Being stuck at home more during the pandemic spurred many of us to focus on personal fitness, including investing in, fitness subscriptions and online classes. Luckily, there's a lot that fitness buffs can do at home to stay in tip-top shape. However, muscle recovery is one area that may be lacking for a lot of people.
Achieving truerequires a , but you can also take advantage of high-tech recovery tools meant to (including the hard-to-resist ). One category of these tools has science on its side: the percussion massage gun.
Massage guns use the force of extensive scientific research that supports massage therapy as the optimal tool for sore muscles after a workout. Everyone from professional athletes and recreational gym-goers to people with love these powerful massagers for many reasons.to manipulate your body's soft tissue. They're essentially backed by the same
Percussive therapy is said to help muscles recover faster while reducing muscle pain, muscle fatigue and lactic acid buildup. A percussion gun allows you to focus on a certain muscle group for immediate pain relief. They can also improve your range of motion and flexibility, encourage blood flow, help with muscle stiffness and more. Percussive therapy may even . Also, not that you should invest in one for this reason alone, but the slow-mo videos of massage guns punching muscles look insanely Insta-worthy. Just with using one if you have any injuries beyond a muscle ache from a tough workout.
We've tested over 30 massage guns at this point, and the following six are CNET's picks for the best percussive massage guns in 2021. We'll continue to update this list.
The Theragun Prime is part of the fourth generation of Theragun massage guns. Its prior equivalent was the Theragun Liv, which used to be in this list of best massage guns, and is also reviewed in-depth here.
The Theragun Prime's main impressive feature is that it's much quieter than its now-defunct counterpart. In fact, the Prime rivals the famously quiet Hypervolt Plus in terms of volume level -- that's a massive improvement from the Liv.
The improvements don't stop there, though: Where the Theragun Liv only had two preprogrammed speeds and came with two closed-cell foam attachments, the new Theragun Prime has five built-in speeds (from 1,750 rpm to 2,400 rpm) and comes with five closed-cell foam attachments.
At $299, the Theragun Prime is pricey, but doesn't induce sticker shock quite like the Pro G4 (below). It sometimes goes on sale for $249, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
To me, the improvements make the Theragun Prime seem well worth the price. The competition to the Prime, to me, is the original Hypervolt: These two massage guns have many similar features and hover around the same price range. The choice is yours for the making!
Therabody's Theraguns are considered the gold standard in percussive therapy, so its most luxurious, feature-rich model must be the one of the best, right?
In all truth, I have to say yes. Having tested more than 20 massage guns, including three other Theraguns, the Theragun Pro is pretty dang impressive -- especially compared to the previous line of Therabody massage guns. (The Theragun G3, a similar version, was previously on this list. You can read our full review to learn more.)
The Theragun Pro G4 is, first and foremost, much quieter than its former iteration. Loudness has been a chief complaint of Theragun buyers since the company's early days, and the brand finally made a move to remedy that.
I'm not saying the Pro G4 is silent -- it's still louder than most other massage guns -- but it doesn't rattle my brain like the G3 did, thanks to Theragun's new QuietForce Technology. If you're an athlete or serious exerciser who can deal with what sounds like a muted turkey carver (and you're willing to pay top dollar for percussive therapy at your fingertips), the Theragun Pro G4 is a great choice for you.
With up to 60 pounds of force, a rotating arm and ergonomic handle, a deep reach of 16mm into your muscle tissue, and speeds up to 2,400 repetitions per minute, the Theragun Pro is built for those who need legitimate percussive therapy multiple times per week. In short, it's the real deal, but it's probably not worth it for the average exerciser.
Previously the TimTam All New Power Massager was my pick for the best high-powered massage gun, but if you have money to spend, you can't beat the power and relative quietness of the Theragun Pro.
This $130 percussive massage gun from Sportneer works surprisingly well for the price. It delivers six speeds of percussive therapy and reaches up to 220 watts of power and 3,200 repetitions per minute.
Depending on what power setting you use, the battery life on this massage gun can last from two to six hours. I used the Sportneer device before and after workouts, as well as on rest days, and I never felt dissatisfied with the experience.
The Sportneer massage gun comes with six head attachments, two of which have metal tips. You can use the metal attachments to massage yourself with CBD oil or essential oils, or pop them in the freezer for a touch of cryotherapy.
This percussive massager is also relatively quiet: The website claims the massage gun reaches a maximum of 40 decibels, which is softer than the volume at which most people listen to music.
I previously reviewed the Sportneer K1 massage gun, which is another good value pick from this brand for $30 less.
