Health & Fitness

These squat machines promise a perfect butt—but does either deliver?

Building that booty takes more work than you think.

left: woman using db method squat machine right: woman using sunny row-n-ride Credit: DB Method / Sunny

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Take a quick look at any area of social media where fitness influencers flourish—be it Instagram, YouTube, or FitTok, er, Tiktok—and you’ll notice that one body part seems to dominate the rest, in terms of a target area: the butt. Sure, abs and arms have their time to shine, but the booty—and, in fitfluencer parlance, “building” it—takes precedence. (We blame the Kardashian effect.)

To that end, scrolling through your app of choice is a surefire way to get served with an ad for a piece of fitness equipment designed with the express purpose of working the glutes. Two of the most popular ones are the $229 DB Method and $95(ish) Sunny Row-n-Ride squat machines, both of which promise noticeable results with regular use. I tested both to determine which one—if either—is worth your money.

Can a squat machine give you butt like the ones on Instagram?

squat1
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Do machines like the DB Method and Sunny Row-n-Ride even work? Well, it's complicated.

First, the basics: Is any machine going to give you the results you want? The short answer is… not that short—we wrote a whole other story about the pros and cons of squat machines. DB Method promises a “dream butt” (yes, that’s what those titular initials stand for) if you use the machine for 10 minutes a day for an undetermined amount of time. Though its design is markedly similar, the Sunny Row-n-Ride’s marketing is less focused on the glutes, instead promising to build lean muscle and tone the entire body. But unsurprisingly, one of the top questions on its Amazon listing asks how it compares to the DB Method.

Let’s talk about DB Method’s 10-minutes-a-day promise. The good news is that, at the very least, doing basically any exercise in such a dedicated fashion could help improve your overall health. “Moving for 10 minutes consistently using almost any product will move you in the direction of better health,” says Pete McCall, a personal trainer and fitness educator. But “will you lose a lot of weight and develop well-defined or sculpted muscles? Not with 10 minutes a day, no.”

For his clients interested in building up the glutes, McCall recommends hip thrusts rather than the other booty-building powerhouses of squats or deadlifts. This exercise involves lying on your back with your shoulders resting on a bench and your knees pointed up, and hinging then pushing your hips up to the ceiling, keeping some weight (once you’re ready for it) such as a barbell across your hips the whole time. He recommends doing two to three sets with 15 reps two or three times a week for about five weeks before you can expect to see results. “The weight should be heavy enough to make the last rep really hard,” he says. "If you’re looking to build a stronger butt or a better-looking butt, then that would be one of the exercises to go for, because what you’re doing is using the [butt] muscles without putting vertical compression on the spine or the knees.”

Assisted squat machines like the DB Method or Sunny Row-n-Ride aren’t an automatic no-no, however, especially for beginners who aren’t used to doing any kind of squat movement. “[These machines] can help develop confidence and base strength,” McCall says. “But in the long run, I think it’s better not to use a lot of machines. You want to be able to control your body, you want to be able to control how your body moves.” Other concerns about these machines include overly repetitive movements ultimately leading to bad habits, and possibly repetitive stress injuries (though you would have to use the machines a lot before it got to that point).

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It’s also worth noting that there’s an aesthetic limit to what you can achieve with exercise alone, no matter how you choose to go about it. Some of the most famous butts on Instagram are not the result of hip thrusts, squats, or a miracle-working machine, but rather a product of “good” genetics, a strict diet, photo editing apps, and/or a surgical cosmetic procedure called a Brazilian butt lift (“BBL” to those in the know) that involves removing fat from other places on the body and transferring it to the butt. All this is to say: Attempting to train with the sole purpose of getting a butt that does numbers on Instagram may be a more ambitious (and less rewarding) endeavor than you think.

With these caveats in mind, I tested each machine for about 10 minutes a day for about three weeks. I combined it with my usual workout routine, which includes running, yoga, strength training and some additional cardio here and there. (After all, there’s really no way I could test if one machine made any aesthetic difference on its own—and if the first one did, then judge any effects the second one might have on its own.)

What is the DB Method squat machine?

