What to Look for in a Massage Gun
There are a plethora of features in the most recent generations of massage guns. Whether you’re already in an active lifestyle, want to get healthy, or are just the average couch potato looking to relieve aches and pains, the options are plenty—and confusing. So let’s break down some of the essential things to look for.
- Stall Force: With several thick muscle zones in your body, reaching the deepest areas can be challenging for just the average massager. This leads to a potential lack of blood flow in a pre-workout regimen or just stifling relief in the core of your sore muscles. Paying attention to the stall force in a massager can be crucial for the best results. Stall force (also called “no-stall force”) is the amount of pressure (measured in pounds) that is applied to an area of muscle before the motor stops. A good stall force level for everyday users is 40-45 pounds. Runners and weightlifters might look for 50-60 pounds of force. You will want something that will hold up to a considerable amount of pressure, so looking at a gun with a higher number of stall force is essential.
- Noise Level: Manufacturers quote the noise level of the device in decibels (dB). This can range anywhere from 10dB to 70dB. Some manufacturers won’t quote the level itself, instead referring to the grade of the motor used or the fact that it’s brushless. Brushless motors typically deliver a softer sound as they need less power to work. Consider where you’re going to use your massager. If you want to use it in a busy gym, a noisy version might go unnoticed, but it will certainly be apparent in a quieter area.
- Weight: It wouldn’t seem as though something only weighing a few pounds would be a deciding factor, but when you hold the tool for an extended period—especially in hard-to-reach areas—the weight can become quite a hindrance. Nearly all massagers weigh less than three pounds. The average weight is 2.2 pounds. Weight plays a factor in the power of a massage gun as well. Smaller, more portable brands will have smaller motors, generating less power. So it’s wise to consider how you’ll use yours and how portable you would like it before purchasing.
- Amplitude: Also called “stroke length,” this is the distance traveled by the massage gun head as it percusses. The higher the amplitude, the more penetrating the massager’s head will feel to the muscles. Anything below 10 millimeters will be classified as a “low amplitude device.” These are typically low-cost models and will not offer a deep-tissue massage. “Medium amplitude devices,” ranging from 10-13 millimeters, are where many massagers reside. They are less “rough” to sensitive users who may find “high amplitude devices” (14-16 millimeters) a little more harsh on their muscles. They are also a good choice for average users who don’t need the maximum results as athletes do or are looking to save a few dollars on their model. But those seeking a solid deep-tissue massage for the most significant relief need to look into those with high amplitude.
Best Overall: Ekrin B37S
- ✓ A company founded by athletes
- ✓ Long battery life
- ✓ Retroactive force meter
- ✓ Lifetime warranty
- ✗ Stroke length could be better
- ✗ No removable battery
Created by athletes, the Ekrin B37S takes home the prize as the best overall percussion massage gun for four reasons. First, it has what is known as a retroactive force meter. This feature helps you keep track of the force you are applying with the help of LED lights at the top of the unit. Next is the battery life. Boasting eight hours between charges, which is at the top of usage time in the industry, the B37S will be able to last you long into several workouts or pain relief sessions. Thirdly are the six lockable attachment heads. And finally, the B37S is lightweight but doesn’t sacrifice power. The unit weighs 2.2 pounds yet still cranks out nearly 60 pounds of stall force.
Why the B37S over the B37?
The flagship of Ekrin is its B37, which is not a bad model to look into if you’re looking at something a little more cost-effective. But there are several reasons why the B37S is the superior massager:
- The B37S has more stall force that’s spread out through a progressive system.
- As mentioned above, the B37S features lockable heads as the B37 does not.
- Also mentioned above is the retroactive force meter, which is missing on the B37.
- It has two more attachments (six) to the B37 (four). Additional attachments are available on Ekrin’s website.
For both everyday and active lifestyle users, look no further than the Ekrin B37S.
Best Premium: Theragun PRO
- ✓ Rotating arm
- ✓ Six attachments
- ✓ 60 pounds of stall force
- ✓ Two removable batteries
- ✗ Pricey
- ✗ Bulky to hold
- ✗ Heavy at 2.9 pounds
This next one has all the bells and whistles. The Theragun PRO has an OLED screen with a force meter. The rotating arm, which is hard to find in any massager, gives you easier access to difficult-to-reach areas. Like the Ekrin B37S, the Theragun PRO comes with six easy-to-clean attachments.
The Theragun PRO also has two impressive features. The first is that it comes with two removable batteries, each packing 150 minutes of usage. The other is Bluetooth, which enables you to measure force, change speeds, follow on-screen usage guides, and track session information. Additionally, once you pair these devices to your smartphone, you can adjust the speed via the app.
If you have the extra funds to invest, you won't be disappointed with one of the best the market has to offer.
Best Budget: Cryotex C
- ✓ Six-hour battery life
- ✓ Lightweight at two pounds
- ✓ Strong stall force
- ✗ Foam ball attachments which could wear our fast
The hidden gem in this list is found in Cryotex. Out of their three variations of this unit (A, B, and C), the Cryotex C is the most tech-heavy of the group. The C sports a touch screen control on the back of the unit and a second LCD screen at the base of the handle that gives the battery percentage. For the price, it is nice to see that Cryotex didn’t skimp on the attachments, as all three of their models come with six like the big names do.
What really makes this model stand out is its speed settings. Cryotex C not only has four normal speeds, but it also has four new dynamic modes:
- AI: This auto adjusts the speed based on the pressure applied.
- Incline: Increase waving speed.
- Decline: Decrease waving speed.
- Flow: This offers random speeds between low and high.
Cryotex makes owning one of their massagers affordable, but doesn't skimp on power.
Best for Active Lifestyle: Opove Apex
- ✓ Very affordable
- ✓ Seven-hour battery life
- ✓ 50 pounds of stall force
- ✓ Great ergonomics
- ✗ Only One-year warranty
- ✗ No pressure sensor
Initially, Opove began to build a name for itself as a copycat of a company known as Hypervolt. None of Opove’s designs were original. Not so with the Apex, though. The Apex utilizes a very comfortable, lightweight, and ergonomic style with a premium feel to the materials it’s made of—which also makes it comfortable to hold and use.
When you factor in the Apex’s extremely-affordable cost and its features, it’s easy to see why this is the best choice for athletes. Opove included a 14.5 millimeter amplitude to go deeper into the muscle tissue. This is maximized by its ergonomics. Also, 14.5 millimeter—along with its 50 pounds of stall force—makes this one of the strongest massage guns on the market. The controls also aren’t overcomplicated (there are simply three speeds), so you don’t have to stress about settings and can focus on relief or stimulating blood flow in the pre-workout. The battery life is top-end at seven hours. The Apex also comes with six attachments.
Cost effective, simple to use, and lightweight, the Apex will work well for those who run, lift, or work out; whether casual or dedicated.
Best Travel Size: Ekrin BANTAM
- ✓ Ultra lightweight
- ✓ Six-hour battery life
- ✓ USB charging
- ✓ Powerful
- ✗ Slightly louder than most
- ✗ No wall plug included
If you’re on the go and don’t want to miss out on your workout or are just stiff from flying or driving too long, Ekrin has the perfect model for you. Coined by some as the “Theragun Mini,” the BANTAM packs a punch at 10 millimeter amplitude and 35 pounds of stall force. Being 50 percent smaller and lighter than the standard Ekrin, you’ll barely know you’re holding it. It can last you up to a week on a single charge. The BANTAM comes with an included USB-C charging cable, which allows for super fast charging and can be hooked up to many different devices and plugs to charge. Even though it’s compact, Ekrin included four attachments. You’ll also get the company’s lifetime warranty just as if you purchased the BANTAM’s big brother, the B37S.
Ekrin enters the list a second time with their small, but mighty, mini massager.