The myosin heavy chain (MHC) composition of single fibres from m. biceps brachii of young sedentary men (28 +/- 0.4 years, mean +/- SE, n = 4) and male body builders (25 +/- 2.0 years, n = 4) was analysed with a sensitive one-dimensional electrophoretic technique. Compared with sedentary men, the body builders had a higher proportion of fibres containing only MHC type IIa (36 +/- 4 vs 12 +/- 2%; P less than 0.05), but a lower proportion of fibres with a coexistence of MHC types IIa and IIb (16 +/- 3 vs 34 +/- 2%; P less than 0.05) and nearly no fibres containing only MHC type IIb (1 +/- 1 vs 12 +/- 1%; P less than 0.05). Myofibrillar ATPase histochemistry only demonstrated a trend towards a higher proportion of type IIa fibres (31 +/- 6 vs 25 +/- 6%) and a lower proportion of type IIb fibres (18 +/- 5 vs 26 +/- 6%) within the body builders. These results, therefore, suggest an altered expression of MHC isoforms within histochemical type II fibres of human skeletal muscle with body building. Furthermore, in human skeletal muscle differences in expression of MHC isoforms may not always be reflected in the traditional histochemical classification of types I, IIa, IIb and IIc fibres.