In the percussive therapy arena, there's a common trade-off: power for sound. It's tough to find a moderately priced and quiet yet powerful massage gun. Ekrin Athletics has created just that with its B37 massage gun.
The Ekrin Athletics B37 massage gun packs all the leading industry standards, including an ultra-quiet motor (even quieter than the Hypervolt, in my opinion), multiple speed and pressure settings that deliver up to 56 pounds of force, an eight-hour battery life, an ergonomic design and a convenient carrying case with several massage head attachments.
At a list price of $230, the value is phenomenal -- it's a low price for the value you get, as the Ekrin massage gun compares to the well-known and highly desired brands in the percussive therapy arena. And, it's backed by a lifetime warranty, so there's really no reason not to at least try the Ekrin Athletics B37 massage gun.
Ekrin Athletics is a relative newcomer on the scene, but make no mistake: This brand, founded by two former collegiate athletes, is raising standards and lowering prices for percussive therapy.
The Hypervolt Go is the newest launch from Hyperice, and it's lighter, smaller and the most affordable gun in the Hypervolt line. At $200, it's a great deal for a gun that's nearly as powerful as the full-size models that retail for $300 and up. It weighs 1.5 pounds, making it ideal for travel when you don't want to compromise precious space in your carry-on or gym bag.
I tested the Hypervolt Go and was seriously impressed at how powerful the gun felt. Compared to the Hypervolt (which I also tested), I almost could not tell a difference in terms of force. The full-size Hypervolt does come with more attachments (the Go has two), but the Go also has three speed settings, which is still impressive for a small gun. If you're new to massage guns and are looking for a solid product to try at a lower price, the Go is a great product to start with.
-- Mercey Livingston, CNET contributor
The Achedaway Pro is a favorite for super-sore days. Quiet and easy to handle, this massage tool features five power and speed settings ranging from 1,700 to 2,800 rpm, which according to the website are suited to wake up muscles, release fascia, eliminate lactic acid, provide deep tissue massage and facilitate muscle recovery.
Its list price of $539 is on the high end -- actually, it's up there with the top-level Theragun Pro G4 -- but the Achedaway Pro often goes on sale for $299. The Achedaway massager feels very sturdy in hand, doesn't make the inside of your head rattle, and provides varying levels of muscle relief massage that are suitable for sore muscles.
The higher power settings felt great when I wasn't sore, but didn't hurt tender muscles, either -- a perfect combo in my book. Like many other massagers, the Achedaway Pro comes with multiple head attachments for massaging different muscle groups. The rechargeable battery is removable for easy and portable charging.
Previously, I reviewed the Achedaway Vibration and Percussion Massager (the predecessor to the Achedaway Pro) and I liked that one, too. There are only minor differences between the two (the amplitude and force are greater on the Pro), so the original Achedaway is still a good choice for a lesser price.
We tested the following percussive massage guns over the last two years. Though they didn't make the cut for the above categories, many of these are still great products. Check them out and see if one might be the right choice for you.
If you're looking at a $400 massage gun already, you may as well get the most powerful massage gun out there and go for the Theragun Pro.
Though mighty (and mighty convenient), the Theragun Mini is louder than anything I'd want to use on a plane. My experience is that the Hypervolt Go has the most settings with the most travel-friendly features.
Hyperice Hypervolt Plus With Bluetooth
A solid massage gun, the Hypervolt Plus rivals the Theragun in functionality and effectiveness, but the Ekrin Athletics B37 swiped its spot as "most quiet."
Hyperice's original massage gun is still good, but I'd personally spend the extra $100 to get the Hypervolt Plus if this was the brand I was after.
Ekrin Athletics Bantam
This is a solid mini massage gun, but it doesn't pack as many features as the Hypervolt Go. It is $40 cheaper, though, so it could be the right choice for you.
Ekrin Athletics B37S
Another great product from Ekrin Athletics, the B37S is nearly as quiet as its sibling the B37. My experience with the B37S is that it's similar to the Hypervolt in terms of power, design and noise.
TimTam All New Power Massager
This massage gun is probably too powerful for the average person. It literally sounds like a power drill. But it's a great option for brawny people with a high pain tolerance.
TimTam Power Massager Pro
Similarly, TimTam's other massage gun is super powerful, but it does have some gentler settings -- it has five settings versus the All New Power Massager's two settings.
With all the massage guns out there these days, the ExoGun DreamPro isn't worth the price. It offers lukewarm power, and the design is somewhat clunky, making it uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time.
