle bells on a training mat also leads to less noise and damage to the floor.
Advantages of training mats at a glance
- Suitable for adults and children alike
- 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, there are no limits to the use of exercise mats. It is suitable for everyone who does not want to do their sports exercises on a hard and cold floor.
Meanwhile, there is a special training mat for all training programs. This shows you how versatile and large the offer on the market is. They are available in different lengths, widths and thicknesses, so there is sure to be one for you and your needs.
Before buying, you should be clear about which type of training or sport you want to do. This will prevent you from buying a training mat that has the wrong properties.
The following table gives you a rough overview of the applications of exercise mats.
|Training mat||Application area|
|General Purpose Fitness mat||Yoga 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 mat||All the above mentioned training forms, floor exercises, jumps|
|Floor protection mat||Protective layer between heavy fitness equipment, weights and floor|
What types of exercise mats are there and which one is right for you?
We use exercise mats everywhere as they are very versatile. Not only in the living room or children’s room at home, but also in facilities such as day-care centers, physio-therapies, medical practices and fitness studios. Depending on their composition in terms of length, width, thickness, weight, material, etc., they are more suitable for one area of application and less suitable for another.
To filter out the right model, it is most important that you know what activities you want to do on it. Mainly slow holding and balancing exercises, as they are common in Pilates and Yoga, require a firm base and therefore a mat that is not so thick and soft.
If you are the action type and prefer very dynamic movements, such as jumps, your exercise mat should be thicker and have good cushioning properties. Let’s go through 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.
The fitness mats cover the largest area of the training mats. They are suitable for Pilates, Yoga, gymnastics, fitness and strength exercises, aerobics and dance, Zumba and martial arts. We use fitness mats at home, in fitness studios and physiotherapy.
Fitness mats are often thin mats made of synthetic or natural materials that provide optimal support for exercises while lying, sitting or standing. In addition, the non-slip surface of the fitness mat gives you a certain stability and security. The light suspension is gentle on your back and joints. Depending on the thickness of the model, they can even insulate you from the cold.
They also provide support during aerobic and dance exercises or other dynamic movements. We often refer them to as all-round mats. Only their cushioning properties are limited, because of their low thickness, so they are not suitable for gymnastic exercises involving sizeable forces, such as jumping rolls or cartwheels. Fitness mats are usually easy to roll up and thus easy to store and transport.
Note that fitness mats are very thin compared to gym and floor protection mats and offer only the minimum of comfort.
- Suitable for Pilates, yoga, aerobics, light gymnastic exercises
- Can be used anywhere and anytime as they are easy to transport
- Not for gymnastics
- Not robust enough as floor protection mat
Surely you remember the gym mats from your gym class. Today you can find them in day-care centers and sports clubs. Slightly changed versions are now also available for use at home. Especially for children, they offer excellent protection against falls when they romp around.
Gym mats offer even greater protection against falls. They are therefore ideally suited for floor gymnastics. Handstand, headstand and rolls are no problem at all.
Gym mats are thicker than fitness mats and have stronger cushioning properties. Depending on your needs, you can also use them for general fitness and sports exercises. Gym mats are made of special foam. They offer optimal damping properties for very dynamic movements where larger forces are involved. They protect your joints, muscles, and tendons. In contrast to fitness mats, however, they offer hardly any stability for holding and balancing exercises. Gym mats are heavier and more unwieldy than fitness mats and not suitable for constant transport.
- Suitable for gymnastic exercises
- Better cushioning and fall protection
- Unwieldy and heavy
- Difficult to transport
Floor protection mat
Foremost, floor protection mats protect your floor from damage and wear and tear. It does not matter whether it is a laminate, parquet, carpet or tiled floor. They are usually made of PVC or foam material. You can easily place these mats under your fitness equipment such as spin bike, exercise bikes or steppers on them.
They not only provide a protective layer between the floor and the heavy fitness equipment such as ergometers, but they can also protect your floor from damage when using small fitness equipment such as dumbbells or other weights. It also prevents the equipment from slipping and, should you ever get off the equipment clumsily, it will catch your fall and protect your joints. Some can even insulate you from the cold.
Floor protection mats are available in distinct shapes and sizes. They are often available as rectangular puzzle pieces, so you can put them together or fold them up individually at home.
- Suitable for heavy fitness equipment
- Size individually adjustable
- Transportation and storability tiresome
How do I choose an exercise mat?
By being aware of what activities you need your mat for, you are already limiting the choice. You need a general purpose fitness mat for sports like yoga, Pilates, weight training, aerobics, etc. Here it may be necessary to differentiate more precisely. If you are only doing holding and balancing exercises, as in yoga, a yoga mat is sufficient.
