Nowadays, getting a massage is no longer an indulgence but a vital aspect of self-care. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional that works 80 hours a week or an athlete who’s constantly putting your body through its limits. Massage can play a huge role in your overall health and wellness.
Now, there are plenty of different massagers available out there. A lot of these are manual, which means they require some participation on your part, while others are electric models that pretty much do everything for you.
Handheld “percussion” massagers fall into the latter category. With a percussion massager, all you need to do to get a proper massage is to hold the device over certain parts of your body that require the most attention. Instead of the usual rolling motion of most massagers, the percussion model uses a unique “hammer” approach.
Basically, a percussion massager is really good at promoting better circulation, relaxing the muscles and even getting rid of muscle pain and stiffness. In this guide, you’ll learn all you need to know about percussion massagers, including a list of the best options on the market.
Primary Benefits of Percussion Massagers
A percussion massager, also commonly referred to as a “massage gun” enables you to apply focused pressure in a way that’s similar to deep tissue massage. This handheld device emits pulses of energy that penetrate deep into the muscles. That’s why it’s so effective at getting rid of stiffness and knots in the muscles while promoting better blood circulation for improved range of motion.
- Relax, unwind & recover: Whether you are a cardio junkie, strength training aficionado or a 9-5 executive who can’t help but sit perched on the office chair, Olsky deep tissue massage gun is exactly what you need to iron out knots at the end of the day.
- 【Deep Muscle Relaxation】:This massage gun can not only relieve muscle soreness and stiffness, but also help you stimulate the circulation of blood and release lactic acid, make your muscles and body a comfortable feeling. Extremely effective for...
- 30 Adjustable Speed Levels:Our handheld massage gun offers 30 different speed levels up to 3200 rpm. Whether it's a muscle relaxation after exercise or a daily body massage, you can easily find the vibration amplitude that suits you best
Whether you’re an experienced athlete or someone that’s trying to get into a serious gym routine, a massage gun can help you speed up recovery time so you can clock more hours at the gym. It’ll also relieve a lot of the soreness, tension and pain that comes with working out.
Thanks to a rapid release of powerful pulsations, the percussion massager is great at softening stiff muscles and you can even use it to target certain muscle groups and tissues. This helps to relieve overworked muscles in order to reduce pain and discomfort, and it’s the reason why this device is so popular among professional athletes.
Percussion Guns vs. Vibration Massagers
Most people assume that percussion massage guns work just like regular vibrating massagers but they couldn’t be more different.
You see, percussion massagers are like the 2.0 version of normal vibration massagers. Holding a massage gun in your hand is similar to having the power to maximize your athletic performance. This compact device delivers the same type of massage you’d expect from a trained physical therapist. It offers rapid healing through constant kneading that helps to dissolve painful scar tissue.
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That way, you won’t have to suffer through the build-up of scar tissue as the years progress.
The great thing about percussion massagers is that they’re not as hectic or intense as normal massage vibrators. The kneading motion of a percussion massager is gentler yet more effective and faster.
Vibration massagers are actually not great for muscle therapy as they lack the penetrating power required to reach deep into the muscle body where much of the damage and inflammation is. At the end of the day, vibration massagers are best left for bedroom antics.
How to Use a Percussive Therapy Device?
The first thing you should do is to make sure the unit is connected to a power source. For a cordless model, this means you’ll need to connect the batteries, while a corded model requires that you simply plug it in. Once you’ve put the massager following the provided instructions, you should switch it on.
Unless otherwise indicated by a physician, you should always start your massage with the shoulders and base of the neck. Slowly move between your shoulders and pause it for a bit in certain areas that have more tension than others. But, refrain from applying pressure on bony areas such as your collarbone or base of the neck etc.
When it comes to percussion massagers, it’s important to start your journey on the lowest available setting and slowly ramp up the speed. You can easily adjust the massager up or down during the treatment session. The goal is to reach a speed setting that you’re most comfortable with.
