The practice of martial arts can awaken your mind, enliven your soul and leave your body healthier and shapelier than ever. It can also leave your muscles and joints sore, tender and aching. You know the importance of proper rest, nutrition and hydration to help those muscles heal and gain strength, but what role does massage play in your recovery? With the right percussion massager, you could recover faster with greater comfort.
What Is a Percussion Massager?
A percussion massager is a handheld device that applies pulses of concentrated pressure deep into your muscle tissue. This form of deep-tissue massage can work knots and tension out of the muscles while improving blood flow and quickly enhancing range of motion. When used properly, a percussion massager can shorten your recovery time while relieving some of the pain, tension and soreness that comes naturally from intense martial arts workouts.
The rapid pulsations delivered from a percussion massager will soften stiff muscle tissue, and you can target extremely sore muscles by working the surrounding tissue. Eventually, softening and soothing the surrounding tissue will have a relaxing, soothing impact on the sore, overworked muscle. Many professionals are using percussion massagers to minimize pain and discomfort for patients, but you can buy your own percussion massager to achieve the same results in the dojo, at the gym or while recovering at home.
Percussion Massager vs. Vibration Massager
Scientifically, percussion therapy is a type of vibration massage therapy. As in, all percussion massagers are vibrating massagers, but not all vibrating massagers are percussion massagers. Because with percussive massagers, percussions are use to create the vibrations. So when scientists study the effects of vibration therapy, it includes percussive also. So kinda like all rats are rodents, but not all rodents are rats.
But in marketing land, the two are used to speak about two separate (but similar) types of massage devices.
Percussion massagers hammer down on the surface of your body, sending vibrational pulses of pressure deep into your muscle tissue. This mimics the rhythic tapping of massage therapists, but cranked up many multiples. 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 promotes release of nutrients important for healing the body.
Vibration massagers are more superficial because they apply vibrations to the surface of the skin. Those vibrations don't carry deep into the tissue, so they're more like a light massage designed to soothe your mind and help you overcome stress. They can also help relieve pain and general discomfort.
There is a place for deep-tissue percussion massage and vibration therapy in the life of anyone who pushes through intense workouts. One study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research in 2014 found that vibration therapy and massage are both effective at preventing delay-onset muscle soreness. Massage was proven more effective at restoring strength in the muscles, and you can do that at home with a percussion therapy massager.
The Benefits of Percussion Massage Therapy
The deep muscle stimulation provided by percussion massage therapy can deliver all of the following benefits:
- Ease soft tissue pain
- Release lactic acid
- Accelerate muscle recovery
- Stimulate muscle growth
- Improve blood circulation
- Enhance range of motion quickly
- Gentle muscle stretch
- Improve muscle responsiveness
When applied at the right time, percussion massage therapy can also improve performance for athletes, and that includes martial artists. An overview of the research related to massage for sports performance found that massage is effective at delivering the following benefits:
- Decrease cortisol levels
- Reduce shoulder and low back pain
- Improve mood and reduce depression
- Perception of faster recovery time
- Improve neck extension
- Improve shoulder abduction
Various types of massage were used in studies showing these results, but deep-tissue massage delivered from a percussion device may allow you to achieve similar results on your own. Some of these benefits were achieved with consistent use of massage over a period of days, weeks or months.
If you are not convinced yet of the results of percussion therapy, a review study conducted in 2018 looked over 21 studies regarding vibration therapy (which percussion massages are) found that most of the studies show an increase in at least one aspect physical performance (muscle activation, strength, power, and range of motion/flexibility). So it is not just one or two studies that cite benefits, there were many.
Below is our personalized review of the 5 massagers. We have also created a handy comparison chart for you to compare the different massagers if you do not want to take the time to compare and contrast the 5 different percussion massager guns.
Since the original publication of this article, many other percussive massage guns have flooded the market. However, we have not had a chance to thoroughly examine them yet. Therefore, we have not included them in our review. The five below are the most thoroughly examined.
Also, we have an article that helps you in choosing the right massage gun for you, so if you are overwhelmed with the choices, start there.
Percussion Massager Comparison Chart
Max Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)
Stroke Length in milimeters
Exerscribe Vybe Pro
Pleno M 5.0
Our Rating System
Each product will be rated from 1 to 10 black boxing gloves depending on how good it is depending on user feedback. For instance, below is a rating of 9 out of 10 (9 black boxing gloves):
Theragun's 3rd generation percussion massager has 40 pounds (18 kg) of torque/stalled force with up to 2,400 revolutions per minute and 16 mm stroke length. Unlike it's predecessor, the G3 now comes with two speeds, at 1,740 RPMs and 2,400 RPMs. This is adequate power to dig deep into muscles to work out the kinks, relieve tension and even break apart scar tissue. The Theragun G2Pro had a battery life lasting 45 minutes. The Theragrun G3 now has a battery lasting up to 60 minutes.
The Theragun G3 has a stalled force (torque) of 40 pounds, which means you can apply 40 pounds of pressure into the G3 before it stalls. 40 pounds of stalled force is way more than enough for a percussion massager. Most people apply 5 to 15 pounds of pressure when using a massage gun. But if you want more stalled force for whatever reason, try checking out the G3Pro, which has 60 pounds of stalled force.
One HUGE advantage that the third generation Theragun massagers have over their previous version is the adjustable arm, with four adjustable positions. The adjustable arm makes it easy to reach areas that were previously harder to reach by yourself---such as the back.
It's used by athletes and people trying to get in shape as well as gym owners and massage therapists. You can switch between four attachments of different sizes and shapes, each targeting muscles of different sizes. One attachment is designed for bony areas or sensitive spots, so it delivers a gentler touch.
