Algorithms for explicit integration of structural dynamics problems with multiple time steps (subcycling) are investigated. Only one such algorithm, due to Smolinski and Sleith has proved to be stable in a classical sense. A simplified version of this algorithm that retains its stability is presented. However, as with the original version, it can be shown to sacrifice accuracy to achieve stability. Another algorithm in use is shown to be only statistically stable, in that a probability of stability can be assigned if appropriate time step limits are observed. This probability improves rapidly with the number of degrees of freedom in a finite element model. The stability problems are shown to be a property of the central difference method itself, which is modified to give the subcycling algorithm. A related problem is shown to arise when a constraint equation in time is introduced into a time-continuous space-time finite element model. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science S.A.