NordicTrack Percussion Recovery Gun
This massage gun didn't impress: It's not very powerful, yet it's still louder than many models on this list. The sensation feels more like vibration than percussion.
TriggerPoint Impact Massage Gun
Coming from the company that makes the bright orange foam rollers found at every gym, I had high expectations for the TriggerPoint massage gun. They weren't quite met, as the massage gun comes with just one attachment and is not as powerful as I expected.
Compex Fixx 1.0 Massager
The Compex massage gun feels like a cross between TimTam and Theragun. It has an adjustable head and three speeds, so while it's nothing spectacular, it gets the job done.
Sportneer K1 Percussive Massager
This massage gun was a top pick until Sportneer came out with a new version. I still think this is a high-value massage gun and it's worth trying if you want something in the $100 range.
Recoverfun Mini Massage Gun
At only $79, this massage gun is a great entry-level option for anyone scared to pay for a full-sized massage gun or higher-end portable massage gun.
This massage gun doesn't offer anything that other massage guns at the $200-$250 price point don't offer. For that price point, I'd choose the Ekrin Athletics B37 or the original Achedaway. What I do love about the MuscleGun products, though, is that your purchase gives you access to the app, which has video- and audio-guided massage gun protocols.
A less expensive product from MuscleGun, this device on par with others in its price range. It's comparable to the Sportneer Elite K9 massage gun. The aluminum attachments are a nice touch.
With nine speeds and eight attachments, the Vybe Pro is a great option for people who want a lot of versatility.
This one matches the TimTam massage guns in terms of power, noise and design, so I wouldn't recommend it to the average person. However, if you want something very intense, go for it.
HoMedics Thera-P Heated Massage Gun
The heating element on this massage gun is a nice touch and it's very soothing. However, the cord and minimal power output will outweigh that effect for many.
Vivreal Handheld Massager
This budget option feels clunky in-hand, but it does allow you to hit hard-to-reach spots, such as your mid-back.
Renpho Handheld Back Massager
Another budget-friendly pick, the Renpho Back Massager definitely makes full back massages easy and doable on your own (whereas many other devices require a second person). It's not very powerful, but it is relaxing.
Wahl Deep Tissue Percussion Therapeutic Massager
My original "best budget pick" from two years ago has since been replaced, as masses of massage guns have appeared on the market. This is still an inexpensive and solid option, as long as you're okay with a cord (I know, blasphemy).
What to look for in a percussive massage gun
Speed and power: These two elements are definitely the most important. Everyone's pain tolerance and massage preferences differ, but anyone can benefit from a massager with at least two settings: one being less intense so you can still use the gun on very sore muscles where you are experiencing muscle tension or pain.
Type of motion: As discussed in the Nordictrack description, percussion and vibration are very different. When shopping for a massage gun, consider which mechanism is more important to you.
Portability: If you're going to be traveling with your massage gun, you'll want one that can easily fit into a bag or suitcase, or one that has its own carrying case. Though most are indeed handheld massagers, some units are rather bulky, such as the TimTam models.
Attachments and accessories: Where on your body will you use the massage gun? If you'll only use it on just your large muscles, such as your back and legs, you probably don't need many attachments or accessories. But if you intend to use it on specific areas and trigger points, such as the arch of your foot or your neck, you'd benefit from smaller attachments intended for those specific areas.
Battery life: Pretty self-explanatory -- the longer the battery life, the better, as with all electronics.
Cost: Of course, you'll want to look for a therapeutic massager device within your budget. The most expensive massage guns usually offer more adjustable speed, power and motion settings, but less expensive models can certainly get the job done.
Other great ways to recover from tough workouts
If you're not exactly into the idea of punching your muscles -- which can be painful if you're really sore and tender -- you should know that massage guns aren't your only option for.
Cryotherapy: Ever wonder what it's like to submerge your body in subzero temperatures? With the growing popularity of, you can try it out pretty much anywhere.
Far-infrared therapy: Tom Brady uses fancyto keep himself in tip-top shape. It's supposed to induce the same benefits as , but without actually making you sweaty. .
Compression therapy: What's been around for ages as a medical therapy has made its way into the fitness world as a recovery mechanism. You might feel silly wearing big inflatable boots, but there's some pretty convincing science behind .
Using a foam roller: You can always stick to the basics. Science says vibrating foam roller, so you can get the effects of percussive therapy and foam rolling at the same time., which may help relieve some soreness -- or at least make it easier to move around when you're already really sore. Hyperice, the company that makes the quiet Hypervolt massage gun, also makes a
Recovered and ready to hit the gym again?and find out if .
More health and fitness recommendations
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.