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From at-home massage tools that look like futuristic power tools, to rollers that can double as vibrating back massagers, finding the right recovery tool can be almost as intimidating as a hard workout. But the good news is that you have almost an endless amount of recovery gear for fitness you can try out now.
Related: The Best Fitness Gifts to Give Someone Who Never Misses a Workout
Ariel Foxie, a New York City-based private trainer and fitness and wellness consultant, emphasizes that the best recovery tools can and should be used outside of your workouts, too. If you spent the day glued to your screen or road-tripping, it might be time to break out your foam roller or that Hyperice or Theragun. “Sometimes at the end of the day, I do reach for a foam roller or a lacrosse ball or yoga blocks and bolsters,” he says, “to help me feel like I’m not turning into a tin man.”
Plus, as former UFC champion Julianna Peña points out, the best recovery tools aren’t limited to the familiar foam rollers and yoga blocks. “I definitely sauna for recovery and Joovv, which is a red light therapy device that I stand in front of every morning,” Peña tells Rolling Stone at a UFC X event hosted by Cuervo, the UFC’s first-ever tequila sponsor. Besides these physical recovery tools, Peña also recommends grooming products for feeling fresh and staying clean: “I got a nice [No B.S.] toner that I spray on my face after every training session, because, you know, there’s all sorts of stuff that you can pick up on the mats.”
Once you figure out which recovery tools you want to try, it then comes down to when you decide to use them. But don’t worry, there’s no rule about a specific time you have to roll. “A lot of people do think that recovery has to be after a workout, but there are benefits to using recovery tools pre-workout. It does help aid with circulation [and] it does help with mobility or range of motion, before a workout. On the other side of things,” he says, “[recovery tools] also help speed up the process of fighting off soreness or repair, and reducing inflammation that might occur after a strenuous workout.”
In This Article
What Are the Best Recovery Tools?
What Are the Benefits of Using Recovery Tools?
Buying Guide: How We Found the Best Recovery Gear
What Are the Best Recovery Tools?
Whether you want to recover before or after workouts, or after a long day at your home office, here are some of the best foam rollers, massage guns, and other recovery tools you should consider, including some of Foxie and Peña’s picks and some of our favorite tested pieces of gear.
1. Hyperice Hypervolt Massage Gun
For a massage gun that can help soothe soreness without making you want to plug your ears, consider the Hypervolt 2 from Hyperice. You can use this three-speed cordless version in tandem with the Hyperice app on your phone for a more guided recovery session, and according to the company, it can run for about three hours when fully charged.
If you want something more affordable, Foxie also notes the brand has a travel-friendly tool called the Hypervolt Go 2 as well as the vibrating Venom back belt that targets your lower back.
To use the Hypervolt, attach one of the five included massage heads, turn it on so it’s vibrating, and simply position the tip directly against the muscles or areas that feel tight or sore to you. Apply as much pressure as you feel comfortable with, and adjust as needed.
2. TriggerPoint Foam Roller
When it comes to a piece of essential recovery gear, Foxie calls foam rollers “must-haves” because of their price point, along with their benefits. He recommends TriggerPoint, which offers a number of different foam rollers based on size and feature. We like this grooved model, which can support a body up to 500 pounds and has a variety of surfaces, for more targeted rolling.
TriggerPoint says the GRID roller is great for massage, stretching and post-workout recovery. When you want to foam roll, say, for tight calves, position the foam roller on the floor and underneath your leg’s sore muscles. Let your leg or whatever area you’re working on rest on top of the roller and apply as much pressure as you want.
When we roll, we put most of our weight onto the roller, letting it rest, almost so it feels like someone’s massaging the muscles.
3. Therabody TheraCup
If traditional recovery gear isn’t cutting it, you might want to consider cupping therapy, popular with pro athletes as a form of alternative medicine. By applying suction and heat to localized parts of the skin, Mayo Clinic states that “cupping is said to increase blood supply to a specific area”. After going hard at the gym, it can be helpful for healing sore, tired muscles.
But that doesn’t mean you need to book an appointment with an acupuncturist or licensed sports doctor to get this form of therapy — Therabody’s the TheraCup gets you professional pain relief right in your own home.
