Massage guns have boomed in popularity over recent years. Theragun has been the brand name leading the charge in percussive therapy, and I’ve been putting the Theragun Pro over the past four months to see what the fuss is all about.
These massage guns are essentially a sports recovery device that resembles something of a sleek power tool. The head oscillates at varying speeds to facilitate percussive therapy, and they sit alongside other widely-accepted recovery devices like foam rollers, hockey balls, and even actual massage therapy. Theragun is undoubtedly one of the more premium brands in the space when it comes to price, and as with any tech, you can find non-brand options at much lower prices, but as you go up the price brackets you get better construction, more features, bigger batteries and better brand support.
What is percussive therapy?
Percussive therapy – or vibration therapy – works by applying fast repetitive impacts to your body’s soft tissues, creating vibrations which can lessen the effect of DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) and stimulate recovery. I’m not going to go deep into the science of how – there are plenty of smarter and more qualified people out there who have already done a much better job than I ever could – but in a nutshell, the vibrations help to increase blood flow to the area, massage an area or muscle to tackle knots and affect the signals to the brain to reduce pain.
The initial sensation is an odd one, yet it’s quite satisfying once you get over the initial it-kind-of-tickles-but-it-kind-of-hurts-too sensation. Not too dissimilar to a sports massage then.
Does it work?
When done correctly, the result is a restored range of motion in what were previously aching DOMS-riddled legs. Of course, I say legs speaking as a cyclist, but it’s worth noting it can benefit any muscle ache, pain, tightness or tension, and has regularly aided my back and neck aches too. The best, hopefully-relatable way I can describe the outcome is the difference between cold, stiff legs, and those same legs after being stretched or after a warm-up.
However, when done badly you can absolutely make things worse. And I have – perhaps due to too much pressure or too much time spent in one area, or a combination of the two. Luckily, for the sensible people reading this, you don’t need to take my ham-fisted approach. One of the benefits of buying into the more expensive Theragun brand is the accompanying app which guides you through how to use it. This app will also guide you through a series of pre-programmed routines from a full-body bedtime massage routine, to pre-workout warm-ups.
Who can use it?
A simple answer here: Everyone.
The Therabody company simply recommends children under 10 have a parent or professional to apply treatment, and that those who are pregnant avoid the abdomen and lower back for obvious reasons.
Therabody as a brand are sponsors to numerous professional sportspeople, including the Real Madrid football team. Various WorldTour team soigneurs have been known to use the technology – though I’m unable to confirm which brand – to facilitate recovery between grand tour stages.
One of Theragun’s claims is that its devices are quiet. However, I’d have to strongly disagree in this regard. Theragun is the only massage gun I’ve ever personally had my hands on to listen to, so I have no benchmark to test against in this regard, but it’s far from quiet. Using a decibel measuring app, it hovers between around 70 and 80dB depending on the speed.
For a relatable comparison to the everyday cyclist, it’s far louder than the Wahoo Kickr turbo trainer (which operates at around 57dB). And for general household comparisons, it’s not quite as loud as the washing machine and on par with the hoover. Both my cat and dog hate it.
It offers five speed settings: 1750, 1900, 2100, 2200 and 2400 oscillations per minute. There’s a small screen on the rear of the unit which shows the current setting as well as the pressure you’re currently applying, and there’s an array of buttons beneath for control. The device speaks Bluetooth in order to connect to your smartphone, then settings can be configured in the app and saved to the device. Alternatively, you can simply use the app to choose a routine as mentioned above.
The triangular shape of the device offers numerous hand positions, although I still managed to find myself having to hold it by the corners, so perhaps a circular shape would have been better in this regard. And the protruding head can be rotated through 90 degrees.
It comes with six different heads for various applications – some are super spongy and forgiving, while others are little more than hard spikes that can really really hurt.
The durability and construction of the device is faultless. The various heads lock in place with precision and never feel loose or unsecured. The torque in the motor is unwavering at all speed and pressure combinations, and after months of almost daily use, it still looks and feels brand new.
And despite the torque and speed that the system puts out, its weight is brilliantly balanced so it never feels like a wrestling match to control – and that’s coming from a cyclist with very cyclist arms.
The Theragun Pro is a fantastic example of how I expect a massage gun to function. It works exactly as described, with a premium build quality that feels like it will stand the test of many many years’ worth of use. It’s supported by a helpful companion app, and thanks to the two batteries, it’s always ready to go at a moment’s notice.
However, the Theragun Pro is right at the top of the massage therapy gun price spectrum, and at this spend, I struggle to get over the noise issue.
In addition, massage guns as a concept are far from a gamechanger for me. The Theragun Pro hasn’t replaced a proper cool down with isometric stretching, but it does offer another piece to the recovery puzzle. It offers accuracy where a foam roller struggles, and it offers the convenience of being able to tackle your aches and pains whilst chilling on the sofa. You do need to crank the volume up on the TV, but it beats comically rolling around on the living room floor trying to dig a hockey ball into your quadriceps while your partner looks on with a confused expression.
Theragun Pro: Tech specs
- Price: £549.00
- Test period: Five months
- Number of heads: Six
- Number of speeds: Five
- Connectivity: Bluetooth