The purpose of this study was to construct a simple ergometer for the 31P NMR spectroscopic study of dynamic forearm exercise in a whole body magnetic resonance imaging system and to evaluate the total system and the physiological response to this type of exercise using a multistage protocol. The system consisted of a completely nonmagnetic assembly including a rope, pulley and weights. The work of lifting weights was quantitated. The exercise protocol of 1-min increments in work load enabled subjects to reach maximal effort. Phosphocreatine decreased linearly with an increase in work load and was accompanied by a fall in pH and an increase in lactate level in the antecubital vein of the exercising forearm; concomitantly, there was a slight increase in whole body oxygen uptake and heart rate. Spectroscopy gave reproducible results using this exercise protocol. These results demonstrate that this system provides a reliable means for performing 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies during forearm exercise.