The Theragun Elite is a powerful percussion massage device that has helped both me and my wife relieve painful muscle tension, stop muscle spasms and recover quicker after strenuous workouts.
After having used another percussion massage therapy gun (the Exogun DreamPro) for over a year, we switched to Therabody’s Theragun Elite a couple of months ago.
In this review, I’ll share my impressions of the device and give you an idea of how the Theragun Elite compares to its siblings (the Theragun PRO and Theragun Prime), as well as some of the other popular brands on the market (including Hypervolt).
The Theragun Elite is an effective percussion massage therapy gun with excellent ergonomics, a powerful yet quiet motor and great battery life. It’s the best massage gun I’ve ever owned.
Before we get into the details, let’s talk about the basics!
What Is Percussion Therapy?
The maximum force (or “stall force”) of the motor that’s built into the Theragun Elite is 40 pounds. That means the motor will turn off if you apply more than 40 pounds of pressure.
Depending on your threshold for pain, 40 pounds is plenty of pressure to get the desired therapeutic results — especially when compared to the amount of pressure massage therapists can create using their hands.
However, there might be certain cases involving larger muscle groups where more pressure would be beneficial (especially if you have a high pain threshold).
My glutes and quads are the two strongest muscle groups in my body, and I have a relatively high pain threshold. As a result, I tend to be fairly aggressive with the pressure I apply when using Theragun on these areas. Despite that, I’ve never stalled out the device during normal operations.
The Theragun PRO and Elite have a force meter built into the OLED display.
If you feel like you need even more pressure than the Theragun Elite can deliver, you can always opt for the Theragun PRO, which offers 60 pounds of maximum force.
Both the Theragun Elite and Theragun PRO have a force meter built into their display so that you can see if you’re getting close to the device’s maximum force threshold.
Battery Life and Charging Time
According to Therabody (the company that makes Theragun), the device lasts up to 120 minutes on a full charge, depending on the speed setting and the amount of pressure you apply. I assume you’ll only get the full two hours out of a charge when using the device on the lowest speed setting, but I haven’t done exact measurements yet.
While Therabody includes a regular charger in the box, you can get a wireless charging stand* for $79. The advantage of the wireless charging stand is that it looks neater and it makes it a bit easier to charge the gun, because you don’t have to mess with cables.
My wife and I dislike the sight of cables cluttering up our desks and counters, so we’re seriously considering getting the charging stand.
Charging the battery from 0% to 100% takes approximately 110 minutes using either the charging cable or the wireless charging stand.
What I Would Improve
No product is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. If I was in charge of product design, I’d replace the glossy side panels with matte versions because the glossy design collects fingerprints and is more prone to scratching.
I’d also like to see improved battery life, which I’m sure everyone who doesn’t have the convenient wireless charging stand would appreciate.
If you own the charging stand and you dock the gun after every use, you’ll be perfectly fine; after all, I doubt you’ll massage yourself for longer than two hours at a time.
I don’t have the wireless charging stand and I don’t like loose cables, so I end up just throwing my Theragun into our “recovery basket,” which also holds our PowerDot, a scraper tool and some other stuff we frequently use after intense workouts. As a result, it doesn’t get charged until it’s out of juice — and sometimes that means it’s not available when I want to use it.
The charging stand alleviates that problem because it provides a tidy storage solution that ensures the device is always ready to go.
Pricing (Is the Theragun Elite Worth It?)
Theragun Elite is one of the best percussion massage therapy guns on the market, and both its build quality and pricing reflect that.
The Theragun Elite costs $399 and is wedged between the more basic Theragun Prime ($299) and the commercial-grade Theragun PRO ($599).
While that’s certainly a good chunk of money, I think the Theragun Elite is worth the price tag if you’re a serious fitness enthusiast (like I am) or even a professional athlete.
It’s also worth the investment if you suffer from chronic muscle pain due to injury or an accident, and if you use it instead of or in combination with going to a massage therapist.
For example, the average price of a deep tissue massage is somewhere between $90 and $110. If you do the math, the Theragun Elite would only cost you as much as four massages. But considering that you can expect to get several years out of your Theragun, you can save a lot of money with this percussive therapy device.
