Welcome to Take My Money, a column where we geek out about our favorite products.
I have a rich history with routine deep tissue massage, which I swear it’s not as luxurious as it sounds. There’s nothing glamorous about having someone dig their elbow deep into your hamstring as you attempt to squirm into any angle that might provide a shred of relief from the searing pain.
Of course, as a college athlete, I never would have signed up for said massage had it not been pre-scheduled by my athletic trainer. See, I’ve always been great at putting the hard work in. Hill sprints, heavy deadlifts, circuits with way too many burpees in them—no problem. But ask me to ice bath or foam roll for ten minutes, and I’ll pass nine times out of ten.
It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of recovery, it’s just that more often than not I’m too lazy to partake in what I know is good for me. But that was before I started getting old and creaky. I’m no grandma, but I am old enough to notice that my body doesn’t recover as fast as it did in my early twenties.
My ache and pain woes have sent me searching for simple recovery techniques and tools to start building some discipline. Like a message from the universe, Theragun in its many shapes and forms dominated my search. Touting deep-tissue massage anytime, anywhere at the price of a session or two with a good masseuse, I had to give it a go. At a third of the cost and size of the ever-popular Theragun Pro, the Theragun Mini seemed like the perfect place to start. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s Good About the Theragun Mini?
Easy to use
The typical deep tissue massage involves at least an hour per session, plus travel time to and from the facility. For someone with a to-do list a mile-and-a-half long, working a massage into my schedule is no easy feat. That’s where the Theragun Mini comes in. It condenses the extensive (but important) process of working out your muscles into an experience that can be taken anywhere. Do it in front of the TV at night and you don’t miss a beat.
I was concerned about how the performance of the Mini would stack up to more advanced Theragun models. But I can confirm, whether your goal is to loosen up before heading out for a jog or to work out knots and stiffness after a hard workout, the Theragun Mini delivers. Offering similar output of percussions per minute to Theragun’s more advanced models (1750, 2100, and 2400 PPM), decent amplitude (12mm as opposed to 16mm), and three different heads it’s anything but the watered-down version I was expecting. Just 10 to 20 minutes is all I need for problem spots to feel refreshed.
I had few requirements when looking for the right massage gun, but the last thing I wanted was a heavy piece of machinery. At just one pound, the Mini is certainly not my parents’ honkin’ Homedics massager from the early 2000s—which always seemed to tire out my forearms before delivering much relief. With the lightweight Mini, I’ve had no problem getting through sessions of fifteen to twenty minutes.
It comes with a soft shell carry case, which besides not having room to hold the extra massage heads or charger makes it convenient to throw in a carry-on bag. Plus, it’s so quiet. I’ve used it on an airplane, in the back of the car, and at multiple family movie nights without worrying about the noise bothering anyone around me.
Uses expand way beyond workout recovery
Though I was fine with having a simple relationship with my Theragun Mini—you know the TV turns on at night, I put a few minutes in, we call it a day—once I downloaded the Theragun app I couldn’t help but invite my Mini into different moments in my day. The app is loaded with guided massage routines designed to be used before and after specific workouts (like golf and swimming), after a long day stuck behind your desk, or to relieve specific problem spots.
Choose one and your Mini follows along by providing the right speed at the right time, while you follow along with the instructions on where to apply the pressure. Since downloading the app, I’ve found myself trying out a pre-run warmup, jet lag recovery, and work-from-home routine—each left me pleasantly refreshed.
What’s Not Good About the Theragun Mini?
Let’s address the elephant in the room: $199 isn’t pocket change. But what eventually made me pull the trigger was the features for the price. The Mini offers a shockingly close experience to Therabody’s more advanced (and expensive) massagers. You would never find me laying down $599 (the cost of the Theragun Pro) in the name of a glorified toy, but I could bite for $199.
If the price is too steep, consider the Theragun Mini 1. It only comes with only one massage head and doesn’t connect to the Bluetooth app; but, it offers the same performance features like battery life, amplitude, and speed as the second generation for $149.
You have to charge it
I mean, this is a given, but a bummer when you’re ready for a session and realize your massage gun is dead. Thankfully, with a decent battery life of 150 minutes, the most I ever needed to charge it was once a week. I was also delighted to find the charging only took an hour—which means relief is only a mere episode of The White Lotus away.
Not the best for hitting every spot and angle
Even though it makes it easier to hit most spots—even the ones hard to reach by hand—the unique design of the Mini isn’t ideal for hitting every single one. Namely, the hard-to-reach upper back. With a classic Theragun, the multiple grips and adjustable angle makes it easy to deliver the perfect hit. This is where the Theragun Mini misses the mark. The good news: all you need is the help of a friend to hit your upper back. I was able to reach everything else on my own.
Doesn’t offer the deepest muscle penetration
Before buying the Theragun Mini, like any good shopper, I of course did some investigating. I discovered the amplitude of the Mini (12mm amplitude) was a little less than Theragun’s more advanced models (16mm)—which means it won’t penetrate your muscles quite as deeply.
Of course, you can dig deeper by applying more pressure to tough spots, but the Mini can only handle 20 pounds of additional force before it stalls. I found that even when digging into my tightest spots (and trying to get it to stall) I never once experienced this issue. Better yet, I was never left feeling like I needed more. However, if deep tissue massage is what you’re after, you might want to consider the Pro, Elite, or Prime.
The Bottom Line
The Theragun Mini offers relief from sore muscles in minutes—no foam rolling or expensive deep-tissue massage required. If you want to up your recovery game, it’s a great, no-frills option that easily slips into your day and is small enough to pack away in a bag. However, the cost is steep, so unless you plan to use it often it may feel more like a luxury than a necessity. It felt like that to me, until I bought it. Now I don’t go a day without using it.