An all-round mat is more suitable if you need a certain amount of cushioning. If you want to start out very dynamically or gymnastically, then a gym mat is more suitable.
When training using heavy equipment such as a stepper or an ergometer, then you need a floor protection mat.
Let us show you the criteria you can use to compare the different training mats to find the right model for you. You should pay attention to:
- Thickness and cushioning
- Skid resistance
- Transport and stowability
The search for the right exercise mat can be narrowed down considerably if first you deliberate for what purpose you want to use the exercise mat.
For example, if you want to do yoga, Pilates or lighter workouts without weights, a fitness mat may be sufficient. A gym mat is more suitable when performing gymnastics or exercises where the mat is subjected to much greater force. When training with heavy fitness equipment, however, a floor mat is necessary.
The training mats are made of different materials. They usually make the cheaper models using plastic. Natural materials such as rubber, cork or cotton and new wool are less harmful, but also more expensive.
Training mats made of synthetic materials
Mats made of synthetic materials can be found in all areas of application. They are very popular for yoga and Pilates mats, but thicker gym mats also comprise synthetic foam. Most commonly used are PVC, thermoplastic elastomers, polyurethane, synthetic rubber or a combination of these.
The cheapest mats are made of PVC. They are suitable for people allergic to latex. Their slip resistance is mainly in dry condition. This means that if you sweat a lot, you need to put a towel underneath or at least have one ready.
Some inexpensive PVC mats are often loaded with softeners and other health-endangering substances, so take a close look here.
A further development is the increasing number of mats made of synthetic rubber or thermoplastic elastomers on the market. In contrast to PVC, both materials are biodegradable. They are also free of plasticizers and other substances harmful to health. They have a better slip resistance.
Polyurethane foam is also used in the production of mattresses, for example. It has good damping properties and is often used in gym mats. Polyurethane coatings provide a strong slip resistance.
Synthetic mats are often water resistant and easy to clean. Only the polyurethane coating should be taken special care of. Synthetic mats are often light and therefore easy to transport.
Training mats made of natural materials
Lovers of natural materials do not have to do without training mats. Materials used here are rubber, virgin wool and cork. Most manufacturers of training mats made of natural materials place great value on biodegradability and sustainability.
Training mats made of natural rubber are 100 percent biodegradable. They often offer even better slip resistance. However, they are more difficult to clean. A very dynamic exercise on these mats leads to wear and tear somewhat faster.
Natural rubber mats are suitable for allergy sufferers. However, a reaction to the low proportion of latex compounds cannot be 100 percent excluded.
These training mats may also smell a little immediately after purchase. The initial odor is a sign of naturalness and disappears after a brief period.
Another popular material is new wool. It is not only of natural origin but also a renewable raw material. Training mats made of new wool insulate cold floors very well, are soft and offer comfortable training, especially during quiet exercises.
However, their slip resistances and their cushioning properties are limited. Similar to mats with high cotton content, they can usually be washed.
Above all, cork mats offer a high hygienic standard. Thermoplastic elastomers are often included, so that the surface is 100 percent sealed.
This means that neither water, sweat, bacteria nor fungi can penetrate the mat. This makes them antibacterial and very suitable for allergy sufferers. They also withstand dynamic movements, are very robust and easy to clean.
Plastic is light and inexpensive, which is why most fitness mats are made of this material. Because of the synthetic material, however, these exercise mats may have a slight chemical smell.
A natural alternative is natural rubber, which is obtained from the rubber tree. However, know that manufacturing may involve synthetic materials.
Cork is particularly slip-resistant and therefore offers a high level of safety during training. It is usually produced together with TPE, which is supposed to be environmentally friendly and extend the life of the mat.
Cotton and new wool
Natural cotton and new wool can even be washed with no problems. Similar to our clothes, it is pleasant to the skin. The material is more expensive and heavy compared to plastic.
No matter whether you choose synthetic, natural or a combination of both, make sure that the exercise mat is free of harmful substances and, if possible, without strong odors.
How large should an exercise mat be?
The size of your mat depends on the exercises you want to do on it. However, the size mainly depends on your body stature. You should be able to lie on it with your arms and legs stretched out.
This means that your exercise mat should ideally be 20 centimeters longer than you. Standard exercise mats are 180-183 centimeters long. This is usually sufficient for many people. There are many manufacturers who also offer different lengths up to 200 centimeters. Gym mats are often even longer.
But here also the manufacturers respond to the different needs of the customers and often offer 80 centimeters and also 100 centimeters in width. If you are broad, a wider mat is an excellent choice. A wide mat is also useful for very dynamic movements with a larger range of motion. We often underestimate the importance of the right size.
