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Oxidative metabolism is the dominant source of energy for skeletal muscle. Near-infrared spectroscopy allows the non-invasive measurement of local oxygenation, blood flow and oxygen consumption. Although several muscle studies have been made using various near-infrared optical techniques, it is still difficult to interpret the local muscle metabolism properly. The main findings of near-infrared spectroscopy muscle studies in human physiology and clinical medicine are summarized. The advantages and problems of near-infrared spectroscopy measurements, in resting and exercising skeletal muscles studies, are discussed through some representative examples.