Theragun Mobile App
What I didn’t realize at first was that the Theragun has a built-in Bluetooth radio that you can use to change the device’s settings via a companion mobile app. The Theragun app can even integrate with Apple’s HealthKit and Strava to automatically recommend recovery programs after strenuous workouts.
Additionally, you can choose from an extensive catalog of wellness, warm-up, recovery and body part-specific programs that automatically configure Theragun’s settings (such as speed).
I’ll show you some examples of what that means in the next two sections.
The Therabody app is available for iOS and Android. After registering for an account and confirming your email address, just turn on your Theragun to pair it with your phone via Bluetooth. Once complete, you can answer a few questions (e.g., what type of workouts you perform on a regular basis) to help the app to get to know you better and recommend customized programs.
How to Use Theragun for Warmup and Activation
Using Theragun for warmup and activation is a straightforward process. All you have to do is “float” Theragun over the muscles you want to warm up for 30 seconds each.
After you’ve had Theragun for a while, you’ll get to know which attachment to use and what percussion speed works best for a given muscle. But when you’re new to the device and/or new to percussion massage therapy in general — or if you want to discover new ways to warm up for an upcoming workout — I recommend checking out Therabody’s mobile app.
For example, if you want to warm up your body for a weightlifting session, you can find the corresponding program in the app’s catalog.
As you can see in the screenshots above, the program recommends what muscle groups you should warm up and what attachment you should use. The app also tells you how long the warmup routine is going to take.
Additionally, the app guides you through the entire sequence and lets you know when to switch from one area to the next.
I’ve noticed that by using Theragun before CrossFit workouts, I have to spend less time and expend less energy on traditional warmup routines and I’m “ready to go” much quicker.
How to Use Theragun for Recovery
Using Theragun for recovery is similar to using it for activating your muscles. However, instead of 30 seconds, you should spend about two minutes on each muscle. The idea is to elicit sufficient oxygenated blood flow to reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness.
As with the previous example, the Therabody app is a great resource to guide you through the process. The app even tells you how to grip Theragun for the best ergonomics, and how much pressure you should apply for maximum effectiveness.
So even if you’ve used percussion massage guns in the past, I recommend letting the app guide you for a few sessions so you get a better idea of how much pressure is necessary to achieve the desired results.
Theragun Devices: Side-by-Side Comparison
While I’ll cover the differences between the Theragun Elite and Theragun PRO in more detail in the next segments, here’s a top-level comparison of all the Theragun models, including the Theragun Prime and mini.
|Motor||QX150 professional grade motor with QuietForce technology||QX65 proprietary brushless motor with QuietForce technology||QX65 proprietary brushless motor with QuietForce technology||QX35 proprietary brushless motor with QuietForce technology|
|Max no-stall force||60 lbs||40 lbs||30 lbs||20 lbs|
|Active torque control||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Amplitude||16 mm||16 mm||16 mm||12 mm|
|Speed range||1,750 – 2,400||1,750 – 2,400||1,750 – 2,400||1,750 – 2,400|
|Battery life||300 min||120 min||120 min||150 min|
|Weight||2.8 lbs (1.3 kg)||2.2 lbs (1.0 kg)||2.2 lbs (1.0 kg)||1.4 lbs (0.65 kg)|
|Warranty||2-year limited warranty||1-year limited warranty||1-year limited warranty||1-year limited warranty|
Theragun PRO vs. Elite vs. Prime
While the Theragun Prime, Theragun Elite and Theragun PRO are quite similar, there are a number of distinct differences between these devices.
The Theragun PRO is Therabody’s commercial-grade massage gun. It offers the most powerful motor and maximum no-stall force (60 pounds). Unfortunately, the QX150 professional-grade motor is also the loudest.
Besides those differences, the performance specs of the Theragun PRO are pretty much in line with the Elite and Prime. In other words, you can get an excellent deep tissue massage out of all three devices.
From a usability perspective, it’s worth noting that the Theragun PRO offers a rotating arm to reduce hand and wrist strain. Additionally, Theragun PRO comes with two external lithium-ion batteries that provide a whopping 300 minutes of total usage. That means you can charge one battery while using the massage gun and then just swap it out.
That’s a great feature for physical therapists or chiropractors to reduce the number of devices they need when treating multiple patients back-to-back.