How does it work? By using “ThermaVibration” technology, the TheraCup combines targeted suction with heat and vibration. There are three levels of each setting, depending on how deep your muscle pain is, but there are multiple safeguards in place (like an automatic shutoff feature).
4. Hooga Red Light Therapy Device
Recently, some athletes (including Peña) and trainers have started using red light therapy with the goal of repairing muscle tissue, reducing inflammation, and increasing blood flow, among other possible benefits (as a bonus, red light therapy may also reduce wrinkles and signs of aging). We recommend this large, highly-rated red light device from Hooga, which lets you treat your whole body.
5. PowerDot 2.0 Smart Electric Muscle Stimulator
Foxie says PowerDot’s two-pack of wireless muscle stimulators has been an important part of his workout routine, “From using them for running, pre-workout and post-workout,” he says. PowerDot’s powerful vibrations can also help aid in acute or chronic injuries, Foxie explains, with pre-set programs that you can choose from based on your needs.
Connect to the PowerDot app and input your physical information and have the app recommend the type of pre-set program you should be doing, and graph out your progress. This set includes a pod, electrode pads, a set of cables and a case.
To use PowerDot, place the pads to the muscle area you want to recover, then attach the included cables and charged pods. From there, you can use the app to select your muscle area and adjust the level of stimulation with a variety of programs. So if you want to work on sore chest muscles after completing a challenging upper body program, you’d attach the pads to your chest, and then go into the app, where you’d select the “Pec/Chest” program. This is app-controlled recovery at its finest.
6. Whoop Strap
Whoop’s minimal fitness band gives you instant info about things like how long you slept the night before (including how well you actually slept) and gives you data-backed tips for how hard to push yourself the rest of the day, whether you’re working out or planning for a packed day of presentations. In other words, it helps you adjust throughout the day based on your level of strain and how much your body’s recovered.
You simply wear it on your wrist and download Whoop’s app to get tracking, and you can specify in the app whether you’re starting a certain activity, like hiking, HIIT or even things like tennis, commuting, dancing or meditating. It won’t get in the way of workouts, and you can even wear it during water exercises or in the shower.
A watch-like rechargeable battery pack slides right over the Whoop strap, too, so you never need to remove it. It’s one of our favorite fitness accessories that takes a broader look at your health and helps you set your workout goals from there. We think it’s a must-have recovery tool for anyone who loves tracking their fitness. You’ll get the newest Whoop 4.0 strap when you sign up for a Whoop membership, starting for free.
7. Theragun Mini
This compact Theragun, dubbed the “Mini,” can easily fit inside any duffel bag or tote bag so you can recover when you’re on the go. We like that it includes a more ergonomic build, and it can last for hours of use for approximately 150 minutes per charge. It can massage your sore spots just like the brand’s other percussive devices, but the Mini is a more travel-friendly, affordable version.
8. Amazon Basics High-Density Foam Roller
Rolling after a hard run doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want a good place to start while staying within your budget, Foxie suggests Amazon Basics. This bargain roller, which has a smooth surface, comes in four lengths and sizes: 12, 18, 24 and 36 inches. If you want to foam roll your hips, say, before a run, all you need to do is position the roller underneath that area, as shown above, and slightly roll back and forth.
9. Champion Sports Official Lacrosse Balls
Frequent runners don’t always need expensive, high-tech products to relieve tension before or after workouts. Foxie recommends trying simple lacrosse balls. They’re an inexpensive choice that you can pack in any bag or even in your pockets. We like this Champion Sports’ option because you can order it in packs of two, six or a dozen, and it also comes in multiple colors. While these are official lacrosse balls used in games, they’re great to roll under the balls of your feet, your lower back, or under your glutes, for an effective portable recovery tool.
10. WILL Perform Nightly Muscle Recovery and Sleep Lotion
Fans of topical products who want something extra portable might try this soothing lotion from Serena Williams’ company WILL. According to the brand, it’s made for “a relaxing experience to help settle your body (and mind) while supporting your body’s natural recovery process,” and it can easily be stored in your medicine cabinet or a gym bag so you can roll it on even if you’re not near your other recovery gear. The formula is infused with Lavender, Magnesium (Epsom Salt), and Vitamin D to help potentially soothe joint pain and tightness, while the calming scent provides a nice bit of relaxing aromatherapy as well.
