I lived most of my life – up until a few months ago – oblivious to the existence of massage guns. I generally addressed post-workout stiffness with…more workouts. And whining.
Research shows that using a massage gun can relieve delayed-onset muscle soreness, like the achy pain I feel when getting up from a chair the day after lunges. (You should see me try to hobble down the stairs when my legs are sore. Pathetic.)
Yesterday I finished a bruiser workout – mostly consisting of lunges and squats – and essentially crawled to the couch in exercise-induced paralysis. I had read about massage guns and used them sparingly. Well, I thought. This is probably the most delayed-onset muscle soreness I’ve had in years. Time to break out the massage gun.
The question is, which massage gun?
Massage Guns for Beginners
If you’re new to the whole massage gun scene like I am, you may wonder whether it matters what kind of massage gun you use. Aren’t they all the same?
That’s originally what I thought, but I was surprised by the myriad of massage guns on the market. Some of these guns are huge, handheld machines, while others are compact enough to fit in your back pocket. You can find a massage gun on Amazon for 40 bucks (though not recommended!), or you could spend several hundred dollars on one.
It’s no use trying out a cheap product if it won’t help your muscle soreness. But you may be hesitant to jump the gun on a big expense without knowing whether you’ll like the treatment.
Choosing the Right Massage Gun
What makes a massage gun “right” is not its price but its performance. Some of the best-made, best-priced massage guns might not be right for you if they don’t match the performance needs you have for the device.
Too Tough for Me: The Kraftgun
For example, if you’re small and bony like I am, the sheer percussive force of a Kraftgun might be too intense to be useful. Although this gun has 3 settings, I can use only the lowest one, and I have to keep it to large muscles such as my quads and glutes. Even the lowest setting is too much for my traps or calves, which are plenty tight, but too slim to absorb the power of a handheld jackhammer.
But maybe you need a jackhammer. If you’re a large person with considerable muscle mass, an athlete, or even a bodybuilder, you might be able to use the full range of the Kraftgun’s settings on more than just your thighs. It might be the gun for you!
Know What You Need
The Kraftgun is objectively a great product; besides its power, it’s easy to use and ergonomically designed. At first I thought the gun was cumbersome, but when testing it out on my back and glutes, I appreciated the roomy handle and ample footprint. It’s easy to maneuver the gun to hit different angles in awkward spots, even if you’re not super flexible (a good possibility, considering how jacked you’d need to be to use this).
The quality of the product aside, because this gun’s performance mismatches my needs, it’s the wrong choice for me. Not only am I losing out on the full range of massage settings, I’m unable to treat all the muscle groups I need to.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend the Kraftgun for a massage gun “beginner.” It’s pricey, powerful, and potentially too one-dimensional to provide multiple benefits.
Massage Gun for Beginners: The Bob and Brad Mini
The size of a water pistol, the Bob and Brad Mini is the antithesis of the Kraftgun in many ways. Both guns are well-made and capable of lactic-acid-annihilating power. However, the Mini is far more nuanced in its settings.
Low Settings for Delicate Areas
When I first tried the Mini, I was unimpressed. Having been traumatized by the Kraftgun, I had set the Mini to its lowest setting and glued it to my quads. The percussive force was rapid but not deep, and I felt like I was just getting repeatedly poked in the leg by an especially hyperactive child.
That lowest setting was perfect for my upper traps, however, which are difficult to massage otherwise (the tennis ball method always results in an accidental launch).
I swapped out the bullet head for the foam ball and started working on my sore shoulders, particularly the inner muscles that are somehow perpetually tight and tender at the same time.
Such a small gun is perfect for targeting smaller muscle groups in crowded areas, such as my shoulders and pecs. I could even use it to massage my neck muscles, too, which many of us crave after long days of hunching over a computer in forward head posture.
High Power Capabilities
But after my crazy workout, I needed a deeper massage for my legs. So I decided to up the intensity and see if the Mini could bang out my aching quads.
The verdict: absolutely. This gun is small, but it packs a powerful punch. Bumping it up to levels 4 and 5 sufficiently “hurt so good” that I could actually walk up and down the stairs again.
So even though the lowest setting was too wimpy for my meatiest muscles, the higher settings got the job done, and I was able to massage all my target spots with one device.
A Multi-purpose Massage Gun
The Mini’s size and settings make it much more versatile for all kinds of massage needs. However, you may find that it’s too small for hard-to-reach areas (such as the center of your back) without the long handle customary to most massage guns.
A Good Compromise: The Bob and Brad Standard Massage Gun
While Bob and Brad’s Mini is a great gun, it’s not the only option in their massage arsenal. Their Standard massage gun is the size and shape of typical models, yet with the build quality, user-friendly design, and value-for-money as the Mini.
Because the Standard gun is a heftier gun, it can attain higher rpms than the Mini (3200rpm, as opposed to the Mini’s 3000). That’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough to put the Standard ahead of the Mini in terms of speed and intensity.
Although the Mini is strong enough for me, the Standard might be a good option if you want to kick things up a notch beyond the Mini’s level 5. Plus, the long handle gives it a further reach and you an easier time massaging behind your back.
Massage Guns for Beginners: Conclusion
From my brief foray into the massage gun realm, I’ve concluded that the best massage guns for beginners are ones that offer a wide range of settings and attachments, not the brawniest one on the market. Either Bob and Brad gun will help you relieve chronic pain, break up knots, and soothe post-workout muscle aches.
But if it’s not your first rodeo and you know you need a gun that can deliver the upper echelon of percussive power, look no further than the Kraftgun – which you can buy at a discount with this coupon.
Need advice on choosing a massage gun head? Check out this article!
This article was written by Naomi Benecasa, a cellist with a Bachelor’s in Music Performance and a Master’s in Music Psychology. Fascinated by fitness and fermentation, she provides copywriting and editing services for PTProgress from her home in New York.