A person with diabetes walks into a gym and is overwhelmed by the different pieces of strength training equipment. Strength training doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated.
And having diabetes does not have to make it any more vexing to the newcomer than if that person didn’t have diabetes.
The question of “What is the best strength training machine for diabetics” has the same answer as “What is the best strength training machine for the non-diabetic.”
There are some interesting takes on this question. The first one comes from Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Center for Endocrinology, Mercy Medical Center of Baltimore.
Massey explains, “When it comes to strength training oftentimes individuals don’t need expensive equipment. Resistance bands are fairly inexpensive and portable.
“You can incorporate all different kinds of strength training exercises with resistance bands, and even individuals that need to do chair exercises can utilize this type of equipment to incorporate some strength training into their routine.”
Resistance bands (a.k.a. tension tubes) are sold online and at brick-and-mortar sporting goods departments of retailers. They come in different tension strengths, from very very easy to difficult.
There’s an almost endless number of resistance moves you can do with this tool, and they come in handy for travel.
But what about the big gym equipment?
Certainly some strength training machines are superior to others. As a former personal trainer, if I had to choose one strength training MACHINE for a diabetic, it would be the leg press apparatus.
We’re not talking about a barbell here (best barbell exercise for ANYONE is the deadlift) – but a piece of equipment that you can do basically only one thing with.
The leg press should be part of any diabetic’s strength training regimen. A study out of the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus shows how beneficial the leg press action is for type 2 diabetics.
• The experimental strength training regimen involved the leg press, leg extension and leg lift.
• “After completion of just one bout of exercise, we saw an improvement in blood vessel function,” says Jonathan Little, lead researcher.
• A control group without diabetes was part of this study, but the diabetics showed “greater blood vessel function improvement” than the non-diabetics.
Additional Reasons the Leg Press Is a Great Strength Training Exercise
• Works several major muscle groups at the same time
• Contributes more to fat loss than many more popular exercises like crunches, sit-ups, side bends, biceps curls, triceps work, even the bench press.
• Improves mobility, hip function, knee integrity and balance
Some diabetics have an insufficient number of insulin receptor sites on their muscle cells. Adding lean muscle mass will increase the number of sites and also improve the function of the existing ones.
So the objective is to do strength training that adds lean muscle mass (which will also aid in fat loss). Machines other than the leg press that are best at doing this are:
• Lat pull-down
• Seated row
• Chest press
• Overhead press
• Leg extension
• Leg curl
But why stop at “machines” when you can also use barbells? Three excellent barbell exercises for diabetics are:
• Back squat
• Bench press
These burn tremendous calories, hit all the muscle groups and will build lean muscle mass.
All diabetics should do strength training, focusing on large muscle groups. Honorable mentions include the kettlebell swing, dumbbell squat, overhead barbell press and bent-over dumbbell row.
Intense strength training does a serious job of lowering blood sugar. Diabetics should keep track of their glucose levels before, during and after strength training, and have fast-acting carbs on hand.