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Athletes of all levels suffer from soreness and muscle knots. This tightness can be uncomfortable, but it can also make your workouts harder at best — and downright painful at worst. Luckily, there are massage guns, a new solution for recovery that athletes and physical therapists swear by.
Massage guns (a.k.a. percussion massagers) are handheld devices that deliver targeted muscle relief where stretching just isn’t enough. The compact devices use a rubber tip and percussive vibration massaging to warm-up, loosen and relax muscles. The concept is simple – a fast-moving mallet hitting your muscles – but the results are complex. With a massage gun, you can break up those tough knots, get blood flowing to muscles before a workout and reduce inflammation after a workout for less soreness the next day. Plus, percussion massagers are a good tool for de-stressing as well.
Casual fitness enthusiasts and pro athletes alike have been reaping the benefits of massage guns, but one percussion massager has dominated the conversation: Theragun. The high-end massager is great, but it comes with an intimidating price tag (the PRO model comes in at $599).
However, Theragun isn’t the only worthwhile percussion massager. If you’re looking for a more reasonably-priced alternative, read on. We’ve rounded up five of the best Theragun alternatives that are currently on Amazon for less than $200.
Massage Gun Buying Guide
Below are some key considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best massage guns.
Massage Speed: Massage gun speed is measured in percussions per minute (ppm). Most massage guns can manage around 2,000 to 3,000 ppm, but some go even higher for a more intense massage. These faster options can be helpful, but 2,500 ppm is good for most needs.
Amplitude: A percussion massager’s amplitude (sometimes called stroke) refers to the depth that the arm extends and retracts into the muscle. Ten to 16-millimeter amplitude is typical, which might not sound like a wide range, but you’ll feel those few extra millimeters with higher amplitude massagers.
Force: Apply too much force and a massage gun will stall. However, some percussion massagers can take more force than others. The best massage guns can handle about 30 to 40 pounds of force before stalling. If you want an intense massage, go for a model with a higher stall force. These will let you really dig into tough knots.
Adjustability: Getting at those hard-to-reach muscles is much easier if the massage gun’s head can rotate. Some of our picks feature this kind of adjustability, and others have variable speed settings for different levels of massage intensity.
Noise Level: No one wants a loud buzzing noise while trying to relax after a workout. Quiet functionality is therefore a sought-after feature on any massage gun. Besides a more relaxing massage, a quiet percussion massager will also be easier to use while, say, binging Netflix. Some brands will list their massager’s sound level in decibels (dB), and others might list special tech (such as a brushless motor) to lower the noise level.
Portability: One of the reasons for massage guns’ popularity is their portability. Because they’re compact and lightweight, you can slip one in your gym bag or carry on while traveling. Some are lighter and smaller than others, making these options good for traveling athletes (for example, going on a ski trip).
The Best Theragun Alternatives
Dozens of Theragun alternatives have popped up in the past couple of years, but many of them are not worth buying. Here are five that are actually worth your time.
1. Hyperice Hypervolt GO
Want to train like a pro baller? Pick up one of these Hypervolt massagers from Hyperice. The brand is the “Official Recovery Technology Partner” of the NBA, helping basketball players recover as they sit courtside during a game. The original Hypervolt is the best-seller, but these can be difficult to find in-stock due to high demand.
This Hypervolt GO, however, offers a great alternative to the classic Hypervolt. The GO is more compact, weighing in at an incredibly light 1.5 pounds for portability and packability while traveling. But don’t let the GO’s size fool you; 3,2000 percussions-per-minute gives the compact massager professional power. Plus, Hyperice’s QuietGlide technology keeps noise to a minimum.
2. TimTam Power Massager
UFC World Champion Georges St-Pierre founded TimTam along with his coach, Firas Zahabi, and his physical therapist, Kelly Starrett. Unsurprisingly, the trio developed a great massage gun for both performance and recovery. The TimTam All New is the brand’s mid-range model, but it offers more than enough power and features for most fitness enthusiasts.
The Power massager packs heavy-hitting specs (befitting a UFC champion) with 75-pound stall force, a deep 16-millimeter amplitude and 2,500 percussions-per-minute. This makes the TimTam massager a great choice for anyone seeking deep-tissue muscle relief. And despite its power, the massager is very quiet at just 25dB.
3. Lifepro Sonic Handheld Percussion Massage Gun
Lifepro has a number of great massage guns, but we think this Sonic Percussion Massager is their best. The therapy gun delivers a deep massage with a long amplitude and an up-to-2800 percussions-per-minute motor. Of course, 2800 ppm is very intense, which is why the Sonic has five speed levels. The head is also adjustable with five different massage heads, making it easier to target hard-to-reach spots such as the glutes and back. Plus, up to six hours of battery life means you won’t have to worry about recharging too often, and the gun’s brushless motor reduces the massager’s noise level.
4. TaoTronics Portable Deep Tissue Percussion Massager
Another powerful alternative to Theragun is this deep tissue percussion massager from TaoTronics. The massage gun boasts a 15-millimeter amplitude and operates with up to 45 pounds of force. Combined, this translates to a very deep massage that can tackle tough knots and soreness. The TaoTronics gun also features 20 speed levels for a customizable massage (i.e. fast for warming up, slower for recovery). Noise level is relaxingly low, clocking in at just 35dB. The massager also includes six different heads for getting at different muscles.
5. Legiral Le3 Massage Gun
This Le3 massage gun from Legiral packs some impressive strength with 30 pounds of stall force and a 16-millimeter amplitude. But the Le3’s best feature is adjustability with 20 different speed settings – tying with for most speeds with the TaoTronics massager above. Sound level is decent too, putting off 35 to 55dB depending on the speed setting. You also get a range of six massage heads for different needs (no pun intended) and a carrying case.