The postpubertal period and the early years of adulthood may be of importance for continuing tissue maturation of importance in adulthood and aging. An example of this is the peak bone mass. This study has evaluated the importance of GH for lean mass and muscle strength in adolescents and young adults. GH treatment was discontinued in 40 adolescents aged 16-21 yr with GH deficiency of childhood onset. Measurements of isometric and isokinetic knee-extensor and flexor strength, handgrip strength, lean body mass, fat-free mass, and total body nitrogen were performed annually for 2 yr. Two hundred fifty healthy adolescents were randomly selected for prospective measurements of lean mass and handgrip strength between the ages of 17 and 21 yr. In the adolescents with continuing GH deficiency, lean body mass decreased, compared with the patients defined as having sufficient endogenous GH. The isometric strength in knee flexors increased in the sufficient endogenous GH group and was unchanged in the GH deficiency group during the 2 yr off GH treatment (between group, P < 0.05). The mean and peak handgrip strength increased on average by 9-15% in the group with sufficient endogenous GH and was unchanged in those with GH deficiency (P < 0.05). Lean body mass and handgrip strength (both, P < 0.001) increased in both the healthy boys and girls who were followed for 4 yr with a more marked increase in the boys. The mean increase in handgrip between the age of 17 and 21 yr was 7-9%. The increased lean mass and improved muscle performance seen in healthy adolescents did not occur in adolescents with GH deficiency. These findings suggest that GH is of importance for the maturation of lean mass and muscle strength in adolescents and young adults.