Best Muscle Massage Gun of 2020
Blasting its way to top-spot, the Theragun PRO was by far our testers favorite massage gun in the lineup. Marketed for "professional grade" percussive therapy, it came as no surprise that this model had exceptional power and versatility when compared to competitors. Theragun was an early-emergent brand in the percussive therapy niche, coining the concept of 'stall force' used to measure the power of each stroke. Tech-specs and analytics aside, it was evident to all who used the Theragun that it delivered a very powerful effect.
Delivering 2,400 percussions-per-minute at an amplitude of 16mm, the Theragun PRO received our only perfect mark when it came to power performance. Even at lower speeds, this device produces such great percussion that no other contender seemed to compare. Beyond the force it generates, the Theragun has a whole range of in-app programs, presets, and tutorials that you can utilize via bluetooth connectivity on the Therabody app. Add to that an easy-to-grip triangular handle, six closed-cell foam massage tips, and four adjustable piston angles, and you're looking at a powerhouse of percussive performance. Not only ergonomic and powerful, the Theragun is also made of high-quality materials and comes with a two-year warranty. Though it wasn't whisper-quiet, our testers concluded that the hum generated by the QX150 motor wasn't at all obnoxious or intolerable. Equipped with two batteries and a charging stand, the Theragun is ready for continuous use without waiting to charge— or bring two batteries along in the carrying case for four hours of run-time while you're on the go. If you're looking for an absolute top-tier massage gun, no matter the cost, you should definitely consider the Theragun PRO.
Boasting a similar score to certain models that cost twice as much, the Opove M3 Pro is an excellent choice for anyone who doesn't want to sacrifice performance for economy. It also happened to receive the second-lowest decibel reading in our testing. The grip, user interface, and overall design have thoughtful elements that lend themselves to user-friendliness. With five massage tips and three speeds, it has a good deal of versatility without being over-engineered.
Though it doesn't have quite the amplitude we saw in the Theragun, it still provides a deep percussion that is comparable to higher-end models. In fact, at 3200 max PPM, it has a higher operating speed than some of the big-box options. The stout design eliminates rattle when operating the motor; regardless of speed, this unit doesn't exceed a decibel range of 70 while in operation. And while it doesn't have a spare battery, the battery is removable, and there are extras available for purchase. Despite this, the large lithium-ion can provide more than three hours of run time consistently. If you're looking for solid performance without breaking the bank, the Opove M3 Pro is the massage gun for you.
With a weight less than three pounds and a very compact frame, the Medcursor Precision is a fantastic choice for those who are looking for an on-the-go massager. Coupled with an ultra-quiet brushless motor that had the lowest decibel reading in our testing, this device is also perfect for use in shared spaces. Operating at its highest speed, the motor produces no more noise than a small fan.
While a small motor may be quiet, it does leave the Medcursor lagging a bit in power when compared to the rest of the lineup. Furthermore, the low-amplitude strokes act more like vibrations than percussions. However, our testers felt that this model was still totally capable of providing relief from tight muscles and sore knots. With a very simple design, there is little guesswork in operating this massage gun; the five variable speeds are very much point-and-shoot. We also noticed that we were able to sustain longer run times on a single charge compared to other similar models, likely due to the smaller motor. If you need a lightweight, packable massage gun for relief on the road or in the office, look no further than the Medcursor Precision.
Incorporating a special massage tip that heats to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, the MaxKare Heated Massage Gun can add an extra dimension to your recovery routine. While we can't say whether or not the heat made a difference in aiding recovery, we can say with certainty that this heated massage gun had a more perceptible warming effect than other comparable models at lower price points. Plus, it comes with additional features, like ascending fluctuating speed modes.
Despite being marketed as a heated massage tool, this model also boasts an impressive 3600 PPM (the highest in this lineup) as well as a variety of other attachments for non-heated therapeutic massage. Though, with a lower-than-average stall force rating and mediocre amplitude, this gun didn't feel quite as forceful as some others, even in spite of its high PPM rating. The grip is very similar to other 'gun-style' massagers, though it's got a much larger top-end profile due to its larger motor, making the unit a little unwieldy when in use. Impressively, this unit remained quieter than some of the other top-end models. The 24v LI battery charges in two hours and provides a run time of roughly four hours of run time — less if you're using the heated tip. Consider the MaxKare Heated Massage Gun over other models if you're looking for the added bonus of heat therapy.
