Exercise-induced increases in blood somatotropin (hGH) have always been considered in terms of quantity of the circulating molecules. Knowing that the hypophysis can release several GH species, we investigated the differential release in blood of total hGH (hGHT) and the main hGH variant (hGH20K) molecules in six trained male swimmers exposed to three different conditions known to favor GH release in blood: 45 min--70% maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) bicycling and swimming, and 20 min of sauna bathing. Based on the binding specificity of hGH antibodies, hGH20K was isolated then assayed using the Nichols immunoradiometric assay system. All three experimental conditions produced significant (P less than 0.001) elevations in blood hGHT and hGH20K. In all three cases, mean blood hGH20K contribution to blood hGHT was relatively constant (11.9, SE 0.7%). Rises in rectal temperature were not statistically related to the changes in blood hGHT. This demonstration of a relatively constant elevation in hGH20K during bicycling, swimming, and sauna bathing can hardly explain the large differences in blood hGHT responses reported in literature under similar conditions.