The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of bone mineral density (BMD) to muscular strength in highly trained young male athletes in order to gain insights concerning the influence of heavy resistance training on BMD. Twenty-five elite junior weightlifters (age, 17.4 +/- 1.4 yr) and 11 age-matched controls (16.9 +/- 1.1 yr) volunteered for this investigation. Measurements of BMD (g.cm-2) utilizing dual energy x-ray absorptiometry were obtained for the lumbar spine (L2-4) and the proximal femur (neck; trochanter, Ward's triangle). The BMD values for the junior lifters were found to be significantly greater at all sites for the junior weightlifters compared with their age-matched control group. The BMD values of the spine and femoral neck of the junior weightlifters when compared with adult reference data (i.e., 20-39 yr old men) were found to be significantly greater. Both simple and multiple regression analyses demonstrated significant relationships of BMD with strength accounting for 30-65% of the variance. These data suggest that in elite junior weightlifters, muscle strength, highly specific to the sport of weightlifting, has a major influence on BMD due to the influence of the chronic overloads experienced in training.