Which one is optimal for you depends on your intended use. For example, if you want to do stretching exercises, a slightly wider mat is suitable.
A too small exercise mat makes your training less comfortable. If you constantly have to slide or roll down, you will lose motivation. If in doubt, always choose the larger mat.
How thick should an exercise mat be?
How thick you want your mat to be depends on the cushioning properties you expect from it. A thin fitness mat is sufficient for more gentle and low-pressure exercises. If you need more cushioning for jumps or rolls, a thicker exercise mat with better suspension is suitable.
If a training mat is thick, it does not mean that it is more cushioned. The important factor is therefore how much density the mat has. Some mats can therefore be very thick, but airy inside. As a result, a lot of cushioning is lost and you sink down hard.
If you are a beginner and cannot yet commit to a certain exercise, it is best to buy an all-round mat. They are 1.5 centimeters thick and can cushion movements and thus protect your joints during training. This thickness still offers enough stability for holding and balancing exercises.
If you are a professional athlete, you know exactly whether you need stability or cushioning for your sport. Then a much thinner yoga mat with a thickness of 4-6 millimeters might be the right one for you. If your activities consist more of gymnastic elements, then your mat should be much thicker than 1.5 centimeters.
To avoid injuries and to give you a safe feeling during training, slip resistance is absolutely necessary. This is all about the grip on the floor and a non-slip surface. If you also want to use your mat on carpet, its structure on the underside should also provide support there.
Therefore, it is best to make sure that the underside of the exercise mat has a good adhesion to the ground. This is because particularly on laminate or parquet floors you can slip away quickly.
It is also an advantage if the top side of the gym mat has a coating, so you have a secure hold during exercises where you have to support yourself. The non-slip surface on the top of the mat can vary from model to model.
This depends on the material used and the coating. Some mats lose their non-slip properties when you sweat, like PVC mats. Others only become non-slip when sweat comes into contact with them. Again, if in doubt, ask the manufacturer or read the customer reviews.
The design is perhaps not the most important purchasing factor for a training mat, but it plays a role.
Training mats are usually plain color. They often have distinct colors on the upper and lower side. This makes it easier to distinguish the sides from each other. You can find printed mats and mats with patterns, mainly for yoga training.
There are even unique pieces designed by artists for sale. This is also reflected in the price. Since colors can have a psychological effect on your training, take your time to think about which color has what effect on you.
For strength and fitness exercises it is worthwhile to use stimulating and motivating colors and patterns. If you only want to stretch and meditate on your training mat, soothing colors are more suitable.
Storage and stowability
If you travel a lot or want to take your training mat to courses and the gym, a training mat should be easy to carry.
Many fitness mats can be easily rolled up. Some models even have corresponding fixing straps. But also many variants of gym mats can be folded and taken along. Floor protection mats come in rectangular puzzle pieces that can easily be put apart and stowed away.
Weight is one of the important points to consider. If you want to take your training mat to the gym or on holiday, it should not be heavy. Such training mats are usually supplied with carrying accessories such as straps or bags and can be easily rolled up.
What are the alternatives to the exercise mat?
The substitutes to the exercise mat are limited, but some people still come up with novel ideas. Here we look at the most popular ones and show you if they really offer an alternative:
Depending on the carpet, it can have certain cushioning properties. However, a carpet is not designed to cushion dynamic movements to protect your joints. Smaller carpets on slippery floors slip away quickly and thus carry a risk of injury.
Also, sweat and other dirt triggered by exercise cannot be wiped off easily like a training mat. A carpet is therefore not a suitable alternative to a training mat.
Towel or blanket
Towels or blankets are also popular, especially on holiday, in a hotel room or in a holiday apartment. They are quickly at hand and easy to clean. But neither of them protects you from the hard and cold floor.
Exercises on the back or knees can become painful. They hardly dampen dynamic movements and do not offer any slip resistance. Exercising on towels or blankets is also no alternative to an exercise mat and offers a high risk of injury.
Every camping fan has them at home, and so one gets the idea to use the camping mat as an alternative. As the name suggests, the function of a sleeping mat or pad is to insulate against cold.
That means you won’t freeze when you train on the mat. However, it is neither equipped with damping properties nor with a non-slip surface.
This mat is also not suitable as an alternative to a training mat, as there is a high risk of injury.
Apart from the physical risks you run when trying to use one alternative, you should not underestimate the psychological component of a training mat. Rolling out a training mat and getting it ready prepares your mind for the upcoming training.
Your training can be much more focused. The existing slip resistance offers you the possibility to do exercises correctly and with full muscle tension. This improves your success and increases your motivation.
Training mat trivia questions
How do I know which side of the exercise mat is facing up?