Whatever you do, never place the percussion massager on your spine directly. Rather massage around the sides of your spine instead. Once you start to experience the sensation of relaxation, move lower down the back to release the stiffness in that region as well.
Then, move on to the buttocks area. Once here, your focus should be on your hamstrings as they’re usually the most problematic area. Then, lower the speed setting before moving on to your calves and later your abs. It’s also a good idea to massage the heart area gently in order to promote better blood flow and immunity by giving attention to the lymphatic nodes. Lastly, move the massager towards the arm and wrist area.
Things to Look for When Shopping for a Handheld Massager
There’s no denying that a percussion massager can be a great investment for keeping your body relaxed and your muscles happy as you pursue your fitness goals. But you should consider the following before you start shopping for a percussion massager:
Your percussion massager must be backed by a powerful motor that offers decent pressure and not just an average vibration level. You want a device that can penetrate deep into the muscle tissue in order to reach parts that are experiencing tension and pain the most. This is especially important if you are into bodybuilding as you will have more mass and more tissue for the massager to penetrate and thus will require a stronger motor compared to a non-athlete.
The percussion mechanism of a massager device can also be referred to as a “hammer.” Ideally, this part of the device should be sturdy enough to reach parts of your muscle tissue which need the most attention. A weak percussion mechanism means that you most likely won’t get the results you’re hoping for as the motor is simply not powerful enough to deliver an intense and effective vibration.
As a bodybuilder the actual percussion mechanism is critical in determining the areas of the body and muscle heads the massager will be able to be used on. Ideally you look for a massager with interchangeable heads so that you can use a broader service for larger muscle bodies like the quadriceps or lats and then switch to a smaller head for smaller muscle bodies like the calves, triceps, or deltoids.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is critical here because the whole point of buying your own handheld massager is because you either can’t afford or don’t want to pay the high fees associated with a dedicated massage specialist/masseuse.
Because most percussion massagers are handheld devices, they typically come with an ergonomic grip that enables you to reach every part of your body without feeling strained. You might want to consider getting a model that has a long handle for even better reach for targeting more distant muscle bodies like your legs and back.
Of course, your massager should also be lightweight so it doesn’t tire you out. However, the lightweight design should be balanced with durability and quality craftsmanship, as sometimes light-weight equals more plastic and lower overall build quality.
Cordless percussion massagers are easier to work with because they allow you to move through different regions of your body without getting twisted wires around your arm or body. However, it’s worth noting that battery-operated percussion massagers often lack the power of corded models.
That’s why it’s important to do your research on any type of massager you think of buying to make sure it meets the required power standards. If you are a bodybuilder who regularly does travel for work or for shows, then having a cordless device that is more portable should be your priority.
However if you’re based out of one area near your home and spend 90% of your time at one location, then a corded device, although not quite as convenient as a cordless/rechargeable device, may offer more bang for your buck in terms of intensity/power which is important if you’re a bigger individual.
A heat option is more of a “nice to have” because you can enjoy a perfectly effective massage without it. That said, added heat can accelerate pain relief and well, it just feels much better. So, if you’re looking for a good tie-breaker when choosing between percussion massagers, a heating feature is it as it both mechanically reduces muscle soreness while simultaneously easing tight muscles with heating action.
Most percussion massagers feature a number of attachments that allow you to customize your massage.
It’s always best to opt for a massager with a variety of attachments than one without so that you can use it on different sized muscle groups as well as potentially share it with your husband/wife who may have different requirements since we all come in different shapes and sizes.
Who Should Use a Percussion Massager?
Percussion massagers are a hit among bodybuilders and professional athletes and it’s not hard to see why: they facilitates faster recovery from those harsh training days and it allows bodybuilders to stay in the game and take fewer rest days.
