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The foundation of every home gym is quite literally what’s on the floor. I bought and tested the best home gym flooring options (as well as some obscure mats) to determine what works best for most people. The thing is, no two home gyms are alike. Some people lift weights in the garage, some do yoga in the living room, some turn an upstairs bedroom into a high-intensity cardio studio.
There are a number of different options for the DIY home gym fanatic. I’ll break down the best gym floor mats, tiles and even vinyl planks so you can determine what works best for your workout space.
Good for: Any home gym in a basement, garage or even outdoors
My Favorite Features:
The absolute staple for most home gym floors and especially garage gyms the world over is the horse stall mat. For most people, the easiest and cheapest place to buy these is from Tractor Supply. You can order online or simply go to the store to pick them up (as long as your vehicle is big enough to transport them).
These horse stall mats from Tractor Supply use recycled rubber, are 3/4" thick, 4 'x 6' in size, and weigh upwards of 100 pounds. You can find horse stall mats at other farm supply stores, and they will be similar in dimensions. The thickness makes this flooring sound-absorbent. These mats withstand literally any exercise: deadlift, squat, bench press, clean and jerk, situps, etc. Even using heavy barbells, you never have to worry about your foundation. If you're into powerlifting or CrossFit, check out the best powerlifting barbell and best CrossFit barbells for 2021 here. And if you are into squatting or bench presses, be sure to check out the best squats racks and best weight benches here.
At around 100 pounds each, the mats themselves can be moved, but it may require more than one person, just depending on your strength. A hundred pounds doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s an odd object, so it can get a little clunky. However, these are relatively easy to cut to accommodate odd dimensions and small sizes.
It’s important to note that these do not have a smooth surface. That can be great for grip, but some people find it harder to clean. Also, horse stall mats are notorious for the, um, funky rubber smell. I, personally, don’t mind it because that’s what a garage gym smells like to me, but keep that in mind when choosing this option.
Good for: Small spaces and people who want color options
My Favorite Features:
Affordable and great for smaller spaces, the American Floor Mats Fit-Lock ⅜ Rubber Flooring is a good puzzle-piece solution. The brand essentially took its rolled mat and cut them into floor tiles that interlock the way a lot of foam mats do. These are ⅜” thick, which is a little thinner than horse stall mats but still heavy-duty enough to withstand heavy lifting.
This is a great-looking option. The tiles are available in a variety of fleck colors: black, blue, red, gray, and tan. Center, corner, and border pieces perfectly match a square or rectangular space. If you’ve got an odd-shaped setup, these gym mats are simple to cut.
Unlike horse stall mats, the Fit-Lock tiles have a smooth surface that’s easy to clean with a mop and soapy water. Bonus: These also don’t smell the way that horse stall mats do.
Some commercial gym owners find that using plate stack rollers on interlocking tiles causes the lock to come undone. However, I haven’t personally had any issues with these mats coming undone in just regular home gym use. Check out the best home gym equipment here.
Good for: People willing to spend a little more money on the best garage gym flooring
My Favorite Features:
If you want flooring that is more consistent, comes with more options and often less smell than stall mats for your home gym, then Rubber Flooring Inc Rubber Rolls around 8mm or thicker is a great choice. This is actually the flooring that I have in my latest garage gym build. Although it’s not going to provide any further shock protection over stall mats, it does move less, have less off-gas, and overall have a more premium look and feel.
Relative to other rubber mats, this flooring is 8mm, or ⅓” thick. That’s slightly less than the horse stall mats and interlocking tiles. However, after using them for almost a year in my personal garage gym, I’ve become a fan. They hold up against all my cardio and gym equipment and have enough cushioning to protect my floor. Also, these are the same mats most often used in commercial gym applications.
With a number of fleck color options, the Rubber Flooring Inc rolls have a very clean and professional look. That said, they are expensive, and the installation is pretty labor intensive. They run between $2.25 and $3 a square foot and come in at least 15-foot rolls, which you’ll clearly need to cut. For the install, you’ll need to use carpet tape to hold the mat in place. In my opinion, it’s worth the work because of the eventual look and feel.
Good for: Home gym owners on a budget who need to protect their floors under heavy equipment
My Favorite Features:
If you’re on a bare-bones budget and need something quick to protect your floor, you can opt for AmazonBasics Foam Interlocking Exercise Floor Mats. These are best for low-impact home workouts because heavyweights will cause them to break down easily. (Amazon has many high-density EVA foam flooring options, like IncStores, as well.) Be sure to check out the guide to building a budget home gym on Amazon here.
