This study investigated the influence of different initial conditions on a subsequent fast (ballistic) isometric contraction of the ankle dorsiflexor muscles. Surface electromyograms (EMGs) of dorsiflexor and plantarflexor muscles were recorded during ballistic contractions performed without any pre-activation (BAL) and in ballistic contractions preceded by a sustained submaximal contraction (20% MVC) that was followed either by a rapid voluntary relaxation of the agonist muscle (VRBAL) or by a rapid antagonist (reversal) contraction (ARBAL). In the latter condition, three different antagonist torque levels were compared (25, 50 and 75% MVC). The results showed that the mean average rate of torque development was significantly (P < 0.001) greater for the ARBAL condition (968.5 ± 183.9% MVC/s) compared with the VRBAL (509.3 ± 78.7% MVC/s) and BAL (461.8 ± 79.9% MVC/s) conditions. Furthermore, the mean value recorded for VRBAL was significantly (P < 0.05) greater than for BAL condition. The faster increases in torque during the VRBAL and ARBAL conditions were associated with a greater agonist EMG activity. Compared with VRBAL, performance during the ARBAL condition was improved by a greater level of antagonist coactivation and, in some trials, by the presence of a silent EMG period between the end of the antagonist activation and the onset of the agonist ballistic contraction. Together, these results indicate that the initial conditions can have a substantial influence on the rate of torque development during ballistic contractions performed in isometric conditions.