You don’t want to drop your weights on a concrete driveway? You’ll need an equipment or exercise mat for outdoors. But what type of mat is best? Here’s what to look for in an outdoor mat and what the pros and cons of different types are.
A rubber mat 7.5’ x 4’ is great for weightlifting outside. For equipment, rubber mats slightly bigger than the foot print of the machine is best. Outdoor gym flooring should be durable, resist UV and water, reduce noise, provide grip and protect your equipment.
For a more in depth explanation, keep reading below.
What does an outdoor gym mat do?
Why do you need an outdoor gym mat and what should you look for when buying one?
There aren’t really any gym equipment mats that are specifically marketed to be suitable for outdoors. So we need to figure out what we need from an outdoor gym mat to see what’s best. We’re just looking at mats for home gym purposes. Not for kids playgrounds and things like that.
This is about mats/gym flooring for weightlifting and to put gym equipment on.
For outdoor home gym purposes, this is what we need;
- Protects your equipment: A gym mat should protect your equipment and to a lesser degree the flooring from damage. Weightlifting often means you drop the weights from some height and this can easily damage the weights and flooring, especially on something like a concrete driveway. It also protects the feet of other equipment from wear through rubbing.
- Easy to move around: Not all gym mats will stay outside permanently. Often people just move their equipment out temporarily. These mats should be relatively easy to move around. That means not too big and not too heavy.
- Durable: Outdoor gym mats often get moved around more than indoors. So durability is even more important.
- UV/water resistant: Outdoors means your gym mat and equipment is exposed to the elements. Water and UV are two things that can deteriorate some materails pretty quickly. So any gym mat you use outdoors should deal with those things well.
- Stable: Thick gym flooring can even out the sometimes bumpy outdoor surface a little.
- Provides grip: Outdoors you’ve got all kinds of surfaces. Some of these provide more grip than others. Gym flooring provides a lot of grip and it’s always consistent.
- Noise reduction: Working out can be noisy. Especially dropping weights or even setting them down can produce quite the racket which can bother the neighbors. A good gym mat can reduce a lot of the noise produces.
Whether you’re just putting your home gym equipment outside sometimes or have a more permanent outdoor gym, the requirements are similar. The only difference is that for a permanent setup the easy of movement is a little less important. Otherwise, you still want the same things from your gym mats.
Before we look at the best options, we really have to look at the different material options. Not all materials are suitable.
In my opinion the best material for outdoor gym mats is high quality rubber. There are a lot of choices that are made from rubber but it also has all the characteristics outlined above.
- Protects your equipment
- Reduces noise
- Provides grip
- Water resistant
- Is durable
- Is stable
If it is easy to move around and how UV resistant it is depends on how big and heavy the specific mat is. But because there are so many choices, you’ll be able to find some option that has both those characteristics.
There are a lot of outdoor tiles made from plastic but those can crack under the heavy loads of weight plates and dumbbells, especially when dropping them. Foam is not durable enough for outdoors and gets really dirty. The dirt gets into the holes in the foam and from there it’s very hard to clean.
Vinyl is good for indoor gym as a mat under a cardio machine but a little less durable and UV resistant for outdoors. On the flipside, Vinyl is cheaper and lighter. It’s usually thinner so the equipment protection and noise reduction benefits are a little less than rubber. However, on a budget, high quality vinyl is still a good option.
How big should an outdoor gym mat be?
So now we know what to look for and what the best material is but what size mat is best for an outdoor gym? That depends on what you are doing exactly.
If you want to put a specific piece of equipment outdoors, it’s pretty easy to figure out. Just get a mat that’s slightly larger than the dimensions of the equipment.
For weightlifting, it’s a bit more difficult because you need to place the equipment on the mat but also need space to actually use that space. For just weightlifting (with a barbell), you need a space of about 7.5’ (length of the barbell + a little on both sides) by 4’. That gives you enough space to lift weights without having to be careful about where you step. Stepping off the little ledge of the mat with a heavy bar on your back can be dangerous.
That’s for only lifting weights. If you need to place a large power cage on the mat, you’ll need about 4’ extra depth. 8’ wide mats are rare so in that case two mats of 4’ wide are a better option.
Roll or tile?
There are two ways to get to the correct surface area. You can find a mat (roll) of gym flooring that covers that amount of space you need or you can choose tiles.
Rolls are faster to move around because you can obviously roll it out and roll it up and move the whole thing as one piece. This can be quite heavy though.
Tiles take more time to move around but are lighter (not necessarily smaller) for a single tile. The problem with tiles is that you can have little gaps between them and they can move independently from each other which isn’t as safe. Tiles are usually much thicker and heavier per square foot than rolls though. That means more noise reduction and because they’re heavy, not as likely to slide.
Rubber mats are almost always meant to be used inside but can be used outside. Rubber tiles come in different varieties; One type is just the rubber gym mat cut into tiles while the other type is meant to be used on the patio. The patio tiles can stay outside without problems which can be a big benefit in some cases.
Which is better for you depends on if you want to keep your outdoor gym flooring outside permanently, patio tiles are great. If you want to move the whole gym around from inside to outside including mats, a roll is better.
Keeping your home gym equipment outdoors is not a good idea in most cases and if leaving your gym flooring outside isn’t always a good idea if it can be stolen or is in the driveway for example.
Best outdoor gym mats
So we’re looking for rubber mats or tiles that are big enough
#1 American Floor Mats Roll
The best option is this American Floor Mats mat. It’s 8mm thick. That’s not very thick but enough to reduce the noise and protect your equipment. They are available in many lengths (all 4’ wide) and different colors. Because these mats aren’t very thick, they are easy to roll up an carry around.
The vulcanized rubber is super durable and made in the US from US sourced materials.
#2 Rubber-Cal Maxx Tuff
Need something a bit tougher? With a name like ‘Maxx Tuff’ it sounds like an 80’s action hero and is almost as bulletproof. You get a ½” thick, super heavy duty mat that can handle pretty much anything you can throw at it.
These are actually quite small so you’ll have to buy several of these mats to cover the full area you need. Although for some cardio machines the 4’x6’ option is big enough. These mats are a flexible enough to roll up but because it’s so thick, they weigh quite a bit.
#3 Rubber patio tiles
For people that want to keep their gym flooring outside year round, rubber patio tiles are a great option. They’re made to be outside after all. The benefit of these tiles is that they’re super thick and give some of the best sound reduction and protection while also being very durable and UV/water resistant.
Patio tiles do have some issues with having gaps in between them. That can be prevented by restricting the movement of the tiles so you would need frame that keeps the tiles in place. There are some pros and cons to these tiles and it depends on what you want from your outdoor gym flooring if this is the right decision.
Either way, if you choose these tiles, choose the biggest tiles you can find to reduce the amount of cracks in between the tiles.
#4 American Floor Mats Heavy Duty Tiles
Want tiles but not the heavy patio tiles? This is the same material as the mats you can see in the #1 spot but in tile form. These are interlocking tiles which means the edges look like a kind of puzzle. That means that once you put the puzzle pieces together, they can’t move independently of each other. So you don’t have the problem of the gaps between the tiles like with patio tiles.
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.