Rising from a chair is a task essential for independent living. Many elderly persons have difficulty with this task. Previous studies have drawn conflicting conclusions as to the role of strength in limiting the ability to rise from a chair. The purpose of this study is to determine the role of knee extensor strength in rising from a chair in the functionally impaired elderly. It is hypothesized that knee extensor strength limits the minimum chair height from which a subject can rise in the functionally impaired elderly, but not in the young. Studying both young healthy adults and functionally impaired elderly showed that required joint moment increased monotonically with decreasing chair height. Further, the elderly used significantly more of their available strength to rise from any chair height, and their mean required knee moment was 97\% of the available strength when rising from the lowest chair height from which they could successfully rise. These data suggest that strength is a limiting factor in determining the minimum chair height from which the functionally impaired elderly may rise. Copyright (C) 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.