The Best Workout to Tighten Loose Skin

Man performing bench press
james michelfelder

We outlined whether or not you can get rid of loose skin after major weight loss here. But how about what you can do about slightly sagging skin after you’ve lost 10-20 pounds? What’s possible with exercise—and what’s not?

“Your body always adjusts itself over time—that’s why ‘man’ is still here 3 million years later,” says Los Angeles-based trainer Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., author of Lift To Get Lean. It’s okay if you’ve got some arm flab, you’re frustrated with your man boobs, and/or don’t know what to do about your love handles—that all seemed to appear over one long, hard winter… or one too-fun summer (so many dangerously delicious foods). You have options.

If you’re looking to begin a major weight loss transformation, go slow: “Hands-down the best way to avoid loose skin from weight loss is to go slow and steady—at no more than 1.5 to 2 pounds per week,” Perkins says.

If you’ve already taken off 35, 40, or 50 pounds you’ll want to tackle your loose skin from different angles,” she says. Your skin will start to pull back and tighten up on its own, but the odds of your results being successful diminish once your weight loss exceeds 30 pounds, Perkins clarifies.

Quick anatomy lesson: Your muscles sit under body fat, which lies underneath your skin. When you lose a good amount of weight, you take away the mass that was once stretching your skin; you’re left with a sagging shell of what once was. So, to make this deficit a little less apparent, try to achieve a healthy, sustainable level of body fat—somewhere around 14-22%, Perkins suggests. “This little bit of ‘fluff’ will make you look great and keep the skin plumped up a bit,” she says.

The biggest tool you have in your arsenal—other than cosmetic procedures and surgery—is your near-unlimited ability to build muscle. Adding mass to the muscles surrounding your problem areas will help you hone and craft the physique you’re looking for. And, beyond aesthetics, more muscle means better hormones, fewer injuries, longer-lasting energy, higher sex drive, and a well-balanced body composition overall, Perkins says.

Now, your plan for bulking up is simple. So simple, it only involves two moves. Keep reading for the workout.

The Push-Pull Classics Workout

Why it Works: To tighten your stomach, tone your arms, whittle your back and love handles, and pump up your pecs, nothing works better than the deadlift and bench press: tried-and-true proven movements bodybuilders and powerlifters have been using—well, forever.

“These two moves recruit so many muscles that you get a big bang for your time spent in the gym,” Perkins says. “And, beyond directly targeting your mid-section, arms, and back, these moves create high metabolic changes that promote better testosterone and growth hormone production.” Basically your whole body can undergo a transformation thanks to two simple moves.

You’re going to lift heavy with low-ish reps during the working sets. It’s a standard protocol for building muscle volume (to pump up your skin) as well as muscle size. The protocol below creates hypertrophy so you muscles change and grow.

Directions: Perform a 6-8 minute gentle cardio warmup and any prep moves you like. Then, complete all the deadlift sets before moving on to the bench press. For both, use a heavy enough weight to where you can complete all reps with proper form—but you feel like you couldn’t eek out even one or two additional. (Read Perkins’ suggestions below for each lift.) Use a barbell for both moves, or sub in dumbbells if you don’t have one.

– 2 warmup sets of 12 reps with 60 seconds rest in between
– 5 work sets of 6-8 reps with 2 minutes of rest in between
Expert tip: Keep a slight arch in your lower back to protect your spine. Beginners should start with 95lbs, non-beginners should start with 115 lbs

Bench Press
– 2 warm up sets of 15 with 60 seconds of rest in between
– 5 work sets of 6-8 reps with 2 minutes of rest in between
Expert tip: Don’t touch the bar to your chest! It’s unnecessary and ups your risk for injury. “Bottom out about 2 inches above the middle of your chest,” Perkins says. Beginners should start with 75lbs; non-beginners should start with 95lbs.

Here’s a quick recap of your plan of attack.

1. Give your body some time to adjust
2. Use strength training to build up the underlying muscles
3. Consider surgery if your loose skin is substantial

NOTE: You can also add these moves to other days of a split-workout routine, too. Perkins suggests putting the deadlift routine on your “pulling” days—when you work your back or legs—and the bench press routine with your “pushing” days—when you do other chest moves. In need of some routines?

Check out our other chest workouts.

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