Okay, so you’ve just killed your latest home workout and you’re sitting in that weird space of accomplishment and anxiousness. While you undoubtedly take pride in your training performance, you’re awaiting that all-too-familiar aching in your muscles. Whether you dread the post-workout fatigue or wear it as a badge of honor, the effects of muscle soreness can easily spill over into your daily life. This achy feeling in your muscles is something called delayed-onset muscle syndrome, or DOMS, and it can legitimately slow you down. But what are you to do when the DOMS come running — leaving you immobilized and contemplating if the progress was worth the pain?
One way to dominate the DOMS is with a post-workout massage. A 2017 review of several studies found that athletes taking part in a massage 24, 48 or 72 hours after intense training showed significantly decreased muscle soreness ratings. We all don’t have professional massage therapists at the ready after every workout, but what if we could get the same treatment from the comfort of our couch? Percussive massage guns can be a great tool for filling that gap, alleviating muscle soreness, whether from working out or staying hunched over in your office chair all day. Through the use of percussive therapy, these handheld recovery essentials can get you back to your comfortable self at a quicker rate, proving to be a great defense against the dreaded DOMS.
BEST OVERALL MASSAGE GUNLifepro Sonic X Personal Percussion Massage Gun Read More
BEST UPGRADE MASSAGE GUNTherabody Theragun Pro Read More
BEST BUDGET MASSAGE GUNToloco EM26 Massage Gun Read More
MOST SOLIDLY-BUILT MASSAGE GUNHyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro Read More
MOST AESTHETICALLY-PLEASING MASSAGE GUNLyric Therapeutic Massager Read More
What Is Percussive Therapy?
When you use a percussive massage gun on your sore muscles, you’re taking part in what’s known as percussive therapy. This recovery method targets soft tissue pain by rapidly stimulating blood flow in the targeted area. Rather than simply vibrating your muscles or ligaments, Dr. Jason Wersland, DC, founder and Chief Wellness Officer of Therabody, says the benefit of percussive therapy lies in its ability to reach deeper into the muscle. “While vibration therapy feels good on the surface of the body, it’s a 'global' experience as opposed to a targeted one. Percussive therapy targets treatment areas by reaching deep enough into the muscle to increase the amount of blood flow and oxygen needed for efficient treatment and recovery.”
A good real-life comparison to percussive therapy would be the Swedish massage technique of tapotement. Using rhythmic chops, slaps and beats along the body, this technique aims to stimulate stressed muscles and release toxins from your tissues by increasing blood flow at certain points along your profile.
How to Choose a Percussive Massage Gun
There are a number of percussive massage guns on the market — from professional-grade heavy-hitters to budget-friendly picks perfect for the everyday fitness enthusiast. But what separates each device, and how do you know if the gun you choose packs enough punch in its design?
The most notable differences between percussive massage guns can be found in the quality of build and two key performance stats called stall force and amplitude. Stall force is the amount of pressure needed for the gun to stop applying perpendicular force into the muscle. Essentially, the gun’s power peaks. Amplitude, on the other hand, measures how much distance the massage gun head can travel back and forth.
Budget guns will have a stall force of around 20 to 30 pounds and an amplitude of 8 to 10mm, while mid- and higher-tier guns will have 40 to 50 pounds of stall force and 12mm to 16mm of amplitude. These numbers alter the effectiveness of the device and whether it provides vibration therapy or percussive stimulation. If there’s not enough perpendicular force applied to your soft tissue, and the amplitude is not great enough for the head to travel off the body, the gun cannot reach as deep into the muscles.
If you’re just looking for temporary relief from sore muscles and are not concerned with the potential sports performance benefits, the less expensive guns will be more than suitable. However, if your primary goal is to aid fitness recovery and performance, expect to pay a little more for a gun that’s up to the task.
How We Tested
Over the course of a month, we used these percussive massage guns to help relieve our sore muscles across a number of activities. Whether after a grueling session in the gym, relaxing after a long day at our desks or recovering after a rec league slowpitch softball game, we gave these devices a shot to help keep our bodies in tip-top shape. We also used each massage gun in various settings, noting how maneuverable they were in reaching those lingering knots, how quiet they were when in use and how easy it was to change attachments for different modalities. Bonus points were rewarded, too, for conveniences like timers, carrying cases and other perks not found in other massage guns.
Now, let’s get into our picks and see which guns truly pack a punch in the recovery game.
Lifepro Sonic X Personal Percussion Massage Gun
Simple, quiet and providing plenty of muscle-stimulating relief, the Sonic X from Lifepro is our go-to pick for the best percussive massage gun. While the amplitude is not as long as others on our list, the 56 pounds of stall force provided plenty of power to work out those irritating knots. The Sonic X comes with six attachments for a myriad of uses, and the simple LED display around the single button is easy to read as you toggle through the five available speeds, ranging from 1,400 to 3,200 percussions per minute. The angled handle feels comfortable in your hand as you paint your targeted areas, providing just the right degree that’s not too hard on your wrists.
