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From at-home massage tools that look like futuristic power tools, to rollers that can double as vibrating back massagers, finding the right recovery tool can be almost as intimidating as a hard workout. But the good news is that you have almost an endless amount of recovery gear you can try out now.
Whether you’re trying to bounce back after a strenuous hike or a workout, or you’re feeling sore after a long drive, the main purpose of using recovery tools, as you might have guessed, is “to help aid in the process of recovery,” says Ariel Foxie, a New York City-based private trainer and fitness and wellness consultant.
What you’re recovering from can range, Foxie explains, “from the day-to-day stressors — because that could also take a physical toll — to training programs, and sometimes even the sitting that I have to do behind the computer for long hours.”
As Foxie points out, the best recovery tools can be used outside of your workouts, too. If you’ve ever felt sore after a day glued to your screen, it might be time to break out your foam roller sitting next to your yoga mat, or try picking up that Hyperice or Theragun. “Sometimes at the end of the day, I do reach for a foam roller or a lacrosse ball or yoga blocks and bolsters,” he says, “to help me feel like I’m not turning into a tin man.”
Once you figure out which recovery tools you want to try, it then comes down to when you decide to use them. But don’t worry, there’s no rule about a specific time you have to roll.
“I know people hate hearing this, but it really does depend,” Foxie says. “A lot of people do think that recovery has to be after a workout, but there are benefits to using recovery tools pre-workout. It does help aid with circulation [and] it does help with mobility or range of motion, before a workout. On the other side of things,” he says, “[recovery tools] also help speed up the process of fighting off soreness or repair, and reducing inflammation that might occur after a strenuous workout.”
Recovery Gear Buying Guide
Portability and Size: Some recovery products take up more space than others. The latest recovery tools can range from something travel-sized that you can stash in a backpack (say, for the gym or a trip), or larger pieces that you can keep around in your home gym. Still, most massage guns, foam rollers and other recovery accessories are easy to store when not in use, even if you live in a small space.
Features: What features do you want from recovery tools? In other words, do you prefer to have a vibrating foam roller or a massage gun that uses percussive motions to help relieve tension? Or do you want something you don’t have to charge at all? The best recovery tools can often offer everything from massage to monitoring, helping you relax, repair and restore at the same time.
Budget: The majority of the tools on this list cover a wide range of budgets. While you’ll pay more for massage guns, there are also more affordable accessories you can add before or after your workout routines, from foam rollers to lacrosse balls.
What Are the Benefits of Using Recovery Tools?
There are many benefits to using recovery tools like foam rollers and massage guns. For starters, they can help soothe and relax tired joints and ease sore muscles. The best massage guns for recovery use a pulsating motion to loosen muscles, like after a long run or heavy workout. A foam roller, in the meantime, can help relieve pressure on your spine by gently rolling out your back.
The best recovery tools can also help you relax, offering a way to wind down and zone out before bed or as a way to relieve stress. We’ve also included a couple of new post-workout accessories, which are designed to help you track your recovery and to help speed up recovery time.
What Are the Best Recovery Tools?
Whether you want to recover before or after workouts, or after a long day at your home office, here are some of the best foam rollers, massage guns and recovery tools you should consider, including some of Foxie’s picks and some of our favorite tested pieces of gear.
1. Hyperice Hypervolt Massage Gun
For a massage gun that can help soothe soreness without making you want to plug your ears, consider the Hypervolt from Hyperice. You can use this three-speed cordless version in tandem with the Hyperice app on your phone for a more guided recovery session, and according to the company, it can run for about three hours when fully charged. If you want something more affordable, Foxie also notes the brand has a travel-friendly tool called the Hypervolt Go as well as the vibrating Venom back belt that targets your lower back. To use the Hypervolt, attach one of the five included massage heads, turn it on so it’s vibrating, and simply position the tip directly against the muscles or areas that feel tight or sore to you. Apply as much pressure as you feel comfortable with, and adjust as needed.