11. For Wellness Recovery Gummies
These Recovery Gummies from golfer Phil Mickelson co-founded For Wellness that are ideal for recovery days and decompressing after a strenuous workout. Unlike other pre-workout blends, these keep to a simple, all-natural ingredient list, and the Montmorency tart cherry gives it a nice tart flavor that can also help to reduce loss of muscle strength and soreness. The performance-minded gummies are also loaded with glucose syrup for a rapid boost of energy, as well as potassium and sodium for muscle support. Throw them in your gym bag or toss them back along with your post-workout smoothies, they’re great for taking before your workout or as a part of your muscle soreness recovery post-sweat sesh.
12. Therabody RecoveryAir Prime Leg Compression Massager Boots
Whether you’ve just completed a marathon or you’re training for one, these compression boots give your legs, as Therabody puts it, “a clinically-proven pressure massage.” In other words, you slip them on, sit back, and let the compression boots inflate and deflate to help soothe soreness and boost circulation before and after grueling workouts. After you slide them off, your legs essentially start to feel a little more normal again (and less heavy). Simply put, the RecoveryAir JetBoots take your workout recovery to the next, relaxing level — and fast.
13. The Cold Plunge
It’s no surprise that rock stars and professional athletes alike have turned to ice baths and cold plunge pools after strenuous concerts, events, or workouts. The benefits of taking a dip in a chilled tub of water range from improving circulation to boosting muscle recovery. The world’s best plunge pool to try in 2023, the Cold Plunge gives you a spa-like recovery session in a few minutes. Built for indoors and outdoors, it boasts a UV sanitation system plus can be easily filled using a garden hose. The bottom line: Recovery doesn’t get any (literally) cooler than the Cold Plunge.
14. Sun Home Sauna Infrared Sauna Blanket
Your next recovery sweat session deserves an infrared sauna blanket, like this one from Sun Home Sauna. It mimics the feel of a spa-worthy sauna using built-in infrared heating tech to help ease your sore muscles and even reduce stress. That’s why we named it the best infrared sauna blanket you can use at home. (Read more about their benefits and our other picks in our infrared sauna blanket shopping guide.)
15. No BS Salicylic Acid Facial Toner
Peña highly recommends a facial toner (she likes No B.S.) for cleaning up after sweating and being exposed to all the grime that’s in a gym. And we’re big fans of Peña suggestion: Recovery is about feeling rejuvenated and fresh after a workout, and skincare certainly fits the bill. Pick up this one, which promises oil regulation, pore minimization, and acne treatment in a formula that cuts out all the “B.S.” you often find in beauty products.
What Are the Benefits of Using Recovery Tools?
There are many benefits to using recovery tools like foam rollers and massage guns. For starters, they can help soothe and relax tired joints and ease sore muscles. The best massage guns for recovery use a pulsating motion to loosen muscles, like after a long run or heavy workout. A foam roller, in the meantime, can help relieve pressure on your spine by gently rolling out your back.
The best recovery tools can also help you relax, offering a way to wind down and zone out before bed or as a way to relieve stress. We’ve also included a couple of new post-workout accessories, which are designed to help you track your recovery and to help speed up recovery time.
Buying Guide: How We Found the Best Recovery Gear
From the size of your recovery tools to the high-tech features, here are some of the things we considered when picking your next recovery gear.
Portability and Size: Some recovery products take up more space than others. The latest recovery tools can range from something travel-sized that you can stash in a backpack (say, for the gym or a trip), or larger pieces that you can keep around in your home gym. Still, we picked massage guns, foam rollers and other recovery accessories that are easy to store when not in use, even if you live in a small space.
Features: What features do you want from recovery tools? In other words, do you prefer to have a vibrating foam roller or a massage gun that uses percussive motions to help relieve tension? Or do you want something you don’t have to charge at all? We chose the best recovery tools that can often offer everything from massages to monitoring, helping you relax, repair and restore at the same time.
Budget: The majority of the tools on this list cover a wide range of budgets. While you’ll pay more for massage guns, there are also more affordable accessories you can add before or after your workout routines, from foam rollers to lacrosse balls.