Massage guns are a relatively new thing. They have begun to crop up sponsoring fitness YouTubers’ content, being plastered all over Instagram, and being heavily pushed by fitness apparel companies.
Don’t let their relative novelty fool you, however: they are not fly by nights by any stretch of the imagination.
The benefits of massages are well-documented. Thousands of years’ worth of testimonial speaks to their efficacy, and modern science is beginning to catch up, showing the improved blood flow and decreased blood pressure, decreased rate of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improved rate of recovery after training, and the overall boost to mobility that they can bring, among other things.
Well, massage guns are a good stopgap between having a full, professional massage and having to go without. They will give you many of the benefits of having a sports massage, are incredibly well-focussed, allowing you to really get in to troublesome areas and can be done in the comfort of your own home (relative comfort – they can be a little intense to use, especially at first!)
They work by delivering concentrated doses of percussion therapy.
Percussion therapy is a style of massage delivered through a series of heavy blows to the body. They deliver deeply penetrative force with which you can target the muscles and fascia.
Percussion therapy is not new or indeed unique to massage guns. It has traditionally been the preserve of sports masseuses, who deliver it using a series of strikes and blows using the hands and fingers.
The only thing new and unique to massage guns is that it now puts this style of practice into your hands. You can now take advantage of it at home, as often as you want, whenever you want. It uses the same principles as standard percussion therapy, gives largely the same benefits and works in much the same way, delivering repeated hard blows to the body’s outer tissue in a bid to deliver that penetrative power into its deep tissue.
The Benefits of Percussion Therapy
There are as many benefits to percussion therapy as there are to a more traditional massage (with, perhaps, the exception of the relaxation element – being repeatedly hit is not a great chill-out experience…)
The main reason massage guns are becoming popular in the fitness community, however, is percussion therapy’s ability to speed up recovery times and reduce fatigue symptoms from hard training. It will loosen up tight muscles, improve blood flow in target areas, improve lymphatic drainage (which will help to drain toxins and metabolic waste from the muscles) and will lead to a greater range of motion and improved mobility in any targeted muscle groups.
All of these benefits add up. Collectively, they will represent a great reduction in DOMS symptoms and an ability to heal up and adapt far more quickly to training stimulus. You will be able to train harder and more often, safe in the knowledge that your body will repair.
Of course, nothing beats a hands-on professional. If you have access to a trained masseuse, physiotherapist or sports therapist, you should absolutely use them. They will approach things with an experienced, expert eye and have trained to be better at delivering massages than you are.
However, massage guns should be used in a couple of instances. Firstly, if you don’t have access to a masseuse or therapist, they make a very good second choice. Secondly, if you have access to a therapist or masseuse, massage guns will be a great auxiliary method in-between massages.
Top 5 Massage Guns
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best massage guns available in today’s market. Any of the products on this list will represent a great investment for you and all of them will be a useful addition to your fitness journey.
Hydragun Massage Gun
For us, the Hydragun is the best massage gun available in the UK, especially whilst working to a reasonable budget. It isn’t a budget model by any means – it isn’t usually what you’d call cheap – but it’s affordable, good quality and, most importantly, it works an absolute treat.
You get six massage head attachments with the Hydragun, four plastic heads for a softer experience and two metal ones for a harder massage. Each one serves a slightly different purpose or is to be used on a specific type of muscle. Because of this, the Hydragun can be used across the whole body, taking in every major muscle group. Hydragun themselves are committed to the research that backs up their product – which they regularly share with their consumers via Hydrareads – showing proof if proof were needed that they are a serious-minded, customer focused outfit who design everything with respect to the most up-to-date theory. The Hydragun is also surprisingly quiet, with a 30-50 decibel noise level, which is more like a low hum than the furious roar or agonised whine common to some of its competitors’ models. It’s made from high-tech, aerospace grade aluminium.
Operating the Hydragun is simple and easy (which is not something you can say of some of their competitors). You get six different speeds which are displayed on clear LEDs at the back of the device, alongside battery life and torque. The speeds range from 1300RPM to a whopping 3200RPM – you will want to begin at the lower end and graduate upwards slowly (it gets intense fast!)
It’s quite common with massage guns to have hard-to-reach places like the lower back and shoulders left out by necessity, unless you have someone to use them on you (which rather defeats the point of a DIY massage). Hydragun get around this problem to a large degree. The handle is designed at a 99-degree angle. This makes it easy for getting into those awkward spots and the relatively lightweight design makes manipulating it into place pretty manageable.
Finally, the Hydragun comes with a respectable 6 hours of battery life (they seem to like doing things in sixes…) by virtue of its powerful built-in lithium-ion battery. You can’t buy spare batteries, but you’ll have more than enough power on any given charge to get you through daily use.
You get an 18-month warranty with your purchase, so you can rest easy knowing that you’ve got it for the long-haul.
