A procedure was developed to measure insulin binding to human skeletal muscle obtained via the percutaneous muscle biopsy technique. With this method the effects of exercise on insulin binding were investigated. Subjects (n = 9) exercised for 60 min on a bicycle ergometer at intensities ranging from 20-86% maximum O2 consumption (VO2max). Blood samples were obtained before, during, and after exercise and analyzed for glucose and insulin. Muscle samples (250 mg) for the vastus lateralis were obtained 30 min before exercise, at the end of exercise, and 60 min after exercise. Two subjects rested during the experimental period. There was no linear relationship between exercise intensities and the changes in insulin binding to human muscle. At rest (n = 2) and at exercise intensities below 60% VO2max (n = 5) no change in insulin binding occurred (P greater than 0.05). However, when exercise occurred at greater than or equal to 69% VO2max (n = 4), a pronounced decrement in insulin binding (30-50%) was observed (P less than 0.05). This persisted for 60 min after exercise. These results indicate that insulin binding in human muscle is not altered by 60 min of exercise at less than or equal to 60% VO2max but that a marked decrement occurs when exercise is greater than or equal to 69% VO2max.