In an ideal world, we’d all get weekly massages, with bonus sessions on days we’re extra tense, tired, or sore. But with the average appointment costing $100 (and some going way higher), massages are luxuries that are hard for most people to justify on a regular basis. The total time of a session—including the drive to an office, a possible wait, the setup in the room, and the drive home—is another common barrier to in-person massages.
In my last 14 years of collegiate and professional running, I’ve experimented with different massage schedules. During some marathon build-ups, I splurged on a short (half-hour) session every week, while in others, I waited to book until I felt the need for some major TLC. I can’t say that I ever identified the perfect frequency for both my body and my wallet. I can, however, confirm that regular massages are an invaluable tool for keeping legs fresh, torsos relaxed, and whole-body tension in check. (Research confirms those benefits and more.)
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My massage game took a major turn for the better about two years ago, when my husband and I were gifted a handheld percussive therapy device (a.k.a. massage gun). Our new gadget definitely didn’t take the place of a real-life, dexterous masseuse. But it was a great addition to our recovery tool collection, and it gave us an easy way to stay on top of our body maintenance in between appointments. The device turned out to be especially useful during the last year and a half of pandemic life, with practitioners less available than in ordinary times.
Having only extensively used that one device until recently, I jumped at the chance to try out a competitor: the Hypervolt by Hyperice. For the last few weeks, I’ve been testing it out, comparing it to the massages I’m used to, and honing in on my honest opinion. Keep on scrolling to see it all.
It’s small but heavy
Unboxing the Hypervolt, my first observation was the discrepancy between its size and weight. At less than 10 inches tall and 7 inches wide, it’s pretty small, relative to other (non-mini or -travel) massage guns. But at 2.5 pounds, it felt quite a bit heavier than I expected. If you’re only zapping one area for a minute or two, you probably won’t be bothered. But if you’re doing a more extensive massage on your or someone else’s body, or if you plan to travel with it in a backpack or carry-on, you’ll want to consider whether you’d get more out of a lighter device such as the Hypervolt Go.
There’s no learning involved
I appreciate that using the Hypervolt is as simple as switching the device into “on” mode on the bottom, and then pressing the single button on the back to control the speed of the percussion. There are only three speeds to choose from—levels 1, 2, and 3—and you know which one it’s on based on the number of blue dots that light up just above the speed adjustment button.
The grip isn’t very ergonomic
The Hypervolt’s grip itself is nice: smooth, comfortable, and just shy of being too wide. But it becomes apparent pretty quickly that, if you want to apply significant force into the head, you have to choke up on the handle so much that you’re basically holding the center of the unit. At that point, it doesn’t matter how nice the grip is, since you’re not really using it. Alternatively, depending on the area you’re massaging, you can apply pressure with both hands from the very back (rather than the bottom)—although I’m pretty confident that’s not how the device was designed to be used. Either way, the shape of the top-heavy Hypervolt makes it difficult to use the grip as intended, and a little awkward to hold otherwise.
It doesn’t cause a racket
Some percussive devices are so loud when kicked into high gear that they make it difficult to use while also having a conversation or watching something on tv. Not so with the Hypervolt. I don’t know exactly how it works, but the patented "QuietGlide" it’s equipped with definitely makes a difference, volume-wise. It's not as nearly silent as the Hyperice website advertises, but it is quiet enough to be considered background noise, which plenty of competitors cannot claim.
The battery lasts a good while
Two hours may not sound like long for an electronic device, but when you consider that you’ll probably use the Hypervolt for a few minutes at a time, the battery life is actually pretty good. I wound up charging mine much less frequently than my GPS watch, and thanks to the obvious indicator halo at the bottom of the unit—green means it’s charged—I was never caught off guard by a dead battery. If two hours sounds insufficient for your needs, you can always buy a spare battery for $80, which is compatible with both the Hypervolt and Hypervolt 2, and will double your running time.
It comes with more head attachments than you’ll probably use
While the idea of different massage heads is nice, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably end up using the tip you first attach, and either forget about the others or not bother to tag them in. I spent most of my testing time with the round head—it has the look and feel of a small lacrosse ball—and found it worked well on most areas. Whether I was hitting my quads pre-run or working through a knot in my calf, as long as I kept the speed high and pressure up, it got the job done. Other options include a flat disk, a rounded double-prong, a more pointed nozzle-looking tip, and a three-tiered curved head. The Hypervolt also comes with a pouch for storing the attachments that aren’t currently in use.
Pull the Trigger?
Hyperice did a good job with the Hypervolt: it’s a powerful, quiet, easy-to-use device that makes self-massage a convenient everyday option. In general, I got what I wanted out of it, which was a strong zap on specific body parts whenever the urge struck—usually right before or right after a run.
My biggest issue with this device (beyond the price) is its shape and grip. When used as intended, the user is limited in how much pressure she’s able to apply, and ends up targeting muscles from an odd, not-very-powerful angle. Combined with the fact that the Hypervolt is heavier than its size suggests it should be, it ends up falling a little shy of the seamless massage experience I hope for in a handheld gun. That’s not to say that this is not a quality device, but rather that it’s one that nails several features and has some ground to make up for on a couple of others. For now, I’ll be sticking with the gun I own, but with an eye on developments that may make the Hypervolt more of a contender in the future.
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