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One thing about your rear being on the back side of your body is that you don’t really get to look at it all that often. For months upon months, I got away with ignoring one of the more tangible effects of the stay-in-place COVID lifestyle. The fit of my pants felt different, but they still buttoned up so I told myself that I was just getting used to wearing sweats ninety-nine percent of the time and imagining things. Finally, though, I turned around in front of the mirror and faced the facts. Ah yes. My backside was no cartoon peach. It reminded me more of the dejected face emoji (😞), whose downcast eyes perfectly illustrated my collapsing cheeks.
Stuck at home and mourning my pre-times posterior, I was a prime candidate to try The DB Method (Buy It, $329, thedbmethod.com), the at-home squat machine that booty ambassador than Kim Kardashian has credited for building up her shapely backside. FTR, other fans include Hailey Bieber, Tracee Ellis Ross, and even Martha Stewart.
The DB (short for Dream Butt) machine supposedly targets the three muscles that make up your buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The butt is a pivotal player in an entire body’s functionality, and this especially holds true for women, according to Erik Korem, Ph.D., a Houston sports scientist who has worked with collegiate and Olympic athletes. “The glutes help you move, and they keep your hips aligned,” says Korem. “They’re also very important for preventing pelvic floor dysfunction.” (
The next thing he told me was terrifyingly relatable: “If you’re sitting all day, and your glutes are weak, your hamstrings can become too dominant and get tight.” (How did he know?) After I also talked to DB’s CFO (that’s chief fitness officer) Adam Swartz about the glutes’ primacy in our physical wellbeing, I burned with shame. How ignorant I’d been my whole life, genuflecting at the altar of the core. The core might be front and center of our bodies, but the gluteus maximus, the single largest muscle in the human body, is queen, explains Swartz. Taking care of your glutes is essential for protecting yourself against back pain, knee pain, and poor posture. It also impacts athletic performance, whether you’re a serious athlete or a living-room dancer and Sunday jogger such as myself.
For a stronger bum, many people look to the squat. "It is a fundamental human movement pattern," says Swartz. "When kids are little, they naturally squat." The problem is what happens when kids grow up and turn into Zoom zombies. We might be getting better at saying asinine things like "to Deirdre's point" and "I'd like to piggyback on what Jason said," but we're losing touch with our ability to move the way we were designed to, he says.
“You might think of a squat simply as a hinging at the hip, but it’s a far more complex muscular pattern,” says Swartz. Far too often, those who try it unsupervised throw their body weight too far forward, which leads to a reliance on the thighs (aka quadriceps), and the glutes are all but forgotten. The genius of the DB’s design, which positions your body so you’re able to sit back more than you comfortably could in a typical squat, is “you have a much more direct access to the posterior chain of muscles running up from the heel all the way up into the glutes,” he says. As such, the DB-assisted squat resembles a graceful, gentle arc rather than an up-and-down thrust.
The contraption arrived at my doorstep as parts in a box that are theoretically easy to assemble with a Youtube video. I am no Bob Villa, and I jiggered mine up over Zoom with the help of a lovely company representative who told me that she credits her sessions with the dents she has developed on the side of her butt, a manifestation of converging strong muscles. "That sounds nice," I replied moodily. The only dents I had were in my self-confidence.
Sleek and all black, roughly the size of a Peloton bike, the DB Machine looks like a cross between a goth torture device and a seesaw for solo use. At the front of the machine two poles stand perpendicular to the ground, there to rest your hands on and steady you while you rise and lower. The only other points of contact between the body and the machine are the footrests, angled to tip you onto your heels, and the pancake-shaped seat, angled to prevent your body from heaving forward.
The DB Method
I can't say the machine vibed with my cozy home decor, and for days I eyed it warily. My gymnast daughter became obsessed, perching on the seat while she read Ivy and Bean books. On the night of post-vaccination celebration dinner with my parents, my 70-year-old father wandered over and gave it a straddle. "This is fun!" he said. It was my turn.
One of the most appealing facets of The DB Method is that it doesn’t ask too much of its user. The majority of the 24 DB Method workouts on the accompanying app are shorter than ten minutes. What’s more, the actual move at the center of the workout is not remotely torturous; using the machine feels similar to stretching out on a Pilates machine in that you’re guided through the motion with just a touch of resistance. (It just burns a little more.)
Once I’d mastered the fundamentals, thanks to five short and sweet introductory videos, I jumped around the other offerings. I loved the video with Aliya Sims, a New York-based boxing instructor, whose upbeat yet relaxing series of plié squats and hip exercises helped me feel stretched. Although the machine was developed first and foremost to encourage that ideal butt-targeting squat-based movement pattern, you can, indeed do other exercises with it.
I tried the bulk of the videos, from Cardio Conditioning and Sculpt to an advanced class named “The Gladiator” (which opens, rather hilariously, with trainer Eddie Carrington sharing his “Gladiator strategy: Start strong stay strong, and finish strong”). Motivation mumbo jumbo aside, it was fun to see how the roster of coaches came up with new ways to use the same piece of equipment. Most of the classes were entirely on the machine, though not always as you’d imagine. One of the more inventive adaptations was using the seat as resistance for arm exercises. I got the hang of it. Performing standing crunches — which involved placing my hands on the seat and pushing it away by activating my core — was slightly more awkward. One of the most wonderful classes, Hip Mobility, with personal trainer and fitness model Allegra Paris, skipped the contraption altogether. Her ten minutes of hip-focused mat exercises were like a distillation of my favorite stretches in yoga.
I also started using it my own way, wandering away from my computer whenever I needed a break from my work and hopping on the machine. The up and down motions paired especially well with a Margaret Atwood audiobook, I discovered (I liked the wry narration much better than the video game-y electronic music in the background of the recorded videos). The meditative quality set in as my entire body moved in subtle arcs was akin to what happens when I go swimming. Only my butt burned more.
All things told, I’m not sure I can say The DB merited the space it took up in my apartment. But we had fun for a while there, the DB and I, and were I to wake up and discover I owned a home gym like Martha Stewart or the Rock (read: bigger than my entire apartment), I’d happily hop back on the buttwagon. Two weeks into my adventure in butt burning, my body felt better cared for than it had before. More to the point, my pants weren’t playing tricks on me anymore. I even bought a new pair to celebrate.