Inspiratory muscle weakness due to lung hyperinflation and muscle wasting may occur in cystic fibrosis. We therefore measured diaphragm function and bulk in 18 stable patients with cystic fibrosis and 15 matched control subjects; the abdominal and quadriceps muscles were studied for comparison. We assessed diaphragm mass, abdominal muscle thickness, twitch transdiaphragmatic and gastric pressures, quadriceps cross-section and isokinetic strength, and lean body mass. Lean body mass, quadriceps strength, and quadriceps cross-section were lower in patients with cystic fibrosis. Twitch transdiaphragmatic pressure was 23% lower and twitch gastric pressure was 22% greater in patients with cystic fibrosis than in control subjects, but diaphragm mass and abdominal muscle thickness were similar in the two groups. For any given lean body mass and quadriceps cross-section, patients with cystic fibrosis had greater diaphragm mass and abdominal muscle thickness. Diaphragm mass had greater intersubject variability in patients with cystic fibrosis than in control subjects. We conclude that diaphragm strength is decreased but abdominal muscle strength is increased in patients with cystic fibrosis. Diaphragm and abdominal muscle bulk are not affected by the general muscle wasting, which suggests that there may be a training effect of cystic fibrosis on respiratory muscles. However, the variability of diaphragm mass indicates that this beneficial response does not occur in all patients with cystic fibrosis.