Weightrooms are where championships are won. Most people will focus on gamedays, the playoffs, or even practice, and while each of these is critical, the truth is for many high school sports - especially football - the ones who work the smartest and hardest in the offseason play the best when it counts. Showing up and showing out in the weightroom is how championship high school football teams are built.
At the high school level, almost every school is offering some sort of weightlifting program.
Whether it is a class, part of the PE curriculum, or specifically offered for specific sports teams like football and basketball. If your school doesn’t offer your athletes - especially football - the opportunity to lift weights with a qualified coach, you are already behind. The good news is that most schools are already doing this. Whether your school is or isn’t is not the point here, the point is all high schools should have a weightroom, and it is important the weightroom is safe, clean, and functional.
Are you a high school coach, athletic director, or administrator? Well, chances are at some point in your career you’ll have to answer this exact question - what is the best rubber gym flooring for my high school weightroom? But, we know you have enough on your plate.
Let us help you quickly answer this question so that you can make sure your school has the best gym flooring in your weightroom.
Then you can focus on other things like who your football team plays this week, making sure all of your athletes get picked up after practice, or a countless number of other tasks you have in high school athletics.
As you may already know, there are a few options when it comes to weightroom gym flooring - wood, foam, concrete, and even plastic - but let’s discuss why rubber is superior.
Why Rubber Gym Flooring?
Rubber gym flooring is really the only option you should be considering when it comes to weightroom flooring.
Rubber floors are easy to clean.
Since they are naturally water-resistant, they can easily be cleaned with a mop and bucket, sanitizing wipes, or any other method involving water and soap. This is really helpful for any gym, but especially a high school weightroom. The combination of sweat, germs, sickness, and high schoolers all in one room means you are going to want to put a premium on making sure the room stays as clean as you can. Also, having a clean weightroom is not a process that should be upheld just by the coach. Each athlete should clean up after themselves and that can include even the floor for their lifting station.
A clean weightroom is about ownership, respect, and accountability as well as eliminating germs.
Your high school weightroom is also probably not used just once a day, so with the influx of athletes from different sports teams and different classes, having flooring that is easily cleaned is a huge bonus.
Rubber flooring is also protective.
It is designed to protect the flooring underneath from the heavy weightroom equipment. It creates a buffer between the equipment and the flooring underneath that provides greater defense against barbells, weight plates, and machines.
Depending on the type of training your school is performing in the weightroom, being able to drop the barbell with weight plates may be necessary. Olympic lifts such as cleans, jerks, and snatches are great at developing explosive athletes. They are highly technical, but once learned can be an important piece in a high school lifting program. Olympic lifts all benefit from or even require the ability to drop the barbell from overhead.
Imagine dropping a barbell that weighs anywhere from 35 lbs to 350 lbs on cement, plastic, or wood floors.
That’s a disaster waiting to happen for the safety of the floor, the equipment, and your athletes. Even if your school is not directly planning on using these exercises often, it is a good idea to still go with rubber for a few reasons we will continue to look at. Plus, who knows next season you or your coach may change their mind, and with rubber you always have the option to perform these exercises.
Rubber flooring is also slip-resistant.
This is a huge bonus for the performance and safety of your athletes. Letting your athletes focus on performing the movement instead of whether the gym floor will cause their feet to slip is just one less thing to think about.
A final bonus to rubber flooring is the potential for designs.
Rubber flooring allows you to put your school logo imprinted on the floor. You also can choose rubber flooring that has your school's colors in the specks. Is this necessary? No. But, having a nice weightroom is always a positive if your school is able. A clean, safe, and up-to-date weightroom is going to attract more athletes to come than one that is dirty, unsafe, and hasn’t seen a facelift in decades. Now of course, some schools are facing significantly more challenges when it comes to funding than others, but if you are able, prioritizing the weightroom is a good call.
Hopefully, these reasons are enough for you to ignore any other flooring options.
In all seriousness, rubber flooring is the gold standard when it comes to gym flooring and high school weightrooms.
The question really becomes which type of rubber gym flooring - so let’s dive into that now.
Tiles, Rolls, or Mats?
So we’ve established rubber is king, but now what? Now we need to decide how you want your rubber cut. There are three primary types of rubber gym flooring.
Rubber tiles, rolls, and mats.
Rubber tiles are often interlocking and look like giant puzzle pieces. While interlocking tiles are common, some tiles are simply squares. You may have seen these at a gym like the YMCA. They are the smallest of the three options - typically around 2’x2’ - and are the easiest to install. These are a great option for home gym flooring.
Rubber mats are typically a little bit bigger. Oftentimes these mats are placed under a machine or under a power rack. Rubber mats tend to be used to cover large portions of a weightroom but maybe not the entire space.
While all three are great options for a high school weightroom, I think the best cut is going to be rubber rolls. When you are looking at commercial gym flooring, rolls are the go-to. They tend to be the cheapest and have no seams. Seams aren’t that big of a deal, but it will make the room look even cleaner. The biggest downside with rubber rolls is that they take the most work when installing. However, for the square foot price and look, I think rubber rolls are worth it.
At the end of the day, you’ll be fine with any of the three options. You could decide to even use mats and/or tiles to cover part of the weightroom - under the power racks and anywhere you may do Olympic lifts. Although, it will look best to cover the whole room - it is not necessary.
The next question to answer is what type of rubber?
Vuclanized, Non-Vulcanized, or Natural?
Unless you are a rubber gym flooring expert, you probably weren’t aware of just how many different types of rubber options there are. Let’s start with the original.
Nothing more original than natural rubber - straight from the rubber tree.
The sap from the rubber tree is known as latex and is used to create rubber mats. However, the majority of rubber we see today is known as synthetic rubber. One of the biggest reasons for this is that some people are allergic to latex, so especially when choosing a rubber gym flooring for your high school weightroom, natural rubber is probably not the best idea. Synthetic rubber also tends to be more durable, which is a major plus - especially given how much foot traffic can be in a high school weightroom.
Synthetic rubber was created in a lab and honestly, it’s pretty complex. How it’s made isn’t all that important, but it has basically the same chemical makeup as rubber. Synthetic rubber also doesn’t contain latex which is a plus.
Finally, we have recycled rubber. Recycled rubber is exactly what it sounds like and is either natural, synthetic, or a combination of the two. When you think about rubber in your everyday life - from shoe soles to home gym flooring and everything in between, almost all of it is recycled rubber. The biggest contributor to recycled rubber is the tire. Just imagine for a second, just how many tires there are in junkyards and on the road today, whether on cars, trucks, or even eighteen-wheelers - that’s a ton of tires. So using old tires for gym flooring is a great way to give those old tires another life.
Okay, I promise we are almost done with the different types of rubber, but there are two last points when we talk about recycled rubber.
Almost all rubber gym flooring is going to fall into one of these two groups - vulcanized and non-vulcanized.
Vulcanized and revulcanized are basically the same thing.
This is what you are going to want to look for. These rubber gym mats, tiles, or rolls are stronger.
They don’t give, curl up, or change shape. Vulcanization is a process that uses binding agents with the rubber. The two ingredients then get heated up in order to form a stronger rubber. Non-vulcanized typically uses a pressing system that takes the materials and uses force to press them together.
Again, you aren’t really going to go wrong with any rubber gym flooring, but I would go with either the vulcanized or revulcanized. The only downside is that these two types of rubber flooring tend to smell a little bit more, so you are going to want to air them out for a couple of days before installation.
Okay, so far vulcanized is what we want for the type of rubber and rolls are the best option for cut. Let’s now look at how thick the rubber should ideally be.
Rubber flooring typically comes in thickness from 8mm to 2+ inches.
The most common thicknesses’ are ⅜”, ½”, and ¾”.
Generally, the thicker the rubber flooring mat the better off you are going to be as far as durability. However, the thicker the mat the higher the price and the worse the smell may be. So, certainly, some things to consider. For a high school weightroom, any of these three options would work. I would not go any lower or really any higher either.
You really want to make sure your floors are protected and your rubber mats are durable enough to last you many, many years.
At the end of the day, schools have made horse stall mats work. Having rubber flooring is the biggest key here. As far as which cut, which type of rubber, and which thickness - I certainly think rolls, vulcanized rubber, and somewhere around ½” are going to give you the best gym flooring option, but if you decide to go with mats under part of the weightroom or even tiles, as long as they are thick enough you are going to be golden.
At Freedom Fitness, we offer a wide variety of rubber flooring options.
From mats, interlocking tiles, and rolls, we have it all. With multiple options, we are sure to have what your high school needs to install a durable, safe, and beautiful new rubber floor.
The real question now becomes, once your new gym floor is installed - what equipment does your school need in order to be the best it can be?
After all, a pretty gym floor doesn’t do anything without effective equipment.
Here are some of the must-have pieces of equipment your high school weightroom needs.
First off, we have to start with power racks.
A good weightroom needs multiple power racks so that student-athletes can squat, bench, overhead press, do pull-ups, and so much more. Power racks allow student-athletes to group together and build teamwork and comradery, as you typically have about three to four athletes at each rack. This allows one athlete to lift, one to spot, one to rest, and one to perform another exercise. Each athlete has a job to do and everyone can be getting better at the same time. When looking at power racks, be sure to get one that has a pull-up bar. It doesn’t take up any additional space and gives your athletes a chance to get much stronger pulling.
Now, if we have a power rack, it doesn’t really do us much good without a barbell and weight plates.
A barbell is critical when it comes to high school weightrooms - allowing you to perform exercises like bench press, squats, cleans, Romanian deadlifts, and so much more. With weight plates the progressive overload each week and ultimately each year will allow your athletes to continue to get bigger and stronger. Be sure to get an Olympic barbell as this will allow you to better perform cleans and snatches. After all, you just bought that beautiful new rubber gym floor so you might as well make the most of it and drop a barbell or two.
There are a few other things I think are very important when it comes to what goes on top of the rubber floor - dumbbells and benches, among others. But as we finish I want to highlight a couple that you may not have thought of.
First, resistance bands.
I’m talking about the large bands. These are great for mobility and strength. Resistance bands allow exercises like good mornings, banded face pulls, biceps curls, triceps pushdowns, and many others to be done without any other equipment. These are great especially if you have a large team or class and can use these as an accessory for the third or fourth athlete at a power rack.
Lastly, medicine balls.
But not like the small ones that are hard. The ones you may see are called “wall balls.” They are larger and softer. They are incredible for building explosive power in your athletes. With these medicine balls you can perform chest passes, overhead tosses, lateral shuffles into a medicine ball throw, and many others. All of these will help athletes in all sports, but some of the rotational components medicine balls allow for can help your quarterbacks, tennis, baseball, hockey, and lacrosse athletes.
Okay, let’s wrap it up there.
Vulcanized, rubber rolls, about ½” thick - this is the way.
You’ll be set pretty much no matter what rubber gym flooring you go with, but for most high schools that will be best.
Rubber Flooring - Largest Selection - RubberFlooringInc, https://www.rubberflooringinc.com/. Accessed 7 October 2023.
“The Differences Between Recycled Tire Rubber Flooring and Vulcanized Rubber Flooring.” Mondo Worldwide, https://www.mondoworldwide.com/na/en/spaziomondo/doyouknow/differences-recycled-tire-rubber-flooring-vulcanized-rubber-flooring/. Accessed 7 October 2023.
Richmann, Kif. “Vulcanized Rubber Flooring vs. Non Vulcanized Rubber.” Greatmats, https://www.greatmats.com/rubber-gym-flooring/vulcanized-vs-non-vulcanized-crumb-rubber-gym-flooring.php. Accessed 7 October 2023.
Stromberg, Amber. “How to Choose Flooring for a School Weight Room.” Kiefer USA, 10 September 2022, https://www.kieferusa.com/blog/school-weight-room-flooring-options/. Accessed 7 October 2023.
“Why Does My Rubber Gym Flooring Smell So Bad?” Freedom Fitness Equipment, 19 June 2023, https://freedomfitnessequipment.com/blogs/freedomcast-articles/why-does-my-rubber-gym-flooring-smell-so-bad. Accessed 7 October 2023.