To quantitate improvement in hand-grip myotonia and muscle strength (i.e., the "warm-up" phenomenon) in myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), six successive, standardized maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVICs) were recorded on 2 separate days using a computerized isometric hand-grip myometer in 25 genetically confirmed DM1 patients and in 17 normal controls. An automated computer program placed cursors along the declining (relaxation) phase of the MVICs at 90%, 50%, and 5% of peak force (PF) and calculated relaxation times (RTs) between these points. Mean 90% to 5% RT (a measure of myotonia) rapidly declined from 2.5 s in MVIC 1 to 0.8 s in MVIC 6 (warm-up = 1.7 s) in DM1; in controls, it remained 0.4 s for all six MVICs (warm-up = 0). In DM1, 70% of warm-up occurred between MVIC 1 and 2, almost exclusively in the terminal 50% to 5% phase of muscle relaxation. Day 1 warm-up was highly correlated with the severity of myotonia, and with day 2 warm-up. Improvement in myotonia was not accompanied by either transient paresis or improvement in PF. We conclude that, with this testing paradigm: warm-up of myotonia in DM1 can be reliably measured; is proportional to severity of myotonia; occurs rapidly, being most prominent between the first and second grips; mainly results from shortening of the terminal phase of muscle relaxation; and is not accompanied by significant warm-up in force output.