Foam Pits in 5 Steps
Gymnastics and Foam Pit construction
Determine area needed to perform the intended tricks or maneuvers. Think larger for Moto-cross, BMX and Skateboarding as more speed and altitude are usually involved. Length is usually the second most important dimension to consider always erring on the side of caution. When considering the length of the pit consider how fast and far is feasible for the athlete and then extend it a little to provide a safe cushion. Depth is the most important dimension as the amount of blocks between the landing and the hard surface below is the amount of cushion or load deflection that the pit offers. Usually a safe depth for Gymnastics is 6-8 feet. This depth would probably be sufficient for most skateboarding and BMX applications as well. Moto-cross deals with higher speeds greater height and more weight so choosing a pit depth on the back end of the spectrum is wise even deeper maybe. Finally determining width and siding is important to ensure safety. Consider the possible range of error from left to right and choose a reasonable space for landing. Again speed and distance effects the possibility for error in a direction and should be taken into consideration.
Consider the actual location. Inside? Outside? Above Ground? Below Ground? These are all questions that must be answered when locating where you plan on building your pit. Inside pits are common for gymnastics which eliminates the worry of rain or snow. Outside pits are common for snowboarding, moto-cross, and other extreme sports. These pits should probably use covers or water resistant blocks to resist the elements. Foam obviously acts very much like a sponge and after rain without a cover a pit will be very wet and if left like that it will likely grow mold there are often complaints of sickness after using a dirty foam pit. Above ground pits are possible but should still meet all the dimensional safety measures above above, especially depth.
Calculate the amount of blocks needed to fill a pit. The math is a simple volume calculation, length * width * height * 0.7 * 8 = # of 6 "blocks or
length * width * height * 0.7 * 8 = # of 8 "blocks. These are industry standard calculations.
Select a block density. The higher the block density the more load deflection or the safer they are for the athlete. Lower density blocks will save money but may not be as safe.
Fill your pit, have fun and always practice safely!
Periodically Pits should be fluffed as the foam will compact with repeated impact and provide less protection. Churning up the blocks prevents this from becoming an issue. Blocks should also be periodically replaced with fresh blocks both for cleanliness and safety as the foam gets beaten up.
Warning – Even with a quality pit neck and back injuries can still occur, make every effort not to land on the head or neck to reduce risk regardless of the pit.
Warning – Landing in the pit in an arched position especially in a frontward position can hyperextend and injure the back.
Warning – Landing on your knees, especially in an arched position in the pit can cause hyperextension injuries to the back.