There is a significant reduction in overall maximum power output of muscle at low temperatures due to reduced steady-state (i.e. maximum activation) power-generating capabilities of muscle. However, during cyclical locomotion, a further reduction in power is due to the interplay between non-steady-state contractile properties of muscle (i.e. rates of activation and relaxation) and the stimulation and the length-change pattern muscle undergoes in vivo. In particular, even though the relaxation rate of scup red muscle is slowed greatly at cold temperatures (10 degrees C), warm-acclimated scup swim with the same stimulus duty cycles at cold as they do at warm temperature, not affording slow-relaxing muscle any additional time to relax. Hence, at 10 degrees C, red muscle generates extremely low or negative work in most parts of the body, at all but the slowest swimming speeds. Do scup shorten their stimulation duration and increase muscle relaxation rate during cold acclimation? At 10 degrees C, electromyography (EMG) duty cycles were 18% shorter in cold-acclimated scup than in warm-acclimated scup. But contrary to the expectations, the red muscle did not have a faster relaxation rate, rather, cold-acclimated muscle had an approximately 50% faster activation rate. By driving cold- and warm-acclimated muscle through cold- and warm-acclimated conditions, we found a very large increase in red muscle power during swimming at 10 degrees C. As expected, reducing stimulation duration markedly increased power output. However, the increased rate of activation alone produced an even greater effect. Hence, to fully understand thermal acclimation, it is necessary to examine the whole system under realistic physiological conditions.