In muscle and movement modelling it is almost invariably assumed that force actually exerted is determined by several independent factors. This review considers the fact that length force characteristics are not a relatively fixed property of muscle but should be considered the product of a substantial number of interacting factors. Level of activation and recruitment are influential factors in relation to aspects of muscle architecture. For the level of activation effects of its short term history (potentiation, fatigue in sustained contractions) have to be taken into account and are reviewed on the basis of recent experimental results as well as available literature. History is also an important determinant for the effect of length changes. This concept is introduced on the basis of recent experimental evidence as well as available literature. Regarding effects of muscle architecture, the concepts of primary and secondary distribution of fibre mean sarcomere length are introduced as well as effects of muscle geometry for mono- and bi-articular muscles on those distributions. Implications for motor control are discussed and the need for intramuscular coordination indicated.