Tested: The Best Percussion Massagers to Relieve Muscle Soreness
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Percussion massagers are among the easiest ways to recover your legs after a hard run. These handheld devices are basically jigsaws, using a reciprocating tip to strike your muscle tissue about 2,000 to 3,000 times per minute, which facilitates blood flow to the targeted area. More blood flow tends to reduce inflammation and soreness, expediting your recovery and making you ready to hit the pavement the next day. (And yes, you can just buy a massaging tip for your jigsaw, although it won’t have purpose-built features like a big battery, rotating heads, and customizable settings.)
Get some quick facts below on five of our favorites, and keep reading to find out how ten leading devices performed in our test.
Best Percussion Massagers
How Percussion Massagers Work
When you get done with a long or difficult run, excess metabolic waste pools in your leg muscles, causing inflammation and soreness. Percussion massagers use rapid strikes to circulate that waste product into your circulatory system. “If a runner is pressed for time, these devices can potentially help ward off muscle soreness while also improving muscle function,” says Dr. Rachel Tavel, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S.
Small studies indicate that vibration therapy, a form of percussive therapy, is effective at reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), although research on massage guns is scant.
How to Use Your Massager
Dr. Tavel has four tips to get the most out of your massage gun. Start by holding the device at a 45-degree angle, with the application head in contact with the target muscle. Depending on your current goals and run routine, you’ll vary your usage slightly.
Use it prerun to stimulate muscle activation and potentially improve power, and postrun to improve recovery and reduce DOMS.
For muscle activation, spend just 30 seconds on the target muscle prior to your workout.
For muscle reactivation (relieving muscle spasms or fatigue midworkout), you can apply it for just 15 seconds.
For pain relief and recovery, she recommends two minutes on each muscle.
How We Tested
We’ve been using all of these massage guns and therapy devices on our own muscles, pressing them into sore tissue to get us ready for races and stowing them in our bags to prevent cramped hammies afterward. We focused on the things that mattered to us: the massage experience, noise, attachments, battery life, and price. Let us know in the comments which massagers you’d like to see reviewed next.
Hyperice Hypervolt 2
The Hypervolt 2 is totally redesigned, even though it looks much like its previous version. This percussion device is lighter and more powerful, the former of which you really do notice during extended sessions in tricky spots like your hamstrings. The battery has an oval shape now, with small ridges, making it a little easier to comfortably grip. Also, there’s only one power button—the switch on the bottom of the battery is gone.
It still has three speeds, is remarkably quiet, and pairs with the smartphone app to guide you through recovery sessions. If you have an original Hypervolt, don’t bother upgrading just yet. The improvements on the newer model probably aren’t quite enough to warrant the extra cash.
This newcomer has a luxury style and quality build. And, it comes in a nice hardshell case that has storage space for the gun, six attachments, and the charger (with international adapters). Hydragun bills itself as the quietest massager, though it’s just nominally lower than the Hypervolt 2. Deputy test editor Jeff Dengate used an iPhone decibel meter to test how loud each was at roughly the distance from your ear to thigh.
“The Hydragun, on the lowest of six speeds, was just 42 db, a whisper,” he said. “But that’s slower and softer than I’d ever use the device, typically preferring level 3 as the lowest setting—49 db. By contrast, the Hypervolt 2 on the first of three speeds is just 53 db. So, that’s not a massive jump.” On the highest power, however, the Hypervolt 2 (60 db) was actually a smidge quieter than the Hydragun (62). In any case, both are quiet.
The Hydragun doesn’t connect to Bluetooth apps, but has great ergonomics that we love, including an angled handle that’s covered in a rubberized coating for a comfortable massage session. At $299, it’s an affordable-ish massage gun that is a worthy competitor to the Hypervolt—it stands well above all of the cheap, $100 models that have flooded online marketplaces.
This new percussion massager from TriggerPoint is designed to provide the same therapeutic benefits as leading massagers for a fraction of the price. There’s just one small massaging head, but the versatile rubber tip felt ideal for glutes, IT bands, calves, and everything else. You get four speeds, topping out at 3,700 RPM, and a solid construction that doesn’t rattle or stall easily like some massagers at this price. The Impact isn’t as quiet as the Hyperice Hypervolt, but it’s significantly quieter than the Theragun G4 Pro—we wouldn’t recommend it for a quiet office setting, but it’s not too loud to use with Netflix in the background.
