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A-band and Z-line/I-band lattice spacings were measured by small-angle X-ray diffraction from relaxed and isometrically-contracting whole frog sartorius muscles with lattice spacings reduced or swollen by changing the osmolarity of the bathing solution. A-band spacing increased by ∼3% upon isometric contraction at reduced lattice spacings (245–356mOsm) and decreased by ∼1% at swollen spacings (172mOsm), similarly to the behaviour of skinned muscles upon changing from the relaxed state to rigor. The Z/I lattice underwent a significant lattice expansion (3–8%) upon isometric contraction at all osmolarities, in qualitative agreement (but quantitative disagreement) with results from electron microscopy on mammalian skeletal muscle. Lattice areas calculated for the Z/I and A-band lattices indicate a barrel-shaped sarcomere in the resting state, which may provide a partial explanation for how longitudinal forces produced in the A-band can prod uce a radial expansive force in the Z-line during contraction. The radial component of cross-bridge stiffness was calculated from the A-band data for contracting muscle, using a lattice stability model incorporating structural, osmotic and electrostatic forces. The calculations gave a radial cross-bridge stiffness during contraction of about 9×105 N m−2, and outward radial force per thick filament in normal Ringer's solution of 6 × 10−9 N, corresponding to a radial force per cross-bridge of 10−11 N.