The MuscleGun Carbon isn’t cheap, but it’s well made and offers impressive muscle relief
- Five speeds
- Excellent carry case
- Targeted and speedy muscle relief
- Not cheap
- No USB-C charging
- App could offer videos too
If you want to get top results in the gym or while training for a big race, your actual performance on the day is only part of the puzzle. Recovery and prep are also important and, according to sports scientists, finding the best massage gun can help you (figuratively or literally) go that extra mile.
While you can spend anywhere from £35 to £500 on a massage gun, MuscleGun Carbon has a mid-range £190 price. Coupled with excellent flexibility and performance, it’s a package that’s pretty hard to beat.
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MuscleGun Carbon review: What you need to know
Massage guns offer what is known as “percussive therapy”, where a handheld device repeatedly pummels problem muscles far faster than human hands can. In this case, it’s between 1,400 and 3,200 times per minute.
Endorsed by pro athletes, the idea is that a blast with a massage gun before and/or after exercise can boost circulation and lymphatic drainage, reducing swelling as well as encouraging better performance, flexibility and recovery.
And while scientific studies are somewhat limited, they certainly do seem to have benefits, even if the marketing claims sound a bit too good to be true. One study of 40 people found that massage guns offer similar results to manual massage and potentially better results than the dreaded foam roller.
For non-professional athletes who don’t have dedicated masseuses on call after every workout, that’s the key thing. It may be pricey but if it delivers similar results to paying a sports masseuse after every session, it still offers good value for money.
MuscleGun Carbon review: What do you get for the money?
Inside the MuscleGun Carbon box, you’ll find a neat, compact carry case containing the product itself, four interchangeable heads and a mains charger.
The four heads are for different muscle groups, and the svelte manual gives you an introduction into what each one is for. The firm ball is your jack-of-all-trades head, designed for “general use and large muscle groups”, and will likely be your standard go to.
But the others have their uses, too. The fork – which looks like a stumpy bow-legged tuning fork – is designed for working on your back muscles either side of the spine, while the flat dampener is aimed at “firmer muscle groups or concentrated areas of bone mass” such as the shoulders, quads and hamstrings. The final one – the bullet – is for smaller muscle groups and trigger point therapy.
All of this (and the charger) fits neatly into the moulded case ensuring it zips up easily after each session. The MuscleGun Carbon itself weighs under a kilogram, and this, combined with the carry case’s compact 290 x 230 x 90mm dimensions means you may not even give the smaller travel version a second glance.
There’s also a free app called “Deep” for iOS and Android that offers guided exercises and focus techniques to get the most out of your usage. While this is a nice freebie (there’s nothing stopping non-MuscleGun users downloading it, too), it only offers a mixture of audio and diagrams, so it would be nice if some video tutorials were included too.
MuscleGun Carbon review: What’s it good at?
There’s an awful lot that the MuscleGun Carbon gets right. First of all, it offers a lot of power and a decent amount of flexibility. The four heads are easily switched over, and by pressing the button opposite the head, you can switch between five speeds offering between 1,400 and 3,200 repetitive strokes per minute.
MuscleGuns – the company behind MuscleGun – says that its research found most massage guns are either painful to use or offer little noticeable benefit. The Carbon has been calibrated to avoid this with 44lbs of stall force (i.e: how much pressure it takes for the motor to stop) and up to 12mm depth (i.e: how deep the massager can penetrate the muscles).
For me, I would say that’s been a success, and I certainly felt the difference in recovery after elliptical training and outdoor runs (even if I needed to work up to the full level-five power.) Not only did it feel nice when administered but I certainly felt less stiff the next day – although obviously it’s hard to measure this scientifically.
Battery life is also stellar, with the MuscleGun Carbon offering up to five hours’ use from a full charge of its 2,550mAh cell. Given the instructions in the accompanying manual recommend use times of between two and four minutes per muscle group, that’s ample.
Finally, although I’ve already talked about the carry case, it’s worth restating: it’s extremely portable and everything fits in neatly without needing to stuff it all in.
MuscleGun Carbon review: What could be improved?
In truth, not an awful lot. Some rival units come with more heads but I think the four provided are enough for amateur use and offer variety without being overwhelming. Some of the best massage guns also come with Bluetooth connectivity, which is absent here, but I’m not sure it’s a massive loss if it keeps the price down.
Speaking of money, the price could be lower, but you are getting a quality, well-built product – and given the company offers a 90-day money-back guarantee, there’s no real risk in seeing for yourself whether it offers the performance to justify that price.
In fact, the only real quibble I have is the fact it uses a DC connection on the charger when a USB-C lead would have made it easier to take on the road without needing to bring an extra plug along. Notably, the cheaper MuscleGun Carbon Go uses USB-C, so it doesn’t seem to be an impossible wish.
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MuscleGun Carbon review: Should I buy it?
The MuscleGun Carbon certainly isn’t priced in the impulse-purchase range but in terms of build quality and performance it offers a pleasing middle ground between the suspiciously cheap models and their prohibitively expensive peers.
If you want to dip your toe in the water, you may fancy the cheaper MuscleGun Carbon Go for £130 but note this model has a more intense starting speed of 2,000 percussions per minute, rather than the more gentle 1,400 on offer here.
Whichever you choose, MuscleGun offers a 90-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no reason not to give it a go. However, my guess is that you won’t be taking them up on that offer.