That said, percussion therapy is a great solution for anyone that leads a physically active lifestyle. This includes athletes or anyone that likes going to the gym and stay fit. A handheld percussion massager can help you maximize your training by accelerating recovery and muscle repair. With a handheld massager, you’ll feel like yourself no matter how hard you train every day. Plus, you won’t have to deal with constant muscle cramps and stiffness.
A percussion massager can also come in handy when it comes to alleviating the pain and stiffness that come with leading a sedentary lifestyle. Instead of going for regular massages which can be expensive, invest in a handheld massage gun for a cost-effective solution.
In a nutshell, a handheld percussion massager is good for the following applications:
- Anyone that needs to activate muscle fibers after spending long periods of time seated.
- Training athletes who’re putting their bodies through extraordinary strain. Athletes suffer a lot from post-workout muscle stiffness and soreness, which is why percussion massagers present a unique solution.
- Anyone that’s going through physical therapy as a result of surgery, trauma, and injury. This device can accelerate the healing process by breaking down scar tissue.
10 Best Percussion Massagers of 2023
Brands are regularly releasing new models and updates to existing models so doing your research is of paramount importance to ensure you are buying the most cutting edge technology available today.
We’ve gone through bodybuilding forums, answer sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers, as well as read scientific literature to identify the most popular and highly reviewed brands and models currently available on the market for bodybuilders, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters and professional athletes.
ExoGun was one of the first professional-grade (see “original” not “copycat”) massage guns to hit the market for consumer use. What exactly do we mean by “professional grade” ? Well, depending on the maker, some guns have stronger motors than others.
Similar to garage and shop tools, the real R&D and “value” of a given massage gun is found in the motor that powers it. There are a variety of statistics that you should use to compare and contrast different products when you’re pre-shopping.
These include how loud the gun is, the stroke of the massage shaft, the stall force (how hard can you press before the motor can’t push back), the weight of the device, the voltage of the motor, the battery size, the speed at which the massager reciprocates, and the vibration range.
Exogun DreamPro runs at a quiet 70 decibels, has a 16MM stroke, a stall force of 60 pounds, weights 2.5 pounds in total, contains a brushless 24V motor, a 2400mAh battery, does 1200-3200 percussions per minute, and has a vibration speed of 20-53Hz.
These are gold standards you can compare any other gun to and if they are similar you should be in good hands. Other additional features to consider include the customization of settings (how many speeds or “modes” the gun has) and the grip.
ExoGun DreamPro has 6 speed settings, a beautiful digital display (not common) and a very ergonomic design that allows for hours of massaging without hand/wrist fatigue.
ExoGun is the choice for professional athletes include Arthur Moats (NFL Linebacker), Karen Chen (USA Figure Skating Olympian), Manteo Mitchell (USA Olympic Sprinter), Darius Victor (Saints & Cardinals Running Back) and Katie Uhlander (4X Olympian).
You can buy ExoGun DreamPro direct from the brand (they aren’t currently on Amazon last we checked).
The Theragun G3Pro model is a battery-operated device that boasts 2,400 revolutions per minute at an amplitude of 16mm and 60-pound pressure capacity. This means it has the ability to penetrate deep into muscle tissue in order to breakdown muscle tissue and reduce tension and stiffness. There are two speed settings of varying intensity and 6 different attachment types for targeting hard to penetrate muscle bodies.
- The G3PRO is scientifically-calibrated to deliver deep muscle treatment, 40 times per second, to relieve muscle tension, accelerate warm up & recovery, & enhance performance
It’s very popular with athletes, gym-goers and owners as well as massage therapists. It comes with four different attachments to cater to sensitive areas as well as bony areas.
Weighing just 3 pounds, this lightweight device is easy to carry and use. You certainly won’t feel any strain from using it. The only downside is that it only offers a single speed which is quite aggressive to boot. As such, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when it comes to massaging sensitive areas like the neck.
