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What Type of Mat Should I Use for Practicing Flips?

By Kyle Schurman Created: March, 2021 - Modified: April, 2021

A flip mat is a key piece of equipment to have available when learning to do back flips. To limit the possibility of serious injury while learning this skill, padded flooring can create a cushioned landing area. Martial arts mats, cheerleading mats, and gymnastics mats all work for practicing flips with safety precautions.

Some of the best back flip mat options include:

  • Grappling MMA Mats
  • Home BJJ Mats
  • Roll Out Wrestling MMA Mats
  • Home Cheer Mats
  • 2-Inch Gym Mats
  • 2.5-Inch Gymnastic Mats

Fans of viral back flip fail videos on social media notice that many people in those videos skip using a back flip mat when landing, causing some to think they may not need a mat either. Remember, though, those viral videos represent fails for a reason.

For those who are actually serious about trying to learn the skills required to successfully complete a back flip, having the right flip mat and the right instruction available will make the process far safer than working out alone, trying to land in a swimming pool or on pillows spread out on the floor.

Why Is It Important to Use Padding for Practicing Flips?

Finding the right landing space for practicing flips is important to protect students from injury. As the student is just starting to learn how to flip, landing on the back, shoulder, or neck is possible, which could lead to serious injury - especially without a safe landing spot. The same is true when practicing a front flip. Padding is extremely important.

Additionally, those wanting to learn how to flip need to spend some time studying the proper techniques or taking lessons from gymnastics and cheer, and sometimes even martial arts coaches. Technique is key for learning to successfully do standing back tucks, cartwheels with back flips, or tumbling approaches to handspring back flips.

Beginners need some instruction on the proper body alignment and on the areas of the body where they need to build strength to have a better chance of achieving the flip successfully. Some students may perform a regular squat exercise to gain extra strength in the legs, for example.

When working on gaining explosive jumping strength in the legs, students may want to stand on a padded back flip mat to help with the landings, protecting the lower body joints from excessive stress during repeated jumping practice.

A padded flip mat can provide cushioning when working on the tuck movement while lying on the ground and when working on the arm swing required for a back flip as well. Some people will practice the arm swing while sitting. Sit on stacked or folded mats to yield the proper height above the ground.

Even when using a gymnastics harness to learn to do the rotation with spotters, having a padded landing surface available from a back flip mat is a good idea. Landing on the feet every time is not a guarantee, even when wearing the harness, and the padding will give athletes a safe landing area in case of technique errors.

For those who experience fatigue during a long practice session, the safety of a flip mat can provide the impact protection needed to protect hips and knees.

Can You Create a Safe Floor for Practicing Back Flips With Foam Puzzle Tiles?

One of the easiest ways to create a space for practicing flips is through laying out flooring that features foam puzzle style mats, such as are popular for martial arts studios or kids playrooms.

Quality EVA foam mats provide a high level of cushioning, as they’re made for safely catching and supporting kids and martial arts students who tumble to the ground. Yet, they yield just the right level of firmness that allows students to make quick, powerful movements. This firmness is important for those learning to do back flips.

Grappling MMA MatsOne of the most popular floor choices for martial arts studios that also will work as a high quality flip mat is the Grappling MMA Mats product. It provides a 4-foot ASTM fall height rating, meaning that it has certification to protect against serious head injuries for a fall from a height up to 4 feet. (This means the head should be no more than 4 feet above the ground at the time the fall starts.)

Understandably, students practicing flips may have their heads at a greater height than 4 feet before they fall. However, the level of cushioning in these grappling mats is still helpful for flip practice.

This EVA foam mat measures 1.5 inches in thickness for a high level of impact protection. These puzzle mats measure 1 by 1 meter in size, allowing an installer to cover a large space quickly.

Home BJJ MatsA similar style and size of back flip mat is found in the Home BJJ Mats. These puzzle edge style mats also measure 1.5 inches thick, and they also have a 4-foot ASTM fall height rating for safety.

The Home BJJ Mats measure 2 by 2 feet in size, so they’ll be a little easier to handle for some installers versus the larger Grappling MMA Mats model. However, they will take a bit longer to cover the same sized area.

