The effects of strength conditioning on skeletal muscle function and mass were determined in older men. Twelve healthy untrained volunteers (age range 60-72 yr) participated in a 12-wk strength training program (8 repetitions/set; 3 sets/day; 3 days/wk) at 80% of the one repetition maximum (1 RM) for extensors and flexors of both knee joints. They were evaluated before the program and after 6 and 12 wk of training. Weekly measurements of 1 RM showed a progressive increase in strength in extensors and flexors. By 12 wk extensor and flexor strength had increased 107.4 (P less than 0.0001) and 226.7% (P less than 0.0001), respectively. Isokinetic peak torque of extensors and flexors measured on a Cybex II dynamometer increased 10.0 and 18.5% (P less than 0.05) at 60 degrees/s and 16.7 and 14.7% (P less than 0.05) at 240 degrees/s. The torque-velocity relationship showed an upward displacement of the curve at the end of training, mainly in the slow-velocity high-torque region. Midthigh composition from computerized tomographic scans showed an increase (P less than 0.01) in total thigh area (4.8%), total muscle area (11.4%), and quadriceps area (9.3%). Biopsies of the vastus lateralis muscle revealed similar increases (P less than 0.001) in type I fiber area (33.5%) and type II fiber area (27.6%). Daily excretion of urinary 3-methyl-L-histidine increased with training (P less than 0.05) by an average 40.8%. Strength gains in older men were associated with significant muscle hypertrophy and an increase in myofibrillar protein turnover.