A model of a "general" sarcomere is presented for the calculation of power output as a function of (i) contraction range, (ii) contraction velocity, (iii) muscle fibre stimulation (active state) and (iv) structural parameters of the sarcomere (i.e. lengths of actin, myosin, and bare zone on myosin, and thickness of the Z-disc). The model is applicable to virtually all types of striated muscle fibres. By computer simulation, particular combinations of actin and myosin lengths were found that maximize the specific power output for particular functional demands, specified in terms of contraction range and contraction velocity. The accuracy of the prediction of the optimum sarcomere design by the model depends on the quality of its input, i.e. the available knowledge of the in vivospectrum of contraction velocities and sarcomere excursions. Predictions of sarcomere design from model simulations were compared with ultrastructural data from the literature. With the present model, the complete variation in the ratio of myosin length over actin length (from about 1·05 down to 0·65, as observed in insect and vertebrate sarcomeres, see Fig. 9) can be explained as a series of adaptations for optimum power output from a small to a large contraction range, respectively.