The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that strength training benefits diet-controlled obese children with respect to lean mass and bone mineral acquisition. Eighty-two Hong Kong school children (aged 10.4 +/- 1.0 years, 70 in Tanner stage 1, 12 in stage 2) who were obese/overweight were randomly assigned to receive either a balanced low-energy (900-1200 cal) diet plus strength training (n = 41) (training group) or the diet alone (n = 41) (control group). The training group attended a 75-minute strength exercise program 3 times/week for 6 weeks (phase 1), after which they were offered and 22 children opted to continue a once-weekly program for a further 28 weeks (phase 2). All children were evaluated at baseline, after 6 weeks, and at the end of the 36-week study (including an intervening 2-week introduction to phase 2). Body composition and bone mineral content were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and diet was assessed by food-frequency questionnaire. The results showed that the exercise programs were well accepted, with good attendance at the exercise classes. After 6 weeks, the children in the training group showed significantly larger increases in lean body mass (+ 0.8 kg [2.4%] vs. +0.3 kg [1.0%], p < 0.05) and total bone mineral content (+46.9 g [3.9%] vs. +33.6 g [2.9%], p < 0.05) than those in the control group. At the end of the study, these trends were maintained in the continued-training subgroup, though no longer reaching statistical significance. We conclude that in diet-controlled prepubertal obese/overweight children, participation in an exercise program with emphasis on strength training resulted in improved lean mass and bone mineral accrual.