Force production involves the coordination of multiple muscles, and the produced force levels can be attributed to the electrophysiology activities of those related muscles. This study is designed to explore the activity modes of extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL) using surface electromyography (sEMG) at the presence of different handgrip force levels. We attempt to compare the performance of both the linear and nonlinear models for estimating handgrip forces. To achieve this goal, a pseudo-random sequence of handgrip tasks with well controlled force ranges is defined for calibration. Eight subjects (all university students, five males, and three females) have been recruited to conduct both calibration and voluntary trials. In each trial, sEMG signals have been acquired and preprocessed with RootMeanSquare (RMS) method. The preprocessed signals are then normalized with amplitude value of Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC)-related sEMG. With the sEMG data from calibration trials, three models, Linear, Power, and Logarithmic, are developed to correlate the handgrip force output with the sEMG activities of ECRL. These three models are subsequently employed to estimate the handgrip force production of voluntary trials. For different models, the RootMeanSquareErrors (RMSEs) of the estimated force output for all the voluntary trials are statistically compared in different force ranges. The results show that the three models have different performance in different force ranges. Linear model is suitable for moderate force level (30%50% MVC), whereas a nonlinear model is more accurate in the weak force level (Power model, 10%30% MVC) or the strong force level (Logarithmic model, 50%80% MVC). © 2009 World Scientific Publishing Company.