Abstract. Previous studies have demonstrated that skeletal muscles generate considerable reactive oxygen during intense muscle contraction. However, the significance of this phenomenon and whether it represents normal physiology or pathology are poorly understood. Treatment with exogenous antioxidants suggests that normal redox tone during contraction is influencing ongoing contractile function, both at rest and during intense exercise. This could represent the influence of redox-sensitive proteins responsible for excitation-contraction coupling or redox-sensitive metabolic enzymes. Some conditions associated with intense exercise, such as local tissue hypoxia or elevated tissue temperatures, could also contribute to reactive oxygen production. Evidence that muscle conditioning results in upregulation of antioxidant defenses also suggests a close relationship between reactive oxygen and contractile activity. Therefore, there appears to be a significant role for reactive oxygen in normal muscle physiology. However, a number of conditions may lead to an imbalance of oxidant production and antioxidant defense, and these, presumably, do create conditions of oxidant stress. Ischemia-reperfusion, severe hypoxia, severe heat stress, septic shock, and stretch-induced injury may all lead to oxidant-mediated injury to myocytes, resulting in mechanical dysfunction.