For example, if you want to have something softer under you while doing yoga or lightweight dumbbell exercises, foam might be okay. They are also great under heavy equipment like a treadmill or rower because they can provide some protection for your floor. I do not recommend foam mats for high-impact activity, like CrossFit, plyometrics, or heavy lifting. See the best CrossFit equipment for a home gym here.
Keep in mind that in socks, you might slip easier on a foam mat. Sometimes, foam mats even slip on the concrete itself and would definitely slide around on the hardwood. If you need a non-slip surface, rubber would be the way to go. However, foam mats can get the job done for certain exercises and certain workout spaces.
Good for: Athletes looking to minimize pressure on the joints
My Favorite Features:
Artificial turf definitely has its place in home gyms, under the right circumstances of course. Rubber Flooring Inc has several gym-specific turf options. The Performance Turf Rolls are a great choice because of their versatility. They work well inside and outside, and if you choose the non-cushioned back option, there are holes for drainage.
Unlike some other options, the Performance Turf Rolls aren’t nylon; they are polyethylene, which makes them softer and a better choice for floor-based movements (though turf is still fairly abrasive to lie on). I have turf in my gym and love it for really high impact exercise. Turf is well-known for its ability to minimize the joint shock effect of activities like box jumps and bounding jumps. I also love turf for sled drags.
Turf is pretty easy to install, especially if you can just roll it out. Carpet tape easily secures it in place and keeps it from moving while you’re doing sled drags or pushes.
The downside to turf is that it tends to be expensive. I don’t recommend outfitting your entire gym space in turf, either, because it isn’t designed for weightlifting. However, a small turf area looks great, is easy to maintain and is useful to protect your joints.
Good for: Very low-impact workout spaces featuring high cardio and lightweights
My Favorite Features:
Not all home gyms are in garages. Living rooms, spare bedrooms, and basement areas also double as workout spaces. Depending on your activity, the carpet may be just right. Triluc Carpet Tiles Peel and Stick are great because they are easy to install, look great, and are fairly easy to maintain.
Carpet tiles may be a good option for you if you tend to do lower weight exercises, cardio, stretching, yoga, and pilates, for example. The peel-and-stick carpet tiles give you the ability to mix and match colors to create a cool-looking space.
Where I wouldn’t use carpet tiles is in a home gym where you’re using heavy weights and barbells. The carpet is just too thin and will not provide the shock absorption necessary to protect your floors or foundation. Check out the 10 most important budget home gym tips here.
Good for: People who want their home gym to be aesthetically pleasing
My Favorite Features:
Not all home gyms are in garages and basements (see the 10 best budget home gym setups I've ever seen here). If your space is in an area where you need it to look a little less dungeon-y and a little more presentable, Rubber Flooring Inc Modular Grid-Loc Tile could work. It has a vinyl top and gives you the look of hardwood or even tile without the porous and breakable nature of either material. It’s often water-resistant and staves off issues like mold and mildew.
Now, if you’re doing heavy deadlifts or dropping weights from overhead, steer clear of vinyl. That’s a recipe for disaster. But if you want a good-looking workout room to do some cardio, dance, HIIT training, yoga or pilates, vinyl suffices. Some basketball and sport courts also use vinyl planks.
Generally speaking, vinyl flooring can be affordable when you’re looking for something that looks nice. It’s definitely cheaper than hardwood, for example, but it’s going to run you more than simply throwing down some horse stall mats. Rubber Flooring Inc Modular Grid-Loc Tile cost about $6.50/square foot.
See more: best budget home equipment.
Before investing in some high quality gym flooring, take into account a few considerations:
There are a few basic types of material to choose from:
Rubber: For the type of workouts I do, rubber gym flooring is really the only viable option. It’s the most durable material, easy to clean, easy to install and protects your floors. I’ve used it with barbells, free weights, conditioning equipment and more.
Plastic: In my experience, plastic usually ends up cracking under big weights. (See Swisstrax: I dropped kettlebells from 5 feet on it.) However, plastic can look nice and be easy to clean, it just depends on the floor exercises you’re doing. I don’t recommend this for weight training.
Foam: There are some great uses for foam, like sitting under heavy exercise equipment. It’s essentially like a yoga mat: Foam can provide some comfort, but it ends up being unstable for squatting, and it is not water-resistant.
Turf: I love turf for certain workouts and exercises, especially for athletes who do a lot of high-impact activity. However, it is cost-prohibitive and not the best material for weightlifting and barbell work.
