INTRODUCTION: Arm support like gravity compensation may improve arm movements during stroke rehabilitation. It is unknown how gravity compensation affects muscle activation patterns during reach and retrieval movements. Since muscle activity during reach is represented by a component varying with movement velocity and a component supposedly counteracting gravity, we hypothesized that gravity compensation decreases the amplitude of muscle activity, but does not affect the pattern. To examine this, we compared muscle activity during well defined movements with and without gravity compensation in healthy elderly. METHODS: Ten subjects performed reach and retrieval movements with and without gravity compensation. Muscle activity of biceps, triceps, anterior, middle and posterior parts of deltoid and upper trapezius was compared between the two conditions. RESULTS: The level of muscle activity was lower with gravity compensation in all muscles, reaching significance in biceps, anterior deltoid and trapezius (p0.026). The muscle activation pattern did not differ between movements with and without gravity compensation (p0.662). DISCUSSION: Gravity compensation only influenced the level of muscle activity but not the muscle activation pattern in terms of timing. Future studies should examine if the influence of gravity compensation is comparable for stroke patients. This may stimulate early and intensive training during rehabilitation.