Air tracks have become really popular over the last 10 years, especially with gymnasts, trickers and cheerleaders. But they can be really expensive and there are many risks involved when using (and purchasing) an air track.
In this article, I dive into the details about air tracks and answer any questions you may have.
If you know what to look out for, then YES an air track is definitely worth it!
Table of Contents
- What is an air track?
- How much is an air track?
- What are the best brands of air track?
- What can you do on an air track?
- What does an air track feel like?
- Air track v trampoline
- Is an air floor the same as an air track?
- What length air track do I need?
- How high (thick) does an air track need to be?
- How do you inflate an air track?
- Do air tracks pop easily?
- Can you put an air track on grass?
- Can you put an air track on water?
- Final Thoughts
What is an air track?
An air track is a piece of inflatable equipment that provides a safer and easier way to perform tumbling skills in gymnastics. Air tracks are long enough to link together moves like cartwheels, round-offs, back flicks and flips. Because they are inflatable they give extra bounce and air time in a similar way that a trampoline works. They also help provide softer landings compared to traditional gymnastics floors and tumble tracks. When an air track is not being used it can be deflated for easier storage just like a bouncy castle and other inflatables.
How much is an air track?
Top-of-the-range air tracks found in professional gym facilities can cost as much as $4000 – $5000. The exact price of an air track will depend on its length and thickness among other things.
The longer the air track, the more it will cost.
Prices will also depend on the manufacturer and the quality of the product.
If you are looking to buy an air track for use in the home or garden you should expect to pay at least $500 for a premium quality brand. If you have a lower budget you could pick up a smaller 10-foot air track on amazon for less than $100.
You will need to check if a pump is included with your air track. Cheaper versions often don’t and this is one way for them to keep the cost down. Electric pumps can be picked up for as little as $30-$40 but check compatibility before you buy a pump separately.
What are the best brands of air track?
- AirTrack (also known as AirTrack Factory)
- AirTrack Nordic
- American Athletic
- FB Sport
- Tracks 2000 (UK and Europe)
I review my favorite Air Tracks in-depth here.
These are the main brands that actually manufacture the air tracks themselves. Other companies may be selling these same air tracks but with their own branding printed on them or simply as an approved dealer in a particular part of the world.
Many air tracks found on Amazon look the same as the big brands but are way cheaper. They will probably not have been manufactured using the same premium quality materials used for an air track found in a professional gym. However, it is still worth considering Amazon to purchase an air track for home use, especially if you have a lower budget.
What can you do on an air track?
You can do anything on an air track that you would normally practice on a regular gymnastics floor or tumble track. You will probably find it is easier to do the same skills on an air track because of the increased rebound. Some of the most popular skills are:
- Round Off
- Front Somi
- Back Somi
- Back Handspring
The great thing about an air track is that it will help you link multiple moves together for the first time.
What does an air track feel like?
Air tracks feel somewhere in between a trampoline and a traditional gymnastics floor or tumble track. A trampoline is bouncier than an air track but an air track is bouncier than a traditional floor or track.
The material itself feels like other inflatables such as bouncy castles and inflatables in the pool. A good quality air track should feel
Air track v trampoline
If you are only going to choose one piece of equipment out of the two, there are a few things to consider.
A decent trampoline will give you way more height, bounce and air time than an air track. When I’m teaching a new tumbling skill I will start teaching it on a trampoline before transferring it to a fast track (basically a long trampoline and still bouncier than an air track). After the fast track, I move the skill to an air track and finally the rod tumble track.
The reason the trampoline is bouncier is the use of springs which allow the gymnast to depress the trampoline bed further down compared to an air track. The bigger the depression down, the greater the force created as it pings you back up again (as long as the springs are not worn out!)
An air track is probably less likely to cause injuries than a trampoline. The increased air time and smaller dimensions of a trampoline make it more likely for someone to be catapulted off the side or to land on their neck or head.
Generally speaking, a trampoline will be cheaper than an air track although there are plenty of examples where this is not the case. However, if you were to compare products of similar quality and brand, the trampoline will usually be cheaper.
Storage and Transport
An air track can be rolled up and stored in a relatively small space. You can also pack it in the car and take it to a friend or the park. A trampoline won’t be able to do that!
This all depends on the manufacturer of a particular product but generally speaking a well-maintained air track can last for as long as 10 years. I have an air track in the gym which we use a lot and is almost 15 years old. The pump has been replaced and the pressure is starting to decrease now but it shows that these are long-lasting pieces of equipment. A trampoline that is kept outside will be open to the weather elements and probably won’t last as long as an air track.
Is an air floor the same as an air track?
