Evaluation of handgrip forces constitutes an essential component of ergonomic evaluation (e.g. of hand tools), but is difficult to perform at the workplace. The present study describes a series of experiments on 8 healthy male subjects to determine the validity of linear regression models using the surface electromyography (EMG) of up to 6 forearm muscles to predict handgrip forces. For isometric gripping tasks, normalized EMG to grip force calibrations using a series of dynamic force bursts up to 300 N resulted in a valid prediction of grip forces based on the EMG of 6 forearm muscles. Absolute differences between observed and predicted grip force were small (between 27 and 41 N) which shows that the proposed method might be used for the ergonomic evaluation of the use of hand tools. The EMG - handgrip force model appeared to be minimally affected by grip width, i.e. a model for 67 mm grip width was able to validly predict grip forces for 59 and 75 mm grip widths. Furthermore, it was shown that of the 6 forearm muscles studied at least 3 have to be assessed to arrive at a sufficient level of validity, while it seems to be irrelevant which 3 of those 6 forearm muscles are assessed. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.