Picking the Right Mat and Equipment for Tumbling

Tumbling is used in many sports, including gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance. Although most training takes place inside of a gym, there are skills and drills you can work on at home if you have the correct equipment. As always, safety is number one and progressions should be used at all times. Check out each mat and the other listed items below to help you train to your full potential.

tumbling equipment panel mat

Panel Mat (required) – This is the most basic mat that provides padding to protect the head. Having several levels of a folded mat help guide progressions for many skills, from kickovers, limbers, and round offs, all the way up to standing tucks and beyond. The most basic mat is three panels, but longer and wider mats are suggested for athletes ages four and up.

wedge mat

Wedge Mat – Also known as a cheese mat, this mat is most beneficial if it has a fold so the athlete can use it both folded and unfolded. When opened, it can serve as an incline or decline. When closed, it can be used as a block. Ideally, the length should be as long as or longer than the athlete. The folded mat is also easier to store away while not in use.

Barrel – This mat is great for an introduction to back and front handsprings, along with upper level skills like an onodi. There are many conditioning exercises that can also be performed for all levels. If storage space is a factor, there are new inflatable barrels that are now available.

Floor Beam – While gymnasts compete on beam, it is also beneficial for cheerleaders and dancers seeing that it will test how straight they can tumble. It can also be doubled as a stunt platform for flyers.

Pit Pillow – This is the most useful mat that can be used for in-home training. It provides the feel of a pit and everyone from beginners to elite-level competitors can utilize this mat. It comes in a small size of 3’x4’, which is perfect for practicing at home. If there was only one mat to invest in besides a panel mat, this would be the one. It helps with body shaping and is extremely versatile.

Airtrack – This is a newest in-home piece of equipment that is helpful in keeping athletes safe as it provides a bounce that is more subtle than a trampoline. When this concept first came out, it was only seen in gyms, but you can now find them online at a reasonable price. The size of it really depends on what it will be used for.
When picking out an airtrack, keep these tips in mind:

  • Length – How tall is your athlete? How many skills in a row will your athlete be practicing?
  • Width – Does your tumbler go straight? Will two athletes be tumbling at the same time to practice timing? Pro tip: use the side of the track that has a straight line down the middle so the tumbler can spot it as they work down the mat.
  • Depth – The thinner the track, the more likely you will touch the ground. If you are on an uneven surface, be sure to get at least 8 inches. Grass and turf can usually withstand 4 inches.

Mats and other equipment to buy for tumbling

While mats are a big investment, be sure to choose good quality mats and always be sure you are selecting the right sizes for your athlete. Since it is an investment, think long term and how much your athlete will grow over the years. Some mats can last beyond 10 years!

If you have any questions on mat selection, please reach out. At Tumble Method, we inspire and enhance athletic skills for tumblers of all ages. Our method, The Tumble Method, will instill a work ethic, encourage athletes to perform at their highest altitude, and make them better athletes all around. We offer in person private lessons in the Orlando area, and book virtual clients internationally through CoachUp. This year, we will be launching several online programs that will include classes in tumbling, jumps, flyer stretching, conditioning, cheer tryout prep, and so much more! 

Coach Ashley is a dancing, cheer, and tumbling coach with over 10 years of experience. You can find her CoachUp profile here and start booking lessons with her today!

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