The Hyperice Hypervolt is perhaps the most recognizable 'gun-style' massager on the market; other manufacturers have emulated the Hypervolt design, so they must've gotten something right there. It is a high-speed, mid-amplitude massager that delivers powerful strokes with considerable stall force. Because of this, the user can apply a great deal of pressure when targeting sore muscles, and the device won't back down in power. However, this device does not feel quite as forceful in comparison to the overall award winner.
Featuring a brushless 24V motor with Quiet Glide technology, this powerful unit hovered in the mid-range when it came to decibel testing. Included in the packaging is a booklet with recommended routines and strategies, though the device itself lacks any sort of user interface other than a variable speed setting. With its price tag, we would have expected that it came with a carrying case to hold its five attachments and charging cables; however, there are accessories like extra batteries and a carrying case available for purchase through Hyperice. There's no doubt this unit is a solid performer, but there are cheaper alternatives that offer a similar performance.
Like Theragun and Hyperice, the TimTam Power Massager has become a ubiquitous name in the physical therapy world. Popular with gyms and performance centers, this device has a powerful motor and rugged design that even include threaded tips to ensure a firm connection. Though, its performance comes with a slight compromise: this was one of the heaviest and least-quiet massage guns in the review. It also comes at a significant cost.
With 16mm of amplitude and 2800 max PPM's, the TimTam had nearly identical stats to the top-performing model. However, it had just a slightly lower stall-force rating; imperceptible unless you are actually trying to get the unit to fail. Of the three included spherical massage tips, two have added features that may be a selling point to some. One attachment is capable of heating up to 100 degrees while the other provides a subtle vibrating effect to the targeted muscle. For such a hefty price tag, we would've liked to see a better carrying case option, though numerous accessories (including extra batteries) are available through the manufacturer.
The Legiral Le3 Pro comes at less than half the price of its leading competitors and also boasts many of the same accessories. The motor housing is constructed of carbon fiber and composite materials for a very lightweight and sleek construction. In addition to the sporty aesthetic, it also had one of the lowest decibel readings during our side-by-side analysis of noise production. Though it isn't as powerful as some of the others, this device is suitable for many different uses.
Forty-five pounds of stall force and 3200 PPMs make this a formidable muscle massage gun, yet it doesn't have quite the percussive depth as some other models. There are 20 speed settings to allow for a much larger gradient of customization in frequency and six different attachments for a variety of applications. The unit can fully charge in under two hours and runs for a solid three hours at full bore. The carrying case is convenient, and the overall design is practical; the low-ish price point is reflective of the unit's quality. Consider this option if you're on a budget and aren't nit-picky about design details or trim.
Our research showed that the LifePro Pulse FX came highly-reviewed and with comparable marketing claims to the contenders in this roundup. However, the testers found themselves unimpressed with this model for a few notable reasons. Namely, it is the loudest muscle massage gun in the entire review — hitting 95 decibels on the fastest setting. While it does deliver quick and deep percussions, it required very little pressure to notice a reduction in power.
The list of technical specifications may look appealing: numerous massage tips, variable-angle piston, carrying case, and charging stand. But the overall quality of this unit is low in relation to its competitors. These shortcomings shined through as we had to fuss, getting the massage tips in and out and were subject to high degrees of rattle in the plastic body. Simply put, we don't think the juice is worth the squeeze.
Why You Should Trust Us
As the Head Coach of an elite youth alpine racing team, our primary tester, Rob Woodworth, has a nuanced understanding of the importance of muscle activation and recovery. When he's not on-skis or in the performance center with his athletes, he can be found biking, climbing, kayaking, or wakesurfing. In his ripening age, he finds tools like muscle massage guns extremely helpful in expediting the recovery of sore muscles and preventing injury through preventative maintenance. Rob gathered insight for this review by having his colleagues, friends and athletes test each unit in conjunction with their pre-existing recovery or maintenance programs. Besides athletics, the users also examined performance and functionality in a variety of everyday scenarios to replicate at-home or on-the-go use.
