The regulation of vertebrate muscle contraction with respect to the role of the different subunits of myosin remains somewhat uncertain. One approach to gaining a better understanding of the molecular basis of contraction is to study developing muscle which undergoes changes in myosin isozyme composition and contractile properties during the normal course of maturation. The present study utilizes single fibers from psoas muscles of rabbits at several ages as a model system for fast-twitch muscle development. This approach eliminates the inherent problems of interpreting results from studies on whole muscles which usually contain heterogeneous fiber types with respect to contractile properties and isoenzyme composition. Maximum velocity of shortening and tension-generating ability of individual fibers were measured and the myosin heavy chain composition of the same fibers was examined using an ultrasensitive sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel system. The results indicate that 1) with regard to contractile properties, there is a transitional period from slow to fast shortening velocities within the first postnatal month; 2) a strong, positive correlation exists between the speed of shortening and tension-generating ability of individual postnatal day 7 fibers, suggesting that as more myosin is incorporated in these developing fibers it is of the fast type; and 3) there is a wide variation in maximum velocity of shortening among postnatal day 7 psoas fibers which is also a time when a mixture of heavy chain isoforms characterizes the myosin composition of single muscle fibers.