- Long battery life of up to 45 minutes
- 50% quieter than previous G2Pro model
- Comes with 2 batteries so you can use it out the box
- Suitable for use on the entire body
- Comes with 4 different attachments for a customized experience
- Calibrated by physicians
- Doesn’t offer any pulse settings
- On the pricer side compared to other brands
- No heat
RXgun Super RX
The RXGun is considered to be one of the best percussion massagers on the market. That’s because it’s constructed from durable aluminum which is not only long-lasting but resistant to dings and scratches. The tips feature 7075 grade material detailing for a comfortable touch.
- ★ ACTIVE: 3 Massage Heads, 6 Speeds and Head Articulation. Using proven scientific vibration frequency and amplitude, the ACTIVE massager can activate muscles, increase blood flow, greatly reduce muscle recovery time, relieve pain and ease warmup. The...
Meanwhile, it has a 20V of power that offers an effective and powerful massage that hits all the right notes. Basically, the RXGun is well-constructed, easy to use and comes with all the features you’d expect from a professional-grade massager.
- The tips are backed by a lifetime warranty
- Easy to maintain
- Constructed from durable aircraft aluminum
- Easy to use
- It can be a bit loud compared to the other models listed here
VYBE Pro Massage Gun
The VYBE percussion massage gun is backed by a generous 1-year warranty and features 6 adjustable speeds that can go from 500 to 2,400 percussions a minute. This is in addition to three massage tips and a great hand feel that delivers a comfortable and effortless experience.
- RELIEVES MUSCLE SORENESS: This handheld massager is perfect to iron out muscle knots before or after a workout sesh and helps to get immediate pain relief. Good things do come in small packages!
If ease of use and power are important to you, then this option might be worth considering. It offers a deep tissue massage like no other, and it comes with an extra battery so you won’t need to run out for one in the middle of a relaxing massage treatment. However, it is a bit loud and that might be a deal-breaker for some.
- Offers a wide range of applications
- Features 6 different speeds
- Backed by a 1-year warranty
- Powerful performance
- It’s not the most durable
Pleno M3 & Pleno M5.0
The Pleno M3.0 power massager is one of the most highly rated massagers when it comes to online reviews. It’s popular among regular at-home users and professional physical massage therapists alike due to its ease of use and its unit design.
This model comes with six different speed settings. It allows you to control the amount of power it exerts so that you can give attention to all the different parts of your body that may feel sore after an exercise session.
M3 Vs. M5.0
However, Pleno didn’t stop there because they went on to create the Pleno M5.0 model which runs quieter and offers longer battery life compared to its predecessor. Not only that but this one comes with an impressive 9-speed settings, which are fully adjustable to meet your unique needs as much as possible. There are also 5 tips that are equally flexible and allow you to reach those sensitive areas that are sometimes difficult to reach.
The cherry on top is that this massager comes with a 1-year warranty even though it’s constructed from high-quality materials.
- Comes with an adjustable vibrating arm
- Features 4 massage heads
- 6 to 9 speeds
- There’s no specification about what the maximum speed is
The BearMax is a versatile massage gun that’s designed to alleviate stiff and sore muscles within moments. It comes with 4 interchangeable head attachments which you can use to improve blood circulation, recover soft tissues and relax tense fascia muscles. It can also accelerate recovery time for athletes by minimizing the amount of lactic acid that your muscles produce post-exercise. This is all possible due to the BearMax’s ultra-low damping technology which is in its fifth generation iteration.
- 4 REPLACEABLE MASSAGE HEADS & 20 ADJUSTABLE SPEED LEVEL】Suitable for all users. BearMax massage gun helps relieve muscle soreness and stiffness with 4 interchangeable head attachments. Promotes circulation and improves range of motion and helps...
This device also comes with a noise-reducing shell that’s designed according to aerodynamic properties, a sound insulation plate, and a rear motor filter. Taken together, these features eliminate any chances of the device being loud while you’re using it.
