A study of the fiber type composition of fourteen muscles spanning the human glenohumeral joint was carried out with the purpose of determining the contribution of fiber types to overall muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and to estimate the maximum shortening velocity (V(max)) of those muscles. Muscle biopsies were procured from 4 male cadavers (mean age 50) within 24 hr of death, snap frozen, mounted, and transversely sectioned (10 microm). Slides were stained for myofibrillar ATPase after alkaline preincubation. Photoimages were taken of defined areas (100 fibers) using the Bioquant system, and fiber type and CSA were measured from these images. Staining for mATPase produced three different fiber types: slow-oxidative (SO), fast-oxidative-glycolytic (FOG), and fast-glycolytic (FG). On average, the muscle fiber type composition ranged from 22 to 40% of FG, from 17 to 51% of FOG, and from 23 to 56% of SO. Twelve out of the 14 muscles had average SO proportions ranging from 35 to 50%. V(max) was calculated from the fiber type contribution relative to CSA and shortening velocity values taken from the literature. The maximum velocities of shortening presented here provide a physiological basis for the development of human shoulder musculoskeletal models suitable for predicting muscle forces for functionally relevant tasks encompassing conditions of muscle shortening and lengthening.