Vinyl: I would reserve a vinyl floor for someone who is really into aesthetics because it has the look of hardwood floors. However, this is not ideal for using free weights and doing weightlifting. This is more of a pilates or yoga studio feel, and you would have to certainly have a yoga mat to be comfortable doing floor exercises on it. Vinyl can be moisture resistant and resistant to mold and mildew as well, which is a bonus.
Are you going to be dropping weights like adjustable dumbbells or some of the best kettlebells? Are you worried about the flooring underneath the gym floor? If you said yes to either of these, then finding a durable material, like rubber flooring, is a must. Rubber and turf are among the most shock absorbent, whereas vinyl and carpet won’t do much.
If you’ve ever dropped a barbell from overhead, you know the kind of noise it makes. Putting in a thick rubber floor can dampen that sound. Some people even pad deadlift areas with extra mats to absorb the sound.
Foam is easily the cheapest home gym flooring you can find, and turf tends to be on the more expensive end. Within the world of rubber flooring, there is variance in price. And be aware that companies and e-sellers like Amazon all list the price differently: per foot, per roll, per 4x6 piece, etc. Figure out what each costs per square foot for a good comparison.
If you have a perfectly square or rectangle space, then your options are wide open. However, most garage gyms have uneven walls, water heaters and other items to work around. If that’s your space, find a material that you can easily cut and move around, like rubber flooring.
Home gym flooring is relatively simple, at least when compared to finding the best Olympic barbell, best trap bar, or best bumper plates. There are really only a few different materials used as flooring for a home gym: rubber floor, vinyl flooring, foam mats, carpet tiles, and artificial turf.
To begin my search for the best flooring for a home gym, I ran out to the garage gym to see all of the samples I had on hand. What I’ve done in the past in building different home gyms was order samples from most manufacturers to feel and see the difference between all of the options they make.
What becomes clear rather quickly is the fact that most rubber flooring varies primarily on aesthetics and thickness, unless you go with a really high-end option like Plae Flooring that uses multiple laminated layers to suppress sound and vibration.
After training on all the different types of mats, I weighed the thickness versus the price of rubber matting. Thicker is almost always better. It will suppress sound, protect your foundation, and protect your equipment better than thinner matting. However, it requires more material, often uses special molds, and is, therefore, more expensive.
Here are the specifications we judged the matting on to decide how to rank the various options:
Material Used: There is a wide range of materials used for home gym flooring, but, by and large, the best is rubber. Not all rubber is the same. Some are recycled while others use virgin rubber. In most cases, avoid foam and plastic, go with rubber.
Thickness: The thicker the flooring, the better (to a degree.) Thicker flooring will suppress sound, protect your foundation and protect your equipment.
Sound Suppression Abilities: Suppressing sound in a home gym is an often-requested feature of flooring. However, most flooring that is designed specifically for sound suppression is very expensive. They use unique molds and a lot of material.
Grip: Potentially slipping during a deadlift is something that simply should not ever happen. You should feel secure to the floor during all movements with both shoes on and off.
Compression Under Foot: The ideal gym flooring should not compress underfoot. Compression leads to instability and is the same reason it’s not recommended to wear thick-soled running shoes while squatting.
Compression Under Load: Although flooring shouldn’t compress greatly while underfoot, it should compress under a heavy load. Compressing under a barbell and plates will protect your equipment.
Value: The features and quality should be reflected by the price. What we’re looking for is the best value, not just the best without considering the cost.
The best method to clean horse stall mats is with a Simple Green cleaner and a deck brush. Both can be found at your local grocery or hardware store for less than $10. If the smell lingers, you can try baking soda or essential oils (tried and tested).
In addition to that, I suggest getting a leaf blower and blowing the mats off periodically. If you're not in a garage gym, a vacuum can work well too, although it will take longer. Personally, I use both a battery-powered leaf blower and vacuum so I don't have to deal with cords.
A lot of people immediately think of foam home gym flooring when weighing their options. It may be a cheaper alternative to most commercial grade flooring choices, however, it is not ideal.
When choosing gym flooring, you want something that will last for years to come, protect the floor or foundation of your home (garage, basement, bedroom, etc.), and be easy to clean/disinfect.
Imagine deadlifting or dropping a weight onto foam. That foam will decompress over time, which may result in damaging the floor underneath. The cracks in between can also cause smaller items to become lost. Unfortunately, I learned this too late and now have some small cracks in my basement floor from heavy deadlifts.
