Isometric skeletal muscle fatigue is usually assumed to be a linear process based upon the monotonic decrease in spectral frequency of the EMG. Since spectral analysis by fast Fourier transform (FFT) constitutes a linear transformation of the data, the present study was designed to reevaluate the time-course of muscle fatigue with a nonlinear tool, recurrence quantification analysis (RQA). Surface EMG recordings were obtained from the multifidus muscle of 17 human subjects during isometric posture-holding of the upper torso. The process of muscle fatigue was found to be linear for 59% of the subjects by FFT criteria, but nonlinear for 76% by RQA criteria. As a demonstrative control, both slow and fast transients occurring within a nonlinear mathematical process could be accurately depicted by RQA, but not by FFT. It is concluded that assessment of EMG patterns by nonlinear techniques can give insight into the time-course of fatiguing muscles attributed to the summation of several nonlinear and competing processes.