The aim of this study was to investigate the performance of in vivo quantitative near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) in skeletal muscle at various workloads. NIRS was used for the quantitative measurement of O2 consumption (mVO2) in the human flexor digitorum superficialis muscle at rest and during rhythmic isometric handgrip exercise in a broad range of work intensities (10-90% MVC = maximum voluntary contraction force). Six subjects were tested on three separate days. No significant differences were found in mVO2 measured over different days with the exception of the highest workload. The within-subject variability for each workload measured over the three measurements days ranged from 15.7 to 25.6% and did not increase at the high workloads. The mVO2 was 0.14 ± 0.01 mlO2 min-1 100 g-1 at rest and increased roughly 19 times to 2.68 ± 0.58 mlO2 min-1 100 g-1 at 72% MVC. These results show that local muscle oxygen consumption at rest as well as during exercise at a broad range of work intensities can be measured reliably by NIRS, applied to a uniform selected subject population. This is of great importance as direct local measurement of mVO2 during exercise is not possible with the conventional techniques. The method is robust enough to measure over separate days and at various workloads and can therefore contribute to a better understanding of human physiology in both the normal and pathological state of the muscle.