Skeletal muscle strength is often determined to evaluate the adaptive response to an exercise intervention programme. Although dynamometry is considered the "gold standard" for the assessment of muscle strength in vivo, one-repetition maximum (1-RM) testing performed on training-specific equipment is more commonly applied. We assessed the validity of specific knee extension 1-RM testing by comparison with dynamometry in a heterogeneous population (n = 55). All participants performed 1-RM tests on regular leg extension and leg press machines. Additionally, isometric (at seven different knee angles) and isokinetic (at four different velocities) knee extension peak torques were determined. Pearson's r was calculated for the relationship between 1-RM data and peak torques for the entire population and for subgroups defined by age and gender. One-repetition maximum strength correlated strongly with the dynamometer results. One-repetition maximum leg extension correlated more strongly with peak torques than did 1-RM leg press (0.78 </= r </= 0.88 vs. 0.72 </= r </= 0.77; P < 0.001). Similar correlations were observed in all subgroups. We conclude that 1-RM testing represents a valid means to assess leg muscle strength in vivo in young and elderly men and women. Considering the importance of training specificity in strength assessment, we argue that 1-RM testing can be applied to assess changes in leg muscle strength following an exercise intervention.