Maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressures were measured at residual volume, total lung capacity, and functional residual capacity in 45 morbidly obese patients who on average weighed 183% of their predicted weights. The pressures were compared to determinations made in 25 subjects of similar age whose mean weight was 99% of predicted. For both men and women, pressures generated by control subjects tended to be higher than those produced by obese patients but the differences were not statistically significant. The mean vital capacity and total lung capacity were also similar in the 2 subject groups. The results indicate that despite working constantly against a less compliant chest wall, obese patients do not increase their capacity to generate maximal respiratory pressures.