The association between a history of heavy work and muscle strength was studied among 51 physically active women aged 66–85 years trained in sports and 41 women aged 70–81 years selected randomly from the population register. Maximal isometric muscle strength of hand grip, arm flexion, leg extension and trunk flexion and extension were measured using specially constructed dynamometers. The capacity of the abdominal muscles was evaluated by means of a sit-up test. The study included an interview dealing with the subjects' histories of heavy manual employment. The mean histories of heavy work for the trained and untrained women were 24 and 36 years, respectively. The trained women showed significantly greater maximal isometric muscle strength and abdominal muscle capacity than the untrained women. Among the trained women there was no correlation between the amount of heavy work and muscle performance. Among the untrained women the amount of heavy work correlated positively with maximal isometric trunk extension strength. The results would suggest that among elderly women, whether physically active or not, a history of heavy work has no systematic association with muscle strength.