Following research on more than 60 various massage guns, we narrowed the field to only the eight best models on the market. Every model in our lineup is categorically considered a "percussion massager" that delivers concentrated pressure deep into muscles and connective tissue. Though, there are several design variances to note that affected the user experience in particular ways. That being said, all of the massage guns chosen for this review were subjected to the exact same testing rigors.
Types of Massage Guns
Not all massagers are created equal. Should you wish, you can delve deep into the bowels of the web to read up on the differences between 'vibration massagers' and 'percussion massagers'. Long story short: percussion massagers are a type of vibration massage, though they deliver deep, focused percussive strokes that penetrate deeper into muscle tissues than other types of massagers. By comparison, vibration massagers are more superficial than percussion massagers.
Percussion-style muscle massage guns hammer down on the surface of your body, sending deep-vibrational pulses into the soft tissue. This type of massage is ideal for recovery after an intense workout because of the deep muscle penetration that allows for increased blood flow to the targeted areas, which in turn can promote myofascial release and increased distribution of micronutrients, which are important for healing the body.
Analysis and Test Results
We subjected each muscle massage gun to an arsenal of tests designed to find their strengths, weaknesses, and best applications in use. Contenders were run throughout the range of their operating speeds and subjected to stall force tests that would measure the amount of force each unit could deliver before losing power of "stalling out". To examine versatility, we utilized all the various attachments included with each model and were sure to use each attachment on a variety of muscle groups. Additionally, we performed more exacting tests using a decibel meter to measure loudness and a volt meter to measure charging performance.
In this metric, we examined the force each msucle massage gun could generate while in various modes of operation. It is common for manufacturers to list the percussions-per-minute (PPM) or motor speed of each model; rarely will they make mention of the actual force or power generated by each stroke. Since PPM is a somewhat arbitrary measurement of speed, we chose to dig deeper by also examining stall force — a performance concept that is unique to percussive therapy tools.
Stall force is a measurement of how much pressure a massage gun can withstand before the motor loses power or stalls completely. Since not every manufacturer has a marketing claim for stall force, we rated it on a scale of 1-10; 1 requiring very little pressure to stall the unit and 10 requiring a great deal of pressure to stall. In addition to stall force, we also examined amplitude — a measurement of how far the massage attachment travels during each percussion.
The Theragun Pro received the highest power rating out of the whole lineup; it was the clear winner of this category. With 16mm of amplitude and a stall force rating of 10, this model delivers an extremely powerful percussive blast that is felt deep in the muscle tissue—even at its lowest speed setting. Also boasting a good degree of amplitude is the TimTam PowerMassager Pro, though it didn't have quite as high of a stall force rating. With powerful motors and a good deal of travel in each stroke, both of these models seem ideal for those who are seeking intense therapeutic percussions.
Models like the Hyperice Hypervolt and Opove M3 Pro also received solid stall force ratings with their quiet brushless motors. However, neither of these muscle massage guns had amplitude that could compare to the Theragun. With a powerful motor delivering shallower strokes, the result feels less percussive and a little bit more like vibration massaging. But don't be mistaken, the Hypervolt and M3 Pro both produce a powerful effect.
Less powerful but still effective were the MaxKare Heated Massage Gun and the Medcursor Precision — the latter of which packs an impressive punch for its size. The Legiral LE3 delivers an impressive array of speeds but is noticeably underpowered compared to the aforementioned models. And the LifePro Pulse FX rounds out the rear of the power category with a totally abysmal stall force rating.
Ergonomics & Design
What good is a powerful massage gun if it's bulky or awkward to use? We weighted the category of Ergonomics & Design proportionally to power, because we believe it is just as important. Taking into consideration elements such as grip(s), adjustability, and overall durability, we set out to identify which models were easy-to-use and reliably intuitive.
Yet again, the Theragun PRO takes the top spot — with numerous rubberized grips and four different piston angles to provide an arsenal of different massaging positions. We found it easy to reach virtually any sore spot with this massager. Also versatile with grips and piston angle was the TimTam Power Massager, though the closed triangular grip is a bit smaller and stockier compared to the Theragun. The only other contender with a variable piston angle was the LifePro Pulse FX, which was overall unimpressive in every other factor of its design.
