Skeletal muscle glycogen metabolism was investigated in eight male subjects during and after six sets of 70% one repetition maximum (1 RM, I-70) and 35% 1 RM (I-35) intensity weight-resistance leg extension exercise. Total force application to the machine lever arm was determined via a strain gauge and computer interfaced system and was equated between trials. Compared with the I-70 trial, the I-35 trial was characterized by almost double the repetitions (13 +/- 1 vs. 6 +/- 0) and half the peak concentric torque for each repetition (12.4 +/- 0.5 vs. 24.2 +/- 1.0 Nm). After the sixth set, muscle glycogen degradation was similar between I-70 and I-35 trials (47.0 +/- 6.6 and 46.6 +/- 6.0 mmol/kg wet wt, respectively), as was muscle lactate accumulation (13.8 +/- 0.7 and 16.7 +/- 4.2 mmol/kg wet wt, respectively). After 2 h of passive recovery without caloric intake, muscle glycogen increased by 22.2 +/- 6.8 and 14.2 +/- 2.5 mmol/kg wet wt in the I-70 and I-35 trials, respectively. Optical absorbance measurement of periodic acid-Schiff-stained muscle sections after the 2 h of recovery revealed larger absorbance increases in fast-twitch than in slow-twitch fibers (0.119 +/- 0.024 and 0.055 +/- 0.024, P = 0.02). Data indicated that when external work was constant, the absolute amount of muscle glycogenolysis was the same regardless of the intensity of resistance exercise. Nevertheless the rate of glycogenolysis during the I-70 trial was approximately double that of the I-35 trial.