This is a lightweight massager that weighs less than three pounds, so most users find it comfortable to hold for long massage session. You can switch the arm between four positions to easily reach all areas of the body, but there is only one speed. That speed is quite aggressive, so some users find it uncomfortable on the neck and other sensitive areas.
Since our initial review of the G2Pro, Theragun has come out with the G3Pro. The latest one has added a second speed of 1,750 revolutions per minute and has extended its battery life to 75 minutes per battery. It also comes with two batteries. You can also apply 20 pounds more force than the Theragun G3. The newer model is made to operate with much less sound also. However, with the addition of these features, it is also $200 more expensive than the G3 as of the latest edition of this article.
We have a full comparison table that explains the differences between the G3 and G3Pro, go take a look at if if you are interested.
Exerscribe Vybe Pro (Editor's Choice)
With 60 decibels, 33 pounds of stalled force, 12 mm stroke length, 12 speed settings, 5 attachable massage heads, a 3 hour battery life, and up to 3,400 percussions per minute, this device is the perfect blend of all the features of other top massagers.
At 60 decibels a minute, it will certainly be quieter than many massagers. So if noise is a concern for you, this is great.
With 12 speed settings, this massager has more variable speeds than the other massagers on the list. The minimum speed is at 1,800 RPM and the maximum speed is at 3,400 RPM, making it just as fast as the Pleno 5.0.
Although 33 pounds of force/torque doesn't top this list of ours, it is enough to give you a deep penetrating massage that will relieve aches and pains in 5-10 minutes.
If you are interested in something with a little more force/torque from Exerscribe, they have another percussion massager that has around 60 pounds (27 kg) of force, called the Vybe. That would give it almost twice as much force as the Vybe Pro.
In addition to the 60 pounds (27 kg) of force, the original Vybe has 6 speed settings, 3 attachable heads, and goes up to 2,500 RPM. However, the downside is that it is a little loud, getting up to 100 decibels.
Pleno M 5.0
We originally reviewed the Pleno M3 when we first published this review. However, since our original publication, Pleno has really stepped up its game and released the Pleno M 5.0. The newest version promises 3.5 hours of battery life, with up to 9 speed adjustments, three more than the Pleno M 3. The newer version also has much less noise. And if you saw my review of the Pleno M 3, it was definitely noisy.
If you look for products with solid reviews from other buyers, the Pleno M 5.0 may meet your standards. It routine exceeds the expectation of buyers and receives five-star ratings from massage therapists as well as at-home users. This was the first percussion massager to offer nine speed settings, and it gives you maximum flexibility when selecting the right amount of power for each part of your body. This is a big advantage if you want to use your massager on sensitive areas of the body that don't do well with excessive power.
While the Pleno M 5.0 comes with four massage heads that are easy to switch on the arm, two of the heads are the standard ball of the same size. The massager weighs about the same as the version 3.0 at 4.5 pounds (2 kg). But unlike the Pleno M 3, but the newest version does not feature an adjustable arm. So if that matters to you, you might want to get the older version. It's also a bit cheaper than some competing massagers, so the power delivered for the price is quite impressive.
Hypervolt by Hyperice
Hyperice is quickly becoming a major player the "physical recovery" space with the addition of its newest brand ambassador, Naomi Osaka. Along with name recognition, they also make great products. Their massage gun is no exception.
Many people who find the Theragun G2/G3 Pro too loud and powerful appreciate that the Hypervolt vibrating massager is quieter, faster and more adjustable. The arm percusses up to 3,200 times per minute and delivers a powerful force to release pressure deep in your muscles. You can switch between three speed settings and four head attachments, which makes it easy to adjust the shape and size of the head as well as the amount of force delivered to each area of your body. If you want to use a percussion massager on your neck or other sensitive areas, this adjustability gives the Hypervolt massager an advantage over single-speed competitors.
The Hypervolt massager weighs less than three pounds and features an ergonomic design that makes it easy to grip for long massage sessions. It comes with one rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can last up to three hours per charge.
We feel that the combination of the ability to adjust speeds, the 3,200 maximum percussions/revolutions per minute, and the long 3-hour battery life makes it the best in its class.
Hyperice just released their Hypervolt Plus, which features a 13 mm stroke length (compared to 10mm for Hypervolt) and is 30 percent more powerful thanks to a bigger motor (90 watts versus 60 watts). But it is also $100 more expensive. So if you need more power and longer strokes but want to stick with Hyperice, check the Hypervolt Plus out.
TimTam Power Massager
If you want to enjoy the benefits of deep-tissue massage while sticking to a budget, the TimTam Power Massager is slightly less expensive than other highly recommended options. It has gotten some noise in the martial arts world because Firas Zahabi talked about it.
The reduced price is likely due to limited power and accessories, but it's still a quality product for entry-level users. You'll receive one massage head in the box, and you can buy others separately. The included head is a round bulb that is suitable for most muscle groups.
If you find other percussion massagers too powerful for tender areas of the body, you may appreciate that this massager only goes up to 2,500 revolutions per minute. It has a single power setting and is easy to use right out of the box without reading pages of instructions. The arm rotates 90 degrees, giving you multiple positions to easily reach every area of the body. The massage heads go on easy and stay on securely due to a unique threaded shaft.
There you have it, this is our review of the 5 best percussion massaging guns on the market right now. It is a little on the expensive side so if you are not ready to make such a big commitment but still want to massage your muscles, we recommend a vibrating foam roller. We reviewed 7 of the best on the market---click the link below to see the reviews: