A massage gun is a great addition to your workout routine, but to get the best performance it's worth doing some reading before diving straight in.
If you're unfamiliar with massage guns (also known as a percussive massagers), they're hand-held devices similar in shape and size to an electric power drill. Don't let that put you off, though - they're perfectly safe to use, and deliver a soft tissue massage that's as gentle or firm as you like.
The pulsing action breaks up adhesions, encourages bloodflow, and helps clear lactic acid that builds up during a workout.
When you buy a massage gun, you'll usually find that it comes with a variety of interchangeable massage heads designed for different muscle groups. These either twist or push into a socket on one end, and are driven by a motor inside the handle, which causes them to pulse and down.
Consumer massage guns run from a rechargeable battery that typically gives between one and two hours of operation on a full charge. They come in a range of sizes, but if you want one that's convenient for carrying to the gym, the sports club, and the office, we recommend looking out for a small model like the Power Plate Mini+ or Renpho R3 Mini Massage Gun.
Interested in investing in a massage gun? We've rounded up the best prices on a range of devices right here:
First, a word on safety. Be careful to only use your massage gun on muscles – never on bony areas or joints. Don't use it on injuries either – a muscle that's a little sore after a hard exercise session is OK, but not a strain or sprain. Don't use it on broken skin either.
Don't hold the massage gun in one location for more than a few seconds to avoid causing bruising, and if it feels uncomfortable, stop straight away. Using the device should never be painful, and there's no need to use the highest settings if you find them too much.
If you have a health condition such as arthritis, osteoporosis, or fibromyalgia, make sure you speak to your doctor before using a massage gun or starting a new fitness routine.
When to use it
After a workout is the most obvious time to use your massage gun, but that's not the only occasion when it can be helpful To find out how to get the most out of your massage gun, TechRadar spoke to Scott Hopson, Power Plate Master Trainer and Advisory Board member.
"Massage guns apply rhythmical pressure currents to the tissues of our body upgrading tissue quality, fluid flow, and mindset," Hopson told TechRadar.
He suggests using a massage gun to prep before you train, practice, or compete "because it upgrades tissues and gets them ready to move with more quality,". You can use it again post-workout "to stimulate the recovery process ASAP. Flush toxins, decrease pain and stimulate relaxation", and between sessions "to ensure we ‘fee’ our tissues from the stressors of daily life, shutting, and postures that create problems."
Karen Brown, Head of Product Design and Development EMEA at HoMedics (another of the biggest makers of massage guns) also offered some advice on when to use your device.
"HoMedics massage guns are ideal to use pre and post workout to help with any tension and soreness," Brown told us. "They are handy to take with you to the gym and even use mid workout if you feel some tension.
"HoMedics massage guns are also great to relax after a long day at work to re-energize and awaken areas of the body that may have been sat in the same position for a while!
"By offering a range of power settings and a variety of different interchangeable massage heads, each treatment can be tailored to your specific needs, targeting different areas of the body for both rapid results and maximum effectiveness."
Where to use it
When you're ready to start using your massage gun, turn it on before placing it on your skin (switching it on while it's against your body can be jarring), and glide it over the muscle you're working on.
Before a workout, you can use your massage gun to target the major muscle groups you're going to be working and get them warmed up.
For example, if you're preparing for a bike ride, you might use it on your quads (the muscles at the front and sides of your thighs), hamstrings (at the back of the thighs), calves, and lower back. Keep the head of the gun moving, and move on to the next muscle group after a minute or two.
It's the same after a workout; focus on the muscles you've been using, and glide the massage gun across each group for up to two minutes before moving on to the next one.
If your shoulders are feeling stiff during the day, you can use your massage gun to target the trapezius muscle. Take care not to place the head of the device directly over your shoulder blade, and keep it away from your spine.
If you're struggling to reach, one of the advantages of a massage gun is that someone else can give you a helping hand, even if they don't have any experience. Ask them to hold it lightly against your skin and let the machine do the work; there's no need to press down with it. If you feel a 'knot', it's OK to hold the gun in place for about 20 seconds or so to help relax the tissues.
This article is part of TechRadar's Get Fit in 2022 series – a collection of ideas and guides to help get your new year's health goals off to the right start, whatever your current level of fitness.
- We've tested and ranked the best fitness trackers
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)