2. TriggerPoint Foam Roller
When it comes to a piece of essential recovery gear, Foxie calls foam rollers “must-haves” because of their price point, along with their benefits. He recommends TriggerPoint, which offers a number of different foam rollers based on size and feature. We like this grooved model, which can support a body up to 500 pounds and has a variety of surfaces, for more targeted rolling. TriggerPoint says the GRID roller is great for massage, stretching and post-workout recovery. When you want to foam roll, say, for tight calves, position the foam roller on the floor and underneath your leg’s sore muscles. Let your leg or whatever area you’re working on rest on top of the roller and apply as much pressure as you want. When we roll, we put most of our weight onto the roller, letting it rest, almost so it feels like someone’s massaging the muscles.
3. PowerDot 2.0 Smart Electric Muscle Stimulator
Foxie says PowerDot’s two-pack of wireless muscle stimulators has been an important part of his workout routine, “From using them for running, pre-workout and post-workout,” he says. PowerDot’s powerful vibrations can also help aid in acute or chronic injuries, Foxie explains, with pre-set programs that you can choose from based on your needs.
Connect to the PowerDot app and input your physical information and have the app recommend the type of pre-set program you should be doing, and graph out your progress. This set includes a pod, electrode pads, a set of cables and a case.
To use PowerDot, place the pads to the muscle area you want to recover, then attach the included cables and charged pods. From there, you can use the app to select your muscle area and adjust the level of stimulation with a variety of programs. So if you want to work on sore chest muscles after completing a challenging upper body program, you’d attach the pads to your chest, and then go into the app, where you’d select the “Pec/Chest” program. This is app-controlled recovery at its finest.
4. Whoop Strap
Whoop’s minimal fitness band gives you instant info about things like how long you slept the night before (including how well you actually slept) and gives you data-backed tips for how hard to push yourself the rest of the day, whether you’re working out or planning for a packed day of presentations. In other words, it helps you adjust throughout the day based on your level of strain and how much your body’s recovered.
You simply wear it on your wrist and download Whoop’s app to get tracking, and you can specify in the app whether you’re starting a certain activity, like hiking, HIIT or even things like tennis, commuting, dancing or meditating. It won’t get in the way of workouts, and you can even wear it during water exercises or in the shower.
A watch-like rechargeable battery pack slides right over the Whoop strap, too, so you never need to remove it. It’s one of our favorite fitness accessories that takes a broader look at your health and helps you set your workout goals from there. We think it’s a must-have recovery tool for anyone who loves tracking their fitness.
5. Amazon Basics High-Density Foam Roller
Rolling after a hard run doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want a good place to start while staying within your budget, Foxie suggests Amazon Basics. This bargain roller, which has a smooth surface, comes in four lengths and sizes: 12, 18, 24 and 36 inches. If you want to foam roll your hips, say, before a run, all you need to do is position the roller underneath that area, as shown above, and slightly roll back and forth.
6. Lacrosse Balls: Champion Sports Official Lacrosse Balls
Frequent runners don’t always need expensive, high-tech products to relieve tension before or after workouts. Foxie recommends trying simple lacrosse balls. They’re an inexpensive choice that you can pack in any bag or even in your pockets. We like this Champion Sports option because you can order it in packs of two, six or a dozen, and it also comes in multiple colors. While these are official lacrosse balls used in games, they’re great to roll under the balls of your feet, your lower back, or under your glutes, for an effective portable recovery tool.
7. Cornbread Hemp USDA Organic CBD Balm
Fans of CBD products who want something extra portable might try this CBD balm from company Cornbread Hemp. According to the brand, it’s made for “long-lasting comfort on sore muscles and joints,” and it can easily be stored in your medicine cabinet or a gym bag so you can roll it on even if you’re not near your other recovery gear. The full-spectrum organic CBD formula helps to soothe joint pain and tightness, while the peppermint blend provides a relaxing blast of cool relief.
8. Sunday Scaries CBD
This Rando CBD bundle from San Diego-based Sunday Scaries comes with both standard CBD gummies as well as vegan gummies that are ideal for recovery days and decompressing after a strenuous workout, along with a 500mg bottle of CBD oil to keep in your gym bag and drop into your post-workout smoothies. Normally $107, the bundle is currently retailing for $60 at the time of this writing — a $47 discount. In addition to the brand’s Vegan AF Sour CBD gummies, the Sunday Scaries CBD gummies and oil include vitamins like B12, as well as Vitamin D3.