The best massage guns for recovery obsessives
The best massage guns for recovery obsessives (Hannah McCaughey)

These Are Our Favorite Massage Guns

These tools are suitable for beginners and hard-charging athletes alike

The best massage guns for recovery obsessives

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When massage guns first appeared in 2016, they changed the game for recovery obsessives. The devices provide a com­bination of vibration and “percussion”—rapid punching by a mechanical arm—that can help relax muscles, reduce fatigue, and improve range of motion.

They work because the body responds to pressure, stretching, and force by increasing a function of the autonomic nervous system called parasympathetic activity, says Cameron Yuen, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. That in turn promotes blood flow and nutrient uptake. Plus, it feels good.

To use, let the head of the massager glide over your skin, kneading the targeted muscle for a minute or two. If you find a cranky spot, add pressure, but don’t go overboard—too much force can cause the muscle to contract. And don’t forget to work the areas above and below, Yuen says.

After some rigorous (and relaxing) testing, here are the best new massage guns.

1. TimTam PowerMassager Pro ($500)

(Courtesy TimTam)

This tool rivals the Theragun Pro (below) for power, functionality, and effectiveness, but runs quieter. It has three speeds, plus modes for warm-up, lumbar, neck, and recovery massages. There are three attachments, including one that heats up, for deeper tissue relief, and a vibrating ball that boosts the shaking sensation. A few uses took care of lingering discomfort in my outer shin. It’s a bit hard to maneuver, in part because the power button (which also cycles through the speed settings) is located on the inner handle. Hitting it unintentionally can turn a soothing knead into an unexpected pummel.

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2. NordicTrack ­Percussion ­Massager ($99)

(Courtesy NordicTrack)

This quiet, no-frills model is much more affordable than its counterparts. But there are trade-offs. Although it has three speed settings, it’s not as powerful as the others here. The massage felt a bit ­superficial—more vibration than percussion. While it may not be the best option for someone who trains intensely, it could work well on sensitive muscles or for those with a low pain threshold. Overall, the power-drill-shaped tool was comfortable to maneuver and easily reached pesky knots in my upper back.

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3. Hypervolt with Bluetooth ($349)

(Courtesy Hyperice)

At ten inches long, this model packs a mighty massage into a compact design. It delivers good percussion at three speeds and is no louder than a set of hair clippers, making it the quietest here. While the 2.5-pound device initially felt heavy, the weight lent just the right amount of pressure to the massage without any extra effort. And like the Theragun, it syncs via Bluetooth with an app that, using data from Apple Health and Strava, delivers recommended warm-up, recovery, and body-maintenance routines. It gets smarter, too, with AI that learns your workout habits to deliver personalized massages.

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4. Compex Fixx 1.0 Massager ($300)

(Courtesy Compex)

Known for its muscle-stimulation devices, Compex entered the massage-gun game in 2019 with the Fixx 1.0. It’s a good lightweight option (1.7 pounds), with the power and percussion of more expensive models. The ergonomic handle is easy to hold, the device runs at three speeds, and it includes one attachment (two others are available for $30). The lowest setting primed my quads and calves, and the highest helped me avoid the dreaded next-day dead leg. But like the TimTam, the power button is on the handle, so it’s easy to switch off while using.

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5. Therabody Theragun Pro ($599)

(Courtesy Therabody)

The Theragun combines strong ­percussion and a dizzying array of customization options. It’s a great tool for serious athletes—just being free of those relentless calf knots could justify the price tag. The device was comfortable to hold and didn’t cause hand fatigue. The downside: it’s the loudest and heaviest of the group, at 2.9 pounds.

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From Outside Magazine, November 2020 Lead Photo: Hannah McCaughey

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