Diurnal variation in muscle performance has been well documented in the past few years, but almost exclusively in the male population. The possible effects of the menstrual cycle on human circadian rhythms have remained equivocal, particularly in the context of muscle strength. The purpose of the study was to analyze the isolated and combined effects of circamensal variation and diurnal changes on muscle strength. Eight eumenorrheic females (age 30 +/- 5 yrs, height 1.63 +/- 0.06m and body mass 66.26 +/- 4.6kg: mean +/- SD) participated in this investigation. Isokinetic peak torque of knee extensors and flexors of the dominant leg were measured at 1.05, 3.14rad.s(-1) (through 90 degrees ROM) at two times-of-day (06:00, 18:00 h) and five time points of the menstrual cycle (menses, mid-follicular, ovulation, mid-luteal, late luteal). In addition, maximum voluntary isometric contraction of knee extensors and flexors and electrically stimulated isometric contraction of the knee extensors were measured at 60 degrees of knee flexion. Rectal temperature was measured during 30min before the tests. There was a significant time-of-day effect on peak torque values for isometric contraction of knee extensors under electrical stimulation (P< 0.05). At 18:00 h, muscle force was 2.6% greater than at 06:00 h. The time-of-day effect was not significant when the tests were performed voluntarily without stimulation: effect size calculations indicated small differences between morning and evening for maximal voluntary isometric contraction and peak torque (at 1.05rad.s(-1) for the knee extensors. A circamensal variation was observed for peak torque of knee flexors at 1.05rad.s(-1), extensors at 3.14rad.s(-1), and also isometric contraction of knee flexors, values being greatest at the ovulation phase. Interaction effects between time-of-day and menstrual cycle phase were not observed in any of the indices of muscle strength studied. The phase of the menstrual cycle seemed to have a greater effect than did the time-of-day on female muscle strength in this group of subjects. The present results suggest that peripheral rather than central mechanisms (e.g., motivation) are implicated in the diurnal variation of maximal isometric strength of women.