Gymnastics can be practiced without the need for a lot of equipment. This is especially true for beginners. A dedicated tumbling surface, also known as mats, is a training tool from which every Olympian can benefit.
Drilling dangerous skills are much safer with portable mats and tracks. You can even recreate the sensation of making a perfect pass on a spring floor. Shopping can feel like a struggle when deciding what to buy—a tumbling mat or air mat? Which one is best for gymnasts looking to train at home?
Understanding the differences between the two types of equipment is essential to determine which is best suited for your specific needs.
What is the difference?
An air mat is an inflatable tumble surface that can be used outside a gym environment. Air mats have a rebound rate almost equal to spring floors due to their rigid construction and internal pressure.
Two significant benefits come with a high rebound. It increases the gymnast’s power. This is important for mastering skills such as handsprings, flips, and layouts that need more. It reduces injury risk in the case of an accident or technical error.
Tumbling track, in contrast, are composed of small segments of foam that have been covered with leather, vinyl, or soft PVC. They are simple but very effective. Traditional mats can be folded, which is a significant advantage. You can set up your mat in a matter of seconds and then fold it up when you’re done.
Air mats are superior to traditional tumble track in the areas that matter most. Each piece of equipment has its pros and cons, which you should consider if making an informed investment.
Air Mat vs. Tumbling Mat: Head to-Head
The old song’s chorus, “Anything I can do, you can do better,” is familiar to many. This is the essence of Air mats. Mats can be helpful, but they also have their place and may be the best option for gymnasts, depending on their goals and budget. Customers also have this concern when choosing between an inflatable mat and a gym mat.
There are many sizes of air mats. The standard model is approximately 10-15 feet long and 3-6 feet wide. Larger versions can be up to 50 feet. More room means more room for error. Airmats are the best choice for those who want the most significant protection.
Traditional tumbling mats can be made in many sizes and shapes, just like inflatable mats. The typical size is 8ft in length, 4ft in width, and can be as thick as 1-3 inches thick. They are perfect for learning single skills like standing back tucks but not for more complicated sequences.
Safety-wise, air track mats are safer than tumbling mats. Because they depend on air pressure, gymnasts can practice safer and better with higher bounciness. Even the most difficult steps are more manageable for them to learn. The tumbling mats are made of foam. Regular practice makes the foam thin and does not offer the same safety.
It takes some time to get used to tumbling on an inflatable mat. It differs from tumbling on a spring floor and playing in the backyard or living room with carpet. After you get used to the bounce-back, you will undoubtedly love the springy, weightless sensation that only an Airman can provide.
Tumbling mats have one function: they absorb impact. They block force, making it more challenging to create force, so they are not recommended for the tumble.
Mats are best for gymnasts who need extra security and want to practice short sequences they’re uncomfortable with.
Inflatable tumbling rugs are safe, durable, and portable. All these perks are not cheap. A decent-quality air mat in the smallest size can cost you several hundred dollars; bigger models can run into the thousands.
These products are not affordable for gymnasts with low incomes.
Tumble track are much more affordable than inflatable mats. A 4-foot by 8-foot mat will cost you less than $100. You could buy several mats at the same price as a primary air mat. This might be the best option if you are willing to sacrifice some time.