If you use the mat on one side, the non-slip surface should come down. You can often tell by the material. If you are still unsure, the manufacturer will surely give you some advice. Alternatively, you can also look at the printed logo. This should be visible at the top.
There are some training mats that can be used on both sides. However, often the surface is smoother and the coarser structure is on the underside. Check the slip resistance before training.
What can I do if I slip on my training mat?
If your mat has been lying a little longer, it is possible that a slight layer of dust has formed on it. This can affect the skid resistance. Wipe your mat with a damp cloth. Use anti-slip or yoga socks for your training.
They give you a better grip. Gently rubbing the training mat with sea salt or a vinegar solution can also increase the grip. Sometimes, however, it can also be that the mat does not meet your requirements and you need another mat.
How do I clean my training mat?
Care and cleaning is important to ensure the durability of your exercise mat. You can follow a few tips.
If possible, use your exercise mat on an even floor. Uneven, sharp or angular surfaces can not only damage the underside of your exercise mat but also increase your risk of injury.
We recommend that you use the exercise mat without shoes or shoes without hard tread if possible. Because of the profile, the exercise mat can get cracks and damage.
Store your exercise mat in a place with room temperature. Cold or humid environments can damage the material. It can also trigger a musty smell.
Most training mats available on the market are easy to clean. It suffices to wipe your mat with a damp cloth after training.
If the mat is very dirty, you can use a mild detergent or soapy water. However, you should not use aggressive cleaning agents, as they can attack the material of the exercise mat. You should also avoid using strong detergents. These can damage the surface and impair the skid resistance. Excessive rubbing can also lead to premature signs of wear.
Cleaning with a vinegar water solution can also remove stains and odors. It is important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.
After cleaning, your mat should dry well before you roll it up and put it away.
If your exercise mat shows serious signs of wear after a while, replace it. Because then it can no longer provide you with an optimal grip for your training.
What do I have to consider when training on a mat?
Training at home is quick to start and finish. Roll out the mat for training and then store it again. There are a few things you should keep in mind which will extend the life of your training mat.
Avoid training with strongly profiled shoes. A too strong profile can damage the surface in the long run and lead to premature wear. It is recommended to train barefoot on the mat or with socks. If you absolutely need shoes, make sure the sole is smooth.
Pay attention to the surface on which you use the mat. Even though a training mat can even the unevenness in the ground, especially during outdoor training, you should not place it on too sharp or angular surfaces. This increases the risk of injury and the mat will crack or otherwise be damaged more quickly.
Clean your training mat regularly and let it dry well. If you roll it up again when it is too damp, it can get moldy.
Protect your mat from UV radiation. Even though many mats are suitable for outdoor use, the surface should not be exposed to permanent UV radiation. The non-slip coating can break and the slip resistance can decrease.
We can use training mats for several years, depending on the strain. If the signs of wear become too obvious, replace the mat. Otherwise you risk unnecessary injuries if the slip resistance or damping capacity decreases.
Before you train, make sure you have enough space available. Dynamic exercises require arm and leg room even beyond the edge of the mat. There are studies that prove that the accompaniment of training with your favorite TV show provides additional motivation. Often most of the space in your home is in front of the television. However, this varies from person to person. If you are too distracted by the TV, leave it off and listen to motivating music.
The right clothes will also increase your motivation. Treat yourself to attractive and comfortable training clothes. That way it is easier and more effective to train.
Where can I find suggestions for training at home on my exercise mat?
In the meantime, there are countless videos with exercise instructions on the Internet, especially on YouTube. No matter if you want to train your stomach and back, learn yoga or let off steam with aerobics and dance. Beginners, advanced and professionals will all find what they are looking for on the net.
If you have no experience, discuss your physical goals with a personal trainer and have him or her show you the exercises right for you.
The disadvantage of internet videos is that you have no control over whether you are doing the exercises correctly. In some videos, the exercises are even presented incorrectly or they do not give you sufficient instructions. Even then, you risk that the exercises will harm you more than help you. You can also take beginners’ classes at the gym or physiotherapy and then check your exercise portfolio at home later.
Are there training mats for dogs and cats?
There are training mats for dogs and cats. However, these are less intended for the sporting activities of your four-legged friends. They move enough naturally. Training mats for pets protect your furniture and sensitive areas on the floor from damage. When animals step on these mats, there is a static impulse that prevents them from stepping on them again.
The purchase of a training mat is always worthwhile, and if you are serious about training at home, then you should not do without it. It offers you the possibility to be active even in your stressful everyday life. For an effective training, you do not need any further accessories.
Roll out the exercise mat, put on your sports clothes and off you go. If you think carefully before buying your mat, it can become a long lasting, reliable and motivating partner in your active life.