The DB Method is a squat machine with two parallel upright handles at the front, a wide cushioned seat that moves up and down on a hydraulic rod, and two foot rests on either side. When you use it, the seat is the only thing that moves—your arms stay on the handrails and your heels stay on the foot pads. The brand claims that the machine shifts the body weight to the glutes and helps you achieve perfect squatting form without thinking too much about it. It has a one-year warranty and is suitable for users up to 250 pounds and from 5 feet tall to 6 foot 3 inches. You can return it for a full refund within 30 days of receiving the machine.

For the purposes of this review, DB sent me a machine, plus some of its accessories including the $29 Dreammat (basically, a yoga mat with the DB logo on it), the $20 Dreamband (a resistance band with a buckle so you can clip it around the machine as you squat), and the $49 Dreambelt (a 10-pound weighted belt). Other accessories include $18 “Dreamdiscs” (floor gliders), $25 “Dreamlets” (two-pound wrist and ankle weights), and the quaint offering of some $16 workout DVDs.

What is the Sunny Row-n-Ride?

The Sunny Row-n-Ride is an exercise machine with a padded seat, two pedals, and a handlebar that looks like one you might find on a stationary bike (though not the same one as the brand’s popular exercise bike). It’s sold on Amazon for about $95, but that depends on the retailer’s usual price fluctuations. The back of the seat attaches to the base of the machine with three resistance cables that you can clip in and out depending on the amount of tension you want (sort of like a Pilates reformer, if you’ve ever used one of those). It claims to strengthen your lower body, arms, and back. When you use it, you begin seated, legs at a right angle, with your arms extended to the handlebars. You pull the bar toward you while your legs lengthen and you come to stand on the pedals; you sit back and press your arms forward to come back to a seated posture. The Sunny Row-n-Ride offers a one-year warranty on the frame and an 180-day warranty on parts and labor. It’s suitable for users up to 220 pounds and has no height specifications that I could find.

How does the DB Method work?

dbmotion
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The DB Method machine helps you do squats with an extra focus on the glutes.

The DB Method’s assembly is simple—it doesn’t require any extra tools and mostly involves stacking pieces together. The whole thing took me about 15 minutes. The set comes with a pamphlet with good instructions, but I followed along with an assembly video on DB Method’s YouTube channel. Then, I watched DB Method’s Getting Started video to figure out my correct seat placement and how to use the device. The seat can be adjusted in and out and set on a number from 1 to 6 that corresponds with your height. I’m 5 feet 7 inches, which put me at a 4; when Reviewed's 5 foot 3 inch community manager, Madison Yerke (pictured above) tried it, she set it at a 2. To use the machine, you put your heels on the foot ramps with your toes pointing up, extend your arms to gently grip the handlebars, rest your glutes on the seat while engaging your core, and squat, keeping your weight shifted back the whole time.

absandchest
Credit: DB Method

You can do ab (left) and upper body (right) exercises on the DB Method machine.


Though the DB Method’s main focus is the glute area, it claims to work the entire lower body and core, which is the case with good old-fashioned, equipment-free bodyweight squats, too. You can also do ab and upper body moves, by standing behind the machine in a hinged position and pushing the seat down to work the chest and arms, or holding the arms straight on the seat as you push down using your core. But its main focus is the squat, which felt a little more like performing a chair pose in yoga (a standing posture that involves shifting your butt back like you’re about to sit in a chair and holding in place) than a typical squat. I mostly felt my glutes working—in a big way—and, when I remembered to engage my core, I could feel my abs getting some secondary action. I also felt less pressure on my knees than I do in a typical squat or chair pose, but using the DB machine, I sometimes felt tension in my lower back. The day after my first 10-minute session on the machine, my glutes and upper inner thighs felt sore in a way they hadn’t in a long time, which I took as a good sign—or at least one that I was working muscles I haven’t worked in a while.

DB Method’s YouTube channel has a decent selection of free instructional and workout videos that you can explore when you start using the machine. Most are about 10 minutes long and focus on the glutes, but it also has videos that show how to work the upper body and abs.

dreamband
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

I liked the DB Method accessories like the Dreamband—but not the additional cost.


