While recovering from a catastrophic motorcycle accident in 2008, Dr. Jason Wersland conceptualized what would become the first Theragun. Through his endless tinkering, Wersland continually refined the device and eventually launched the first consumer version in 2016, pioneering the percussion massage gun category. And while the category is now chock full of competitors, Wersland and his team at Theragun continue to strive to be the gold standard.
Over the past three months I’ve tested a handful of percussion massage guns, including Theragun’s newly launched mini and Elite devices, and also the fourth iteration of their flagship model, PRO.
Each device in the Theragun lineup has pros and cons but overall they’ve succeeded in offering an option no matter your budget or wishlist. As their top - and most expensive - model, the PRO features the most powerful motor with the option to customize your preferred speed, has the longest lasting battery (as well being replaceable), a fully adjustable arm, an assortment of attachment pieces, and an extra year of warranty.
I tested each of the units before and after a variety of ride and run workouts and races and came up with my own list of pros and cons, with focus on the PRO model.
Pros: Multiple attachments, powerful motor, improved noise reduction over previous years PRO models, deep penetration to break up even the most ornery knots, ergonomic handle, long lasting battery life, easy-to-use Therabody app.
Cons: Too powerful to use on tender/sore muscles, quieter than previous models but still fairly loud, most expensive in category.
A few years back, I vividly remember walking the halls of the Denver Convention Center at the Outdoor Retailer trade show and hearing the jackhammer-like sound made by those first edition guns. The sound was defining, yet there was also no denying the motor was powerful enough to blast even the most ornery of knots. It sure helped to melt away some of the stress those tradeshows always seemed to cause. Now, compare that early edition PRO next to the current year model PRO and it is easy to hear the noise level has been greatly reduced. So kudos to the team at Theragun for identifying that and overhauling the motor. However, you’d still have to be oblivious to plop down in front of the TV with the family and not expect eyerolls directed at you.
Aside from the noise, the main drawback to the Theragun PRO - other than price - is that it was too powerful for me to use on extra sore and tender muscles. On a few occasions, typically after a long hard run or ride that broke down my muscles, I was unable to take the combination of the powerful motor, the speed and the amplitude hitting those tender spots. The PRO unit comes with a dampener attachment, which did help a little, but more often than not, I’d just wait till the following day to go over those muscles and focus on other muscle groups in the meantime.
Hands down my favorite times to use the Theragun PRO were before a workout and before bedtime.
Once kitted up I would go over my body and hone in on areas that were notoriously tight and would typically take longer to loosen up (hip flexors, glutes and IT band for me). It greatly reduced, or eliminated altogether, the need to warm up, a huge benefit if you’re time strapped.
Before hopping into bed I’d again go over my body spending 20-30 seconds on each major muscle group. These few minutes were well spent before hitting the pillow.
None of these percussion massage guns are inexpensive but they do serve a purpose for athletes looking to get the muscles firing before a workout, enhancing the recovery process, and easing tension to help reduce some of the stress life might throw your way.
Editor's Note: This article is another in our Slowtwitch Recovery Series. Brands participating in the Recovery Series make contributions financially to Slowtwitch. Theragun is one of the participants in this series.
Photos by @DigitalKnightProductions