A principal step in the process leading to muscle contraction is the intracellular release of Ca2+. We have detected and compared some physical and chemical events that reflect Ca2+ release in contracting frog skeletal muscle cells, described the effects of some agents that are believed to alter intracellular Ca2+ release during contraction, and speculated about the role of Ca2+ release in influencing some of the mechanical properties of frog muscle. The specific physical features recorded were changes in striation spacing, myofibrillar orientation, and force development. The chemical feature was the relative change in intracellular [Ca2+] recorded as light emission from cells microinjected with the Ca2+-sensitive protein aequorin. The presence or absence of a correlation among these variables has been used (i) to evaluate the action of some agents thought to change intracellular Ca2+ release in excitation--contraction (E--C) coupling, (ii) to further substantiate the effects of cell length on Ca2+ release, and (iii) to examine some details of models for E--C coupling. The results showed that potentiating agents enhance and prolong intracellular Ca2+ release without changing the rate of Ca2+ removal during E--C coupling. This extra Ca2+ does not produce the same effect on contractions at all lengths. Contractility is inversely related to cell length, and Ca2+-induced activation is normally less than maximum not only at short lengths but also at optimal striation spacings.