I also tried DB Method’s $9.99-per-month Premium app, which has instructional videos, workouts, and challenges that instruct you to do its workouts in a certain order. (It also has a free version that only has access to the instructional videos.) Ultimately, I didn’t love the app. The workouts are good, with engaging instructors and a range of introductory, cardio, full body, and classic squatting classes. But there aren’t very many of them (about 25 classes right now), and it doesn’t get updated frequently, as I only noticed two new classes get added during the time I tested it. A lot of the workouts also call for DB’s dream-branded accessories—most often the weighted belt, resistance band, and floor gliders. I had most of the gear, but I’d be annoyed if I’d just bought a $230 machine and felt compelled to spend about $90 more to get the most out of the app.

How does the Sunny Row ‘n’ Ride work?

sunnymotion
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Using the Sunny Row-n-Ride machine involves moving its handles and pedals.

The Row-n-Ride is also easy to assemble, though it does require some tools that were included with the machine. I was able to follow the instruction manual, but you can watch this assembly video for extra insight.

Once assembled, it’s a little tough to get on and off because the seat slants down almost to the ground when it isn’t being used. When you're getting on, you can prop it up to a better seating height by pushing down on one of the pedals, then swinging your other leg over it. But to get off, you almost always have to get into this awkward crouched position. (At least, in my experience—if anyone out there has figured out a better dismounting method, please let me know.)

The Row-n-Ride does not attempt to replicate or improve upon a squat. Instead, it utilizes pulling against the resistance cables. This means it requires a lot more body movement than the DB Method. To use, you rest your butt on the seat, feet on the pedals, and hands extended on the handlebars. As you push your legs down, your arms pull back into a rowing position, creating a controlled swinging motion throughout the body upper and lower body, so I felt it in my quads, shoulders, and biceps the most. I felt my glutes and hamstrings engage, too, but this felt more like a secondary action. All the same, I was surprised by the amount of resistance the machine created. I started off with all three resistance bands clipped on but soon realized that one was sufficient for most movements—like the DB Method, you can do some off-machine movements with the Row-n-Ride, such as chest presses and pull-downs while sitting behind the machine—so I can see using adding on more resistance bands as a training goal.

sunnycables
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Sunny Row-n-Ride uses cables to create resistance.


Sunny also has an app, but when I downloaded it, it kept crashing, so I was unable to create an account and explore the videos. Still, there are a lot of free Row-n-Ride workouts to peruse on YouTube. I started with an introductory video to get the hang of it, but eventually I worked my way up to glute-focused workouts, an upper body workout, and a cardio sculpt class.

Does the DB Method or Sunny Row-n-Ride give you a better workout?

The short answer (which, again, is not so short): It depends. As it turns out, the DB Method and Sunny Row-n-Ride are pretty different—the DB Method is a better option if your sole concern is your butt and the Sunny Row-n-Ride is better for total-body muscle engagement.

I should also say that neither machine felt like a complete workout to me. Even with my 10 minutes a day of each, I still felt like I needed to move more to get my fix. Your mileage may vary depending on how much you usually exercise—if you’re not very active, those 10 minutes a day could be great for you—but as you gain strength, you may need something more, no matter which machine you go for.

Should you get the DB Method or Sunny Row-n-Ride?

At the end of my testing period, I felt more drawn to the DB Method than the Sunny Row-n-Ride, but I think that’s due more to personal preference than anything else. I liked the specific focus on my glutes the DB Method gave me and prefer to work my upper body with free weights, so I didn’t feel I needed to use the Sunny Row-n-Ride for upper-body movements.

Ultimately, here’s where I come down on these machines: Truthfully, you don’t need either of them. I think some free weights and booty bands would serve most people better than either one. That said, if you’re set on a machine, get the DB Method if you really want to work your glutes (and don’t mind ponying up a not-insignificant amount of cash for it as well as potentially all of its accessories) and the Sunny Row-n-Ride if you want the work to be more evenly distributed throughout the body. Either way, expect it to be a part of your workout routine—not the whole thing.

Get the DB Method Machine for $229

Get the Sunny Row-n-Ride from Amazon for $95

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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