Installers can create wall-to-wall installs or island layouts with these mats. Use the attached border strips or cut through the foam with a sharp utility knife to remove the puzzle edge and create a flat edge.

Both of these styles of EVA foam mats for sale have a reasonable cost per square foot of coverage. Installation of the mats works as a DIY job, so the overall cost of the project remains lower versus having to hire a professional to do the work.

What Is the Best Back Flip Mat for Practicing Tumbling Run Landings?

When cheerleaders or gymnasts are looking to practice flips as part of tumbling runs, having a cushioned surface they can use for landing at the end of the tumbling pass is helpful. Should the athlete make a mistake during the tumbling stunt, a cushioned roll out flip mat can help protect against potential injuries upon landing awkwardly.

These landing flip mats often make use of a vinyl or carpeted top layer that provides stability and a good level of footing for the athlete. The top layer bonds to a layer of cross link polyethylene (PE) foam. PE foam provides more shock absorption and less firmness than the martial arts EVA foam mats discussed earlier.

Roll Out Wrestling MMA MatsThe Roll Out Wrestling MMA Mats product uses PE foam and delivers just the right level of shock absorption to protect against falls while practicing back flips. The vinyl layer offers the firmness needed for making the sudden movements required in working on the flip skill.

This model of mat uses a vinyl top surface bonded to a 1.25-inch thick foam base layer. At a coverage size of 5 by 10 feet, this is a roll out mat that provides a good amount of space for landing safely when practicing flips. To create a larger coverage area, installers can use vinyl tape to connect more than one mat. There are also longer and thicker mats of this type available.

Home Cheer MatsA similar option is the Home Cheer Mats product. It also uses a PE foam base layer, but it has a bonded carpet top layer for traction and firmness. This mat has a slightly greater level of shock absorption than the Roll Out Wrestling MMA Mats, as the foam measures 1.375 inches in thickness. The carpet top also takes the “slap” out of landings that can be associated with landing on vinyl.

The Home Cheer Mats product also delivers a 5-by-10-foot coverage area for safe landings during a variety of flip practice sessions. Like the previously-mentioned mat, these too are available in longer and thicker options or can be connected together using connect strips.

Both of these back flip mat styles are roll up mats, which means students can roll them out for the practice session and roll them up again afterward for placing in storage.

The manufacturer added horizontal slits in underside of the foam, which allows the PE foam to slightly pull apart during the roll up process, creating a tighter roll. When rolling out the mat for a flat layout, the slits press together tightly, maintaining the stability of the overall mat.

What Are Some of the Thickest Flip Mat Options?

Some people may have a temptation to use crash mats of 8 inches and thicker to practice flips, as crash mats offer a significant level of cushioning to protect against serious falls. Gymnasts will often use crash mats for landing from a high bar or a beam, while cheerleaders can use a crash mat for stunting practice.

However, when working on flips, the athlete will want a firmer surface than what a pillowy crash mat provides. The firmer surface allows the athlete working on the back flip movement to create the explosive jumping motion required to complete the stunt. It is ok to use these mats around your practice area for extra protection against mishaps, but don’t plan to jump off of them or jump onto them intentionally.

For those who want a higher level of shock absorption than the flip mats discussed earlier will provide, consider a thicker PE foam model.

2-Inch Gym MatsThe 2-Inch Gym Mats are an excellent choice for creating a safe landing area. These mats consist of an 18-ounce vinyl cover over the top of a 2-inch PE foam core. This 5-by-10-foot flip and gymnastics mat consists of five connected panels, allowing instructors to fold them up accordion style for storage.

With hook and loop connectors on all four sides of these back flipping mats, it’s easy to create a far larger coverage area than a single mat can provide. Just stick multiple mats together, and they’ll stay in place with the connectors.

2.5-Inch Gymnastic MatsAn even thicker option with an accordion style folding design is the 2.5-Inch Gymnastic Mats product. It has an 18-ounce vinyl cover over the top of a 2.5-inch PE foam core, delivering an impressive level of shock absorption for landing while practicing flips.

Each mat covers 6 by 12 feet with six individual panels that fold onto each other for storage. Hook and loop connectors are available on two sides of the mat, simplifying the process of connecting multiple mats for a larger coverage space.