They can mean the same thing but it depends on the brand.
For some brands, air floors and air tracks are different shapes.
Air floors are often square like a traditional gymnastics floor.
Air tracks are usually long and narrow like a traditional rod tumble track.
Both will do the same thing and are used by the same sort of athletes so it’s just down to other factors like space when deciding which one is right for you.
Square Air floors are popular with trickers that like to create a flow between moves that might not be in a straight line.
More traditional tumbling that includes skills like round-off, back handsprings are performed in a straight line so the air track is more suitable (and cheaper). Definitely check the pictures and dimensions on the product description to check whether it is long and narrow or square in shape.
What length air track do I need?
The main factor that you will need to consider is how much space you have to use the air track. If you are using a limited size space then leave enough room to run up and land safely.
If you have no size constraints then you need to think about what skills you want to practice and which ones you hope to learn in the future. A common tumbling pass is round off, back handspring into a back somi.
- A good round off will travel around the same distance as you body length if you were lying down
- A good standing back handspring should travel at least twice your body length
- If you add a back somi after the BHS you should only travel a couple of feet maximum
For a gymnast 55 inches (140cm) tall, they need around 16 feet to complete this common type of pass. This doesn’t include the run-up which can be done before taking the roundoff onto the air track. Obviously smaller gymnasts probably won’t travel as far but bear in mind your gymnast won’t always stay small (despite what some people say!)
How high (thick) does an air track need to be?
Air tracks come in a range of thickness/heights. The thickness refers to when it’s inflated and the height from floor to top of the track.
The greater the thickness the less chance you have of ‘bottoming out’ or feeling the floor under the track. You want to avoid bottoming out as it can cause injury and will give less bounce.
- 4” (10cm) thick are ideal for home use. You’ll get good bounce and it’s easy to transport. In the gym we use these on top of a mat or track to give additional comfort. At home this thickness of air track would work well on carpet or grass
- 8” (20cm) thickness will give added protection and bounce at home, especially on harder flooring such as laminate
- 12”-13” (30cm) height is commonly found in professional gyms. Generally they are bouncier but they are heavier to set up and are less portable. They usually cost more as well.
- 90”-100” height is found in the older, original air tracks that came out in the early 2000’s. These require the bigger electric pumps that are continously switched on while the air track is being used. They are not suitable for home use as they are noisy and very heavy to move.
How do you inflate an air track?
Air tracks are inflated by an electric pump. The type varies depending on the exact track but most will have a valve on one side or the top. Once it’s inflated you pop the valve back on to keep the air in.
Some of the bigger air tracks found in professional gym facilities have electric blowers which continuously pump air into the air track. These are noisier as the pump has to be kept on while the air track is in use. Most air tracks for home use won’t use these bigger pumps though.
Do air tracks pop easily?
No, it’s very rare for an air track to pop.
If using the air track outside you must avoid leaving sharp objects like twigs and stones underneath. Contact with a sharp object could cause a puncture so some people place a tarpaulin on the ground first to give extra protection outside.
I would also advise not using outdoor shoes on an air track as they can cause a puncture if they have something sharp on the sole. If you prefer using shoes when training I would suggest having a pair of shoes that are only used inside.
It’s very unusual for an air track to actually pop when someone is jumping or tumbling on it, especially if you are using a well-known brand of air track. The air tracks we use in our gym are made by Air Track Factory and are used a lot by teenagers and adults and we have never had one pop while in use.
Do air tracks deflate easily?
A good-quality air track will stay inflated for several hours. If you keep your air track up overnight it will need some extra air before using it again the next day.
Over the long term (months and years) it is normal for air tracks to lose their original high pressure. This is usually down to stitching becoming frayed and air escaping while in use. This is why it is super important to invest in a good quality track that has been made with proper stitching and materials.
Can you put an air track on grass?
Yes, air tracks can be used outside on grass but check for sharp objects before unfolding your air track. An additional thin mat or tarp is advisable and can be used underneath the air track.
If you are planning on taking the air track outside you will still need an electric point to plug the pump into!
Can you put an air track on water?
Yes, you can put an air track on water and it will float (unless you have a puncture!) so will make a cool inflatable for the pool.
Water will make the air track extremely slippery and I wouldn’t advise trying to perform any type of gymnastics when wet. It will make a fantastic slide though!!
Air tracks are definitely worth it if you want to spend extra time working on tumbling skills outside the gym. Even the cheaper versions found on Amazon are usually of decent quality and have good value for money however I would recommend using one of the more established brands if your budget allows it. This will help ensure you have a product that will last a long time and provide the high rebound needed to learn those new skills.