The rest of the lineup more-or-less features the same fixed-angle, 'gun-style' design that incorporates a primary grip on the battery portion of the unit. Of this variety, we found the Hyperice Hypervolt to have the highest-quality design and best overall user experience. The Medcursor Precision received good marks because of its slender and lightweight design, whereas the MaxKare Heated Massage Gun got knocked for its hefty motor that felt top-heavy in the hand.
Chances are, you don't want a massage session punctuated by the obnoxious whirr of an electric motor and rattling plastic. We chose to not only examine the relative loudness of each unit, but also the overall noise that the massage gun would produce while in use at various speeds and pressures. We were able to verify or disprove manufacturer's claims of "quietness" by using a digital decibel meter.
The least-loud massage gun we tested was the Medcursor Precision, which is perhaps not surprising because it has the smallest motor. At its lowest speed, the device registers 51.5 decibels and sounds similar to an electric toothbrush. Also in the fifties at low speed were the Opove M3 Pro and the Legiral LE3, which were recorded at 53 decibels and 58 decibels, respectively. At higher PPMs, these models are of course a bit noisier, though still completely tolerable.
Because of their powerful motors, the Theragun PRO and TimTam Power Massager registered a touch higher on the decibel meter than did some of the less powerful models. However, their solid construction ensures that there are no menacing noises from intense vibrations — just a smooth, humming sound. Quiet yet still powerful was the Hyperice Hypervolt clocking in 63.7 decibels at the lowest speed setting.
The LifePro Pulse FX was by far the noisiest massager in this review. At the lowest speed, it was generating 75 decibels of noise — the chief contributor being a consistent rattle in the plastic of its construction. At higher speeds, the rattle becomes even more unpleasant.
Features & Attachments
It is very common for a percussive muscle massage gun to have a number of different tips, attachments, or accessories in order to achieve a variety of therapeutic effects or to target certain muscle groups. Furthermore, some models incorporate a variety of settings or presets that allow for a customizable experience. In testing each massage gun, we used every available tip, attachment, and accessory to see which we liked best. We also fussed around with the various modes and settings when available.
When it comes to accessories and features, there is no denying that the Theragun PRO is the clear winner. With six different massage tips, an extra battery, and customizable programs and presets via bluetooth connectivity, the Theragun yet again proves itself to be a versatile wunderkind. Sporting quality tips but requiring that you purchase the carrying case separately, we were less impressed by the Hyperice Hypervolt, which also lacks any settings beyond variable speed.
Of the two massagers that featured heated tips, we found the MaxKare Heated Massage Gun to be more effective than the TimTam Power Massager to that end. However, we were quite fond of how the tips actually threaded onto the piston of the TimTam, which also has five different presets programmed in.
Battery Life & Charging
All the massage guns chosen for this review feature some variety of lithium ion (LI) battery. This configuration can allow for a lighter construction, less discharge, and quicker charging times. However, not every battery is created equally; each model will have limitations depending on motor draw and storage capacity. Potential operating time was considered as well, measured by how easy it was to juice each unit when depleted.
Despite bold claims from some of the competition, our testing showed that the Theragun PRO was the highest-performer in continuous run time. With two removable LI batteries that last about two hours each and included charging stand, you can run the unit perpetually so long as you have access to an AC wall outlet. The Medcursor Precision had a very comparable run time, but wasn't able to swap batteries for continuous use.
Though it only comes with a single removable battery that lasts around an hour, the TimTam Power Massager also comes with an AC charging stand and has extra batteries available for purchase. Models like the Hyperice Hypervolt, Legiral Le3, and the Opove M3 PRO have batteries that also serve as the primary grip and could technically be described as removable since they detach from the motor. However, these models don't come included with a bonus battery and can only be charged when the massager is not in use.
Whether you're an elite athlete or a work-from-home warrior, we hope that this review has given you some insight on the best massage gun for your needs. With so many choices and variations saturating the marketplace, it's not always easy finding physical therapy tools that perform up-to-par. We take pride in the opportunity to test these products, report our findings, and remove the guesswork for you in selecting the ideal choice for you. May it bring the relief that you are seeking!
— Rob Woodworth