Active Recovery

*This* Amount of Time Is the Sweet Spot When Using a Theragun on Sore Muscles

Rebecca Norris

Photo: Getty/Tom Merton
When it comes to making the most of a workout, many trainers and instructors will tout the importance of stretching before and after the sweat sesh. While good old-fashioned manual stretches are able to boost blood flow all on their own—which effectively enhances muscle ability during a workout and recovery after one—nowadays, there are tools to aid you in your quest for feeling loose.

First came rollers. Whether in the form of a long foam cylinder or spiked devices that were meant to trigger pressure points, these muscle-rolling mechanisms have the same goal in mind: to increase circulation, ultimately leading to faster recovery and better performance. The benefit of these devices over traditional stretching is that, unlike static stretches that work to improve flexibility, mobile stretches, which are a form of self-myofascial release (SMR), work to eliminate tension throughout the muscle, which leads to even more flexibility.

But there’s more. Following foam rolling’s success, wellness tech brands started to think of ways to offer even better recovery to fitness fanatics across the world. And thus, percussive massage devices were born. Where foam rollers offer SMR, percussive devices introduce deep muscle stimulation (DMS). While the devices have been around for a while for elite athletes, they’ve only recently become available to the masses via brands like Therabody. By sending deep vibrations through the muscles, these devices are able to alleviate soreness, reduce tension, increase blood flow, boost mobility, and create overall feelings of euphoria. (Seriously, they feel incredible).

But see, that’s the thing: When something feels that good, how do you know when to stop? After all, could using a percussive massage device for too long lead to more harm than good? That’s what we’re here to uncover today.

How Long Is Too Long When it Comes to Percussive Massage Devices?

Prepare yourself—you’re not going to like the answer. According to Therabody founder, Jason Wersland, DC, you should only use a percussive massage device on any area of the body for up to two minutes at a time. Ignoring this rule can lead to bruising. While that may not seem like that big of a deal, the creation of tenderness in any single spot can potentially inhibit your ability to workout as fiercely. That said, long-term ailments aren’t likely to occur should you decide to look past the two-minute rule.

Just because more severe side effects aren’t likely doesn’t mean they’re not possible. According to certified trainer and senior director of product development for the American Council on Exercise, Lauren Shroyer, MS, ATC, using percussive massage devices in one spot for longer than intended can potentially lead to more severe damage to the tissue. “It is important to remember that more is not better,” she says. “Listen to your body: Pain or discomfort is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong.”

A Final Word

While two minutes in any one spot is the limit recommended by fitness professionals, that’s not to say that you can’t cater to an entire area of the body for longer. For example, targeting your glutes might require placing the device in two to four places across the surface of your rear—and that’s fine. Just be sure to only leave the device in one exact place for two minutes at a time.

That said, if you’d like a more tailored approach to each area of your body, Therabody has you covered. Within the Therabody app, users can cycle through a variety of different massage sequences that explain exactly where and how long to place the device on each area of the body. That’s because, while two minutes is the limit, it’s not always necessary to massage for that long (even if it feels good). Rather, that’s the recommendation specifically for recovering muscles following a workout.

As for preparing them, Wersland says you can get by with less time. “It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish, not the specific area of your body,” he says. “For activating the muscles, we recommend you use it for 30 seconds per muscle, in three, 10-second increments—10 seconds on the origin of the muscle, 10 seconds on the insertion of the muscle, and 10 seconds on the muscle belly.” Check out their site for videos on how exactly to use the Theragun on different parts of the body.

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