We have investigated the effects of the orthophosphate (P(i)) analog orthovanadate (Vi) on maximum shortening velocity (Vmax) in activated, chemically skinned, vertebrate skeletal muscle fibers. Using new "temperature-jump" protocols, reproducible data can be obtained from activated fibers at high temperatures, and we have examined the effect of increased [Vi] on Vmax for temperatures in the range 5-30 degrees C. We find that for temperatures < or = 20 degrees C, increasing [Vi] inhibits Vmax; for temperatures > or = 25 degrees C, increasing [Vi] does not inhibit Vmax. Attached cross-bridges bound to Vi are thought to be an analog of the weakly bound actin-myosin.ADP-P(i) state. The data suggest that the weakly bound Vi state can inhibit velocity at low temperature, but not at high temperature, with the transition occurring over a narrow temperature range of < 5 degrees C. This suggests a highly cooperative interaction. The data also define a Q10 for Vmax of 2.1 for chemically skinned rabbit psoas fibers over the temperature range of 5-30 degrees C.