Next, even if you’re the only person lifting in your gym, the foam tiles are porous. They absorb any type of liquid, whether it’s an all-purpose cleaner, sweat, a sports drink, or that whey protein shake you made minutes before it fell to the ground. As you move quickly to mop up the excess liquid, it will be too late.
Foam tiles are even more of a potential injury nightmare when they become wet because they become super slick. When I reinstalled my tiles, I thought most of them were dry, and began to install and walk on them, which was a huge mistake. I nearly wiped out from some of the tiles still holding on to water, even after hours of drying time outside.
Foam flooring may be cost-effective, but the potential risks outweigh the price. You don’t want to be liable if someone slips or falls due to faulty flooring. Your best bet is to spend the money on our top pick and install the correct flooring the first time.
How do you clean home gym stall mats?
I recommend using a 10:1 ratio of Simple Green cleaner and water. So, about 1 cup of water for every ⅛ cup of cleaner. If that doesn’t reduce the smell, you can try baking soda, white vinegar (10:1), or essential oils (you only need a few drops).
I also recommend using a leaf blower to rapidly clean and then dry them, this will help to remove some of the larger materials like leaves, mud clots, or chalk. This will save time on deep cleaning.
How often should I clean my home gym flooring?
The cleaning frequency depends on two variables: how often you use your gym and how many people use your gym. Typically, with sweat and dirt from outside creeping in, it may be a good rule of thumb to clean your floor at least once a week.
I do recommend using a leaf blower or shop vac after every training session to remove chalk, leaves, dirt, etc. Having a clean space makes you want to use that space, plus you will save time on deep cleans at a later date.
Should I buy used horse stall mats?
This is a fine idea to save some money. The main issue to look for is how dirty they are. You should also ask the seller how often they were cleaned and what they were used for (a gym or a horse facility, for example). These mats are made from recycled rubber, so they last a long time and don’t really compress; however, if they have been used often, they can crack over time.
If you're really focused on looking to buy used horse stall mats, make sure that you're getting a good deal on them, and that they have been used for a gym previously. You can get horse stall mats inexpensively (around $39 for 4 x 6 mat).
When is the best time to buy horse stall mats?
If you can wait, the best time to buy horse stall mats is during Black Friday. Typically Tractor Supply will have them for $35 a mat. Tractor Supply will also have deals throughout the year. If time is a concern, what we suggest is going to your local feed store and asking if they have volume pricing, (let's say 10-15 mats) and ask if they will lower the price for buying multiple mats. I've done this many times and I've always saved money and future trips by asking.
Why would I buy rubber rolls vs stall mats?
Rubber rolls don’t really provide a functional advantage other than staying in place more often, but some typical reasons you would buy them are: they look more professional, come in a variety of colors, and they don’t give off that typical “gassy” smell.
Some areas of the world may not have a Tractor Supply or feed store, so you may be better off buying them from a local sports or hardware store. You can buy rubber rolls that are thinner than 8mm, which could potentially save you money.
How do I secure flooring in my home gym?
There are a few good options:
Carpet Tape: you can secure mats (and strips of a rubber roll) by putting a piece of tape on the hard floor itself and the mat, creating a double-sided tape strip. The mat will then be incredibly stable/secure and will not move.
Gorilla Tape: you can secure the mats by placing strips of tape on top. However, the look itself isn’t very appealing/professional (it will leave lines). However, it is functional, creates stability, and it prevents small items (like a car key or wireless earbud) from falling between the cracks.
Mending Plates: This idea came from Alan Thrall (Untamed Strength). Mending plates are typically used in construction work to hold pieces of wood together, and this method will secure your mats together for a stable workout. However, we must note that this method leaves a small “bump” at the seams, which may annoy you. If you can get past that, then this method may be for you.
Is turf good for a home gym?
Personally, I have turf in my home gym because it was leftover from Intentional Fitness (my personal training gym). Turf is especially useful for sled drags, warming up, box jumps, lunges, bounding jumps, and other mobile workouts. However, most people will be deterred from the installation cost ($1.47 a square foot, plus the cost of the glue).
I definitely do not recommend using leftover football field turf. This is a different turf than what is used in most gyms. It is very uncomfortable, wear and tear over time makes it look incredibly patchy, and it throws rubber everywhere, causing a mess to clean up later.
What does Coop use in his garage gym?
In my first couple of garage gyms, I used horse stall mats. In my latest garage gym, I have rubber roll flooring that was left over from my gym. The remainder is filled with turf. I like the rubber rolls because they look cleaner and more professional, however they aren't functionally better than horse stall mats, so it's more about aesthetics at this point.
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