What Resistance Training Can Do for You


Sheri Colberg-OchsBy Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD

In addition to your normal aerobic exercise routine, you might want to consider adding in some resistance training at least twice a week. Resistance training helps increase muscle mass (and prevents it from deteriorating as you age) — this can enhance your insulin action, your round-the-clock resting energy expenditure and your blood glucose control. You will also experience measurable increases in strength in as little time as one to two weeks. Even if you train as infrequently as one day a week, major strength gains are possible.

Why worry about staying strong? Besides the noteworthy benefits to diabetes management, strength gains are the key to preventing injuries, particularly from falling, which occurs more frequently as people age. Increases in strength can also prevent the frailty that can occur with older age, enhance your ability to care for yourself, and improve physical and mental health.

The current recommendation is to resistance train two to three nonconsecutive days per week, targeting all the major muscle groups of your body. Some examples of traditional training exercises are: biceps curls, abdominal crunches, bench presses, leg presses, lunges, and calf raises. If you are a novice, start out with lighter weights or resistance bands that enable you to complete one to two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions (a.k.a. reps) on each exercise. When you have completed this elementary stage of your weight program for six to eight weeks, you will be able to handle heavier weights and perform fewer reps per set. Ideally, your goal is to decrease the number of reps that you can actually complete before you fatigue down to 8 to 12 reps per set.

Research has shown that using lighter weights and more reps or heavier weights and fewer reps likely produces similar results, although heavier ones tend to control your blood glucose levels better. You can vary your training by alternating between easy days — where you do more reps with lighter weights — and hard days — when you lift heavier weights fewer times. Just make sure to work a particular area of your body (i.e., upper body) no more frequently than every other day. Also be sure to equally train muscles with opposite actions on a joint, such as the biceps and triceps of your upper arm or the quadriceps and hamstrings of your thigh.

Resistance Training Dos and Don'ts:


  • Resistance training that includes exercises using all parts of your body (upper and lower body, abdominal area, and lower back) two to three nonconsecutive days a week.
  • During each workout session, start with exercises that use multiple muscle groups first (e.g., thighs), and then isolate smaller muscle groups with additional exercises.
  • Train opposing muscle groups (such as biceps and triceps) equally to avoid injuries.
  • Do at least one set per exercise, preferably doing 8 to 12 repetitions to reach fatigue.
  • Exhale fully as you work against or lift the resistance and inhale during the return to the starting position.
  • Take two to three minutes of rest between multiple sets of the same exercise.
  • Use as full a range of motion as possible around each joint during all exercises.
  • Allow at least 48 hours to recuperate between training on specific parts of your body (i.e., upper body, lower body, etc.).
  • Stretch during and after resistance training workouts for greater strength gains.
  • During the first few weeks of training, focus on your body mechanics and technique — then slowly start to add on more weight or resistance.
  • Keep your torso and spine straight during all exercises (except abs and lower-back work).
  • Consider finding a workout facility or gym that has either resistance training machines or free weights that you can use once your strength increases.

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Last Modified Date: February 15, 2013

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