We have used saturation transfer electron paramagnetic resonance (ST-EPR) to measure the microsecond rotational motion of actin-bound myosin heads in spin-labeled myofibrils in the presence of the ATP analogs AMPPNP (5'-adenylylimido-diphosphate) and ATP gamma S (adenosine-5'-O-(3-thiotriphosphate)). AMPPNP and ATP gamma S are believed to trap myosin in two major conformational intermediates of the actomyosin ATPase cycle, respectively known as the weakly bound and strongly bound states. Previous ST-EPR experiments with solutions of acto-S1 have demonstrated that actin-bound myosin heads are rotationally mobile on the microsecond time scale in the presence of ATP gamma S, but not in the presence of AMPPNP. However, it is not clear that results obtained with acto-S1 in solution can be extended to actomyosin constrained within the myofibrillar lattice. Therefore, ST-EPR spectra of spin-labeled myofibrils were analyzed explicitly in terms of the actin-bound component of myosin heads in the presence of AMPPNP and ATP gamma S. The fraction of actin-attached myosin heads was determined biochemically in the spin-labeled myofibrils, using the proteolytic rates actomyosin binding assay. At physiological ionic strength (mu = 165 mM), actin-bound myosin heads were found to be rotationally mobile on the microsecond time scale (tau r = 24 +/- 8 microseconds) in the presence of ATP gamma S, but not AMPPNP. Similar results were obtained at low ionic strength, confirming the acto-S1 solution studies. The microsecond rotational motions of actin-attached myosin heads in the presence of ATP gamma S are similar to those observed for spin-labeled myosin heads during the steady-state cycling of the actomyosin ATPase, both in solution and in an active isometric muscle fiber. These results indicate that weakly bound myosin heads, in the pre-force phase of the ATPase cycle, are rotationally mobile, while strongly bound heads, in the force-generating phase, are rotationally immobile. We propose that force generation involves a transition from a dynamically disordered crossbridge to a rigid and stereospecific one.