Theragun Massage Blues
“I will give up my Theragun when they pry my cold dead fingers from around it!”
Have TheraGun – Will Travel
The Theragun Massage Blues. In a classic Seinfeld episode entitled The Masseuse, Jerry begins dating a massage expert who gives the most incredible massages to everyone she touches, including Kramer, who related “Oh my God Jerry – she has the hands of a goddess!” and George, “THAT was incredible!” Yet when it is time for boy-toy (Jerry) to get one of these transcendental massages, the masseuse is always tired, run down, worn out, beat, exhausted.
Jerry is losing his mind and becoming increasingly obsessed. He craves and expects a deep tissue massage administered by his expert lover. Yet every time he brings up getting a rubdown, or even alludes to it, his pathetic pleas falls on deaf ears. His pleading is immediately met with a flat “No!” followed by a ‘take-it-or-leave it’ excuse. Eventually, the massage-starved Seinfeld breaks it off with the master masseuse. Jerry and I have some things in common.
After getting rave reviews from some normally cynical athletic friends, I obtained a Theragun Pro massage gun by Therabody. I am a big fan of massage (and hydrotherapy) and have great past experiences with massage as a restorative mode and a stress reliever.
My intention was to test-drive the Theragun device, find out what therapeutic purposes it might have for the hardcore resistance trainer intent on accelerating the time it takes to regain hemostasis. The quicker the athlete attains hemostatic normalcy, the quicker the athlete can engage in another body-shattering, result-producing training session.
What should the serious athlete expect from a massage device? Could a portable massage device accelerate the healing and recovery process that needs to take place after every successful progressive resistance session?
A tool is just a toy if it does not genuinely improve some aspect of the athletic process. I know massage works as an athletic adjunct – but was the Theragun a tool or just another feel-good toy? I intended to find out.
Sprint genius Charlie Francis massaged his top runners before and again after training sessions. He used the pre-workout massage as a way for him to gauge the runner’s readiness for the session. If during the pre-workout massage he felt (literally) that the athlete’s muscles were too tight or “knotted,” he would cancel the session or change the content of the session.
Francis used post-workout massage to dislodge toxins and waste products created by the just-completed workout. Massage reduced injuries, accelerated recovery, and reduced trauma-induced post-workout soreness.
I had heard wonderful things about the Theragun from athletes/friends whose opinion I trusted. Could the Theragun speed the recovery curve? I was not really interested in another feel-good tool.
No sooner had the device arrived then my wife and girlfriend of 25 years, Stacy, took advantage of my inherent spaced-out inattention and immediately began experimenting with the sophisticated device.
The Theragun had differing percussive speeds that were augmented with different “tips,” end pieces that are attached to the Theragun body. The tips range from broad and wide to thin and pointed.
Stacy was particularly impressed with the technological support provided. As she related to me, “The Therabody app for iPhone is incredibly comprehensive. It provides a wide range of tactical options.” She wanted to experiment with the idea of pre-workout massage, this as a way to improve the about-to-happen workout.
“I was intrigued by the idea that individual body parts could be massaged, warmed up, ahead of different activities. (shades of Charlie Francis) Some of these activities are sports specific, while others relate to overall health and well-being.” Insofar as connectivity, the Theragun met and exceeded her expectations. “The other interesting feature of the app is its ability to link to health and fitness apps through Bluetooth compatibility.”
“The Therabody app ‘learns’ from real-time activity and behaviors. These health and fitness apps recommend guided, personalized wellness routines.” Stacy used the tool to accelerate the healing of her own body. She maintains a hyperactive lifestyle. “I am physically always moving. I push my body every day: I powerwalk, lift weights, use the CrossCore, muck stalls, haul water buckets, toss hay bales, ride horses…all parts of my body are taxed and overloaded on a regular basis.”
“I am learning the body part-specific routines to heal beat-up body parts. I use the Therabody app to target neck, shoulders, back, legs, hip flexors, and feet. I have a myriad of options to address my multiple areas of tightness.”
The Theragun is also used as a sleep inducer. “I tried several of the activity specific routines identified in the Therabody app, including the ‘sleep routine,’ which I found quite relaxing and most certainly could and world promote sleep for those finding it hard to sleep.” Effective massage deactivates an overactive mind, allowing relaxation that must precede the onset of sleep.