As far as the number of attachments are concerned, the Theragun PRO comes with six because it includes the Supersoft attachment (which you won’t get with the Theragun Elite or Prime).
While I’m quite satisfied with the performance of my Theragun Elite and I appreciate how quiet it is, I wouldn’t mind having the swappable battery packs. That way, I could always have one battery charged and never risk having a dead battery because we forgot to plug in the device.
Theragun Mini vs. Theragun PRO, Elite and Prime
The Theragun mini is quite different from the brand’s other three percussive therapy devices, as you can tell by its form factor and weight. In a nutshell, the Theragun mini is meant to provide portable, on-the-go relief instead of assuming the role of your primary percussion massage device.
The mini’s small profile means you can easily throw it into your gym or travel bag. While I don’t own the Theragun mini and have no hands-on experience with it, I bet it makes a great travel companion; just imagine getting a quick deep tissue massage after a long flight or car ride. I surely wouldn’t mind that!
The downsides of the Theragun mini include its relatively low maximum no-stall force of 20 pounds and the reduced amplitude of 12 millimeters.
Additionally, the Theragun mini comes with only one attachment (you can purchase more if you like), and it doesn’t have any smart capabilities (such as app integration and Bluetooth connectivity). Plus, it has only three built-in speed levels instead of five.
Theragun Elite vs. Theragun G3
The current Theragun Elite is a fourth-generation device that offers a few important improvements over the previous generation (G3), including:
- 75% quieter motor.
- Double the battery life.
Theragun PRO vs. Theragun G3Pro
Similar to the Theragun Elite, the latest-generation Theragun PRO offers the following improvements over its previous generation (G3Pro), including:
- 55% quieter motor.
- Double the battery life.
Additionally, the 4th generation Theragun devices also feature an updated design with blue accents, a Bluetooth radio for the mobile app integration and an OLED screen that displays the current battery life, RPM setting and a force meter.
Theragun Elite vs. Hypervolt
Hypervolt is another popular percussive massager (available in two models) that I’ve seen some athletes use.
While I don’t have any hands-on experience with the device, here’s a quick comparison table based on its specifications and a chat with the company’s customer support:
|Theragun Elite||Hypervolt||Hypervolt Plus|
|Percussions per minute||Up to 2,400||Up to 3,200||Up to 3,200|
|Battery life||120 min||180 min||180 min|
|Travel case||✓||Not included||Not included|
|Max force||40 lbs.||N/A||N/A|
|Weight||2.2 lbs.||2.5 lbs.||2.5 lbs.|
Unfortunately, Hyperice (the company that makes the Hypervolt) isn’t incredibly forthcoming with some of the device’s key specifications. For example, the company doesn’t share the amplitude or stall force, two major factors in percussion therapy.
Speed and Percussions per Minute
Hypervolt offers three distinct speed settings, delivering 2,000, 2,600 and 3,200 RPMs. In comparison, the Theragun Elite offers a customizable speed range (five speed settings) ranging from 1,750 to 2,400.
You can certainly debate whether more speed settings or a higher speed is better. I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, but I think higher speed settings desensitize the skin faster than lower settings, thus potentially reducing the effectiveness of the percussion massage.
One of the most important things I’ve learned while testing different percussion massage devices is that the popular pistol grip isn’t very ergonomic and causes your hands and wrists to fatigue quickly.
Additionally, the pistol grip makes it almost impossible to apply enough pressure when massaging hard-to-reach muscles, such as the ones on your back.
As a result, I would no longer recommend getting a massage gun with a pistol grip.
Hypervolt’s battery is listed as lasting up to three hours, but according to the company’s own FAQ, you can expect about two hours on average.
That’s pretty much in line with Theragun’s battery life.
Amplitude and Stall Force
When I pressed the company to release the stall force, they responded with: “Ok so we don’t measure stall forces because the motors are made to withstand any force.”
What a load of crap! That’s physically impossible.
When I pushed further, I got the following (more reasonable but still unsatisfactory) response:
We currently do not have that measurement available. Here at Hyperice, we measure the power of our products with the combination of factors that we found were optimal for use on the human body, including percussions per minute (up to 3200), battery life (3.5 hours) and our brushless 60-watt motor.
