Exercise elicits high energy demands, stimulating cardiorespiratory function and substrate mobilisation and oxidation. Repeated bouts of exercise lead to whole-body adaptations, which improve athletic performance. Distinct exercise modalities and intensities and nutritional conditions pose specific physiological challenges, subsequently inducing different adaptations to training. Athletes often modify these variables to achieve individualised training goals and maximise performance. Exercise training improves glycaemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes; however, the precise training regimen that confers the most beneficial metabolic adaptations in this population is unknown. In this review, we discuss how modifying exercise type, intensity and modality and nutritional status affects the beneficial effects of exercise on glycaemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Evidence indicates that greater improvements in glycaemic control can be achieved through combined aerobic and resistance training regimens compared with either training type alone. However, the increased frequency of training and a greater number of exercise bouts during combined programmes could be responsible for apparent advantages over a single training modality. The beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on glycaemic control seem to rise with training intensity, with superior adaptations achieved by high-intensity interval training (HIT). In addition, training with low carbohydrate availability ('training low') improves cardiorespiratory function and skeletal muscle oxidative capacity more than conventional training in healthy untrained individuals. Examinations of various training regimens are warranted to assess the safety, efficacy, feasibility and beneficial effects in the type 2 diabetes population. Just like competitive athletes, individuals with type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to adopt training regimens that improve fitness and metabolism. Graphical abstract.