All of this is backed by a 6 x 24V 2500mAH rechargeable battery which can last for up to 5 hours of continuous use thanks to BCT dynamic energy-saving technology. Basically, this is a high-powered, high-tech and durable device that’s safe to use and long-lasting as well. What more could you ask for?
- Works quietly
- 5-hour battery life
- Comes with 20 adjustable speed levels
- Features 4 detachable massage heads
If you’re looking for a way to relax your body after a long day at work or a challenging gym session, the Wasagun professional percussion handheld electric massager is worth looking into. It offers 5 adjustable speeds, a gear indicator that tells you which speed level you’re on, as well as 4 massage heads, whose unique contour shape allows them to reach difficult areas with ease and gentleness.
- 【End Table with Charging Station】-- This end table is equipped with 2 AC outlets and 2 USB ports. Easy to charge multiple electronic devices at the same time. Product Size: 22.8”L x 11.6”W x25.6”H (58cmx30cmx65cm)
There’s a comfortable handle covered in silicone to provide a firm yet ergonomic grip. Speaking of the handle, it comes with a unique 15-degree titling to enhance operation. Even though this is a powerful model, it runs relatively quiet and comes with a carrying case so you can take it with you while traveling.
- Features noise-reduction technology
- 4 uniquely shaped massage heads
- Relives stress and tension
- 5 different speeds
- There have been a few complaints online about the device’s poor construction quality
Zermatte’s gun massager is designed to provide relief from muscle stiffness and pain for bodybuilders and athletes alike. It’s designed according to scientifically-backed percussive therapy and features noise-reduction technology that helps to minimize noise while in use.
- MULTIFUNCTIONAL MUSCLE THERAPY – Powerful Portable Percussive Massager Delivers Rapid, Concentrated Pulses to the Body’s Soft Tissues for Increased Blood Flow, Fast Pain Relief, Gentle Stretching & Shortened Recovery Time
Reviewers report experiencing accelerated recovery, less soft tissue pain and better circulation. This is all thanks to the powerful but gentle pulses delivered by this effective device. The Zermatte comes with multiple massage tips and allows you to change speeds as per your needs and preferences. With this device, you’ll enjoy a deep tissue massage that will relieve you from muscle inflammation, spasms, stiffness, and general fatigue.
The best part is that this gun comes with a carrying case so you can take this device with you anywhere.
- Runs quietly
- Relaxes the body
- Emits an unusual smell when you’re using it
TimTam Power Massager V1.5
The TimTam Power Massager V1.5 is like a budget-friendly and mobile deep tissue massage therapist. It’s really easy to use and powerful enough to provide 2,500 revolutions per minute.
- Therapeutic: helps break down knots, increase blood flow, and release stored lactic acid. Also excellent for chronic pain.
Inside the box, you’ll find one massage head, but the brand offers other massage head attachments separately. The provided head is gentle on softer areas of the body and you can use it on most muscle groups.
- Comes with an adjustable head that works for all muscle groups
- Threaded shaft
- There have been complaints about how difficult it is to recharge the battery
- Features a single massage head
Jigsaw by Vigorous Innovations
This compact and mobile Jigsaw percussion massager is designed for use on the go. It comes with all the features you’re familiar with from the DeWalt and Decker Jigsaw models with the only difference being that this is pretty handy.
- 💪 Loud but Powerful Full Body Relief -Experience this total body relief massage tools & equipment in the comfort of your own home. The powerful deep tissue massager heads knead directly into large knots and sore spots to loosen them while stimulating...
This attachment has a similar shape to a shifter knob which means attaching it to your Jigsaw is a breeze, and it’s a great way to give yourself a massage while you’re at work or right after our gym session. With this device, you don’t have to wait until you get home to fee relief, and it works for your forearms, thighs, and arms.
However, if you don’t already have a compatible massager to attach this device to, then it’s best you skip it because it has a considerable price tag. Otherwise, it offers great soft tissue and deep tissue massage.
