You've worked hard to lose the weight -- congratulations! What you didn't expect was an abundance of leftover loose skin that would remain, and it just won't budge. How much skin you end up with depends on how dramatic your weight loss was and the speed at which you lost weight. Large, dramatically fast drops in weight, such as with weight-loss surgery, can leave you with seemingly handfuls of the stuff -- oftentimes at the lowest area of your abdomen.
Skin isn't really something you can easily exercise back into shape, however. It has elasticity due to a compound known as collagen. When it gets stretched out, it can be tough to reel back in quickly.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, however. Exercise improves circulation to the lower portion of your abs and creates tighter muscles for the skin to stretch over.
When done two to three times per week, along with other strength-training and cardio workouts, these moves can help with saggy skin.
Static Knee Press
This move helps warm up your ab muscles and brings awareness to the need to contract this region, which becomes important as the ab exercises become more challenging.
Lie face up on a workout mat with your legs lifted, knees bent at 90 degrees. Flex your feet toward your shins and balance your knees directly over your hips.
Reach your arms up so that your hands press against your thighs.
Draw your navel in toward your spine, push your back to the floor and press your thighs against your hands. Simultaneously resist with your hands to create significant tension. Your legs and arms should not move -- but brace against the force provided by each.
Hold for one to two counts, relax and repeat eight to 10 more times.
Ab Pulsing Lifts
You don't have a lower ab muscle, per se, but you do have a lower region of your abs where the extra skin may accumulate. This move targets this lower abdominal region and tightens all the muscles there.
Lie on your back and extend your legs up toward the ceiling. Place your hands on the floor alongside your hips.
Tighten your abs, as you did in the static hold, and press your legs up as you lift the backs of your hips up off the floor. Do not let your legs bend. Pause for one count.
Lower the hips back down and repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions.
Incline Reverse Crunch
Doing reverse crunches puts more emphasis on the lower region of your rectus abdominis, the main abdominal muscle in front of your torso. Research published in Physical Therapy in 2006 found the incline reverse crunch to be one of the most effective exercises in training the upper and lower portion of your abs, as well as the internal obliques at the sides of your waist.
Lie face up on a workout bench inclined at 30 degrees. Your head is at the higher end and your feet at the lower end.
Bend your knees in towards your chest. Grab hold of support bars or the sides of the bench.
Contract your abs and pull your knees in closer to your chest and collarbones. Your hips will rock up out of the bench surface as you crunch.
Use control to release and repeat 10 to 15 times.
The basic plank, which has you hold the top of a push-up position for 20 to 60 seconds at a time, trains your transverse abominis. This stabilizing muscle helps your posture and keeps your internal organs tucked in tightly, so you don't slouch and accentuate the loose skin at your lower abdomen. This version gives your transverse abdominis an extra kick.
Get into the top of a plank position with your forearms on the floor. Hold your body rigid from your head to your ankles -- no sag or hike of the hips.
Bend your hips and start to walk your feet in toward your face as you lift your butt up to the ceiling. You're creating a triangular shape with your body. Draw your abs in and walk in as far as you can.
Slowly walk the feet back out, still bracing your abs and controlling the movement. Pause and repeat up to 10 times total.