Another convenient feature is Sonic X’s Intelligent Pressure Sensor LEDs, located in a circle around the single button. As you press harder into your muscles, these lights change according to the pressure applied — blue for mild pressure, purple for moderate and red for heavy. This helps take the guesswork out of how deep you’re truly penetrating the muscles. The Sonic X also comes with a convenient tote for housing the machine, charging cable and attachments nicely when not in use. It might not be from one of the big brands, but we cannot deny that Lifepro hit it out of the park with this exceptional recovery tool.
- Stall Force: Up to 56 lbs.
- Amplitude: 12 mm
- Speeds: 5 (1,400–3,200 RPM)
Therabody Theragun Pro
Therabody’s flagship massage gun model, the Theragun Pro, is professional-grade quality and is another example of how the brand has revolutionized how we look at recovery. The commercial-grade brushless motor delivers up to 60 pounds of no stall force at five different speeds (1750, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2400 percussions per minute). It comes standard with six different head attachments, two swappable 150-minute rechargeable batteries and a hard carrying case. We enjoyed how easy it was to find those hard-to-reach knots, thanks to the ergonomic triangle handle and adjustable swivel head offering four positions for maximum coverage.
Also, the Theragun Pro is a great tool for massage gun newcomers, thanks to the available Therabody app. Simply download the app, pair your device via Bluetooth and get access to step-by-step tutorials, recommended recovery sessions and more. Honestly, this might have been our top pick if not for two things: noise and price. As can be expected with such a professional-grade motor, this percussive massage gun was louder than other options, and you definitely pay for quality here. But, if you can look beyond the price tag — and settle with turning up your TV a few clicks — this is definitely a massage gun to consider.
- Stall Force: Up to 60 lbs.
- Amplitude: 16 mm
- Speeds: 5 (1,750–2,400 RPM)
Toloco EM26 Massage Gun
If there was one word we’d associate with the EM26 from Toloco, it would be options. Seriously, featuring 10 varying attachments and 20 speeds providing up to 3,200 percussions per minute, this massage gun gives you plenty of versatility in such a wallet-friendly profile. The back display provides both speed and battery life, so you can easily monitor these vital statistics. The 90-degree handle did seem bulky in our hands, which affected its usefulness on upper body areas, but overall, the device is balanced well. The high-power 24-volt brushless motor seemed plenty powerful for the job, while a convenient hard case provided storage perks as well. While not as streamlined as others on the list, and there’s no supporting app, Toloco’s EM26 can be a great budget pick for everyday fitness enthusiasts that are solely looking for simple percussive therapy. No bells. No whistles. Just straightforward muscle relief.
- Stall Force: N/A
- Amplitude: 12 mm
- Speeds: 20 (Up to 3,200 RPM)
Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro
Hyperice is one of the leaders in self-massage and recovery items, so it makes sense the brand offers one of the best massage guns on the market. When it comes to quality of build, there’s no question the Hypervolt 2 Pro is one of the best. This solidly built, 2.6-pound gun with an easy-to-grip silicone handle delivers an impressive 60 pounds of stall force and tops out at 2,700 percussions per minute. And fine-tuning the upgraded five available speeds is easier than ever, thanks to the Hypervolt 2 Pro’s dial-style controls. The 14-mm amplitude gives a deep massage for an overall professional feel, too.
One of the best features of the Hypervolt 2 Pro is its supporting Hyperice app. Connect your device via Bluetooth and experience guided sessions that automatically control speed and tailor recovery specifically to your desires. This was exceptionally helpful after strenuous gym sessions where we wanted to unplug for a little and let the machine do most of the work. While the performance speaks for itself, we do wish, however, that Hyperice would include a carrying case with the Hypervolt 2 Pro gun itself. While there is a pouch for the five available attachments, the gun sits on its own.
- Stall Force: Up to 60 lbs.
- Amplitude: 14 mm
- Speeds: 5 (1,700–2,700 RPM)
Lyric Therapeutic Massager
Unlike most massagers on the market that hype their percussive force, Lyric’s design and interface really trumpet the wellness aspect of vibration technology. Toward that end, this unit features a wider range of frequencies with a lower amplitude and vibrations that come in waves, mimicking the body’s natural rhythms. A user-friendly touchscreen on the back enables you to select the goal of your session, be it “Energy,” to kick off your morning, “Pain Relief” after a tough workout or “Calm,” after a stressful day.
The Lyric Therapeutic Massager is also WiFi-enabled with a companion app for guided sessions, with the touchscreen handily indicating which body parts to hit as you progress. Need to reach those lower back muscles? A long-reach handle conveniently allows you to get to less-accessible spots. Lyric comes in toned-down colors and a streamlined form factor — its charger and four attachments are integrated into a little rectangle that cradles and powers up the unit itself — further reflecting its aspiration to fit seamlessly into your life, home and self-care routine.
- Stall Force: 8–16 lbs.