It’s a solid, relatively inexpensive model (especially for everything it gives you) that will do the job to a high standard. It would be a bargain at twice the price.
Addsfit Massage Gun
However, economical as it is, it still works you hard and gives good results. It has some pretty advanced features not found on similarly priced guns and comes with five separate, very good-quality, well-built detachments made from advanced breathable silicone with anti-perspiration properties, all to be used on different areas of the body.
The Addsfit Massage Gun comes with its own travel/storage case, making it perfect for athletes on the go. It has a 2500mAH lithium-ion battery that gives it 4-5 hours of life (Addsfit claim it has a six-hour life, but it’s actually closer to 4-5 if you want to use a range of different speeds and settings). This is nevertheless perfectly sufficient for most people and represents close to a week’s daily usage before it needs charging again.
It’s also one of the quietest machines we’ve looked at, despite delivering 1700-3300 percussions per minute. This is put out over 9 different speed levels, none of which operates at more than 39 decibels thanks to the gun’s noise resistant casing.
The handle is ergonomically designed for comfort and sports a thicker rubber grip than some other models which makes it quite easy to use. The LED display is readable and makes it easy to change between pressure and speed.
All in all, the Addsfit Massage Gun does a very good job. It will help you to recover from tough training and does a really good job of releasing tension in tight muscles.
The Theragun Elite 4th gen is what you might expect from a company who have built themselves up to be market leaders in percussive therapy devices. Though it’s an expensive model, especially compared to some of the other products on our list, it is an impressive machine that nevertheless represents pretty decent value for money.
The Theragun Elite comes with Bluetooth app connectivity, allowing you to track progress and manage massage behaviours. Though it lacks some of the frills that its bigger brother, the Theragun Pro, delivers, it gives comparable results for a much-reduced price tag. It is also very user-friendly, with five separate heads, enough charge in its battery for around 2 hours per day, and a very nice OLED screen.
It’s easy to use and pretty fun as you play around with the app. Recovery results are profound, making it well worth the money.
Hyperice Hypervolt Plus
It delivers a little more than the Hypervolt, as is to be expected. Its improved, 90W brushless motor provides deeper percussions that will greatly enhance circulation and tension release in target areas.
This comes at a cost. Of all the items on our list, the Hypervolt Plus is the model most targeted at professional users and athletes. Its price tag is in-keeping with this fact. However, it is by no means exclusive to the pros – it is user friendly enough that anybody can pick it up and make a good go of it with great results, and the price, whilst high, is well worth it, so you won’t ever feel ripped off by it.
The Hypervolt Plus is quiet and comfortable. Pretty much all of the power generated goes into the head, and from there into the percussive jolts into the muscles, rather than into the handle and the body. It won’t shake or vibrate in your hands when you’re using it. It gives you 2000PPM to 3200PPM, has five attachment heads and delivers a truly exceptionally high-quality massage.
You can get around two and a half hours out of its 24V lithium-ion battery, which means that one charge is more than enough to keep you going for a good few days, especially if you’re using it for amateur, home use (pros and physios might want to invest in back up battery).
It’s costly, but it gives an exceptional massage and a very comfortable user experience.
ABOX Muscle Massage Gun
Despite its very reasonable price, there is nothing about the ABOX that feels in any way ‘budget’. It gives a decent massage, is quiet to use and comes with as many accessories as you could ask for.
It has a 30W brushless motor that can deliver up to 3300PPM. It’s the least powerful motor on the list, meaning that it may not feel as deep a deep tissue massage as some of its competitors. This isn’t great, of course – unless you’re just starting out. Deep tissue massages can be very intense. Starting out lighter may be helpful as you adjust, once again making the ABOX a great beginner’s model.
Daily percussion therapy from the ABOX will be perfectly manageable no matter your experience level.
Though they aren’t as refined or well-made as the heads on some of the other models on this list, like the Addsfit or Theragun, the ABOX still comes with 8 different, decent head attachments. The ABOX’s design – a bit like a hairdryer and very much in-keeping with many budget models – means that it will feel familiar from first use, and its non-slip handle makes it very easy and comfortable to grip.
You get a nice screen at the rear that will show you everything you need to know and, finally, the battery is a large 2600mAH unit that will give you up to five hours of charge.
It’s far from the best machine on the market, but for its price, it’s hard to argue with the ABOX.
Our Massage Gun Verdict
No matter the choice you make, if you go for any of the machines on this list, you’re in for a treat. Whether you want to start with a more amateur, economical design like the ABOX, to leap in with the pros with the Hypervolt, or go for a mixture of quality and value with our top pick, the Hydragun, you will end up with a good deep tissue massage. You will heal faster from training, be more open and mobile in your joints and be more relaxed in your muscles.
James is a full time personal trainer and an award winning writer with over 10 years of experience behind him. So far, he has helped hundreds of people with their health and fitness through his career.