- Backed by a generous 100% money-back guarantee
- Features professional-grade design
- Offers 2,600 RPMs
- Incredibly powerful
- It’s very noisy compared to other models on this list
This compact and lightweight model is ideal for ladies and female athletes who’re looking for an easy and effective way to recover from workouts and daily stress. Its battery can last for up to 6 hours of continuous use and it only needs 2 to 3 hours of charging time to work again. You’ll have three modes to choose from, with a high of 3,200 percussions per minute and a low of 1,800 percussions per minute.
- 【MULTIFUNCTIONAL MASSAGE GUN】: Intelitopia massage gun can help the user relieve muscle stiffness and soreness, increase blood pressure, improve the overall health of the body’s soft tissues, moreover, it can prevent fasciitis which is a kind of...
There are also four attachments included which means it can cater to all the different parts of your body from large muscle groups, to deep tissue and upper back massage. The only negative we can think of is that it tends to stop working when you apply too much pressure.
- Strong battery life
- Comes with 3 different speeds
- 6 massage adapters
- Features a multifunctional massage gun
- It has a really bad odor
Hydragun doesn’t get as much hype outside of YouTube (where it’s huge with fitness vloggers and gym rats) that it deserves. With one of the fastest pulse rates per minute (3,200 vs 2,000+ found in most cheaper guns) this massager is the real deal.
In our testing we found the 3,200 pulse rate particularly useful with the round foam ball head and great for loosening longer muscle bodies, particularly those around the neck (neck, traps, shoulders) and good for longer lower back sessions as well.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Hydragun counts all kinds of serious athletes as their champions, including John Parr (a 10 time Muay Thai World Champion), Matt Bevilacqua (an IronMan Champion and 5 time Paddleboard World Champion), Taylor McKeown (Olympic, World Championship and Commonwealth Medalist), Marc Jacobs (not the designer, the professional Kiteboarder), and Angela Lee (ONE Women’s Atomweight Champion and 5 time World Champion).
Hydragun is a Singaporean based brand with a dominant presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand and they are starting to make more waves in North America as well.
With a full 6-hour battery life, perfectly angled ergo-handle, simple single-button operation, and a premium non-slip grip on the handle, all encompassed in an aerospace-grade aluminum body, there is very little to pick on when it comes to this product.
If you want a Hydragun be aware they’re shipping from Singapore so if you’re not local, don’t worry, you can still purchase Hydragun but just expect a 7-9 day shipping time, although the test model we used for this review arrived well under that time span.
For the price, Hydragun is a great combination of quality and affordability and encapsulates all the great features you want in a trusty home-massage gun without any of the drawbacks found in other budget models.
Skinny Yoked Conclusion
Well, there you have it! That was our guide on how to find and choose the best handheld massage gun. Now you know what features to look for and what the best options on the market are.
You may still be asking yourself “do I really need it though?”. Well, the answer is no, you never NEED massage therapy unless you’ve suffered an accident and it has been prescribed by a doctor or rehabilitation specialist.
On the other hand, if your passion is bodybuilding and you’re going to the gym 4-6 days a week and putting in seriously strenuous exercise then your body needs extra care. This comes in the form of extra rest, stretching, nutritional supplements, and specialized equipment.
Think about the cost of quality weight lifting shoes, or a lifting belt, or all the specialized workout clothes you have? Then factor in supplements like protein powder and vitamins. Finally, take into account the fact that your muscles only grow when you’re sleeping/recovering. With all this taken into account the benefits of percussion massagers greatly outweigh their one-time up-front purchase cost, at least in our opinion.
If you are already sold on the idea of self-massaging and are still having a hard time choosing, consider the Hydragun percussion massager. It comes with all the features you need in a massager including a powerful battery and motor as well as multiple massage heads and tips. It also works quietly for up to 5 hours. It’s the best “middle ground” option we’ve reviewed.
If you want the “best-of-the-best” we’d recommend either the Hydragun, ExoGun, or Theragun.
Last update on 2023-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API