Theragun G4 Pro
The all-new Theragun Pro is overkill for most people, and is better suited for a clinical setting where it’s going to get heavy use—two batteries mean you can do a lot of massaging uninterrupted. But it’s also the smartest massager on the market. It connects with a Therabody app on your phone and reads your HealthKit data to make recommendations for what you should massage. Then it’ll walk you through the motion.
On your iPhone screen, it shows two points on a muscle—say, along the length of your hamstring—and directs you to work back and forth between them. It also shows you how to grip the massager for the best effect, and a pressure chart shows whether you’re applying the right amount of force—if you press too hard, the screen turns red and urges you to decrease pressure. This is surprisingly helpful, because how many of us really know how deeply we should be penetrating our muscles with these things? Well, we do now.
Theragun is also touting its new quieter motor, which is much improved over the jackhammer decibels the early models cranked out. But, even so, it’s still far louder than the Hyperice Hypervolt, and far too noisy when trying to use it while watching TV, as one tester found out.
The Turonic massager comes in a case with seven massage tips of varying shapes. Hard, narrow tips allow you to target knots and broader tips give you soothing release without beating up tight tendons. This percussion massager is among the quieter devices on this list and it has five speeds with a max 3,200 rpm. It has an impressive eight-hour battery life, leaving us to wonder when it would finally conk out after weeks of usage. Small improvements would be a curved handle (it was difficult to reach our backs and shoulder blades) and a lighter weight (it’s 1.8 pounds).
This is one of the cheap-o devices you can get on Amazon. It’s just $129 and, well, you get what you pay for. It’s underpowered and stalls out really easily if you apply any kind of pressure.
“I never reached for it when I wanted to work on any big muscles,” said Dengate. “But, I found it surprisingly nice as a gentle warmup on those mornings where my calves didn’t want to function. The gentle vibrations loosened things up just enough so I could make it down my stairs and enjoy the first mile of an early morning run a little better.” Setting it apart from other $99 offerings is its attractive design. Also, the bottom of the handle heats up so you can apply it to muscles.
“Truthfully, I haven’t used this one in a while because my wife stole it,” Dengate added. “She loves its gentler massaging action and prefers it over the more powerful models I have bouncing around the house.”
The ExoGun DreamPro has features that punch above its price. This massage gun has six speeds—as opposed to the Theragun’s five—that range from 1,200 to 3,200 rpm (Theragun is 1,700 to 2,400 rpm). It has an on switch at the bottom of the handle where you plug in the charger, and can last beyond four hours depending on the speeds used. When compared to massagers like the TriggerPoint Impact that have only one attachment, the DreamPro pleased testers with four choices.
One tester liked the pointier attachment for a deep massage on her neck and balls of the feet; the two-pronged attachment served as a gentle vibrating rake on her quads and calves. We also like the shape—the Theragun may have an arm that can change positions, but we liked how the ExoGun was less awkward to use when we needed to massage the shoulders or back. We wouldn’t shell out our money for the DreamPro at its full price of $600. However, ExoGun is currently offering it at a $169 sale price, making it an attractive value proposition.
The Theragun Mini is an editor-favorite because it’s the most portable—and it gets the job done. The butter bean-shaped device is super easy to hold and fits easily into a weekender duffel for road trips. Plus, since the battery lasts 150 minutes, you won’t have to bother packing the charger for a weekend away. The Mini has three speeds that you cycle through with the click of a single button.
Of course, because it’s a compact, affordable massager, there are some compromises. The motor stalls out easily if you apply too much force. Also, it comes only with the standard ball attachment, but is compatible with other tips like the cone or dampener (each costs $20 extra).
This budget therapy device is also a favorite of Amazon customers with over 16,000 reviews, and and average 4.5/5 star rating. While it does not bring quite the same level of intensity as some of the pricier options, it does still provide a quality massage—plus it has the benefit of being shockingly quiet. It has five speeds, seven attachments, and a touchscreen display that makes it appear more expensive than it is. It has an auto shut-off safety feature which turns it off after 10 minutes, but you can restart it and use it for longer without any issue of overheating.
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