Massages are commonplace for professional athletes like runners, cyclists and basketball players, but for the rest of us, they’re still a luxury. The good news is that there are tools you can buy to mimic a massage — and they’re easy to use. The Hyperice Hypervolt and Theragun G3Pro are two of the best-selling recovery tools on the market right now. The Hypervolt was released early last year, which we tested (read that review here), but when Theragun launched its third version of its powerful percussive therapy tool and swore it was 50 percent quieter, we had to put the two head to head.
Handheld massage tools are like foam rollers on steroids and studies have shown that using one can help eliminate soreness. Both the Hypervolt and G3Pro are massage tools that use percussive therapy to warm you up and cool you down. The two devices are similar in shape and weight, each with an easy-to-use on and off button. Going out on a long run? Use each along your major muscle groups (hamstrings, quads, calves) for roughly 15 seconds before exercising and then use for up to two minutes on all those same groups post-workout. Each can be charged via a few long cords and both have a small indicator light to let you know how much battery is left. There are two speeds on the Theragun and three on the Hypervolt. Both feel pretty similar, but make varying noises as you push and press into your muscles.
To figure out whether the Hypervolt or the Theragun is right for you, we compare the newest model from each brand through a series of competitions. We put them through four tests and here are our findings.
Test 1: Design
An informal office poll told us that the Theragun feels more natural in your hand. The on/off button is user-friendly and in a logical spot, and the ergonomics of the handle make sense. The three different angles of the arm also provide added range, so it was easier to hit our upper back muscles. While some joked that it felt like they were ready to go re-do a deck, the smooth feel of the Theragun fit the best into most people’s hands.
The Hypervolt handle was the total opposite — clunky and awkward. It has a two-inch diameter battery pack embedded in the handle, which made it too wide for comfort. Turning the Hypervolt on is a two-step process — flip the on/off switch at the base of the handle, then press the circular power button located where the air vents are, opposite the head attachments. It wasn’t natural to use and you have to use two hands, which is annoying. However, we liked that the Hypervolt features display lights, so we knew immediately that it was powered on, and on which level.
The Theragun comes with a black carrying case with the word ‘gun’ on it, which earned us awkward stares on the NYC subway. You can buy a case for the Hypervolt, too — it’s just as awkward looking, and pointless in our opinion. Both the Theragun and Hypervolt are small enough that they can easily be thrown in your gym bag — without a carrying case — to avoid that. Just be sure to find a way to keep all the interchangeable heads together, or you’ll be likely to lose one, or two (or more).
Winner: Theragun G3Pro for its natural-feeling ergonomics and intuitive interface.
Test 2: The Sound
The new G3Pro is supposedly 50 percent quieter than its predecessor, the G2Pro, the former of which we tested and found to be extremely loud. While the G3Pro is quieter compared to past iterations, on high power it still sounds like someone is working on your HVAC system. As for the Hypervolt — despite being called whisper quiet by some, I found that the Hypervolt did make noise, but not more than the G3Pro. The testing unit has been around our office since last March and used weekly by our staff. It’s like a low running motor, which remind me of a buzzing razor. Neither is as loud as a power drill, but loud enough that you’ll attract attention using it in the office or gym.
To test the noise levels on the G3Pro and Hypervolt, we had testers sit about 10 – 15 feet away from a closed conference room door, behind which we turned each massager on one at a time, three times in a row. The G3Pro was the loudest every single time. Testers remarked that the G3Pro sounded like hair clippers or like someone was sawing behind him and a passerby asked if I was vacuuming. It was possible to hear both through the closed door, but the Hypervolt, even on the highest setting was less loud. And on a lower setting, reviewers said it was ‘not noticeable,’ as compared to the lowest setting of the G3Pro, which testers could hear on each level.
Winner: Hyperice Hypervolt for its acceptable sound levels, even in a quiet office.
Test 3: Charging
It’s pretty much a toss-up here — both are pretty cumbersome in terms of charging. The Theragun comes with two battery packs — both of which look like they belong on a workbench. There’s a power charger base, and then two cords (an AC cable and wall unit) and a power supply that all need to be plugged in. Carrying this with you is a lot. Similar to a power drill, the battery clips in and out, from the larger handle. The benefit here is when one battery dies, you can swap it out for the other. Once the Theragun battery drops to 50 percent or lower (you can see its battery power level in the handle, illuminated by six small circles), after 20 seconds of use, the tool would shut itself off. While we understand it’s how it conserves energy, it caused some mild annoyance during testing. The easiest fix is to just swap it out for a new battery at that point.
With the Hypervolt, you pop out the handle, where the battery is stored and plug the base into a three-piece contraption similar to the Theragun. There is an AC cable, power supply and another cord to plug it into the wall. With just one battery, once it runs out, you have to charge it, but we found in the previous testing that the battery lasts longer than anticipated. After a month of robust testing, there was still plenty of power.
After running both devices on high power for over 45 minutes, the Theragun was warm — everywhere except the handle — similar to how a power tool feels after use. The Hypervolt didn’t lose its battery power for the entire time, while the Theragun slowly dropped by 16 percent starting at 25 minutes and was down to just over half after 45 minutes. While the likelihood of usage for 45-minutes straight is slim, watching the battery of the Theragun drop so much more quickly than the Hypervolt was disconcerting.
Winner: Hyperice Hypervolt for charging. The battery didn’t waiver during testing conditions.
Test 4: How It Feels
Larger muscles like glutes, hamstring and quads could handle the second and third intensity on both the Hypervolt and Theragun, while smaller muscles, like calves, called for level one or couldn’t handle them at all. Your body feels vibrations differently mostly depending on receptors from your brain, so both massagers take some getting used to. There are two levels on the Theragun and three on the Hypervolt. Most testers stayed on the first level of the Theragun, while it was easier to progress to levels two or three on the Hypervolt. The option of three was impressive to some of our testers, while others commented that both feel relatively the same. This last contest was a tie simply because of how personalized each feels.
Winner: Tie due to the variety in tester feedback.
Verdict: While the Theragun has the better overall design and usability, the Hypervolt is your best choice from a budget standpoint (and we like that it’s quieter). But, if changeable heads and ergonomic design are more important to you than price (it’s currently $170 more) and you can stand the noise, go with the Theragun.
Weight: 2.9-lbs. (Theragun); 2.5-lbs. (Hypervolt)
Power: 2400 percussions per minute (Theragun); 3200 percussions/minute (Hypervolt)
Interchangeable Heads: 6 (Theragun); 4 (Hypervolt)
Power Levels: 2 (Theragun); 3 (Hypervolt)
Battery Life: 75 mins/battery (Theragun); 3 hours (Hypervolt)
TheraGun and HyperIce provided products for review.