In the voluntarily activated muscle, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of motor cortex produces subsequently to the motor evoked potential (MEP) a silent period (SP) in the electromyogram. We studied the time course of soleus motoneuron (MN) pool excitability after conditioning TMS by Hoffmann reflex (HR) testing, to determine whether inaccessibility of MNs after corticospinal input contributes to the SP. Coincidently with the early part of the SP, and only in the contracting soleus, MN depression was obtained that covaried with the degree of preinnervation, and with the size of the preceding MN discharge. However, MN excitability recovered significantly prior to the end of the SP. It is concluded that in the contracting soleus spinal mechanisms (most likely Renshaw inhibition and MN afterhyperpolarization) contribute to the early part of the SP, while the late part of the SP is supraspinal (probably cortical) in origin.