Due to more stringent requirements to protect personnel against hazardous gasses, the inspiratory resistance of the present generation of respiratory protective devices tends to increase. Therefore an important question is to what extent inspiratory resistance may increase without giving problems during physical work. In this study the effects of three levels (0.24; 1.4 and 8.3 kPa s l(-1)) of inspiratory resistance were tested on maximal voluntary performance. Nine male subjects performed a graded exercise test on a cycle ergometer with and without these three levels of inspiratory resistance. Oxygen consumption, heart rate, time to exhaustion and external work were measured. The results of these experiments showed that increasing inspiratory resistance led to a reduction of time to exhaustion (TTE) on a graded exercise test(GXT). Without inspiratory resistance the mean TTE was 11.9 min, the three levels of resistance gave the following mean TTE's: 10.7, 7.8 and 2.7 min. This study showed that TTE on a GXT can be predicted when physical fitness (VO2-max) of the subject and inspiratory resistance are known. The metabolic rate of the subjects was higher with inspiratory resistance, but no differences were found between the three selected inspiratory loads. Other breathing parameters as minute ventilation, tidal volume, expiration time and breathing frequency showed no or minor differences between the inspiratory resistances. The most important conclusion of these experiments is that the overall workload increases due to an increase in inspiratory resistance by wearing respiratory protective devices.