1. The relationship between mechanical power output and the rate of ATP hydrolysis was investigated in segments of permeabilized fibres isolated from rabbit psoas muscle. 2. Contractions were elicited at 12 degrees C by photolytic release of ATP from the P3 -1-(2-nitrophenyl) ester of ATP (NPE-caged ATP). Inorganic phosphate (Pi) release was measured by a fluorescence method using a coumarin-labelled phosphate binding protein. Force and sarcomere length were also monitored. 3. ATPase activity was determined from the rate of appearance of Pi during each phase of contraction. The ATPase rate was 10.3 s-1 immediately following release of ATP and 5. 1 s-1 during the isometric phase prior to the applied shortening. It rose hyperbolically with shortening velocity, reaching 18.5 s-1 at a maximal shortening velocity > 1 ML s-1 (muscle lengths s-1). 4. Sarcomeres shortened at 0.09 ML s-1 immediately following the photolytic release of ATP and at 0.04 ML s-1 prior to the period of applied shortening. The high initial ATPase rate may be largely attributed to initial sarcomere shortening. 5. During shortening, maximal power output was 28 W l-1. Assuming the free energy of hydrolysis is 50 kJ mol-1, the efficiency of contraction was calculated from the power output at each shortening velocity. The maximum efficiency was 0.36 at a shortening velocity of 0.27 ML s-1, corresponding to a force level 51 % of that in the isometric state. 6. At the maximal shortening velocity, only 10 % of the myosin heads are attached to the thin filaments at any one time.