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Intimidated by Massage Guns? Here’s How to Use One Effectively

Massage guns have become a very popular, trendy recovery device in the health and fitness space due to their ability to deliver percussive, vibration therapy from anywhere. This type of muscular therapy may help your body bounce back faster and better after a grueling training session, and also can help your muscles prepare for a workout as part of a warm-up routine. We’ve covered many of the best massage guns on the site from the Theragun to the Hypervolt, Theragun alternatives, cheap massage guns and even mini massage guns. Like any tool, especially one you use to care for your body, it’s crucial to know how to use it correctly. That’s why we’ve created a Spy guide for how to use a massage gun, whether you’re looking to work it into your post-run routine, want to pump up a certain muscle group before a lift, or simply make sure you’re not hurting yourself with a scary looking device. We’ve got you.

Editor’s Note: Before adding any new healthcare regimen, supplement or remedy to your routine please consult your doctor, physical therapist or other healthcare professional. 


Benefits of Using a Massage Gun

Using a massage gun comes with many potential benefits, if you know how to use it correctly. They may help with recovery by stimulating blood flow to a certain area. They’re designed to relax sore muscles through stimulating something called the Golgi tendon organ (GTO) structure within muscular systems that inhibits contraction. They also may be able to override the sensation of pain within a sore muscle through vibrating at just the right frequency to interrupt it within your nervous system. This phenomenon is known as the “pain gate theory.”

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They also may help expand your range of motion when used before or during a workout. Since massage guns are still a relatively new product, there’s not a ton of hard scientific evidence to back up the benefits of massage guns. However, some initial studies have shown promising results.


Theragun Prime

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Courtesy of Therabody


How Do Massage Guns Work?

Massage guns operate sort of like a power tool for recovery, so to speak. They’ve got a motor inside that powers a percussive massage gun head that pulsates up and down on your muscle, penetrating beneath the surface tissue and working intramuscularly to stimulate blood flow, relax muscles and help your body recover.

Our entire body has a network of soft tissue that’s connective and holds everything in place called fascia. When you work a muscle really hard or even injure a part of the body, that fascia’s consistent patterns of growth can get interrupted. Percussive therapy helps to break up these adhesions in fascia so the tissue can growth back together in correct patterns, rather than in the form of scar tissue.

Many massage guns reach deep into the tissues to maximize the benefits, the Theragun, for example, reaches 16 millimeters into the muscle. Many of them are wireless, built with multiple speeds you can choose from as well as multiple massage gun heads you can switch between depending on which part of the body you’re targeting.


How Do You Use a Massage Gun?

Massage guns can be used before, during or after a workout. We’ll go into more detail about the nuances of each of those below. To use one, turn it on and let it pulse a few times to get a sense of the speed and power and aim it directly at your skin. Make sure you’re only using it on the thickest part of a muscle — like your back, glutes or quads — and avoiding all joints.

Move it along the muscle for 5-10 rotations and then switch to the other side or a different muscle. Avoid lingering in one spot for too long, and avoid any spots that cause pain (not in the good way). A 5-10 minute session is usually all you need.


How Do You Use a Massage Gun Before a Workout?

Although massage guns are typically thought of as recovery tools, using one before a workout can be incredibly beneficial, and help you warm up. They can be very helpful in bringing blood flow to the area, and the pulses are also turning on your sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response that prepares your body for any kind of activity or sport endeavor. If you’re going to train a specific muscle group that day, you’ll want to aim the massage gun at that muscle — pecs for bench press, glutes for squats, etc.


Hyperice Hypervolt GO

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Courtesy of Amazon


How Do You Use a Massage Gun During a Workout?

If a muscle starts to feel tense or tight during a workout in between sets, hitting it with a massage gun for 10-15 seconds may help increase blood flow, loosen the muscle up and pump it up for the rest of the workout.

How Do You Use a Massage Gun After a Workout?

After your workout is probably the time you feel most compelled to use the massage gun, since it’s designed as a recovery tool. Turning on your massage gun and gently moving it along muscle groups can help relax your body and move it from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system after a lot of movement, effort and force. 90-120 seconds is mostly what you’ll need to make this happen, along with deep breathing, stretching and proper hydration.

How Often Should You Use a Massage Gun?

Most massage guns will come with instructions for how long you should use it and for how many days in a row. A general rule of thumb is every day for a maximum of 10 minutes should be okay, but this will vary depending on your body, activity level, injury profile, etc.

Also, using it for too long on a specific muscle can lead to sensitivity and damage, so avoid resting on any area for more than 90 seconds at a time, or spending an entire massage session on one muscular area.

Sportneer Deep Tissue Massage Gun

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Courtesy of Amazon


addsfit Mini Massage Gun

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Courtesy of Amazon