Whether you’re recovering from a marathon or just a marathon of Zoom meetings, a percussive massage device – a handheld masseur that’s shaped a little like a hairdryer – can help soothe tired muscles and promote healing after an injury.
Used before a workout, they can also stimulate blood flow to major muscle groups that – theoretically – should mean less DOMS and more personal bests.
How we tested
We tested these devices in all three scenarios: at the end of desk-bound days as well as after and before heavy workouts. With the help of a physio, we also used appropriate devices to help rehabilitate a minor injury, and where we could, we swapped massage guns into our normal stretching and recovery routine in place of the dreaded foam roller.
We also looked for ease of use, versatility, quietness and effectiveness, particularly for injury rehab.
All the devices we tested work along the same basic principle, percussive massage. Using the attachment that best suits your treatment (pointy or blunt) at a speed that you’re comfortable with, aim the gun at the muscle group you want to gently pummel and switch it on. You can target an area or glide the device over a muscle group, depending on what you want to treat.
Devices come in two sizes, travel and full, with the former being smaller, lacking a few features, but much lighter. Pick a travel-sized device if you want to bring it to the gym or on holiday, and a full-size device if you’re doing some serious training or rehab from an injury.
If you’re just going to use the device to ease cricked necks and the occasional pulled muscle, any model will do. If you’re an athlete or you’ll be using the device to treat anyone who is, look for a device with multiple attachments and speeds. We found three speeds to be the minimum we needed. Five speeds, the maximum we tested, was a bonus. We rarely used the highest setting.
While most of the top-end devices come with a Bluetooth-connected app that curates your massage routine for you based on your needs, it’s important you speak to a doctor or a physiotherapist before you use a device to treat any acute or chronic injuries, or if you bruise easily as some of these have quite a kick at higher speed settings.
The best massage guns for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Musclegun carbon go: £129.99, Muscleguns.co.uk
- Best high end massage gun – Theragun elite: £375, Theragun.com
- Best for professionals – Hypervolt plus: £349, Hyperice.uk
- Best lightweight massage gun – Recovapro lite: £159, Recovapro.co.uk
- Best for travel – Hypervolt go: £199, Hyperice.uk
- Best value – Musclegun carbon: £199.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best range of accessories – Myomaster myopro: £199, Myomaster.com
- Best entry-level massage gun – Renpho C3 massage gun: £79.99, Renpho.com
Musclegun carbon go
Musclegun’s travel-size device was the one we used the most. It sat on our tester’s desk for post-Zoom shoulder rubs, on the coffee table for physio in front of the TV, and has been in our gym bag since they re-opened in April.
Quiet, discrete and with a strong motor that we couldn’t stall however much pressure we used, it charges via USB-C so there’s no need to pack a bulky charger, and comes with a molded case that makes storing all the attachments neat and easy. It doesn’t have Bluetooth and the app is basic (voice guided rather than video), but that doesn’t matter if you’re addressing your injury with a physio already or just want to use it after a workout. With three speeds and a good range of attachments this is a good match to larger devices in a portable package.
Best: High end massage gun
If you want to be guided through your recovery, Theragun’s elite model is the ideal top-end device. The app – Android and Apple versions are available – connects quickly to the device, and not only guides you through your recovery routine, but controls the device’s speed for you. The unique closed grip means that you can handle it with confidence, and reach difficult spots on your back too.
As you’d expect with a product just shy of £400, it comes with a case – though it’s not moulded, most likely because you might want to expand your library of fittings. It has five speeds, a long-lasting battery, excellent attachments and a quiet motor all of which add up to make it a luxury pick.
Best: For professionals
The most stylish device we tested, the larger Hypervolt plus comes with Bluetooth, multiple attachments, and a huge amount of class. The rubberised grip is comfortable and feels high-end, and the LED strip around the base is an attractive touch. We also loved the Hypervolt app, which has an incredible library of routines and treatments.
Three white dots on the back light up depending on how much pressure you’re using, which makes using the device really intuitive. Speed settings and attachments are all excellent, and the removable battery means it’s a good buy for professionals.
Best: Lightweight massage gun
We loved the fresh design of this super lightweight device, which some of our testers found easier to use with confidence than the heavier devices. Gentle, quiet and with a smaller range of attachments than some models, it’s an ideal massage device for anyone who wants to use a gun for everyday aches and pains rather than athletic performance. The attractive case and leather charging mat all make it the kind of device you’d want to keep around the home, rather than at your railway arch CrossFit gym.
Best: For travel
A high-end travel-sized massage device, the Hypervolt go has all the style and plush ergonomics of the full-sized model. It’s incredibly quiet – almost purring at its lowest setting – while the handle is comfortable, and the nice touches, like the LED light around the base, match the larger version.
Though it doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, you can use the app (available on both Android and IOS) to guide you. Quick and easy to use, with a helpful on/off and speed button on the grip, it soars through three speed settings and packs a lot of punch for a hairdryer-sized product. But there’s no case, which feels like an omission at this price.
This device is an outrageously good price for a model that has many of the features we’d expect on the most costly products. A comfortable, rubberised grip, good range of attachments and an impressive five speed setting’s make it particularly effective for treating sports injuries – the very highest setting seemed to glide over sore muscles effortlessly.
It doesn’t have Bluetooth and the app is a little less fancy (again only voice-led rather than video), but it does come with a lovely molded case. As with the smaller Musclegun carbon go (£129.99, Muscleguns.co.uk), this is an ideal device if you already have a recovery routine supported by a physio, or experience using percussive massage devices.
Best: Range of accessories
Competitively priced and designed to stand alongside the more expensive products on the market, we loved the range of accessories this device came with. Included are eight heads, some (like a fork, thumb, scraper and pin point) that are pricey extras with other models. It also has five speeds, is very quiet running and has a stylish design. Basically, it does everything more expensive models do, and the only thing missing is Bluetooth connectivity.
However, it comes with lots of really helpful extras, like a case, carry bag and charging stand. We found the straight grip (most of the devices we tested had a curved hold) worked fine, but was just slightly less ergonomic.
Renpho C3 massage gun
Best: Entry-level massage gun
This is the perfect device for occasional use, or if you want to test out how well a massage device aids your recovery before splashing out on a higher end model. While this entry-level gun lacks some of the frills of more expensive devices, like the Bluetooth connectivity, and it is a little louder to operate, its five heads and five speeds are more than enough to treat the occasional sore shoulder or weary quad. It comes with a case and charges over USB-C, helpful features that make it versatile.
The verdict: Massage guns
Musclegun’s carbon go is a lightweight portable massage device that you’ll easily work into your daily routine. For athletes, Theragun elite’s closed grip and app make taking charge of your rehab and recovery easy and much more enjoyable than foam rolling.
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For a more in-depth review of two of the biggest names in massage gun, read our head to head comparison between Theragun and Hypervolt
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