Let's just go ahead and say it: You need to recover, no matter how much you work out. You don't need to be busting your butt every day in the gym to earn some down time. And as you age, it becomes harder for your muscles to recover, so everyone should be giving their muscles a little TLC.
"Recovery" is a popular buzzword right now, and there's no shortage of products that aim to help you recover from workouts — some legit, some not. So, we've gathered a list of the best recovery products you'll want to add to cart.
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The Best Products for Recovery
- Best for Tight Muscles: Theragun Prime ($299, Therabody.com)
- Best for Deep Stretching: Lululemon No Limits Stretching Strap ($18, Lululemon.com)
- Best for Inflammation: The Edge Tub ($4,999, Edgetheorylabs.com)
- Best for Back Sensitivity: Pressure Positive Co. The Backnobber II ($34.99, Amazon.com)
- Best for Total-Body Relief: Trigger Point Performance GRID Foam Roller ($34.98, Amazon.com)
- Best for Circulation: Sunlighten Solo System Portable Sauna (Price varies, Sunlighten.com)
- Best for Hydration: Ultima Electrolyte Hydration Powder ($7.99, Ultimareplenisher.com)
- Best for Relaxation: Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt for Pre & Post Workout ($5.74, Walmart.com)
How We Chose
We chatted with Kenny Santucci, CPT, New York–based trainer and Founder of Strong New York and The Strength Club to learn all about his favorite recovery products. With his guidance, we chose our products based on criteria including:
- Product effectiveness
- Product variety
1. Best for Tight Muscles: Theragun Prime
"Massage guns are helpful to relieve muscle tension and stress while increasing blood flow and lymphatic circulation," says Santucci. And the Theragun is definitely one to try.
Theragun's Prime model reaches 60 percent deeper than other massage guns and includes four different heads to hit the hard-to-reach, tender areas. This one also has a secure-hold ergonomic grip and customizable speed ranges to control the pressure.
Plus, it's quieter than an electric toothbrush and offers 120 minutes of battery life. Santucci suggests spending somewhere between 90 seconds to 2 minutes on each muscle.
Buy it: Therabody.com; Price: $299
2. Best for Deep Stretching: Lululemon No Limits Stretching Strap
Dynamic stretching is a key part of a good warm-up, and after a workout, stretching is great to relieve stiffness. When you work out, you tear apart muscle tissue, which is why you get sore, Santucci explains. Regular stretching can help your body rebuild strong muscle.
A stretching strap, like this one from Lululemon, can help you reach longer and deeper to minimize tension. These straps are easy to use and throw in your gym bag, too. Or, stash them in your suitcase — stretching feels great after a long travel day.
Buy it: Lululemon.com; Price: $18
3. Best for Inflammation: The Edge Tub
If you're looking to splurge, cold plunge baths are Santucci's favorite method of recovery. "The benefits are endless," he says. While there needs to be more research done into actual advantages of cold water plunges, Santucci uses it to help with healing, reduce inflammation, manage pain and boost energy. And according to Cedars-Sinai, research does support a cold plunge's ability to reduce soreness.
Edge Theory Lab's Edge Tub is an inflatable cold tub that's portable and folds right up into a backpack. These chill down within three hours and stay sanitized, thanks to the tub's filtration system.
Buy it: Edgetheorylabs.com; Price: $4,999
4. Best for Back Sensitivity: Pressure Positive Co. The Backnobber II
This S-shape massage tool looks funny and has a silly name, but it's a dream come true for any back tension. The device helps you access all those tough-to-reach places to release knots and work through other problem areas. It also breaks down into pieces, making it also very portable.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $34.99
5. Best for Total-Body Relief: Trigger Point Performance GRID Foam Roller
While foam rolling doesn't change or lengthen muscles, it does offer quick relief, according to Santucci. Foam rolling releases the tension in your muscles' connective tissue, which can build up and cause discomfort.
What's unique about Trigger Point's take on the foam roller is that it includes ridges that help promote better flow of blood and oxygen, two key parts of recovery. (Find more of our favorite foam rollers here.)
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $34.98
6. Best for Circulation: Sunlighten Solo System Portable Sauna
Move over, compression socks and boots: Infrared saunas have exploded in popularity for getting your blood flowing. Santucci uses infrared to help relax the body, improve circulation and provide pain relief. This is another method that could use more research, but a small September 2015 study in the Journal of Athletic Enhancement found that a far-infrared sauna did indeed help 10 men improve neuromuscular performance.
You can visit infrared sauna locations, but you can also invest in a portable infrared sauna to have at home. Sunlighten's portable infrared sauna is space-friendly and is easy to set up. Not only does infrared feel nice and toasty, but it helps boost circulation by raising your core body temperature, which can help improve recovery.
7. Best for Hydration: Ultima Electrolyte Hydration Powder
"When we exercise, we lose sodium and electrolytes through our sweat," Santucci says. "It's important to stay hydrated to replace the water you're losing."
Packed with electrolytes, vitamin C and zinc, these single-serving packs are perfect for staying hydrated on the go or at home. Just add one stick to 16 ounces of water. The best part: The taste is delicious and there's no added sugar.
Buy it: ultimareplenisher.com; Price: $7.99
8. Best for Relaxation: Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt for Pre & Post Workout
Sleep is essential to recovery, and you need plenty of rest if you want the full benefits of your training, Santucci says. And although baths don't directly translate to sleep, they can help you relax and prepare for a restful night.
Adding some epsom salt into your bath can help ease sore muscles. Dr. Teal's product has magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate muscle function, allowing them to relax.
Buy it: Walmart.com; Price: $5.74
3 Factors to Consider Before You Buy
1. Your Activities
Think about what parts of your body you work the most to help guide your recovery product purchases. For instance, runners may want to invest in a foam roller or massage gun because these can help relieve large muscle groups, like your quads or hamstrings.
On the other hand, swimmers may want to consider a pressure point knob to help reach the muscles in your back.
Think about which activities you do the most and which muscles work the hardest and feel the most sore after a workout. It's also worth noting that a lot of recovery comes down to simply what makes you feel the best, and the placebo effect in healing is strong, according to Harvard Medical School. If you think a recovery method is helping, that can go a long way.
2. Your Budget
Some recovery products, like at-home ice baths, aren't exactly cost-friendly. So, before you spend thousands of dollars, think about how often you actually plan to use the product.
Do you often pay for massages or saunas per session? Getting a massage gun or at-home sauna may be more cost-effective.
3. Your Available Space
While some recovery products (like the yoga strap) can fit just about anywhere, that's not the case for others. If you don't have much space to devote to your recovery protocol, you may want to focus on smaller, handheld items, rather than the bigger products.
And before you buy anything, make sure to compare the product dimensions to the measurements for your available space.