This sleek, minimal massage gun is one of the fastest, lightest elite-level devices on the market, so it’s a shame the substandard head attachments spoil the show.
- Fantastic value
- Comparatively quiet
- Huge battery, broad speed range
- Robust carry case
- Disappointing attachment heads
- Basic user guide and accompanying app
- Lacks integration with third-party health apps
- Handle is cumbersome
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MuscleGun is a British brand that has made a big impact since launching in 2019. Voted by reviewers as the best massage gun device on the market, it has ruffled a few feathers in the boardrooms of US recovery specialists Therabody and Hyperice with its relatively low price and top-end percussive output.
The company has two models, the pro-grade Carbon and a slimmed-down portable version, the Carbon Go. Each is currently available with a sizeable discount (although so are the Therabody PRO and Hypervolt 2 Pro at the time of writing). So what’s all the fuss about?
MuscleGun Carbon Review: Price And Availability
Released in November 2020, the MuscleGun Carbon is available for $189 in the US and £189.99 in the UK, and is available direct from the manufacturer as well as third-party retailers. Chief among its rivals, the Therabody PRO has an RRP of $670/£549, while the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro has an RRP of $399/£379.
MuscleGun claims its Carbon device can achieve results quicker than a sports massage or professional foam roller, because of its ability to deliver 44lb (20kg) of force and up to 3,200 strokes – or percussions – per minute (PPM). That’s 500 beats faster than the Hypervolt 2 Pro and 800 more than the Theragun PRO.
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The company also boasts that the Carbon is the lightest massager on the market, helping users to recover faster and train harder. It lists Olympic triathlete Alistair Brownlee, former GB Olympic lifter Sonny Webster and adaptive CrossFit athlete Loubi Hawkins among its high-profile fan club.
It’s easy to see why. Upon unboxing the device, there’s plenty to admire. The massager is sleek, minimal and uncomplicated, with a wide-diameter rubber handle that meets its brushed metal, dark grey body. At 2.16lb (980g) it’s relatively light in the hand, 10.5oz (300g) less than the Theragun PRO, and firing up its industrial-grade engine produces a rumble on its lowest speed setting.
The Carbon’s industrial-grade, energy-efficient brushless motor allows the gun to fire at 1,400, 1,800, 2,200, 2,600 and 3,200 PPM – that makes it one of the fastest, lightest elite-level massagers around.
It has been calibrated to deliver an amplitude, or massage depth, of 12mm. By comparison, Therabody’s top-end model taps out at 2,400 PPM, yet produces an amplitude of 16mm and 60lb (27kg) of force. (Note: each brand will insist its device provides the optimal balance of power, speed and depth, but ultimately this will boil down to personal preference and budget.)
On top of the motor, a metallic blue dial surrounds the power button, featuring five LED lights to indicate each speed setting, and another four to show remaining battery life. While it doesn’t operate in “near complete silence” as advertised, it does produce a notably lower, more tolerable pitch than the industry-leading Theragun PRO, even on its top setting.
The Carbon’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery also deserves special mention. One single hour of charge returns an impressive five hours of use – twice that offered by the PRO. This should be plenty for the average Joe, and ample time for massage therapists or elite athletes; however, the battery can’t be swapped for a fresh pack, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the display to ensure your session is never cut short prematurely.
The Carbon comes in a robust black carry case, along with a compact charger and four head attachments: the fork for the muscles running down the spine, a firm ball for large muscles, a flat dampener for firmer muscles, and a bullet to target smaller muscles.
This is one department that I feel lets MuscleGun down. The dampener is made of stiff plastic with no give, and the ball is too hollow, like a flat tennis ball. Like Goldilocks I was looking for a happy medium but unlike the fairytale none of the device’s attachments were quite right.
I was left similarly short-changed by MuscleGun’s accompanying app, called Deep. Part user guide, part educational resource, the app focuses on nine areas from neck to feet, providing voice-guided instructions on how to sweep the device over the muscle fibres for optimal results.
Developed by the company’s in-house team of professional therapists, the information provided is comprehensive, offering insightful points about which direction to use the gun and which of the four attachments to use.
However, again, I felt the user experience fell slightly short when compared with that of Therabody or Hyperice, whose apps are compatible with third-party platforms, such as Apple Health or Strava, to track activity and recommend massage sessions. Therabody’s app is also capable of monitoring force and frequency in-use to ensure you never overdo it.
Is the MuscleGun Carbon Worth It?
Given that Carbon’s hardware stacks up so favourably against its rivals, it’s a shame MuscleGun’s software and head attachments let it down. It is pleasing on the eye and notably quieter than its chief rivals, yet I also found it cumbersome to use and difficult to operate one-handed, due to the distance between its grip and power button.
And while it can claim to be one of the fastest, lightest elite-level massagers around, speed and size isn’t everything. Nevertheless, at almost a third of the price of the Theragun PRO, and lighter, it punches well above its weight. Improved attachment options and enhanced compatibility with third-party apps would quickly nudge MuscleGun into the top echelon of percussive therapy devices.
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.