The decline of strength with age has often been attributed to declining muscle mass in older subjects. To investigate factors which might influence changes in strength across the life span, grip strength and muscle mass (as estimated by creatinine excretion and forearm circumference) were measured in 847 healthy volunteers, aged 20-100 years, from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Cross-sectional and longitudinal results concur that grip strength increases into the thirties and declines at an accelerating rate after age 40. However, the grip strength of 48% of subjects less than 40 years old, 29% of individuals 40-59 years old, and 15% of subjects older than 60 did not decline during the average 9-year follow-up. Grip strength is strongly correlated with muscle mass (r = .60, p less than .0001). However, using multiple regression analysis, grip strength is more strongly correlated with age (partial r2 = .38) than muscle mass (partial r2 = .16). Additionally, a residuals analysis demonstrates that younger subjects are stronger and older subjects are weaker than one would predict based on their muscular size. Thus, while strength losses are partially explained by declining muscle mass, there remain other yet undetermined factors beyond declining muscle mass to explain some of the loss of strength seen with aging.