You want – nay, need – a massage. You've spent the past year either perched on a dining chair or supine on your sofa, and it hasn't done your back/neck/wellbeing any favours. Ditto your decision to jump spine-first into bodyweight exercises.
Problem is, the idea of sharing a small room with a touchy-feely stranger right now fills you with understandable dread. No amount of Enya or incense could allow you to relax. That's why we've rounded up the best percussive massage guns on the market; deep soft tissue manipulators that help recovery, decrease soreness, improve circulation, address posture issues and help you get more out of your muscles. They're also pretty enjoyable, too.
So how do massage guns work? Well, they’re designed to combat muscle soreness and aid recovery. It’s a deep tissue massage of sorts, achieved through rapid percussive movements that stimulate muscles, enhance blood flow and soften knots. You can use them while warming-up or post-work out, and they feel pretty good too, hitting at all the right pressure points that can enhance the production of endorphins. At the very least, massage guns can provide some short-term relief for problem areas.
“They may often look like power tools, but the benefits of massage gun include decreased muscle tension, relaxed muscles, and promoted blood flow,” says Dr Daniel Giordano, CMO of Bespoke Treatments. “We use one on a daily basis, and it can be used before, during or after a work-out.”
Best massage guns 2021
Best overall: Pulse Pro
Runner up: Renpho Massage Gun
Best quiet massage gun: Theragun Elite
Best adjustable massage gun: MyoPro
Best Theragun alternative: Recovapro SE
Best for ease of use: Theragun Prime
Best app integration: Hypervolt Go
Best budget massage gun: Renpho Deep Tissue Massager
Best mid-price massage gun: TaoTronics
Best portable massage gun: MyoLite
Best for back pain: Recovapro Lite
Best for clean design: Power Plate Mini+
Best for sensitive muscles: Cotsoco
Best travel massage gun: Theragun Mini
Best for athletes: Exogun DreamPro
Best charity massage gun: (RED) Theragun Pro
Best for power: TimTam Power Massager
Best all-rounder: MuscleGun Carbon
Best for warranty protection: Shavron
Best for gifting: Pulseroll Pro
Best for occasional users: addsfit Stylish Mini
Best for intensity: Power Plate Red Pulse
Best for speed levels: Hoposo
Best for budget tech: Flyina
Best automatic massage gun: Hyperice Hypervolt Bluetooth
How to use a massage gun
Once you've got one, what's the best approach? “For warming up, the massage gun can be used to promote blood flow and circulation to warm up the tissue and to simulate the nervous system, prepping your body for activity,” says Giordano. “We recommend flushing (floating the gun up and down the muscle) the muscle area for 15-30 seconds, back and forth."
When it comes to mid-workout treatments, a similar approach is taken. “During a workout, there are times when someone may feel tight and want to stretch between exercises, which may actually decrease their performance by negatively affecting their force output,” warns Giordano. “Instead try flushing the area for 15-30 seconds to increase blood flow and decrease muscle tension. This should excite the muscle, loosening it again for the rest of your workout."
Massage guns can also potentially help you recover from heavy sessions. “Once the body is relaxed, you will decrease cortisol levels (stress) and create an optimal healing environment for recovery, getting towards an anabolic state of recovery,” says Giordano. “To do that, spend 90 to 120 seconds moving up and down each muscle group.”
Some safety and best practise precautions: make sure you turn it on before you make contact with your skin, and simply rest the head on your muscles when it’s in motion. “There is no need to add excessive pressure or dig it into the body,” says Giordano. “If you find a 'trigger point' don’t dig into the area.” Make sure to avoid running the machine over bones and joints, and if it hurts decrease the pressure. He recommends moving slowly across the muscle, around 1-2 inches per second.
It’s important that you choose the right model before your invest the money, of course. You’ve got the think about the weight, strength and battery life, as well the accessories your body needs. That's why we've rounded up the very best on the market. Check them out below, from budget options to top-of-the-range athletics tools.