- Amplitude: 12 mm
- Speeds: Up to 4,000 RPM
Hyperice Hypervolt Go 2
Lightweight and portable, the Hypervolt Go 2 packs plenty of muscle-relieving stamina in a small, easy-to-use frame. At just 1.5 pounds, this compact massage gun feels weightless in your hands as you paint over your targeted muscles — whether in the gym or in the throws of a Home Run Derby. The angled handle also adds to the comfort for a more ergonomic feel. We also enjoyed how simple toggling through the three available speeds was, thanks to the single power button at the back of the device. There’s also an LED band at the base of the handle that indicates battery life, providing a clear picture of when you need to recharge.
The Hypervolt Go 2 comes with both a flat and bullet head as well as international plug attachments, so you can take your device overseas worry-free. Hyperice also offers guided routines and recovery suggestions tailored to the Hypervolt Go 2 with their Hyperice app – although the Go 2 is not Bluetooth-compatible for a truly guided experience. While more speeds and a carrying case would add to this pick, this percussive massage gun was easily stored in our gym bag for quick relief between sets – and in-between a few innings of rec league softball. If you want to take your recovery on the road, this is the device for you.
- Stall Force: Up to 40 lbs.
- Amplitude: 10 mm
- Speeds: 3 (2,200–3,200 RPM)
Lifepro Dynaflex Massage Gun
With a handle that resembles more of a hammer than a gun, this percussive massager from Lifepro is great for hitting all the nooks and crannies along your spine and beyond. Add an adjustable arm that can be angled at 0, 30, 60 and 90 degrees, and you have a great massage gun for all your recovery needs. The Dynaflex boasts an impressive 13 mm of amplitude that sits comfortably in the sweet spot between aggressive deep tissue treatment and more subtle percussive therapy. We liked the versatility you get with the 16 speeds and 10 available attachments, too, although we found higher speeds were a little loud at times.
The Dynaflex also conveniently times each massage session in the upper left corner of the back LCD screen, so you can monitor just how long you’re treating each muscle area. While surprisingly balanced, we did find the elongated handle to be a little uncomfortable during longer sessions, but its ease in reaching the middle and lower back far outweigh this issue.
- Stall Force: Up to 45 lbs.
- Amplitude: 13 mm
- Speeds: 16 (1,500–3,300 RPM)
Sportneer Elite D9 Percussive Massage Gun
Sometimes, we want to multi-task and get a quality massage while watching our favorite movie or tv show. Sadly, though, some guns can have loud motors that make listening in on your favorite scenes a bit of a struggle. With a listed output of just 40 decibels, the Sportneer Elite D9 massage gun is the perfect way to get a deep tissue treatment while catching up on your queue. We enjoyed the subtle hum of its 16.8V brushless motor, giving us the relief we desired without sounding like a construction site.
Additionally, the Elite D9 also features six attachments for a variety of muscle-targeting goodness, and getting to those aches and pains is comfortable thanks to the triangular handle that sits nicely in the palm of your hand. The simple display lets you toggle through six available speeds, but we did find that the power button could be tricky. The manual says to hold the button “for a moment” to turn the device on and off, but determining how long said moment should take some getting used to.
- Stall Force: Up to 35 lbs.
- Amplitude: 11 mm
- Speeds: 6 (1,300–3,200 RPM)
Urikar Pro 2 Heated Deep Tissue Muscle Massage Gun
Heat can also be a helpful recovery tool if you’re looking to soothe muscles and reduce any targeted pain. Combining these effective benefits with the power of massage therapy, the Pro 2 for Urikar delivers plenty of relaxing sensations that can help reduce stress and melt away any lingering aches. The impressive 55 pounds of stall force allows you to really dive deep into those hard-to-reach areas, and the 15 mm of amplitude is the highest we’ve found in the heated massage gun category. The special ceramic head heats up to 104–115 degrees Fahrenheit for a soothing feel as you glide across your targeted areas.
The Pro 2 also features Constant Speed, Intermittent and Ladder modes, offering a wide variety of modalities to best curate your recovery. Choose from one of the eight available attachments and fire into another great session.
- Stall Force: Up to 55 lbs.
- Amplitude: 15 mm
- Speeds: 6 (1,200–3,600 RPM)
Therabody Theragun Mini
Not every recovery session needs “the big guns,” which is where miniature models can be of great benefit. We’ve enjoyed the ergonomic, comfortable design of the Theragun Mini from Therabody as it conveniently fits your hand, unlike other models out there. The relatively quiet Mini can be an exceptional pick for those days when you just want to relax rather than sign up for a full-scale treatment, too.
While the Theragun Mini only comes with one available attachment, the device is compatible with all fourth-generation massage guns from Therabody. This means that if you already own a Prime, Elite or Pro, you can use their available attachments interchangeably with this portable, slimmed-down silhouette. Should it be the only massage gun in your arsenal? Probably not. Is it a good addition, especially for Theragun owners? Absolutely.
- Stall Force: N/A
- Amplitude: 12 mm
- Speeds: 3 (1,750–2,400 RPM)