ABSTRACT We sought to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how the individual leg muscles act synergistically to generate a ground force impulse and maximize the change in forward momentum of the body during accelerated sprinting. We combined musculoskeletal modelling with gait data to simulate the majority of the acceleration phase (19 foot contacts) of a maximal sprint over ground. Individual muscle contributions to the ground force impulse were found by evaluating each muscle’s contribution to the vertical and fore‐aft components of the ground force (termed ‘supporter’ and ‘accelerator/brake’, respectively). The ankle plantarflexors played a major role in achieving maximal‐effort accelerated sprinting. Soleus acted primarily as a supporter by generating a large fraction of the upward impulse at each step whereas gastrocnemius contributed appreciably to the propulsive and upward impulses and functioned as both accelerator and supporter. The primary role of the vasti was to deliver an upward impulse to the body (supporter), but these muscles also acted as a brake by retarding forward momentum. The hamstrings and gluteus medius functioned primarily as accelerators. Gluteus maximus was neither an accelerator nor supporter as it functioned mainly to decelerate the swinging leg in preparation for foot contact at the next step. Fundamental knowledge of lower‐limb muscle function during maximum acceleration sprinting is of interest to coaches endeavouring to optimize sprint performance in elite athletes as well as sports medicine clinicians aiming to improve injury prevention and rehabilitation practices.