Maximal and submaximal activation level of the right knee-extensor muscle group were studied during isometric and slow isokinetic muscular contractions in eight male subjects. The activation level was quantified by means of the twitch interpolation technique. A single electrical impulse was delivered, whatever the contraction mode, on the femoral nerve at a constant 50 degrees knee flexion (0 degrees = full extension). Concentric, eccentric (both at 20 degrees /s velocity), and isometric voluntary activation levels were then calculated. The mean activation levels during maximal eccentric and maximal concentric contractions were 88.3 and 89.7%, respectively, and were significantly lower (P < 0.05) with respect to maximal isometric contractions (95.2%). The relationship between voluntary activation levels and submaximal torques was linearly fitted (P < 0.01): comparison of slopes indicated lower activation levels during submaximal eccentric compared with isometric or concentric contractions. It is concluded that reduced neural drive is present during 20 degrees /s maximal concentric and both maximal and submaximal eccentric contractions. These results indicate a voluntary activation dependency on both tension levels and type of muscular actions in the human knee-extensor muscle group.