Ca2+ is the primary regulator of force generation by cross-bridges in striated muscle activation and relaxation. Relaxation is as necessary as contraction and, while the kinetics of Ca2+-induced force development have been investigated extensively, those of force relaxation have been both studied and understood less well. Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying relaxation kinetics is of special importance for understanding diastolic function and dysfunction of the heart. A number of experimental models, from whole muscle organs and intact muscle fibres down to single myofibrils, have been used to explore the cascade of kinetic events leading to mechanical relaxation. By using isolated myofibrils and fast solution switching techniques we can distinguish the sarcomeric mechanisms of relaxation from those of myoplasmic Ca2+ removal. There is strong evidence that cross-bridge mechanics and kinetics are major determinants of the time course of striated muscle relaxation whilst thin filament inactivation kinetics and cooperative activation of thin filament by cycling, force-generating cross-bridges do not significantly limit the relaxation rate. Results in myofibrils can be explained well by a simple two-state model of the cross-bridge cycle in which the apparent rate of the force generating transition is modulated by fast, Ca2+-dependent equilibration between off- and on-states of actin. Inter-sarcomere dynamics during the final rapid phase of full force relaxation are responsible for deviations from this simple model.