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 the 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.
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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 or a Theragun dupe, read on. We’ve rounded up five of the best Theragun alternatives that are currently on Amazon for less than $300.
Massage Gun Buying Guide
Below are some key considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best Theragun dupes and similar 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. Hypervolt Go 2
Hyperice’s newest percussion massage gun is the Hypervolt Go 2 and it’s extremely portable, weighing only 1.5 pounds.
You’ll get three hours of battery life on a single charge and two attachments with your purchase (a flat head and bullet head attachment). I used the flat head attachment on my shoulders and middle back and found great relief.
There are three power modes as well allowing you to choose the intensity of your massage. Plus, it boasts minimal noise levels even on its fastest speed setting (it’s not completely silent but it’s not as loud as some of its competitors) meaning you can easily use this massage gun in a public space as well. It’s TSA-approved too so dump it in your carry-on before you head on your next trip.
2. Vybe Pro
Athletes will love the Vybe Pro which features nine different intensity settings depending on how much muscle recovery you need.
There are eight targetted attachments, including a muscle knob, knot blaster and wishbone-style attachment. Whether you need to massage your sore shoulders or add some pressure to your hamstrings, the Vybe Pro will help you do so. The brand also claims that this massager boasts quiet operation, meaning you can use it with you while you travel or at the gym.
Battery life runs around three hours and you’ll get a travel bag included, allowing you to take your new Theragum alternative with you wherever you go.
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. TOLOCO Massage Gun Muscle Massager
For beginners, who might be new to how massage guns work, choose the TOLOCO massage gun. There are 20-speed levels and 15 massage heads, so you can massage your shoulders, calves, lower back or any other area experiencing aches and pains.
The handle is quite grippy and the massage gun weighs just about two pounds, making it a great choice for travel as well.
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