The maker of Theragun has new massage rollers and my body has never been readier

Cheaper and more compact than the Theragun, Therabody’s new Wave Duo and Wave Solo hurt so good, but require more body strength engagement.

Therabody wants to be known as more than just the company behind that Instagram-famous massage gun.

Since rebranding from the Theragun name last year, Therabody has been on a total wellness kick, expanding its scope from precision percussive therapy alone (i.e. shooting a rubber mallet at your muscles) to offering a range of recovery-focused products and educational courses to complement them. Its lineup now includes CBD massage oils, a modern take on the classic foam roller, and the latest: Wave Duo and Wave Solo.

Duo and Solo, which dropped at the end of last month, are vibration-equipped rollers designed to work with the contours and weight of your body to hit even the hardest to reach spots. The latter is about the size of a lacrosse ball while the former is essentially that doubled, featuring two bulbous lobes with a dip in the middle like a peanut.

From left to right: Wave Roller, Wave Duo, and Wave SoloTherabody

Realizing the potential benefits of that peanut shape was founder Jason Wersland’s “Aha!” moment after trying the other designs on the market, according to Therabody’s Director of Human Performance, Lissa Bankston.

“The first thing that he said was, ‘I'm not finding one where my spine isn't either all the way suspended or too far pushed into the product and where it will stay on my body on either side of my spine, from my neck to my tailbone,’” Bankston explained. “He thought, ‘One, that's a problem for me. And if it's a problem for me, there's probably thousands of people that that's a problem for.’”

The curve-friendly designs of Duo and Solo mean they can really sink in, allowing for deeper targeting of the muscles by working around structures like the spine instead of just lying flat across. Being Input’s resident Queen of Pain — not in the fun way — I had no choice but to try them out.

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At a glance, the Wave series might seem less daunting than the classic Theragun to the uninitiated, but if you’re familiar with foam rolling or the art of using an athletic ball to work out knotty muscles, you know better than to underestimate the powers of targeted pressure. It can hurt, especially if you’re sensitive to touch. Like the kneading of a firm masseuse on a mission to loosen you up, though, you’ll come out of it with your tension melted away. That little crick you get in the spot between your shoulder blade and spine? Consider it gone.

Getting started

I spent about a week first playing with Duo on its own, using it either as a way to start my morning or to cool down at night (or both, when I had the energy for it). Therabody’s app turned out to be key to an effective session, as I expect it would be for anyone who isn’t a physical therapist or otherwise have multiple structured recovery routines memorized.

Therabody’s app turned out to be key to an effective session.

The app pairs with each device via Bluetooth and has a searchable catalog of videos to address different parts of the body. There are also sessions designed specifically for issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, even jet lag. These are super easy to follow thanks to accompanying illustrations and much appreciated for those of us who need the guidance.

My setup.Cheyenne MacDonald / Input

It’s not perfect, though. The Bluetooth connection can lag, leaving you repeatedly pressing pause as your device buzzes on, not listening. That, plus the lack of transition time between each position had me constantly going back to the start for some body parts. While only a minor annoyance, a brief interlude to give you time to shift would go a long way.

By the time I was a few days in, though, (but mostly after a one-on-one with Bankston) I started to find my flow. Bankston pointed out little things I definitely wouldn’t have thought of on my own, like how you can put the vibration on and, say, flex and extend your wrist while keeping the device stationary beneath it, or just have a meditative lie-down with Duo positioned under your neck and set to a low vibration level. Therabody has a lot of these pointers on the app and on its educational Instagram account, which is pretty nice, you just have to find them.

Now, to be clear, no gadget is going to cure my chronic pain. I started the week in full-body pain and I ended the week in full-body pain. But what Duo did accomplish was significant in its own right.

When I wake up in the morning, just about every joint is stiff and aching; I get out of bed looking like a gingerbread person and hobble around that way for the first few hours of the day. Doing a 5-minute or so warmup with Duo before attempting my morning stretches was somewhat of a game-changer.

The illustrated sessions in the app are really helpful for showing you how to correctly target certain spots.Therabody

It helped to cut some of the rigidity, making me feel more limber and consequently in for less agony when it did come time to stretch or bend down to place my dog’s food bowl. Therabody has a session called “Wake” to help you get the day started right, and it focuses just enough on the individual parts (the soles of your feet, the lower back, etc.) to feel effective. And at the end of the day, lying on your back with Duo nestled at the base of your neck is a welcome antidote to the many hours of staring at a computer screen.

The Nitty Gritty

In terms of performance, Wave Duo and Wave Solo are pretty similar, so when I eventually switched to the Solo device after several days of using the other, there wasn’t too much of a difference to adjust to besides the obvious, size. The Duo brings the benefit of hitting certain parts of your body evenly, like the mid-back and the neck, but Solo really gets into the problem spots thanks to its smaller build. Either could easily work on its own or be used in tandem with one of the other devices.

Solo really gets into the problem spots thanks to its smaller build.

Both are super portable, which I liked. They’re small and light enough that you can toss them in a gym bag without making your load feel cumbersome. They both pack a lot of vibration power, too, and don’t at all feel flimsy. That’s important when you consider you’re going to, at times, put a lot of weight on them. I was a little nervous about that at first — crushing expensive electronics under my body is something I usually try to avoid, and I’m not exactly a small person — but they held up just fine. Duo has five vibration settings versus Solo’s three.

Another one of my favorite uses (pictured: not my feet).Therabody

And the textured silicone they’re each wrapped in feels nice against the skin — soft enough to cushion your movements but solid enough not to feel mushy and absorb all the vibration. That coating also makes them compatible with body oils; you can just wipe it off after, no fuss. I tried this with Therabody’s TheraOne CBD oil and it added a nice warming sensation to the experience. I love cannabis topicals and this is no exception.

So, are Wave Duo and Wave Solo for you? They might be. At $99 and $79, respectively, Therabody’s newest products are also its most affordable, coming in at almost $100 cheaper than its least-expensive Theragun model. But they also require more work — instead of pointing a gun at your problem area and blasting away, your body’s strength will actively be engaged much of the time. It really depends on your personal needs.

That said, after giving my body all this (tough) TLC, I’m not quite sure I could part with them.