I have always been a very active guy. I won’t say I am particularly fit or anything but I always seem to have this extra physical energy to burn. If I don’t exercise for a few days, I get grumpy. A bit like when someone is hangry… Yes I know, “hangry for some exercise” doesn’t sound as cool as I would have hoped. I like challenging my body and maybe this energy partly comes from being addicted to the pain I get when I stress my body properly. Theragun, less so today, was once huge on their Instagram game. You would see the pro athletes and fitness model ad posing with this triangular device pounding their muscles every other post on your feed. I am sold on the better recovery better performance theory, although in my head – “definitely not for £275.”
Did some quick browsing on Amazon, there are hundreds if not thousands of this type of massage gun going for £50. At the end of the day, a vibrating ball-head is not exactly high tech.
The first thing I found is that, the knockoffs massage gun is usually in a T-shape rather than the Theragun’s triangular shape. Most likely because of the patent issue. Although I find the T-shape works well, I can imagine the triangular shape with the battery leaning forward brings the centre of gravity of the whole device closer to the attachment head. That should give you a bit more control with the device and maybe less energy trying to hold/manoeuvre it. The triangular shape also gives you more ways to grip the massager so you may find it easier to massage places like your back. There are still knockoff models that have funny shapes to try to mimic that handling, but I can’t say for sure if they work just as well or just increasing the weight unnecessarily.
So the recovery idea is very similar to deep tissue massage like foam rolling or some other pain hell that your physiotherapists put you through, increase the blood flow to the muscle to carry lactic acid away and increase nerve stimulation to downregulate the nervous system (I guess it’s a bit like, make you suffer until you are a bit numb to it). But instead of sustained pressure, it gives a very frequent short burst of pressure to achieve the same results. It doesn’t hurt as much so that’s why it gets more praise from those of us who find it unfair to endure any more torture after the workout itself. Apparently, they are capable of creating up to 60 pounds of pressure so you should just float the device over the muscles and no need to apply any external pressure.
What’s the benefit
The main selling point is aid recovery. To be fair, I do find that I get less pain when I have been using the massage gun straight after my workout, especially in my legs after my running or cycling training. Although I seem to find a noticeable difference when I tried to only used it on one side of my body, I recently found out from my podiatrist that my right leg seems to be weaker than my left. So now I can’t be sure whether the difference is from the imbalance of my weight distribution or the miracle recovery machine.
Some also advertise the benefits of reducing stress levels. I mean isn’t it the definition of all massage products. I am not the type of person to manifest stress levels anyway so I can’t be the judge here, but I certainly don’t get stress out by the product so I guess it does its job?
If you look on Theragun’s website, they have this “protocol” for a few sport disciplines. They advertise the use of the massage gun for warm-up. Scientifically speaking it adds up, if the machine increases blood flow to that specific muscles group using mechanotransduction, it will achieve the same results as a traditional warm-up. But I would argue apart from warming the muscles, warm-ups are meant to get your heart rate up in preparation for the increased circulation demand, and the massage gun doesn’t do that. Or at least they are not meant to…
I like the product idea. I always love a good massage, and instead of paying a therapist per hourly session, you have a portable massage on-demand kind of gig going on. But unlike the pros, I think for the majority of us mere mortal the benefits probably remain in the very superficial level of having a massage. I certainly don’t train like any pro athletes, their intensity isn’t something you can just copy, but I do train hard while I am at it. I don’t feel any significant difference in my recovery time or performance. Maybe when you are competing at the professional level, you will benefit from the marginal gains. If you are at that level, you are not taking advice from a dude on the internet, you are already getting guidance from professional physiotherapists and sports scientists. For the rest of us, unless again your wallet is an endless pit, getting the knockoffs on Amazon will be more than enough to satisfy the need for a good ol’ massage.