Mats are a constant presence in our gyms. They play a fundamental role in martial arts training and fitness training. And yet most of us probably don’t give them much thought at all. It’s easy to take mats for granted when they’ve always been there for us, under our feet and lining the walls of dojos, weight rooms, and studio spaces. It’s their job to protect us and our training gear as unobtrusively as possible, after all. Mats keep us supported so that we can focus on our techniques and form.
Most of us probably don’t seriously think about mats until we start building a home gym — or we try to train at home without them.
Once you start thinking about mats, though, you might realize just how valuable they are. They’re one of the most affordable and most effective pieces of martial arts gear and/or fitness equipment that you can buy. A set or two of jigsaw mats won’t just benefit your training and your wellbeing, they can also protect your house, your family or roommates, your neighbours, and maybe even your pets!
Here are five benefits of adding jigsaw mats to your at-home training:
1. Mats create a safe and comfortable practice area.
The most important role that mats play in fitness and martial arts training is providing a safe and effective cushion between your body and any hard surfaces in your training area. Dense enough for your safety but with just enough give for your comfort, a floorspace covered in interlocking jigsaw mats provides a suitable surface for solo and partner grappling drills, bodyweight training, and strength and conditioning workouts. they’re excellent for Pilates, which requires something thicker than a yoga mat to protect the spine during rolling exercises. The foam surface is also much kinder on barefoot striking training than attempting to do kickboxing, Muay Thai, or MMA training on a hard wood or carpet floor. You will probably want to save your serious takedown and Judo throw practice for professional gym-grade mats, but you can adapt the rest of your martial arts training to jigsaw mats. If you’re working out near any walls or other vertical surfaces that you are worried about running into during the course of your training, you can also fasten a couple of pieces of jigsaw mats to them to provide even more protection.
2. Mats protect your stuff.
In addition to protecting you from hard and unforgiving surfaces, your jigsaw mats will also protect them from you. Training on mats will prevent scuffs, scratches, and other damage to your walls and hard floors. They can cut down on the wear and tear that carpets would have to endure during any drills or exercise that involve pivoting and shifting your body like hip escapes, or even footwork drills. They can also provide a subtle but effective visual cue to keep your movement focused in a specific training area. If you know that your workout or martial arts practice is supposed to happen within the boundaries of your jigsaw mats, and you can clearly see the limits of those mats, it’s easier to focus on staying within them. Which, in theory, should make you less likely to get caught up in a move and go crashing into a piece of furniture or any other mishaps that could cause injury to both you and the object.
3. Mats provide a flat and stable surface for training.
There are a number of issues that can come up during exercise or martial arts training on a hard or carpeted floor that can endanger your safety, mess with your form, or just plain annoy and distract you from the task at hand. Carpets can give you rug burn and hurt the timing and range of motion of your footwork. Hardwood or tiles run the risk of being too slippery for any exercise that requires balance and precision. Some can be too sticky for the turning and sliding that happens in aerobics, kickboxing, and functional fitness training. Any equipment that you can’t perfectly anchor on a hard floor can slip, putting you at risk of tripping, falling, or rolling over on your ankles. For example, an exercise stepper shifting even a little during cardio or plyometric drills could very easily lead to an early end to your workout — or even lead to injury. Properly laid out and assembled jigsaw mats can take care of all of the above concerns, leaving you with a surface that encourage all of the movements that you want to happen during your martial arts training, and prevent the ones you don’t!
4. Mats provide can help to diffuse sounds.
You can’t soundproof a room with foam mats. So don’t get too carried away and expect to turn your apartment into a jam space, or start slamming medicine balls or training dummies on the floor, thinking you won’t hear a thing. But just because they can’t eliminate all of the sounds your martial arts training or workout might produce doesn’t mean they can’t take the edge off. Jigsaw mats can and do diffuse sound, which means that training on a surface properly covered in them will be a courtesy to your neighbours as well as a benefit to yourself.
5. Pets love them!
This might sound a little wacky, but hear us out. If you’ve ever done any exercise or martial arts training at home with dogs or cats before, you’ve probably been interrupted by them at least once. There’s a human on the floor! Moving and doing interesting things that probably look a lot like playing! Of course they want in on that action. Keeping both of you safe and keeping you focused can be a challenge. If you can’t keep them shut in another room during your training, here’s a method that this blogger has developed to keep their cat busy during mat-based workouts: Set up your mat space with your jigsaw mats, then leave out one extra mat square next to the mats. You can leave one of their toys on it for an extra incentive. Start your workout and, if they come running to join you, set them up on the spare mat. They get to feel include and stay occupied and you get to finish your workout!