What are Vinyl Bonded Foam Gym Mats?
When it comes to choosing the right foam mats for your martial arts facility, wrestling team, tumbling program, or other organization, the options can be overwhelming. How do you know which materials to order? Should you order thick mats or the thinner variety? Do you order one large roll or many smaller ones? And how do you put them together once they arrive?
Here, you’ll find all the information you need to choose a quality vinyl bonded foam product, decide which specifications work for your program, and learn how to install foam flooring in your business or sports facility.
What Is Vinyl Bonded Foam?
Foam flooring comes in many forms. Gymnastics and cheer facilities often choose carpet bonded foam, a product that heat bonds durable and impact-absorbing foam with a carpet top layer.
However, most MMA mats, wrestling mats, and karate mats are made from vinyl bonded foam, a material that uses the same or similar foam underlayer with a vinyl topper.
The foam underlayer typically consists of a crosslinked polyethylene foam. This material is closed-cell, making it extremely durable and able to withstand repeated high impact activities. Its shock-absorptive properties make it an ideal product for exercise, martial arts, tumbling, wrestling, and other high impact activities
The chemical process behind crosslinked PE foam also gives it a low permeability to water, meaning it is resistant to spills, mild, water damage, and mildew.
After the PE foam is manufactured, it is heat-bonded to a vinyl upper layer, fusing both materials into one product. This finished product is a smooth-surfaced cushioned mat that will keep athletes safe.
Most manufacturers offer vinyl bonded foam in a wide variety of sizes, thicknesses, and color options. It’s important to look for a product that also includes an antimicrobial agent to encourage hygiene and to make cleaning the mats quick and easy.
Using Vinyl Bonded Foam for Your Gym or Program
Depending on which types of sports and activities you offer at your facility, you may decide that vinyl bonded foam is the right product for you.
Until recently, foam mats typically came in one large roll, making set-up, tear-down, and storage challenging. Now, thanks to flex roll technology, vinyl bonded foam is manufactured in smaller sections that join together. Each piece has a series of precise cuts made on the underside of the foam roll during the manufacturing process. This design allows the roll to be easily rolled up by one person and stored in a smaller space.
Vinyl bonded foam rolls come in a variety of thicknesses. Depending on your program and sport needs, you’ll want to order the thickness that meets the requirements for your facility.
Size and Thickness Requirements for Popular Sports
Most manufacturers offer vinyl bonded foam products in varying thicknesses. Most rolls come in a 42’L X 6’W sections, but can often be ordered in other size dimensions if desired.
For more information on sizing and pricing, click HERE.
Most thickness requirements have changed over the years because of research, injury reports, and advances in technology. The American Society for Testing and Materials (now ASTM International) establishes requirements for many high school and collegiate sports equipment standards based on years of data.
Wrestling mats have come a long way since the sport’s earliest days. Wrestling teams no longer have to hassle with one large wrestling mat piece, trying to navigate with a massive segment of foam padding. Today, polyethylene vinyl bonded foam mats come in 6’ X 42’ sections, allowing for easy transport and set up. Plus, flex roll technology means one person can set up and tear down an entire wrestling competition floor.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association oversees both high school and collegiate wrestling programs nationwide. Their website offers information about different mat options, thickness requirements, cleaning tips, and size requirements for each division. NWCA requires mats be thick enough to have “the shock-absorbing qualities of at least a 1-inch PVC vinyl coated foam.” Based on tests completed by ASTM International, crosslinked polyethylene foam mats must be at least 1 1/2” thick to meet this requirement.
Most manufacturers offer vinyl bonded foam mats in 1 3/8” and 2” thicknesses, more than meeting the safety requirements sets by both the wrestling and safety commissions.
Mat size requirements for high school and collegiate wrestling programs:
38’ x 38’ with 5’ protection area around the competition circle.
1 1/2” – 2” for crosslinked PE foam
42’ x 42’ with 5’ protection area around competition circle.
1 1/2” – 2” for crosslinked PE foam
The standard 42’ x 6’ flex rolls offered through most manufacturers make setting up wrestling mats simple. Gone are the days of bulky, heavy, 42-foot-wide single rolls.
Each martial art follows specific safety specifications designated by their governing bodies. In taekwondo, for instance, competition mats must be approximately 39’ x 39’ (12 meters x 12 meters) total area, with the sparring area being an 8-meter x 8-meter square. The exact dimensions vary depending on the ability level and competition level.
1Graphic Courtesy of Taekwondo Wikia
Once martial arts move into grappling and throwing disciplines like MMA or BJJ, the thickness and quality of the foam mats become much more critical. As physical contact and impact with the mats increase, the risk of injury and concussions become a concern. That’s why high-quality foam mats are of utmost importance in contact martial arts sports.
According to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Foundation, the competition area should be a minimum of 64 meters squared and a maximum of 100 meters squared. The IBJJF recommends mats be a thickness of at least 1 1/2” to minimize impact injuries.
Other Uses for Vinyl Bonded Foam Mats
Foam mats can be used outside the sports arena as well. Here are just a few of the facilities where vinyl bonded foam mats are used:
- Daycare facilities
- Gymnastics and cheer facilities
- Rock climbing gyms
- Aerobics facilities
Seaming Your Vinyl Bonded Foam Mats
Once you’ve decided on which foam mats to purchase and received your mats, it’s time to set up your facility. Just unroll each flex foam roll in the desired area and line up the edges. After the mats are in place, secure them together using heavy-duty plastic mat tape from your authorized distributor. Proper taping will keep mats securely in place during activity.
When you’re ready to put the mats away, remove the tape, roll up the mats, and store them in a dry storage space.
Choosing the right equipment will make your program safe, reliable, and injury-free. Contact us to learn more about foam flooring products.