Strength training for insulin sensitivity?

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Is there a "best" type of strength training for increasing insulin sensitivity? Like in terms of sets/reps/intensity/exercises/frequency if you're using free weights and/or calisthenics?

I don't have a specific concern but I saw mention of it in something I read and became curious. I did some googling but am having trouble finding those kinds of details.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Am no expert, but anything that depletes muscle glucose is going to increase insulin sensitivity more than approaches that don't.

HIIT would be high up on the list.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Is there a "best" type of strength training for increasing insulin sensitivity?
No science or expertise on my part, but my impression is that body composition is an important factor. If there are studies showing any particular type of exercise, strength or not, is more effective than another type of exercise to improve insulin sensitivity without changing body composition, I'm not aware of it (but would be happy to learn about it if it exists).

-S-
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member

ROS from glycolysis are one of the prime factors generating exercise-induced insulin sensitivity. In this study they completely eliminated exercise induced insulin sensitivity with a high dose of anti-oxidants. It also had the effect of reducing the body's natural anti-oxidant defense mechanisms.

As Steve mentioned, good body comp and intelligent diet are liable to go a long way toward promoting insulin sensitivity even without exercise.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Great topic as I have this same objective with my husband who has some insulin resistance and blood sugar issues but is still within the range of being able to improve. He's active with things like working on our land, trees, etc. but hates structured exercise, so I'd love to find the minimum effective dose. I had him doing goblet squats a while back so we'll probably go to that first. Now I have a barbell setup at home so maybe back squats next.

My impression is (I'm still trying to figure it all out) that there are two ways that exercise helps -- immediately, by using up circulating glucose, and long-term, by making the body better at using energy of all types.

Also, I believe that one of the best ways to make the body more insulin sensitive is by building muscle mass. Therefore, something targeted more towards hypertrophy and strength will go farther than something like strength endurance or LSD cardio. But I think @North Coast Miller is right that there are also powerful mechanisms from HIIT.

Bottom line is probably this: ALL exercise is helpful. The one you will actually DO is the most helpful.

I would love it if some knowledgeable medical types would weigh in on this subject.
 

Spartan Agoge

Level 1 Valued Member
Is there a "best" type of strength training for increasing insulin sensitivity? Like in terms of sets/reps/intensity/exercises/frequency if you're using free weights and/or calisthenics?

I don't have a specific concern but I saw mention of it in something I read and became curious. I did some googling but am having trouble finding those kinds of details.


High rep, high volume, low intensity compound movements.

5x20 is very good rep scheme for this. Do it for bench press, squats, deadlifts, ohp etc.

Also metabolic conditioning. Circuits with little rest. And sprinting.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
High rep, high volume, low intensity compound movements.

5x20 is very good rep scheme for this. Do it for bench press, squats, deadlifts, ohp etc.

Do you mean 5 sets of 20 reps? Yes, that's got to be low intensity.... and also a volume to work up to with some caution, and really finding the right weight. Otherwise DOMS or rhabdo will come to visit. Ha. But yes, I could see that being effective for this objective.
 
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North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
The literature recommends exercise. Over time just about any intensity level other than very low seems to work well. HIIT works rapidly, a few weeks of relatively brief sessions put pre-diabletic participants on even keel with controls. On a longer timeframe more traditional exercise regimen appears to work about as well. There's a ton of published research on this.


 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Thanks for the replies.

When I look around I mostly see references to hiit or aerobics. There are vague references to strength training but nothing specific in regards to programming.

My own guess was that working large muscle groups in a way that requires a lot of energy would be good. So maybe big barbell movements, like squats and presses, or bodyweight (weighted?) moves like dips and pullups with bodybuilding style programming. But that's only a guess.
 

Spartan Agoge

Level 1 Valued Member
Do you mean 5 sets of 20 reps? Yes, that's got to be ow intensity.... and also a volume to work up to with some caution, and really finding the right weight. Otherwise DOMS or rhabdo will come to visit. Ha. But yes, I could see that being effective for this objective.

Yes, exactly, 5 sets of 20 reps.
It is proven that high reps(15-30), combined with high volume(5+ difficult sets) is extremely effective for insulin sensitivity.

Of course the weight must be low, and first build the working capacity. For example start with 3x10, and slowly build the 5x20.

Sprints/intervals where the heart rate goes repeatedly up and down are also effective.

Insulin sensitivity, decrease of myostatin, and growth hormone increase, are all correlated, and very much possible to manipulate and fix.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Yes, exactly, 5 sets of 20 reps.
It is proven that high reps(15-30), combined with high volume(5+ difficult sets) is extremely effective for insulin sensitivity.

Of course the weight must be low, and first build the working capacity. For example start with 3x10, and slowly build the 5x20.

That sounds good actually, for my husband. Simple, effective, not too high of an intensity. 3x10 and progressing towards 5x20, training maybe 3x/week, with a light to moderate weight, sounds just right. Thanks!
 

Antti

Level 8 Valued Member
I have been told by experts, sorry I can't give links, that some current research seems to point out that HIIT works better on visceral fat, and thus the typical metabolic conditions, than steady state exercise.
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Yes, exactly, 5 sets of 20 reps.
It is proven that high reps(15-30), combined with high volume(5+ difficult sets) is extremely effective for insulin sensitivity.

Of course the weight must be low, and first build the working capacity. For example start with 3x10, and slowly build the 5x20.

So something like a circuit of pushups, rows, and lunges might be effective?
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
The mitochondrial expert prof Milan (?) featured on a podcast reckons
going for a walk after eating to be objective number one for improving insulin sensitivity.
I was gonna comment that Tim Ferriss suggests going for a very long walk as the best way to get into ketosis, when starting a long fast. Not HIIT, not lifting, but a long walk. For some reason this seems to be somewhat related.

Not saying Tim Ferriss is a medical authority, but he seems pretty good at measuring this sort of things, and he's familiar with the type of training we do around here.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
So something like a circuit of pushups, rows, and lunges might be effective?

You want to burn local glucose stores. HIIT is going to be best for this, followed by interval circuits. HIIT absolutely scorches local glucose reserves faster than just about any other form of training.

Circuits or intervals could be all manner of KB related or otherwise loaded exercises at about 60% repmax, no need to overthink it. Glycolysis produces ROS which triggers insulin sensitivity in the short term - that's what the research I linked to earlier managed to isolate.

What you're already doing is probably as effective over the long haul as anything else, you only would need to dial it in for some sort of acute intervention, if you were chronically short on training time, or if you were verified pre-diabetic and regular exercise wasn't helping as much as it should.
 

Eyetic

Level 4 Valued Member
Diabetic T1 here, for me Zone 2 training do wonders to me on my BG and I need to lower my basal dosage of insulin whenever I deep into zone 2 training sessions for some weeks.

Strenght training instead is more like a roller coaster, when I start training my BG peaks up (due to the adrenaline release I guess and the liver starting to work) same as it does when i train HIIT (is worse with HIIT), but then once finished if I use the same amount of insulin to eat the same meal I ate the day before there's a sudden drop of BG (the carb per unit of insulin ratio changes), this effect last at least 36hrs on me.

Zone 2 instead makes thing easier but not that drastic, effects does not last that much though..I need to keep doing it to maintain this.
 
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