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How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity with Strength Training

corporate wellness train May 23, 2024
How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity with Strength Training

Insulin sensitivity plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health and preventing the onset of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

It refers to how efficiently your cells respond to the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels.

When cells become less sensitive to insulin, your body requires more of it to achieve the same effect, leading to insulin resistance.

You know you have insulin resistance when your body treats insulin like that annoying salesperson who keeps knocking on your door. "No, insulin, I don't want to buy any glucose today. Come back later!"

This condition can contribute to various health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.

The good news is that there are actionable strategies, like strength training, you can take to improve insulin sensitivity and enhance your overall well-being.

Who knew that pumping iron could also pump up your body's glucose management skills?

In this lesson you'll learn about what insulin sensitivity is and get practical tips to help you improve it.

Understanding Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and acts as a key to unlock cells, allowing glucose from the bloodstream to enter and be used for energy.

Insulin sensitivity refers to how efficiently cells respond to insulin's signaling, enabling glucose to be taken up from the blood and used effectively.

Insulin resistance is like having a broken key that won't open the cellular lock.

Your cells are like, "Come on, insulin, you had one job!"

And insulin replies, "Sorry, guys, I'm having a tough time fitting into the keyhole. Maybe we can try the window?"

When cells become less sensitive to insulin, the pancreas compensates by producing more insulin. Over time, this can lead to a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar levels and the development of insulin resistance.

Factors Affecting Insulin Sensitivity

Several factors can influence your insulin sensitivity, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and body composition.

While you can't control your genetic predisposition, you have the power to make positive changes in your lifestyle that can significantly impact your insulin sensitivity.

How to Improve Insulin Sensitivity with Strength Training

In addition to making healthy dietary choices, incorporating regular physical activity into your routine is vital for improving insulin sensitivity.

One effective form of exercise that can have a significant impact on insulin sensitivity is progressive resistance exercise, also known as strength training.

Strength training involves using resistance, such as barbells, dumbbells or resistance bands, to challenge your muscles progressively over time.

How Progressive Resistance Exercise Enhances Insulin Sensitivity

Here's how progressive resistance exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and provide practical tips to incorporate it into your fitness regimen.

Increases Muscle Mass: Progressive resistance exercise helps build and maintain lean muscle mass. Muscles are highly metabolically active tissues that require energy, including glucose, for contraction and maintenance. Increased muscle mass leads to improved glucose uptake and utilization, thereby enhancing insulin sensitivity.

Reduces Body Fat: Strength training helps reduce body fat, particularly visceral fat—the deep abdominal fat associated with insulin resistance. As you engage in resistance exercise, your body burns calories and fat stores, contributing to a healthier body composition and improved insulin sensitivity.

Enhances Glucose Metabolism: Progressive resistance exercise improves glucose metabolism by increasing the capacity of muscle cells to utilize glucose. With regular strength training, your muscles become more efficient at taking up glucose from the bloodstream, reducing the reliance on insulin for glucose transport.

Practical Tips for Incorporating Progressive Resistance Exercise

In college I used to think lifting weights was all about looking buff and impressing people at the gym.

But then I found out it can actually improve insulin resistance. It's like a two-for-one deal: you pump iron and pump up your insulin sensitivity at the same time.

It's the only workout where you can say, "Hey, I'm getting stronger, and my cells are finally listening to insulin's orders!"

Who knew that dumbbells could be so smart when it comes to regulating blood sugar?

1. Start with a Plan: Consult with a qualified fitness professional or personal trainer to design a progressive resistance exercise program tailored to your fitness level, goals, and any underlying health considerations. They can help you establish a safe and effective routine.

2. Focus on Compound Exercises: Compound exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, maximizing the benefits of strength training. Examples include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows. These exercises require more energy expenditure and stimulate greater muscle activation, leading to improved insulin sensitivity.

3. Gradually Increase Intensity: The progressive nature of resistance training is key to its effectiveness. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the resistance as your muscles adapt and grow stronger. Aim for a weight that challenges you but still allows you to maintain proper form throughout each exercise.

4. Prioritize Consistency: Consistency is key when it comes to reaping the benefits of progressive resistance exercise. Aim for at least two to three sessions per week, allowing for adequate rest and recovery between workouts. Consistency over time will yield better results in terms of improved insulin sensitivity.

5. Include Both Upper and Lower Body Exercises: It's important to target both upper and lower body muscles for overall strength and balanced development. Incorporate a variety of exercises that engage different muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, shoulder presses, and bicep curls.

6. Mix Up Your Routine: Keep your workouts interesting and challenging by varying the exercises, sets, repetitions, and rest periods. This variety not only prevents boredom but also stimulates different muscle fibers and promotes continuous progress.

7. Monitor and Track Your Progress: Keep a record of your workouts to track your progress and ensure you are progressively challenging yourself. This can be done by recording the weights used, the number of sets and repetitions, and any notes about how the exercises felt.

Regularly reviewing your progress will motivate you and help you adjust your routine as needed.

Additional Strategies to Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Want to stay sweet and sensitive, just like your body's insulin response? Follow these tips.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess body fat, particularly around the waistline, is strongly associated with insulin resistance. By achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, you can improve insulin sensitivity. Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, such as aerobic exercise and strength training, to promote weight loss and enhance insulin sensitivity.

Choose a Balanced Diet: A nutritious diet is crucial for improving insulin sensitivity. Focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods rich in fiber, lean proteins, healthy fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrates. Avoid sugary drinks, refined grains, and processed foods, as they can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and contribute to insulin resistance.

Optimize Carbohydrate Intake: While carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced diet, the type and quantity you consume can impact your insulin sensitivity. Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, which are digested more slowly and have a smaller impact on blood sugar levels. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods, as they can lead to insulin spikes.

Prioritize Fiber: A high-fiber diet has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity. Include a variety of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals. Fiber slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and promoting better insulin sensitivity.

Incorporate Healthy Fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, can positively influence insulin sensitivity. These fats help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and promote a feeling of fullness. Aim to include these healthy fats in your meals while keeping overall fat intake in moderation.

Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day supports optimal insulin sensitivity. Water helps maintain proper hydration, aids in digestion, and facilitates nutrient absorption. Opt for water as your primary beverage choice and limit sugary drinks, as they can contribute to insulin resistance.

Get Sufficient Sleep: Poor sleep patterns and inadequate sleep duration have been linked to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. Strive for seven to nine hours of quality sleep


Incorporating progressive resistance exercise into your fitness routine can significantly improve insulin sensitivity. By increasing muscle mass, reducing body fat, and enhancing glucose metabolism, strength training offers numerous benefits for overall health and well-being. Remember to consult with a professional to develop a safe and tailored program, gradually increase the intensity, and maintain consistency. With dedication and perseverance, you can harness the power of progressive resistance exercise to enhance your insulin sensitivity and promote a healthier future. Here's to winning the fight against high blood sugar, one rep at a time.

To your success,

Coach Joe



Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women get leaner, stronger, and happier. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to lose weight from home, with the best online longevity personal trainer, or you want to visit the best age-management personal trainer in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.

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