After the excitement of unboxing my massage gun, my next thought was “okay, how do I use this thing?”.
Massage Gun – When To Use?
I’ve had my Renpho massage gun for almost a year now and it wasn’t clear how (or when!) I should be using it. My first instinct was that it’s a recovery device and can replace my sports massages. However, on the Therabody website it lists pre-workout, mid-workout and post-workout protocols.
- Pre-workout: Muscle activation with up to 30 seconds of quick movement, light to moderate pressure on level 3 (of 5)
- Mid-workout: Muscle re-activation with up to 15 seconds of localised use, heavy pressure on level 4 (of 5)
- Post-workout: Muscle recovery with 90-120 seconds of slow movement, moderate to heavy pressure on levels 1-2 (of 5)
I mention 5 levels because some massage guns have upwards of 20 different settings, a little excessive!
Massage Gun – Which Head To Use?
A standard gun comes with 5 or 6 attachments and I’ve written up this handy guide for which head to use.
N.B: The note for the abdomen is “Not immediately after eating, 5 minutes maximum, remain standing”
The Bob & Brad recommendation for pre and post-workout is no higher than level 3. Personally level 3 is sufficient for muscle activation, and contrary to my instinct levels 1 and 2 are enough for post-workout recovery. Remember, it’s not necessary to use the highest setting, or even to apply excessive force with your hand.
If you want to see the gun in action, Theragun have a whole “how to” playlist on YouTube (see below).
Still on the fence about whether you should buy a massage gun? I asked a qualified therapist her recommendations, and her response was surprising. She’s sponsored by a company that sell percussive therapy devices, yet she doesn’t use them at all on herself or any clients. Why? She said to have a look at the research, which doesn’t take long.
Massage Gun – Research
- Only one study used percussive massage prior to 2020, and they applied it mid-workout, finding no difference in “rate of fatigue” compared to resting .
- Percussive massage for 5 minutes improved calf muscle range of motion, though comparable results have been found with self massage and stretching [2, 3].
- Mid-workout massage gun use resulted in around a 10% increase in total reps of the bench press across four sets 
- Post-warmup activation of the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves resulted in no significant difference in vertical jump height 
- Several literature reviews conclude that post-workout it’s similar to manual therapy (trigger ball, foam roller), while pre-workout there’s a short term increase in range of motion and no difference in power output [6, 7]
In conclusion, the current literature states that massage guns have limited performance benefit, but are another suitable tool for post-workout recovery.
For an in-depth review of the current massage guns on the market, I highly recommend the channel BeforeYouBuy.