May 16, 2022 3 min read

What is Percussion?

Anyone who has been targeted online with an advertisement for a massage gun has no doubt been awestruck by the super slow motion shot of “skin waves” rippling through the thigh or calf of a chiseled male or female bodybuilder while the massage gun’s head pounds away like a small jackhammer. This is a perfect example of what is meant by the word “percussion” in the term “percussion massager.” This slower, repetitive, percussive force imposed on the skin and muscle by the piston-like movement of the massage head is primarily determined by the amplitude of the massage head’s motion; how far it travels from one end to the other in one single cycle of movement.

 

What are the Benefits?

Percussion is primary responsible for what I refer to as the “macro” benefits of massage gun use (ex. softening a tight member of a large muscle group or creating a very rapid increase in circulation to a large, stiff muscle); those often depicted and advertised by manufacturers. Like a powerlifter, high percussion massagers are about performing a lot of motion with a heavy force, as quick as possible. And like a powerlifter, if a tiny miscalculation occurs, a movement is too forceful, or done one too many times, injury will no doubt occur. So, how can a powerlifter get all the benefits of powerlifting and more, all while avoiding the risk of injury? The answer to that is the principal behind Vibro-Percussive Technology.

 

If we continue to consider the powerlifter analogy, one of the main factors in reducing injury risk is properly “priming” the nervous system for the movement ahead. This is also highly beneficial for the powerlifter as is adds an additional layer to their training. By using smaller, higher frequency movements initially, the nervous system can better coordinate with the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Then, the lifter, when moving into the actual lift, can perform the movement not just more efficiently, but also more safely and effectively. This makes the benefits more easily achievable and more diverse.

 

Vibration + Percussion for the Win!

Vibro-Percussive Technology sacrifices a bit of the massage gun’s amplitude (reducing the percussive force) so that the frequency(how many times the head moves back and forth across a given period of time) may be increased. It is at these higher frequencies, where vibration rather than percussion is primarily occurring, that what I refer to as the “micro” benefits of massage guns are captured. The “micro” benefits include increasing joint awareness & nervous system activation of a specific area of the body (proprioception), more precision-focused soft tissue (fascial) mobilization, and the intentional modification of certain abnormal sensory information in the case of temporary pain associated with exercise. And yes, because of the initial micro benefits provided by the vibration, the body is already “warmed up,” resulting in the macro benefits of percussion mentioned above being just as easily achievable, even despite the lower amplitude.

 

The nature of all technology is to evolve. In the case of percussion massagers, by embracing this subtle difference between percussion and vibration, yet delivering them both in a single product, one doesn’t just unlock a brand-new set of benefits, but creates a smarter and more effective path to those benefits already available.


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