Our engineers and product team has undergone a lot of testing and our Hypervolt does not stall under use on the human body, and we have found the pounds of pressure is comparable with others on the market. If you have any other product questions, we would be happy to answer them!
I’ll try to get my hands on one of these devices to see if I can gauge the real stall force and amplitude. For now, I wouldn’t buy from a company that is incapable of releasing such basic information.
Hypervolt is available for $349 directly from hyperice.com or for $359.99 on Amazon*. The Plus version is $50 more expensive but includes a 90-watt motor instead of the 60-watt motor that comes in the standard device.
Note that if you buy Hypervolt on Amazon, you also get a travel case!
Theragun Elite vs. Exogun
Before getting the Theragun Elite we used the Exogun DreamPro for over a year. While we never had any issues with the device, I heard about hardware problems and bad customer support from several of my readers. As a result, I no longer recommend Exogun despite its attractive pricing.
|Percussions per minute||Up to 3,200||Up to 2,400|
|Battery life||240 min||120 min|
|Amplitude||16 mm||16 mm|
|Max force||60 lbs.||40 lbs.|
|Weight||2.5 lbs.||2.2 lbs.|
As you can see in the table above, the Exogun has several advantages over the Theragun Elite — at least on paper.
Based on my hands-on experience with both devices, I’d recommend the Theragun over the Exogun for several reasons, including the quality of the materials, the customer support and the ergonomics.
Now, if you’re on a budget and can’t spend more than $200 on a massage gun, the Exogun could be an option. If that’s your plan, make sure to use code MICHAEL10OFF to get an extra 10% off*.
However, as I mentioned above, I’ve heard from several Exogun customers who received a defective unit and then had to argue with customer support to get a replacement or their money back.
I ordered two Exoguns (one I gave to my sister-in-law) and haven’t had any issues with either, but your mileage may vary.
Percussion Therapy vs. Regular Massage
If you’ve been leveraging regular massages for recovery, you might be wondering if percussion therapy is more or less effective than a traditional massage.
From a scientific perspective, both vibration therapy and regular massages are equally effective in the prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness, according to a study from 2014.
|Improves recovery and soreness||✓||✓|
|Involves human touch||✘||✓|
But the effectiveness of each method isn’t the only factor to consider. Getting a massage involves human touch and often a tranquil environment with essential oils and soothing music.
You can replicate the latter while using a percussion gun, but it’s not the same as being touched by another human.
On the bright side, massages are usually expensive and the cost involved quickly exceeds that of the price of a percussion massager.
The other advantage of using a device like the Theragun is that you can use it pretty much any time, without the need to make an appointment and wait for availability.
Of course, this doesn’t need to be an either/or choice. While my wife and I will continue using the Theragun as part of our recovery program, we’ll also continue getting massages from time to time.
When to Use a Percussion Massage Gun
When the first percussion guns came to market, you had to have a good reason to buy one, considering their price tag. As a result, such devices only made sense for certain groups of people (like professional athletes).
Now that you can get a high-quality massage gun for under $400, more people can enjoy their benefits.
So here are some of the use cases I see for cordless massage devices like the Theragun:
- As an alternative to recreational massage therapy or soft tissue massage.
- If you suffer from chronic muscle pain.
- To loosen up your lower back or neck muscles (for example, if you sit a lot).
- As a recovery tool for professional or amateur athletes.
- As a general muscle massager (for example, if you have tired legs at the end of a long day at work).
I started using Theragun before workouts, to get the blood flowing and to get my muscles prepared. I also use it after workouts if I feel sore or if I tweaked something. Additionally, I use my percussion massager at my desk when I feel like my neck could use a low impact massage.
Can Theragun Cause Damage?
The motor in Theragun is pretty powerful and so it’s only reasonable to wonder whether this massage gun can inflict tissue or muscle damage if used inappropriately.
It should go without saying that if you have a broken bone, a strained muscle or a torn ligament, you should exercise caution and not “go to town” on the affected area with a massage gun. If you do, you can certainly cause further damage or slow down the healing process.
So if you’re injured, consult a knowledgeable physical therapist before considering percussion therapy.
