We estimated the in situ force-generating capacity of the costal and crural portions of the canine diaphragm by relating in vitro contractile properties and diaphragmatic dimensions to in situ lengths. Piezoelectric crystals were implanted on right costal and left crural diaphragms of anesthetized dogs, via midline laparatomy. With the abdomen reclosed, diaphragm lengths were recorded at five lung volumes. Contractile properties of excised muscle bundles were then measured. In vitro force-frequency and length-tension characteristics of the costal and crural diaphragms were virtually identical; their optimal force values were 2.15 and 2.22 kg/cm2, respectively. In situ, at residual volume, functional residual capacity (FRC), and total lung capacity the costal diaphragm lay at 102, 95, and 60% of optimal length (Lo), whereas the crural diaphragm lay at 88, 84, and 66% of Lo. Muscle cross-sectional area was 40% greater in costal than in crural diaphragms. Considering in situ lengths, cross-sectional areas, and in vitro length-tension characteristics at FRC, the costal diaphragm could exert 60% more force than the crural diaphragm.