Real-time hybrid simulation (RTHS) has increasingly been recognized as a powerful methodology to evaluate structural components and systems under realistic operating conditions. It is a cost effective approach compared with large scale shake table testing. Furthermore, it can maximally preserve rate dependency and nonlinear characteristics of physically tested (non)structural components. Although conceptually very attractive, challenges do exist that require comprehensive validation before RTHS should be employed to assess complicated physical phenomena. One of the most important issues that governs the stability and accuracy of an RTHS is the ability to achieve synchronization of boundary conditions between the computational and physical substructures. The objective of this study is to propose and validate an H∞ loop shaping design for actuator motion control in RTHS. Controller performance is evaluated in the laboratory using a worst-case substructure proportioning scheme. A modular, one-bay, one-story steel moment resisting frame specimen is tested experimentally. Its deformation is kept within the linear range for ready comparison with the reference closed-form solution. Both system analysis and experimental results show that the proposed H∞ strategy can significantly improve both the stability limit and test accuracy compared with several existing strategies. Another key feature of the proposed strategy is its robust performance in terms of unmodeled dynamics and uncertainties, which inevitably exist in any physical system. This feature is essential to enhance test quality for specimens with nonlinear dynamic behavior, thus ensuring the validity of the proposed approach for more complex RTHS implementations. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.