Additionally, I recommend consulting a medical professional if you’re on blood thinners or if you’ve been diagnosed with atherosclerosis. If you have issues with blood coagulation and rupture a blood vessel during percussion therapy, you might bruise, and that could lead to complications.
Additionally, there have been cases of ischemic stroke caused by massaging the neck area (but without the use of a massage gun) around the carotid artery. The hypothesis is that massaging large blood vessels that already have arterial plaque can cause the plaque to dislodge and lead to a stroke. I don’t know how common that is, but if you’re concerned about it, you should avoid using the massage gun on the area around your neck.
With all of that said: if you’re healthy, free of injury and simply want to use percussion therapy as an alternative to traditional massages, the risk of inflicting any serious damage is minimal. Massage guns are used by millions of people, and so far, I’ve only seen a handful of case reports that correlate the use of massage guns with health issues.
I should also mention that there are articles on the internet claiming that massage guns can cause ruptured blood vessels, stretched collagen and elastin fiber, damaged muscle fiber, increased nerve sensitivity and other risks. However, I have yet to see any credible evidence to back up these claims, in cases where the massage gun is used appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do Theraguns last?
While the battery life of a Theragun ranges from somewhere between 120 to 300 minutes, you can expect to get several years out of your device, depending on how often you use it. If you use your Theragun in a commercial setting, I recommend choosing the Theragun PRO, which offers a two-year warranty.
Is Thereagun like foam rolling?
Both Theragun and foam rollers are excellent tools for myofascial release to reduce pain and soreness. The advantage of foam rollers is that you can target large muscle groups using only your bodyweight as pressure, whereas the Theragun is easier and more effective for targeting specific areas because it penetrates muscles deeper and with more intensity.
Can I use a percussion massage gun on my kids?
Our kids have used massage guns on both their own bodies as well as on ours. Some brands recommend their devices for adult use only, but as long as you’re careful, I don’t see why kids over a certain age can’t use it.
I don’t think they need percussion therapy, but I also don’t think it’ll do any harm.
Is percussion therapy better than a massage?
Based on scientific studies, both methods are equally effective in reducing muscle soreness. So it’s ultimately a personal choice of which method to use. From a financial perspective, I prefer percussion therapy, but I enjoy human touch more than using a device.
What’s a brushless motor and is that important?
A brushless motor uses electromagnetic force to operate. That makes it less noisy and more efficient. Some of the cheaper massage guns on the market use brushed motors. As a result, they’re louder and offer less battery life. So I’d recommend staying away from those.
Can I use third-party attachments with Theragun?
I haven’t seen any third-party attachments that work with Theragun.
Why do I have to charge Theragun before I first use it?
As far as I know, battery priming isn’t necessary. Based on what I know about batteries, this strategy was only useful to older battery technologies, such as nickel cadmium (NiCd). Lithium ion batteries have max capacity available from the beginning, and you don’t need to charge them before the first use.
Is percussion therapy better than electrical muscle stimulation?
Both percussion therapy and EMS are excellent tools to speed up recovery by increasing blood flow in the affected areas. That’s why I regularly use both my PowerDot (EMS) and Theragun when I’m in pain due to injury or soreness.
The advantage of percussion therapy is that it’s potentially more impactful, depending on how much force you apply. On the other hand, EMS offers a hands-off approach and it can be more convenient because I don’t have to apply any pressure and, instead, can focus on doing something else (e.g., having dinner).
In a nutshell, both methods have their use cases and what works best for you will depend on your personal preferences.
Theragun Elite Review: Wrap-Up
I’m no longer a professional athlete whose livelihood depends on physical performance, nor do I suffer from chronic pain. As a result, physical recovery isn’t my top priority and I usually don’t mind if I’m sore after a strenuous workout. In other words, I don’t use my Theragun every day.
But I can tell you that when I feel the need for a massage, I’m grateful that I have access to a tool that relieves muscle pain quickly and that I can use without depending on something else to help.
To me, that makes Theragun one of those gadgets that while I never knew I needed it, I would no longer want to go without it.
Do you own a percussion therapy gun, or have questions about the technology? If so, let me know by leaving a comment below.
I’m a healthy living and technology enthusiast.
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Theragun Elite Review and Comparison by a CrossFitter is written by Michael Kummer for michaelkummer.com