The negative expiratory pressure (NEP) method was used to detect expiratory flow limitation at rest and at different exercise levels in 4 normal subjects and 14 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This method does not require performance of forced expirations, nor does it require use of body plethysmography. It consists in applying negative pressure (-5 cmH2O) at the mouth during early expiration and comparing the flow-volume curve of the ensuing expiration with that of the preceding control breath. Subjects in whom application of NEP does not elicit an increase in flow during part or all of the tidal expiration are considered flow limited. The four normal subjects were not flow limited up to 90% of maximal exercise power output (Wmax). Five COPD patients were flow limited at rest, 9 were flow limited at one-third Wmax, and 12 were flow limited at two-thirds Wmax. Whereas in all patients who were flow limited at rest the maximal O2 uptake was below the normal limits, this was not the case in most of the other patients. In conclusion, NEP provides a rapid and reliable method to detect expiratory flow limitation at rest and during exercise.