BACKGROUND: The causes of age-related hyperkyphosis (HK) include osteoporosis, but only 1/3 of those most severely affected have vertebral fractures, suggesting that there are other important, and potentially modifiable causes. We hypothesized that muscle mass and quality may be important determinants of kyphosis in older persons. METHODS: We recruited 72 persons >65 years to participate in a prospective study designed to evaluate kyphosis and fall risk. At the baseline visit, participants had their body composition measures completed using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA). They had kyphosis measured in either the standing [S] or lying [L] position: 1) Cobb angle from DXA [L]; 2) Debrunner kyphometer [S]; 3) architect's flexicurve ruler [S]; and 4) blocks method [L]. Multivariable linear/logistic regression analyses were done to assess the association between each body composition and 4 kyphosis measures. RESULTS: Women (n = 52) were an average age of 76.8 (SD 6.7) and men 80.5 (SD 7.8) years. They reported overall good/excellent health (93%), the average body mass index was 25.3 (SD 4.6) and 35% reported a fall in the past year. Using published cut-offs, about 20-30% were determined to have HK. For the standing assessments of kyphosis only, after adjusting for age, sex, weight and hip BMD, persons with lower TLM were more likely to be hyperkyphotic. CONCLUSIONS: Lower TLM is associated with HK in older persons. The results were stronger when standing measures of kyphosis were used, suggesting that the effects of muscle on thoracic kyphosis are best appreciated under spinal loading conditions.