“Lately I have been using the Theragun as a prep tool for the next taxing activity ahead of me. This has given me the ability to push my body harder and longer during the course of a day.” There is an array of accessories that make targeted use easier. The multiple tips and the adjustable arm of the Theragun Pro allow me to reach any massage point, no matter how small or remote on my body.”
“With four different arm settings on the Theragun Pro, I can get to all parts of my back, even the hard-to-reach middle back. The multiple tips include a dampener (my default tip,) a large ball, a standard ball, a thumb tip, and a cone tip. The tip on the Theragun that I use the most is the dampener, which has a round, flat surface area.”
“The cone tip has been helpful in targeting reflexology points on my feet, especially on the tiny toes.” Stacy has customized some of the uses. “I step outside of the pre-programmed app when I use the dampener tip on my belly to massage my digestive track, thus aiding in relieving digestive discomfort due to my Crones.”
“The dampener tip allows me to massage reflexology points on the arch of the feet, which, if massaged accurately, will free up the digestive track. The cone tip can reach much smaller reflexology points, the individual toes can be percussed, relieving neck/shoulder tightness.”
Simultaneously, she has been using the Theragun on her many clients, students, even her animals (everyone except Marty!) Stacy is getting excellent feedback from both species.
Stacy explained why the percussive massage was so effective. “I am a longtime personal trainer, mainly for 50 to 80-year old demographic. Most come to me with extreme tightness. This is an impediment to obtaining optimal form in the different exercises we do on a regularly reoccurring basis.”
“Most older trainee’s postural and mechanical function becomes impaired. This limits range of motion. The Theragun gives me the ability to temporarily take away the tightness and this releases the tension and opens-up bio-mechanical pathways. The Theragun enables them to regain movement, their joints become relaxed and released. Now we exercise!”
“I find that when I work with the 50+ crowd, there are common points of tightness. The Theragun is far more effective at loosening tight muscles (before training) than stretching on cold muscles. Typically, I will use the Theragun on a trainee’s neck, back, hips, knees and calves prior to a workout.”
“The massage-induced relaxation has an amazing benefit: it removes excess tightness, instantly provides a greater range of motion and increases mobility. I find that my clients become more efficient in their training and this improves training session results.”
Stacy uses the Theragun to help a longtime friend afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. “Her muscles preferentially over-fire on the right side of her mid-back, causing her to lean terribly to the left. The Theragun has given me the ability to relax the overfiring muscles on the right. I then use KT tape supportively. This gives her short-term relief from the lean and the ability to then train her movement in a more balanced way.”
Another friend suffers from severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome that continually impedes her training. “Internal discomfort can be extreme enough to cause the left side of her back and her right glute to overfire in response to the discomfort. I have been able to use the Theragun to release these overfiring muscles. Massage creates a short-term balanced pathway. This gives me a training window: while the window is open, we work to strengthen stabilizers in a more balanced way.”
Massage is not just for humans. “I am a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. I work with all different types of horses, in varying states of fitness. I own two horses; one has severe muscular imbalances. I also work with client horses that have muscular imbalances. Horses, unlike people, cannot talk about or describe their discomfort.”
“I have learned horse bodywork and horse chiropractic work over the years. Chiropractic protocols release tightness leading to better balance that allows the horse find better balance. The Theragun has given me the ability to accelerate these methods and become a great pre-workout tool. I use the Theragun on my horse prior to a training session. I use it on myself prior to a riding session as I find pre-workout massage promotes better relaxation under saddle and on saddle.”
When horse and rider are relaxed, great training sessions occur. “My big horse has tight shoulders and hips. Her left hip is slightly rotated downward with an overfiring right glute, causing the rotation of her left hip to be slower than her right. This adversely affects the functionality and mobility of her shoulders.”
“The Theragun has given me a greater ability (than all other methods) to target the tightness in her body and release over-firing muscles. This has resulted in a horse that comes to her work happy and not worried. Her body can work more effectively and efficiently under saddle. This is helping me build new horse muscle and better neuromuscular pathways.”
I have a great yearning for my wife to massage my tight-ass parts with the Theragun, especially my feet. I suspect there is a single trigger point on one of my toes that, if hit with the Theragun pointed tip using just the right pressure and frequency, will unleash a gusher of psychological trauma dating back to my childhood and this will change me as a person moving forward. That is my hope. Stacy is considering it, but she is quite busy as of late.
To purchase a Theragun massage device visit Theragun by Therabody on the IRON COMPANY website here.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.